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Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity

von Bruce Bagemihl

MitgliederRezensionenBeliebtheitDurchschnittliche BewertungDiskussionen
312365,312 (4.3)2
APublishers Weekly Best Book One of the New York Public Library's "25 Books to Remember" for 1999 Homosexuality in its myriad forms has been scientifically documented in more than 450 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, and other animals worldwide.Biological Exuberance is the first comprehensive account of the subject, bringing together accurate, accessible, and nonsensationalized information. Drawing upon a rich body of zoological research spanning more than two centuries, Bruce Bagemihl shows that animals engage in all types of nonreproductive sexual behavior. Sexual and gender expression in the animal world displays exuberant variety, including same-sex courtship, pair-bonding, sex, and co-parenting--even instances of lifelong homosexual bonding in species that do not have lifelong heterosexual bonding. Part 1, "A Polysexual, Polygendered World," begins with a survey of homosexuality, transgender, and nonreproductive heterosexuality in animals and then delves into the broader implications of these findings, including a valuable perspective on human diversity. Bagemihl also examines the hidden assumptions behind the way biologists look at natural systems and suggests a fresh perspective based on the synthesis of contemporary scientific insights with traditional knowledge from indigenous cultures. Part 2, "A Wondrous Bestiary," profiles more than 190 species in which scientific observers have noted homosexual or transgender behavior. Each profile is a verbal and visual "snapshot" of one or more closely related bird or mammal species, containing all the documentation required to support the author's often controversial conclusions. Lavishly illustrated and meticulously researched, filled with fascinating facts and astonishing descriptions of animal behavior,Biological Exuberance is a landmark book that will change forever how we look at nature.… (mehr)
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A book that should silence the natural law crowd - not that nature is normative anyway.

We are not 'in' nature, but 'of' nature, so everything we do is by definition 'natural.' Only a monotheist who separates humanity from nature could come up with the peverse concept of natural law as if humans had a god ordained essence or nature.

I learned a lot. ( )
  ElectricKoolAid | Jan 2, 2013 |
Erudite, exhaustively referenced, and exquisitely argued. Essential reading for ethologists, biological psychologists, queer and animal liberationists, and anybody so foolish as to still believe that "homosexuality is unnatural." ( )
  pattricejones | Jul 1, 2009 |
The first part of the book is an independent 262 page exposition of homosexual, bisexual and transgendered animal sexuality. If you want to know what the birds and the bees are doing when Jerry Falwell isn't looking, this is the place to find out. Don't expect to find traditional family values in these pages. What you will discover instead is that animals aren't doing it for Darwin, they are doing it for fun. There are amazingly detailed descriptions, pictures and illustrations here of animals having all kinds of sex (that will amaze you), and most of it isn't for procreation.

More interesting to me, though, is the speculation on the sexual origins of language and culture in chapter 2 and the devastating examination in chapter 3 of bigotry in the biological sciences in over two hundred years of observations of animal homosexuality. Bagemihl shows, for example, that in science as in society, there's a presumption of heterosexuality. Field researchers have commonly assumed, with no independent verification, that whenever they see a pair of animals engaging in what appears to be sexual behavior they are observing a male-female pair. Conversely, whenever they observe a known same-sex pair engaging in behavior that would be classified as sexual between a male and female, they classify it in some other way. This protocol largely precludes the gathering of data about animal homosexuality even when it's being observed. In some cases, though, it resulted in published studies being repudiated as much as 20 years later when it was discovered that what was presumed to be heterosexual behavior in a population was really entirely homosexual. (It's an interesting fact that in some species heterosexuality has never been observed by scientists even when they go to great lengths to observe it over periods of many years.) Also, a lot of animal homosexuality that has been recognized as such has simply been excluded from the published reports. As a result, there is still widespread belief among scientists and the public that animal homosexuality is rare or nonexistent. People will believe otherwise after reading this book.

