X-Message-Number: 16562
Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2001 08:02:15 EDT
Subject: Homosexuals, cryonics and the "natural order."

When I was 17 years old (29 years ago) I spent a summer with Curtis Henderson 
on Long Island living in his home and helping out around the old CryoSpan 
facility in Coram, Long Island. I was no stranger to cryonics having been 
involved at the age of 13 and having cryopreserved my first patient, Clara 
Dastal, the previous December. It was a bleak time in cryonics. CryoSpan was 
clearly dying and there were fewer than 30 people truly signed up for 
cryonics in the entire world. You would have had to live through those times 
to understand how bleak and hopeless things seemed (and were).

Litigation was a constant threat, and one day Curtis, in his keenly cynical 
way said "Listen son, you'll know this thing has come of age when three 
things happen: First when people start suing you for not freezing their 
relatives instead of for freezing them. Second, whenever the minorities of 
the era begin to clamor that they are being unfairly discriminated against 
because they are not being frozen at the same rate as the dominant 
non-minority. And Third, when idiots who known nothing of how this thing 
(cryonics) was built tell you are to be eliminated or reprogrammed a la 1984 
because you don't deserve to live as you are and the Johnny come lately know 
what's best for you.

Cryonics must be getting close to breaking into the mainstream and maybe 
making it to the Scientology level of success: two out of three "markers 
being realized" isn't bad. Thus, it is as a genuine marker of progress that I 
noted Louis Epstein's comments about homosexuality, and the arrival of others 
who are ignorant of how what they have to argue about on Cryonet came about. 
This is as deeply satisfying as it is amusing. As usual, Curtis' predictions 
have proven all too accurate.

First, some words about homosexuality from my perspective as a biologist. It 
should be noted that I am a homosexual and thus while I have some unique 
insights, my views must also be carefully examined for conflicts of interests 
and lack of objectivity. The readers can judge for themselves.

I'll start with some very basic observational field and evolutionary biology. 
It is a hard concept for nonbiologists, but one thing that is abundantly 
clear is that nature truly is Dawkins' Blind Watchmaker. There is no absolute 
order or proper way in nature: the only imperative is survival of life, 
usually in the form of the species. Here again, there is no one right way. 
Some species survive by expending most of their resources on repair and 
maintenance of the individual (birds, redwoods, bristle cone pines), while 
others concentrate on high reproduction rates (bacteria, mice, and other 
organisms that experience high death rates). There isn't any one "best" 
strategy. The "best" strategy is the one that "works" for a given 
environment. Sickle cell trait is no advantage in a world without malaria and 
is considered a genetic defect, unless of course you live in a malaria 
infested area. Having seen the swath malaria is cutting through contemporary 
India I have great respect for the utility of the sickle cell "defect."

Nature just doesn't give a damn, to be blunt. The dice of genetic and thus 
phenotypic variation are constantly being rolled and the outcomes tested 
against an equally dynamic and changing environment. It doesn't take great 
brains to realize that we have the wild bestiary of extinct animals in the 
fossil record because the environment changed. The dinosaurs were the 
dominant large life form on this planet immensely longer than humans have 
existed, and for that matter, than for the length of time mammals have been 
so abundant. By historical standards the jury hasn't even convened on the 
utility of the "brains" experiment. Right now, wings have the edge: birds 
live longer, better lives than mammals, including man, although we are 
closing the gap, albeit at enormous destabilizing impact on the rest of the 
biosphere. (A problem that will hopefully be fixed if we are both clever and 

So now we come to sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular. Sex 
is very fluid in nature and many strategies exist to achieve reproduction. 
Human reproduction has proven incredibly successful for an animal our size. 
But, it can't hold a candle to strategies used by insects and microorganisms 
which account for far more of the terrestrial biomass than we do and who, by 
the way, have proven more evolutionarily stable in design. I have a Class A 
piece of amber which is 200 million years old and I can't tell the termites 
or the ants preserved in it from contemporary ones that infest my house from 
time to time. That's what I call a good initial design! Durable to say the 
least! But alas, unlikely to reach the stars, write sonnets or colonize the 
solar system.

