May 27, 2008

From Michael Ricciardi:

Re: A function for “gay genes” after all? (Feb. 8): This case study offers good validation of the kin selection hypothesis as first advocated by Edward O. Wilson (to my knowledge) in the book ‘On Human Nature’. Wilson suggests -- in the context of the evidence of female homosexuality persisting in family lineages -- that such women must therefore aid in the support and nurturing of extended family members (nieces, nephews, and even cousins) thus promoting their survival and the passing on of that familial gene pool.

As far as this study of Samoan fa’afine men, it seems we have validation of the male version of this.

The study organizers acknowledge that failure to find evidence of kin selection previously may have been due to the sample population living in a modern, “Westernized” (urbanized?) society. Presumably, this means that families are more fragmented here, and live further apart. While this may be valid when strictly considering nieces and nephews, a broader focus (in the original study) would have been more revealing.

Anyone who has worked in the medical, health care, and/or social service industry/sector would note the high percentage of homosexuals working therein. The same is true for education.

Homosexuals of both genders are well-represented in these fields (more than their estimated share of the general population). I have always felt that this was tentative evidence in support of Wilson’s idea, but spread out to a larger population--an entire society as opposed to just a single family; a form of “soft’ altruism (Which is not to say that homosexuals, residing in cities, never tend, to their own families as well).

Lastly, homosexuals are highly represented in the arts. A great many of us, when younger, were introduced to the arts, or had our appreciation for them deepened, via the mentoring or guidance of an older gay man or woman.

In terms of survival advantage, the true value of this cultural knowledge may be unknown, but not over-stated. All great societies produce great art.

This cultural enrichment makes a society better, stronger, even wiser. Clearly, these general traits have SOME contribution to ‘genetic fitness’, but not just for the single (selfish) family, but for all those comprising the society.


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