Sunday, April 22, 2012
Eusociality is not necessarily hostile to gay "individualism"; medical emergency at a bar
I’ll be reviewing Edward O. Wilson’s “The Social Conquest of Earth” soon on my Books blog, but I wanted to point out quickly that his ideas about “group selection” and “eusociality” don’t at all imply a negative attitude toward LGBT people or subculture as somehow overly individualistic.
On p. 253, he does take up the Vatican idea that all sexuality must be linked to openness to procreation and taking on responsibility for the next generation. He first discusses that notion with respect to contraception. Women, through evolution, developed a way to enjoy pleasure outside of reproductive function, so that, he argues, men would have an incentive to stay with their partners long enough to raise children (that is, for a couple decades). Of course, logically Wilson’s argument doesn’t exclude the Catholic idea that one should be open to procreation whenever it is possible.
He then makes kindly remarks about homosexual capacity (and refers to “homophobia” as such), which seems (if you think about it) to be hardwired, too. He says that “committed homosexuality … is heritable” – that’s the immutability (aka equal protection) argument. He then does make the “altruism” argument that is not really new, but perhaps casts it in a new light. That is, society as a whole needs enough men and enough women to develop certain sorts of personality and intellectually creative traits that the group as a whole benefits in terms of culture, and development of these traits requires openness to some homosexual expression. That’s pretty much a restatement of the Rosenfels Polarity Theory.
Part of the problem comes about in whether procreation is an “individually selfish” or a “group altruistic” activity. In modern society, it switches back and forth between both. Some people see having children as an expression of who they are; others see potential dependents as economic “burdens” and hindrances to other kinds of self-fulfillment. The latter is obviously a great concern in Vatican thinking. To the extent that raising a new generation and taking care of a previous one are common responsibilities, no one should get out of participating in them. But then this turns the spin into saying something like, no one should get out of the military draft if defending the country is needed (hence the wrap around on “don’t ask don’t tell”).
My own take on this is that I don’t sense a reproductive urge (or potential biological progeny) as part of myself; I have become aware of it intellectually, partly when forced to (as an only child, I let the lineage of my parents expire), and also my “future” as I grow older, elderly. I di feel like I kibitz (to borrow a term from chess tournaments) the “desirability” of other (males) who do want to continue the species. In an abstract way this may be good, that somebody “keeps ‘em honest” or helps set “higher standards” for the people of the future, or it may tend toward a belief in eugenics, a dark side. When people don’t directly harm others, we’re not supposed to interfere with their lives, unless they are evading responsibility or following a path that is inherently attractive to others. If a tendency is “heritable”, then it isn’t like to become copied by too many others. But even if a tendency expresses or is predicated upon a desire that, if it could be carried out, could have a negative impact on the futures of many other people, then society is likely to want to oppose it. That’s the impression that I got from my NIH days in 1962. Again, such a (visually based) “interest” is not likely to be copied.
In sum, though "eusociality" (as Wilson describes it), is not hostile to the "individualistic exceptionalism" and hyperselectivity often found in the gay world. In fact, individual diversity is itself a component of group well-being.
Last night (to change the subject), I visited Remington’s in the SE Capitol area of Washington DC. It’s “the” country-western bar, not my personally favorite type (unless it’s big on the scale of the “Roundup” in Dallas, which mixes its menu with more conventional disco on Saturday nights). I went upstairs for a while to see the Karaoke, and when I came downstairs, there was a critical medical emergency somewhat away from the dance floor. Since 1973, this has never happened when I personally was in a bar, although I have read about it happening somewhere once a year or so. (In London, I saw a fight in a Soho bar in 1982.) The dancing was still going on but soon stopped, and emergency personnel arrived. Afterwards, people just gradually started to filter out downstairs. The “lesson”: listen to Sanjay Gupta on CNN. Be very careful with alcohol and certain prescription drugs (let alone illegals). Even with a young person the combination just could cause a cardiac arrest. Will bars some day be required to have defibrillators on site?