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The problems and prospects of Darwinising homosexuality

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Ever since the rise of human sociobiology, evolutionary social scientists have paid much attention to male homosexuality in humans. Most of this literature starts from the idea that (male) homosexuality is a Darwinian paradox: if there were such thing as a ‘gay gene’, evolutionary theory seems to predict its removal from a species’ gene pool. To solve this riddle, evolutionary theorists have put forward both adaptationist and non-adaptationist hypotheses. Although some of these hypotheses are more plausible than others, the question as to why so many men are exclusively homosexual remains largely unanswered. Most probably, the major problem with much of this work is that it starts from the typically Western assumption that the straight-gay dichotomy is a natural dichotomy, and not a socially constructed one. In my talk, I will argue that human homosexuality is probably too complex to be described by a single research discipline, and that we need a genuinely integrative approach, involving both biological and social constructivist perspectives, to further our understanding of ‘the love that has no name’.

Bio: Pieter R. Adriaens is a visiting scholar at the Department of History & Philosophy of Science. He obtained a PhD in philosophy at the University of Leuven (Belgium), and is currently a postdoctoral fellow of the Research Foundation – Flanders. He is the editor of a special issue about the history of evolutionary psychiatry (for History of Psychiatry), and a volume on the philosophy of evolutionary psychiatry (for Oxford University Press). The other half of his work is about the history and evolution of homosexuality and homophobia. He has written a number of papers on this topic, defending the view that homosexuality may have evolved as a powerful means to establish, reinforce and maintain social alliances.

This talk is part of the Pembroke Papers, Pembroke College series.

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