Sunday, February 13, 2005

Dickie's Quickies

This is getting reported widely on the mass media and the web: There are penguins who participate in homosexual relationships. Big deal, you say? Well, I agree, but the fuss over this suggests exactly how willfully ignorant many people are when it comes to sexuality. The reason there is a fuss is approached from a couple of different angles: First, the queer community uses it as an affirmation that homosexuality is not a choice, but rather is part of the genetic make up of the individual (this example may purport to show that, but how much choice does a penguin have?). Secondly, and conversely, the fundamentalists are worried that this is an example that homosexuality may have genetic origins, hinting that, in fact, it is part of "God's plan", and are trying to debunk this story as the penguins have been nurtured into this. What it comes down to is the old nature versus nurture debate which is a debate far removed from reality (seeing things in black and white when it is all a muddled grey).

It also highlights ignorance in another fashion (the willful ignorance mentioned above). People who live with animals or people who know such people commonly refer to the "gay" actions of their pets be they dogs, cats, pigs, etc. Sometimes this is meant in a humorous manner, like when I was at a friend's place last weekend and she referred to one of her cats as queer because he especially likes to gain the attention of her male house guests. However, if you hang around animals long enough and spend enough time with them, people do see times when homosexual behaviour is practiced and, depending upon the species, this can be a lifetime behaviour.

Konrad Lorenz, a Nobel prize winning scientist, noted in his book, On Aggression, published in 1966 that some geese that mate for life mate with members of the same sex. He does not attempt to explain this behaviour, but he does note it and details a couple of experiences. Did you see that published date? "1966"! Why is the "news" about the penguins news at all? My conclusions? People are willfully ignorant of their environment, people do not spend enough time with animals, people like to impose their politics on other humans and like to deny that we're animals, too. These observations apply to the queer community as well as the fundamentalists.

I didn't spend much time with animals until my teens onward, but I read this book in the mid 80s. Sure, I was amazed at the observations and probably had the same reactions as many queers do to the penguin story. My question today is why, 20 years (for me and now nearly 40 years for others) after Lorenz published those observations and decades of anecdotal observations by pet owners, did I consider it revelatory? Why do we feel it's revelatory today? Why isn't this taught in biology in public schools? It's ridiculous that it's not taught.

Changing the subject, Flickr is making some news today on the blogs. It's a photo sharing site that is free and easy to use. You can upload photos from your PC or your cell phone and share them publicly or privately amongst friends. You can add metadata to the photos and your friends/family can add notes and tags that reveal themselves when you highlight areas of the photos. You can use it to post photos to blogs. It supports RSS and Atom feeds, so people using aggregators can be updated automatically when your albums have been added to or updated. It's a pretty cool idea.

Speaking of aggregators, my friend, Superpuppy, has invited me to join Rojo. I'll let their description stand below. I'm going to sign up and see what it's like. It sounds pretty cool.

Rojo is a new FREE service for discovering, reading, and sharing Internet news and information. Rojo lets you view information from a wide variety of major news sources, special interest publications and the emerging world of weblogs and RSS in an easy to use digest. You can easily customize Rojo to view only the information that is of interest to you. Sign up for your FREE Rojo account!


Scott said...

I earned my first BS in 1984 at Seattle University, and I was noted the mammal and some avian communities which had been observed generally had a 10% homosexual population. The rate went up with things like over-population and famine.

So explain this to your neighborhood fundamentalist and ask whether they approve of birth control or queers. You can't ahve it both ways. I generally get some very unchristian descriptions of my geneology or sexual habits, or they state there is no population explosion. Proving, 'divine' ignorance alway trumps any facts.

Anonymous said...

That girl who notes Blogger Boy's misspellings is back again, with a question on why The Boy uses "humerous". Did he misspell the word indicating a human bone, or the word meaning "ha-ha, funny"?

B.D. said...

As "That girl" is well aware of, I simply misspelled the word and forgot to run a spell check again. Thanks for spotting the error. Perhaps in your next life you'll evolve into an editor?

Scott, isn't the phrase "divine ignorance" redundant?