Does Johnny Depp know about this?

Does Johnny Depp know about this?

I present here some long quotes from this article, if only because it makes one think, a bit, about the weirdness of all this. And the best line to come out of it is “it’s like a 500 piece puzzle.” Yep, sure is:

The “Johnny Depp Effect” – An evolutionary explanation for homosexuality

How is homosexuality maintained via natural selection?

Published on June 10, 2009

It was once hypothesized that such a trait could be maintained via kin selection. That is, instead of homosexuals reproducing directly, they get their genes into the future by investing (e.g., providing resources and child care) in the children of genetic relatives, increasing their kin’s chance of survival and reproduction as a result. Reproducing indirectly is actually not too uncommon in nature (see, for example, the hymenoptera). By this reasoning, homosexuals could have positively affected the survival and reproductive success of their family members and passed on their genes indirectly, through their related gene-vehicles (i.e., their kin). [By the way, we do not recommend referring to your kin as gene-vehicles, even after several glasses of wine.] (their brackets on the joke, no mine.)

Hypotheses demand empirical tests, and when the kin selection hypothesis of homosexuality was tested by David Bobrow and Michael Bailey of Northwestern University and later by Qazi Rahman and Matthew Hull of the University of East London, it was not supported. Homosexuals did not provide more care and resources to family members than heterosexuals. Whether assessing subjective measures (e.g., feeling of closeness to the family, generosity, etc.) or objective measures (e.g., distance residing from relatives, frequency of contact, etc.), few significant differences emerged between homosexuals and heterosexuals, and when there were slight differences, they were in the opposite direction (e.g., homosexuals reported giving fewer monetary resources to kin than heterosexuals reported).

[Actually, in modern times, this “kin selection” can’t really be supported because most families chase away their gay kin. Indeed, for the good part of the past several hundred years gays were chased away, based on religion. So regardless of what evolution might have done, the religion overcame it. Now, it could still have been true way back then, in prehistory, when we were hunter gatherers. Back when it actually mattered a whole lot more. Just like the reason there’s one gay twin and one straight one is rather straight forward – nature, knowing the egg was split, turned off one’s reproductive drive, because there probably wasn’t going to be enough women for the both of them, and thus avoiding the conflict, nor enough food for the double set of kids. Quite a reasonable proposition, no? But there’s no way to test this “kin selection” theory, and these guys didn’t seem to think of it.

Not to mention that it’s not “monetary resources” that gay men contribute — remember evolution is a process way before money came along. It’s time; that’s what we contribute. It’s taking care of nieces and nephews when the parents are busy with one sick one, or cooking, cleaning, something like that. Kids are a time investment. A gay guy around without kids adds time, but no burden.  It’s also a sort of insurance policy — if a guy gets killed hunting than his gay brother can step in and take care of his kids, and there would be no loss to the nonexistent children of the gay guy. It’s time in taking care of the elderly, and the sick. Back in hunter gathering days there was no time for hunters and gathers, kid tenders and such, to spend on the sick and old, but yet, nursing sick back to health is always a human trait, and taking care to preserve the wisdom of the old for as long as possible is also good for the entire population. And so back in the mists of time there was a good reason to have a spare pair of hands around. But again, modern religious beliefs chases away the spare hands, or tries.

And too there’s the entertainment or art element. Since the dawn of time there’s been art and entertainment, and even today many gays go to these fields, and these fields are chock full of gays — and so human evolution needed some art and entertainment to make the whole thing palatable, and the gays provide it, and thus we’re necessary to the whole. But because such pursuits are extraneous to actual physical survival they can’t provide, or didn’t provide until just recently, sufficient resources to support a brood of kids, it was better for evolution to make gay folks.

So the glib dismissal of the “kin helping” theory because of modern financial resources not being available from people who were chased away anyway, shouldn’t be done. And more thought put into it.]

