Nick Benton’s Gay Science No. 75: Not Reproductive Variant, But ‘Species Love’

The thought-through implications of the bio-evolutionary and genetic evidence for what can be called “altruism” as a central, indispensable component for the successful survival and evolution of species are truly astounding and revolutionary, especially as they bear upon questions of the normalcy and necessity of same-sex erotic attraction.

The works I cited in the previous chapter – Joan Roughgarden in her “Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender and Sexuality in Nature and People” (2004, 2009) and Jonah Lehrer’s article about the discoveries of entomologist E. O. Wilson in the March 5, 2012 edition of The New Yorker – move the conversation far beyond the commonly-held interpretations of Charles Darwin’s “natural selection” and “survival of the fittest” notions of evolution.

Wilson’s work focused on the “advantages of generosity” versus the “benefits of selfishness” in the success of species observed in nature, and found that the former trumps the latter when it comes to the ability of groups to “thrive and replicate.”

The flawed empiricism that accompanied the late 19th and early 20th century bio-evolutionary and sociological studies succumbed to reductionist categorizations of “heterosexual and homosexual” in the new “sexology” components of their work, perceived to be logical subsets of what rabidly male-chauvinist cultural prejudice superimposed as Darwinian “universal templates” for sexual behavior between males and females.

Given those normative “templates,” same sex erotic behavior was categorized as a deviation from the “heterosexual” norm, and thereby deviant, either a corruption due to flaws or weaknesses, or a random variant with no real evolutionary consequence. No matter what, deviation from the “heterosexual” norm became viewed through the eyes of religion, morality and the state as, to a greater or lesser degree, potentially eroding the strong, male-chauvinist “template” of normalcy – male dominion of a nuclear family in which women and children were abjectly subservient. A muscular feminist movement had already become more than they could handle, much less this on top of it.

For some “homosexuals,” so defined, taking on society’s negative verdict was translated into a form of individuality and freedom in urban centers where they could cluster and enjoy a modicum of protection and anonymity. There, some took on a collective, special kind of nominal self-esteem. However, it was barely skin-deep, although it accounted for survival and mutual support, and eventually became a launch-pad for the modern gay liberation movement.

Still, this “verdict” itself was deeply flawed, obfuscating the stunning discovery being introduced to you in this series that the genus of same-sex erotic attraction is not a variant of the heterosexual reproductive impulse or “template,” at all. Instead, it is a manifestation of “species love.”

Evidence from history has shown since ancient Greece a strong connection between same-sex erotic attraction and social progress. It is a connection, as I have documented extensively in this series, inclined to overthrow arbitrary tyranny in favor of an extension of institutions of justice (including for women, orphans and slaves), legally-constituted democracy, negotiation over war, and the promotion of invention, science and universal education against tyrannically imposed superstition and fear.

This connection represents in human evolution and progress the operation of the same kind of “altruism” that Wilson observed in his natural studies.

As with Wilson’s studies, that impulse is in constant tension with that of selfishness, and especially with those prevailing in “might makes right” and “survival of the fittest” struggles by the strongest, most always aggressive and deadly males among a species.

This tension exists throughout nature and throughout human history. Its pervasiveness and permanence accounts for why forces of “altruism” have always fought to establish lasting institutions as bastions of strength and perseverance against perennial onslaughts of “might makes right” tyrannical impulses.

That’s why Platonists established city states in Greece, King David solidified a just kingdom, Augustine strengthened the church against the unraveling of a brutal empire and imminent Dark Age, Italian Renaissance leaders replicated the Greek city state model, Erasmus sought to educate Christian princes, and the enlightened leaders of the Enlightenment saw crafting democratic constitutions as important to overthrowing tyrannies as the revolutions, themselves.

That’s why Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln both invoked the notion of “preservation of the union” – Hamilton in the “Federalist Papers” and Lincoln in the prosecution of the Civil War – to secure institutions of justice against tyranny.

Hamilton and Lincoln both saw the horny hand of greed and tyranny lurking behind the calls for division in their times. Hamilton knew that the colonies could not endure unless united, and the War of 1812 proved him right. Lincoln knew the  same fate awaited a divided union, that the Confederacy would soon revert to British colonial subjugation, the dependency of  a slave-based cotton trade. The Civil War was both to emancipate the slaves and to preserve the young nation in a century when the main European powers were unbridled in their lust for empire.

To be continued.