Homosexuality is very robust across a wide range of species including most 
mammals and birds. It is constant at between 2% and 10% of the population as 
an exclusive behavior, and more like 15% to 20% as a transient, occasional, 
or opportunistic behavior. It's long durability (at least 5,000 years in 
humans) suggests "evolutionary utility." On the other hand, it may be just 
one of countless "mutations" or "variations" which just don't experience 
enough selection pressure to be weeded out. Nature, however, is economical 
and weeding variations, however seemingly "useless" is done at great peril. 
Introns may not be so useless after all. 

The genome to evolution is like a huge library full of seemingly useless 
stuff which can become incredibly valuable when weird enough circumstances 
occur: like a comet or asteroid plowing into the earth and completely 
changing environmental conditions which have been stable for millennia within 
a few years or decades...

Even today, there are some tenable theories about the utility of 
homosexuality and reasons for its evolutionary conservation. These reasons 
bear strongly on the intersection of homosexuality and cryonics which has 
been highly significant, as I will show.

What are the possible reasons for homosexuality being "valuable to the 
species" and evolutionarily conserved?

1) Heterosexuals make lots of babies. If you are heterosexual you will know 
that babies and the wives that go with them consume almost all available 
resources. The focus of the hunter-gatherer heterosexual unit is survival of 
the family group and the tribe.

This doesn't leave a lot of spare time for art, music, literature or nursing 
and care of sick and the dead. Homosexuals in almost all human cultures tend 
to combine the superior food gathering capabilities of males with the 
nurturing aspects of females. In the natural (precivilization) state illness 
and death of tribe members is commonplace and women suffer a disproportionate 
share of mortality. The presence of men and women who do not have 
reproductive units of their own allows their energies to be used to benefit 
the group as a whole. Humans are uniquely cultural animals and we depend on 
story telling, myth and history to survive and communicate survival critical 
knowledge from generation to generation. Homosexuals represent a pool of 
non-reproducers who can act as backup and support for these functions. 

It may be no accident that homosexuals in both primitive and modern societies 
occupy the following roles which are of general social benefit in 
disproportionate number:

*Nursing and caregiving to the ill. Speaking from experience a significant 
percentage of nurses (male and female) are gay and lesbian.
*Priestsly functions including dealing with communicable illness and 
disposing of the dead (it is estimated that 20% of embalmers are homosexual).
*Art and culture which are critical to group cohesiveness.
*Major artistic, social and political changes in paradigms and reforms (think 
of Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Joan of Arc and just keep going). These people 
have the ability to focus all their energies and resources on problems of 
great value to the group as opposed to their immediate family alone.

2) Male-male and to a lesser extent female-female bonding approaching 
romantic love is critical to successful hunting and combat operations. This 
bonding typically stops before sexual interaction in the modern world. Such 
bonding is, however, problematic for the family unit. Women resent it because 
it takes the male's efforts out of the sphere of supporting the immediate 
family. Most soldiers are young and most tightly bonded males end this phase 
of their lives when they marry. Homosexual males can continue in this mode 
whether they actually act on sexual impulses or not. From the time of the 
Spartans through to the present an unbelievably large number of career 
military people are homosexuals of both sexes. Eisenhower's entire female 
support staff was lesbian; a fact which he found out when he decided to clean 
house and get rid of all lesbians in the service. He reconsidered when he 
found nearly his entire mission critical female staff was lesbian.

From personal experience I can say that the US Navy, Air Force, Marines and 
to a lesser extent the Army, have a staggering number of career officers and 
enlisted men and women who are homosexual or bisexual. Immediate discharge of 
these people would severely cripple the US military and destroy its 
institutional memory and culture in key areas. And, for the record, I don't 
support visible presence of gays in the military as it is currently 
structured; neither do I support a coed military with men and women on 
aircraft carriers and in trenches. This isn't working from the numbers 
(pregnancies, rapes, sexual harassment) I can see.

The price paid for the necessary male-male and female-female bonding may be 
more extreme variations which pour over into sexual identity. This is to be 
expected: nature doesn't run on tight specs; it creates a range of 
intensities and lets selection pressure sort out the appropriate balance for 
the current environment.

Homosexuality is no more or less aberrant than the first feathers or the 
first wings or the first human born without a brain or one born with a tail. 
It's all the same to the universe. It's a blind crapshoot and whatever works, 
works. It is worth noting that humans have the highest miscarriage rate of 
any animal we know of and one of the highest rates of birth "defects." We 
view this as bad socially. However, it indicates that in this species a high 
rate of experimentation has proven beneficial. Most experiments and 
innovations turn out badly. Think about your PERSONAL lives and the things 
you've tried and failed at. There are a million books on how to succeed, but 
very few on how to fail. How to fail and survive it is the more important of 
the two; talk to anybody who has been fantastically successful and you'll 
hear mostly about failures that taught them lessons and often were they key 
to success. Failure, coupled with sorting and learning from it are the real 
drivers of success.