So if this Darwinian puzzle is not solved by invoking kin selection, what’s another solution? Two recent studies reported in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior demonstrate how genes associated with homosexuality might lead to reproductive success in their heterosexual carriers. [my emphasis, but this seems to be different than the Italian study I brought up on Sunday, so there seems to be more studies. Though calling something from 1959 “recent” is a bit rough, no?]

Overly simplified, this “tipping-point” model (originally introduced by G. E. Hutchinson in 1959, and then later popularized by Jim McKnight in 1997 and Edward Miller in 2000) posits that genes associated with homosexuality confer fitness benefits in their heterosexual carriers. If only a few of these alleles are inherited, a males’ reproductive success is enhanced via the expression of attractive, albeit feminine traits, such as kindness, sensitivity, empathy, and tenderness. However, if many of these alleles are inherited, a “tipping point” [which is cute, in an ironic way, for we have something similar, helium heels. Imagine.] is reached at which even mate preferences become “feminized,” meaning males are attracted to other males. In explaining this model, Miller asked readers to imagine a genetic system in which there are five different genes that place an individual along a masculine-feminine continuum. Each of the five genes has two alleles, one that pulls the individual to the masculine side and one that pulls to the feminine side. If a man inherited all of the feminine-pulling alleles (of which he has a 3.125% chance: .55), [interestingly, the number some use for the percentage of gay people, though they seem to have derived it by other means,] he will become homosexual. If he inherited less than all five of the feminine-pulling alleles, however, he would not be homosexual. Although originally proposed in simple form in 1959, this model was finally empirically tested in 2008 and 2009. [nothing like timely action on a very helpful explanation, eh?]

The maintenance of homosexuality in the population is a 500-piece puzzle [ain’t this the truth!] and we might have some of the borders in place: We’re not sure what the picture fully looks like, but we’re beginning to make out the parameters. [Um, dudes, the picture looks like gay people .]

Behavioral geneticists at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research lead by Brendan Zietsch (joined by sexual orientation expert Michael Bailey and evolutionary geneticist Matthew Keller) found that psychological femininity in heterosexual men elevated the number of opposite-sex sexual partners, suggesting that their femininity was often attractive to women (think Johnny Depp). In addition, these researchers and those at Abo Akedemi University in Finland (lead by Pekka Santtila) independently predicted that if the “tipping point” model was correct, then heterosexual men with a homosexual twin should have more of the attractive feminine-pulling alleles and thus more opposite-sex sexual partners than members of heterosexual twin pairs. The Finnish group also measured the number of children and age at first intercourse between heterosexual men with a homosexual twin brother and heterosexual men with heterosexual twin brothers. While the findings did not reach statistical significance, data suggested that heterosexuals with a homosexual twin had slightly more opposite-sex sexual partners, slightly more children, and were a bit younger at the age of first intercourse than heterosexual twin pairs.

Hutchinson, G. E. (1959). A speculative consideration of certain possible forms of sexual selection in man. American Naturalist, 93, 81-91.

McKnight, J. (1997). Straight science? Homosexuality, evolution and adaptation. New York: Routledge.


Interesting theories, not easily proven, but of one sequence if true: if the “gay genes” make the gay men, well, treat us nice. But perversely, if you try to tamper with the gene, to prevent the gay guy, you run the risk of making all straight men more brutal, and that should thus lower the output of children, which would affect population growth or maintenance. How’s that for some unintended consequences?

Meanwhile, over at there was a discussion by gay folks as whether it makes a difference if there’s a genetic nature based reason. Well, yes it does make a difference. But it’s only one or a few pieces of the puzzle, and as is pointed out above, it’s a 500 piece puzzle, and thus there’s no definitive answer to the gay puzzle by just this one thing of genes.

But if the Depp theory is correct, and the religion is factored out of the “kin helping” theory, and it was true in ancient times, then they go hand in hand together. Gay men help the more children their brothers and sisters are bound to have by getting the booby prize (without the boobs, weirdly) of being gay. And I’m neither a scientist nor stay at a Holiday Inn last night. But none of these genius bothered to see this little bit of religion injected into the idea.


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