Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media
by Bruce Bagemihl, 751 pp, with illus, $40, ISBN 0-312-19239-8, New York, NY, St Martin's Press, 1999.
A good thing about science is that, given enough time, it will eventually correct itself. Biological Exuberance by Bruce Bagemihl illustrates that self-correcting process by dispelling two prevalent myths: that reproduction is the sole reason for sexual behavior and that homosexuality is hard to find in the animal kingdom.
The book contains two sections. In the first, "A Polysexual, Polygendered World," Bagemihl examines the hidden assumptions behind the way scientists interpret homosexual behavior in animals. Assumptions that tend to explain animal homosexuality out of existence are carefully analyzed as are the double standards often used in characterizing behaviors as sexual when they involve members of the other but not the same sex. This section concludes with the chapter "A New Paradigm: Biological Exuberance." Bagemihl writes, "The essence of Biological Exuberance is that natural systems are driven as much by abundance and excess as they are by limitation and practicality." This hypothesis is based on the concept of biodiversity—that the vitality of a biological system is a direct consequence of the diversity it contains. As stated succinctly by James Lovelock, "as diversity increases, so does stability and resilience." From this perspective, diverse sexualities, including homosexualities, should be expected throughout the animal kingdom. Biological Exuberance thus offers a hypothesis for the maintenance within populations of homosexual behaviors and other behaviors that are often presumed to be at odds with reproduction.
Sexual BehaviorBiological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity. JAMA. 2000;283(16):2170. doi:10.1001/jama.283.16.2170-JBK0426-3-1