Chapter 4 looks at the attempts to explain away animal homosexuality and chapter 5 considers arguments on the other side that try to attach evolutionary value to homosexuality. Bagemihl rejects all the proposals on both sides, demonstrating the weakness of all the explanations and typically showing that they are plainly inconsistent with the evidence of animal behavior. Finally, he arrives at the question that the reader has been waiting for for almost 200 pages: "Why does same-sex activity persist--reappearing in species after species, generation after generation, individual after individual--when it is not 'useful'?" His answer is not to show that it is useful, but rather to treat the plain existence of homosexuality as a reductio ad absurdum argument against the biologists' assumption that only traits that contribute to reproduction will survive (i.e. are useful). In pursuing this line of thought Bagemihl offers interesting descriptions of animals that are nonbreeders, animals that suppress reproduction, animals that segregate the sexes so that reproduction can't happen, animals that engage in birth control, and animals that engage in other nonreproductive behaviors. He also shows that a lot of the sex that actually occurs is not for reproduction, but apparently for pleasure. All of this he believes calls for a new conception of the natural biological world.

The last chapter describes some ideas for a new paradigm, which he calls Biological Exuberance and I must say that it is much less convincing than the rest of the book. It is interesting nonetheless. Much of the last chapter is a description of the myths about animals of native North Americans, the tribes of New Guinea, and indigenous Siberian people. When I started reading this chapter I began to wonder if I had accidentally picked up a different book, but in the end he makes a connection between the myths and biological reality. In fact, he shows that some of these myths contain more facts about animals than you can find in any scientific text. Some of the most bizarre of the myths turn out to be true.

So where does it end? In mystery. "Our final resting spot--the concept of Biological Exuberance--lies somewhere along the trajectory defined by these three points (chaos, biodiversity, evolution), although its exact location remains strangely imprecise." "Nothing, in the end, has really been 'explained'--and rightly so, for it was 'sensible explanations' that ran aground in the first place."

That's not a very satisfactory answer to my mind, but the book is nonetheless a source of many interesting phenomena and ideas. I enjoyed it greatly. I expect most people who read this long book will do as I have done--read part one completely and then selectively read about some particular animals in part two. The second part is an encyclopedia of the queer sexuality of approximately 300 species of mammals and birds. An appendix contains a long list of reptiles, amphibians, fishes, insects, spiders and domesticated animals in which homosexuality has been observed. ( )
3 abstimmen duanewilliams | Oct 9, 2006 |
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APublishers Weekly Best Book One of the New York Public Library's "25 Books to Remember" for 1999 Homosexuality in its myriad forms has been scientifically documented in more than 450 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, and other animals worldwide.Biological Exuberance is the first comprehensive account of the subject, bringing together accurate, accessible, and nonsensationalized information. Drawing upon a rich body of zoological research spanning more than two centuries, Bruce Bagemihl shows that animals engage in all types of nonreproductive sexual behavior. Sexual and gender expression in the animal world displays exuberant variety, including same-sex courtship, pair-bonding, sex, and co-parenting--even instances of lifelong homosexual bonding in species that do not have lifelong heterosexual bonding. Part 1, "A Polysexual, Polygendered World," begins with a survey of homosexuality, transgender, and nonreproductive heterosexuality in animals and then delves into the broader implications of these findings, including a valuable perspective on human diversity. Bagemihl also examines the hidden assumptions behind the way biologists look at natural systems and suggests a fresh perspective based on the synthesis of contemporary scientific insights with traditional knowledge from indigenous cultures. Part 2, "A Wondrous Bestiary," profiles more than 190 species in which scientific observers have noted homosexual or transgender behavior. Each profile is a verbal and visual "snapshot" of one or more closely related bird or mammal species, containing all the documentation required to support the author's often controversial conclusions. Lavishly illustrated and meticulously researched, filled with fascinating facts and astonishing descriptions of animal behavior,Biological Exuberance is a landmark book that will change forever how we look at nature.

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