Now to cryonics:

Fact: A disproportionate number of activists in cryonics have been and still 
are homosexuals. With the exception of CI (Ettinger has always been its 
leader) every extant cryonics organization has had a gay man as its CEO for a 
critical period in its history. All cryonics organizations have had 
homosexual men and women who have served with distinction on their boards as 
Officers or Directors often being innovators.

Fact: A huge amount of money and effort that has gone into cryonics has been 
as a result of gay men and women. During Alcor's years of peak growth to 
date, gay men occupied key positions in the leadership of the organization. 
The same was true of ACS and CI (then CSM). This was so for several reasons:

a) No one else would do it. Most qualified straight men had wives who hated 
cryonics and threatened their husbands with dire repercussions if they became 
more involved. The gay men had the time and the money to focus their efforts 
full time on cryonics. People like Pat Dewey, Jerry White, Margaret Bradshaw, 
Al Lopp, Gary Meade and many others did what most straight men didn't have 
the time, energy or money to do or to risk doing.

b) Homosexuals have been and still are outsiders. They have been lied to and 
persecuted by the establishment enough to become deeply suspicious of the 
system's legitimacy and rightness. They have learned to think for themselves. 
If they are open homosexuals they are far less driven by "what the neighbors 
will think" and thus far less inhibited about engaging in an unpopular and 
deviant behavior like cryonics. Indeed, the same arguments leveled against 
cryonics are the SAME ones used against homosexuality: it's not natural, it's 
against the order of things, it is anti-religious, it is deviant, it is 
socially unacceptable (you'll be an outcast), it is anti-status quo and 
antiestablishment (not approved by the Doctors, the Church, and your 

c) Homosexuals don't usually have children to distract them from their own 
mortality or give them a sense of continuing through their children. They 
thus have a lot of time to think about the meaning of DEATH.

d) They are typically more narcissistic and focused on their bodies and their 
health. This is probably in part an artifact of being ostracized for those 
very external characteristics and partly because male homosexuals don't have 
to deal with the barrier of women to sexual access. Sex is more casual more 
often and it is looks driven more than it is with female heterosexuals. Women 
want money and stability (statistically) over looks and a quick roll in the 
hay. And why not, THEY get stuck with the kids and childbirth and 
childrearing are not easy for single women even today.

FACT: A disproportionate number of patients now cryopreserved are gays and 

FACT: The largest bequests to a cryonics organization I'm aware of has come 
from gay men. The lawsuit over the legality of cryonics was funded largely by 
a talented gay man named Dick Jones who won 3 Emmys for his writing on the 
Carol Burnett show.

On a personal note, I'm no gay rights zealot nor are most of the gays in 
cryonics. Most are of a libertarian bent. I favor equal enforcement of laws 
that already exist. My sexuality would be peripheral to who I am if people 
like Mr. Epstein hadn't made it otherwise. It still isn't high on my list of 
essentials as to who I am. Old fashioned reproductive behavior in general 
looks pretty silly when you take the long view. In any event, the typical 
heterosexual drive to reproduce is not tenable in the very kind of world 
cryonicists want to create. A solid sphere of human flesh expanding at the 
speed of light is not only impractical, but silly to contemplate. If any 
reengineering for long lifespans has to be done it could just as easily be 
argued it is more likely to be needed for heterosexuals, or, as politically 
incorrect homosexuals call them derisively: BREEDERS.

Me, I just sit and watch the Universe in wonder. It's a weird place and the 
longer I live in it the fewer certainties I have. Homosexuality, yeah, it has 
been very important to cryonics, VERY important. But that was then. Who knows 
what the future will bring? 

One thing's for sure though, straight, gay or something else, you aren't 
going to recruit people by calling them defective and threatening their 
autonomy by "fixing" them for their own good. I've got a modest collection of 
Third Reich items including concentration camp badges, scrip, and Aryan 
Certificates. Horrible and sobering. I display it prominently to remind me 
that moral certainty on issues of this kind is a very dangerous thing.

Mike Darwin

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