Monday, February 16, 2009

Me and Chuck D.

This weekend, in honor of Charles Darwin's 200th birthday, I read "On Natural Selection," a small book excerpted from The Origin of Species. "Read" is too strong a word, as, the further I got into the book, the less I understood. I got the basics, I guess, but 2 things struck me as interesting:

1) Darwin often talks about "Nature" as a personalized, almost godlike entity, as a "she" who seems to have a consciousness and intention. I realize this is probably just a literary convention, but in light of the idea that Darwin somehow was instrumental in killing off God, I found it interesting. Maybe God's not a man with a beard but a woman with a billion children. Or a carny hiding behind a curtain.

2) As a gay man, I feel practically invisible in Darwin's world, since everything comes down to propagating the species. I realize that even people who don't reproduce can help in building our society, which is a way of keeping the species going, but still, I wonder, since homosexuality hasn't died out as most of Darwin's "injurious" features have, maybe Mother Nature thinks we're helpful in some way. Maybe she harbors a love of musical theater?

And a shout-out to the other Chuck D. from Public Enemy, whom I will always remember fondly for his deathless lines, "Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me/Ya see, straight up racist that sucker was, simple and plain/Motherf**k him and John Wayne."

1 comment:

  1. The paradox comes from focusing on the individual rather than the species (or social organization) as the unit under natural selection. A ant colony has non-reproducing members (workers, soldiers) that are vital to survival, and clearly the whole top-down organization is encoded into the ant DNA.

    There's a quirky book titled "Guardians of the Ancient Wisdom" that says this:

    "How does homosexuality propagate itself biologically? ... [A strong possibility] which we have become more aware of since Richard Dawkin's 'The Selfish Gene,' is that there are behaviors genetically related to gayness, which are beneficial to the survival of the heterosexual *relatives* of the gay, who also carry some of his or her genes. Characteristics like gentleness and insight may well be examples of such behaviors (and there is no doubt that gays are above average in intelligence, creativity and understanding)..."

    So it could be that human societies with a certain percentage of gays thrive better than those with less (or more) than the optimum, and so the human DNA program arranges to balance the number of efficient breeders against a smaller cadre of intelligent, creative, showtune-lovers without issue (barring the occasional Vyvyan (Wilde) Holland, etc.).