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"Love That Dare Not Squeak Its Name"
To any lingering religious fanatics who defend their bigotry against gays with the notion that "gay sex isn't natural," check out these homosexual penguins in a New York Times story by Dinitia Smith:

Roy and Silo, two chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo in Manhattan, are completely devoted to each other. For nearly six years now, they have been inseparable. They exhibit what in penguin parlance is called "ecstatic behavior": that is, they entwine their necks, they vocalize to each other, they have sex. Silo and Roy are, to anthropomorphize a bit, gay penguins. When offered female companionship, they have adamantly refused it. And the females aren't interested in them, either.

At one time, the two seemed so desperate to incubate an egg together that they put a rock in their nest and sat on it, keeping it warm in the folds of their abdomens, said their chief keeper, Rob Gramzay. Finally, he gave them a fertile egg that needed care to hatch. Things went perfectly. Roy and Silo sat on it for the typical 34 days until a chick, Tango, was born. For the next two and a half months they raised Tango, keeping her warm and feeding her food from their beaks until she could go out into the world on her own. Mr. Gramzay is full of praise for them.

"They did a great job," he said. He was standing inside the glassed-in penguin exhibit, where Roy and Silo had just finished lunch. Penguins usually like a swim after they eat, and Silo was in the water. Roy had finished his dip and was up on the beach.

Roy and Silo are hardly unusual. Milou and Squawk, two young males, are also beginning to exhibit courtship behavior, hanging out with each other, billing and bowing. Before them, the Central Park Zoo had Georgey and Mickey, two female Gentoo penguins who tried to incubate eggs together. And Wendell and Cass, a devoted male African penguin pair, live at the New York Aquarium in Coney Island. Indeed, scientists have found homosexual behavior throughout the animal world.

At least, in the animal kingdom, the straight creatures just go off and have sex amongst themselves instead of concerning themselves with whether the other creatures are sodomizing each other.

Posted by aalkon at February 8, 2004 8:45 AM


To err is human... to waddle, penguine.

Posted by: Patrick at February 8, 2004 1:25 AM

I had always wondered why penguins walked that way. Thank you.

Posted by: chris volkay at February 8, 2004 10:41 AM

I know there's a cuddle/cuttlefish joke there somewhere, but it's been a long weekend.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at February 8, 2004 6:10 PM

Amy -- you're aware of the "naturalistic fallacy" right? You've read Steven Pinker before. He discusses this fallacy in his book.

In any case, "ought" can only be derived from macro-level "is" -- i.e. universals seen in light of particulars, universals which can be seen and defended through induction and reason -- not particular, subjective cases of "is" existing only at the micro level. To premise homosexuality as something perfectly respectable on such a level is to unwittingly undermine your own project (normativity for homosexuality). If you premise such a normative project on such a particular, fundamentally arbitrary, "is" then you cannot possibly, legitimately deny, say, the pedophile his desires. Nor can you deny any perturbed of "consent" among individuals. If a thousand individuals consent to drink Jim Jones cool-aid, that is a-okay by libertarian "standards."

(But, alas, that is precisely libertarianism(s) nihilistic Mr. Hyde: consent alone cannot possibly be the basis of morality. And libertarians do posit _mere_ consent as the basis of morality).

Posted by: Robert at February 12, 2004 10:03 PM

I'm well-acquainted with The Naturalistic Fallacy. I was just playing the fundamentalists' "logic" against them. I couldn't care less what is or is not "natural"; and would not choose or exclude behavior as right or ethical because it's "natural." Poison mushrooms are quite natural.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 12, 2004 11:16 PM

Okay, fair enough!

Posted by: Robert at February 13, 2004 3:31 AM

My real "motive," however, in stating matters I did arises from many libertarians (i.e. Andrew Sullivan being Exhibit A) implicitly using phenomena such as, say, "same-sex courtship" at lower philogenetic scales to somehow legitimate homosexuality amongst humans. The argument is used all the time.

Even Pinker, actually, and quite interestingly, not at all imune from it. In fact, he simply inverses it. I remember when reading his book, after giving brilliant, pithy descriptions of "the naturalistic fallacy" he then transitions immediately into anathemitizing the (yes, I agree, perfectly vile) Laura Schlesinger. Basically his argument is that the A-TELEOLOGY of nature legitimates Pinker's own piety on the issue; for him, a-teleology confers approbation to homosexuality amongst humans.

But, you see, these moral prescriptions are based in expressions of will, the desire for autonomous will -- but which implies a necessary self-refutation: i.e. rejecting any impersonal standards which would legitimately ratify/prosecute these claims.

Posted by: Robert at February 13, 2004 3:50 AM


"in stating matters _AS_ I did..."

"Even Pinker, actually, and quite interestingly, _IS_ not at all..."


A little Spinoza while we're at it. Radical democracy at work! Today's naturalists really are his epigones. Might does make right, in the end, capriciously, or somehow . . .

"For instance, fish are determined by nature to swim and the big ones to eat the smaller ones and therefore fish enjoy the water and big ones eat smaller ones with supreme natural right. For it is certain that nature has supreme right to do anything she can; in other words, her right is co-extensive with her power."

--Theological-Political Treatise, ch. 16.

Posted by: Robert at February 13, 2004 3:59 AM