Hey Bill Nye! Does Homosexuality Make Evolutionary Sense?
An anonymous viewer asks Bill whether homosexuality makes sense from an evolutionary and genetic standpoint. Bill's response? Homosexuality exists across species and none of them are dying out anytime soon.
Bill Nye, scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor, is a man with a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work. Making science entertaining and accessible is something Bill has been doing most of his life.
In Seattle Nye began to combine his love of science with his flair for comedy, when he won the Steve Martin look-alike contest and developed dual careers as an engineer by day and a stand-up comic by night. Nye then quit his day engineering day job and made the transition to a night job as a comedy writer and performer on Seattle’s home-grown ensemble comedy show “Almost Live.” This is where “Bill Nye the Science Guy®” was born. The show appeared before Saturday Night Live and later on Comedy Central, originating at KING-TV, Seattle’s NBC affiliate.
While working on the Science Guy show, Nye won seven national Emmy Awards for writing, performing, and producing. The show won 18 Emmys in five years. In between creating the shows, he wrote five children’s books about science, including his latest title, “Bill Nye’s Great Big Book of Tiny Germs.”
Nye is the host of three currently-running television series. “The 100 Greatest Discoveries” airs on the Science Channel. “The Eyes of Nye” airs on PBS stations across the country.
Bill’s latest project is hosting a show on Planet Green called “Stuff Happens.” It’s about environmentally responsible choices that consumers can make as they go about their day and their shopping. Also, you’ll see Nye in his good-natured rivalry with his neighbor Ed Begley. They compete to see who can save the most energy and produce the smallest carbon footprint. Nye has 4,000 watts of solar power and a solar-boosted hot water system. There’s also the low water use garden and underground watering system. It’s fun for him; he’s an engineer with an energy conservation hobby.
Nye is currently the Executive Director of The Planetary Society, the world’s largest space interest organization.
Jason Gots: Hi Bill. This is Jason Gots from Big Think. I’m reading a question that somebody submitted in written form who wished to remain anonymous. But it seemed like a question that it would be good to have you answer. "I have a question about homosexuality," he asks. "If the purpose of a species is to reproduce and survive, how would it make sense evolutionarily for humans to have same-sex preferences? Are humans the only ones who practice homosexuality? And if so does this mean that homosexuality is a product of human’s personal whim as opposed to instinct?"
Bill Nye: So when I was growing up, there was this controversial and super-bestselling book called The Naked Ape. And this guy, the author, Desmond Morris, claimed, I guess he documented that there is homosexual behavior among primates. And from what I remember — I haven’t read it in many years — was chimpanzees and Bonobo’s exhibit homosexual behavior. And the answer nowadays we give to everybody about this is it’s a spectrum. I don’t know about you, but I have known a great many gay men who are married, who have babies, who have kids. So apparently — I’m not an authority on this. I’m an observer of the human condition. Apparently there’s a spectrum. Some people are more inclined to have sex with people of their same sex than others. And I think if you just watch the news right now, you can see that for yourself. And so being somewhere on the spectrum of heterosexual with homosexual being on that it’s not genetically lethal; you still have kids anyway. And you’ll hear people talk about the feminine side. You’ll hear people talk about the masculine side. You’ll hear women use the expression, "Well she’s got a lot of balls which can’t literally be true, if we’re using balls in that conventional construction." So I would say that it’s something that happens in nature and I remember very well in this book — now I haven’t read it in a long time, but man it was a big deal. Openly talking about sex in the 1960s was a big deal that he claimed that there was more homosexuality in zoos than he observed in nature. And that may be just because we happen to capture a couple of homosexual Bonobos or whatever. In other words the sample size is way too small to extrapolate. So let’s celebrate being alive everybody. Apparently it’s just something that happens in nature and look, we’re all here.
An anonymous viewer asks Bill whether homosexuality makes sense from an evolutionary and genetic standpoint. Bill's response? Homosexuality exists across species and throughout nature. Bonobo monkeys, for example, exhibit homosexuality. And Bonobo monkeys aren't going anywhere anytime soon. In short, Bill says we should just live and let live.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.