Evolution is an asshole

If evolution were a person, that person would an asshole. That person is literally Hitler. More than ten thousand Hitlers! Evolution wants us to be “adaptive” and “fit”, but why should I want that? Why should I want evolutionary adaptability? At best, evolutionary adaptability aligns with my interests, and at worst, adaptability amounts to cooperation with an evil and uncaring god.

So when someone suggests that being asexual or GLB isn’t evolutionarily adaptive, my response is “So what?”

It’s plausible that GLB traits come with some evolutionary adaptability, but there are plenty of conditions for which this is far less plausible. Lots of disabilities for instance. My boyfriend suffers from epilepsy. The evolutionary value of seizures is found wanting. Educated epileptics everywhere must find peace with the fact that they are not evolutionary winners. Which is fine, because evolution is an asshole.

Yes it’s plausible that GLB traits have slight evolutionary adaptability. For instance, there is the hypothesis that GLB make up for the lack of children by caring for their nieces and nephews. But I’m skeptical; you’d have to have a lot of additional surviving niblings to make up for not having children.

I think it’s more likely that GLB traits are just not sufficiently maladaptive to overcome genetic drift. Probably because GLB people were strongly encouraged to have children regardless of their gender preferences. Alternatively, GLB traits are correlated with other adaptive traits (known as pleiotropy). One basic hypothesis is that the genes that cause men to find men attractive might also cause women with the same gene to find men attractive. An evolutionary biologist I know suggested that maybe there are just a lot of different points of mutation that can cause GLBA traits.

But all that discussion of possible adaptability is not relevant to me. I am not forced to have biological children, I am not caring for nephews, and I am not my own sister. I am an evolutionary dead end. Which is fine because evolution is an asshole. Evolution is an old relative who is always pressuring me to have children even though I’m out to them.

This post was adapted from something I wrote on Tumblr. That’s why it’s short.

6 thoughts on “Evolution is an asshole

  1. Coyote February 10, 2016 / 7:18 am

    “Yes it’s plausible that GLB traits have slight evolutionary adaptability. For instance, there is the hypothesis that GLB make up for the lack of children by caring for their nieces and nephews. But I’m skeptical; you’d have to have a lot of additional surviving niblings to make up for not having children.”


    “Ok. So the highest relatedness you can get to any individual is .5 (unless you are a honeybee, but WOW that’s a whole other essay.) And .5 is how related you are to your kid. So that seems like the direction to go in.

    BUT WAIT A MOMENT. If each parent passes on 50% of their genes to their kid, and they have more than one kid, each sibling ALSO has an r of .5 with all other siblings. Holy shit! There’s half your genetic code, and you didn’t have to have sex with anybody!”

    Not debating your overall point though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sciatrix February 10, 2016 / 8:14 am

    FWIW, I think he’s entirely right on that point. In order to ‘break even’ on a fitness level all else being equal, you’d have to cause twice as many niblings to survive to reproducing age as you would otherwise have birthed on your own–independent of your sibs’ contributions to raising them. So it’s not enough to like, occasionally help tidy up after the babies or let your sis have a break or whatever, you basically have to be a superparent. Hamilton’s rule is powerful and all but it’s not THAT powerful.

    I also think that…. hm, evolutionary success is as much down to context as anything else, and human social context brings a lot of different things to bear. Fitness can’t be a value judgement, especially because you frequently cannot evaluate the individual-level fitness of a given phenotype (or genotype at a specific locus) without knowing something about the environment or about the other genotypes in your population or the other genes that a particular genotype is coexisting with within an individual or what have you. All you can do is lump it all together and get an average fitness that blurs all that very pertinent variation into a grey blob and compare the frequencies on that level.

    …is the evolutionary biologist you know me? 😛 Because I was just about to go off on a rant about how people think of sexuality as like, two phenotypes (straight/gay) or maybe three or four if they’re acknowledging bi/pansexuality or asexuality, and really it’s much more likely to be that you have a whole whack of very loosely related kinds of phenotypes which have multiple different etiologies but

    We know a whole lot of traits which are much less complicated than sexual identity work that way; for example, I use deafness as a teaching point in my classes a lot for epistasis, because we know for a fact that there are several ways to change the system of hearing that result in a deaf phenotype and we also know for a fact that single gene changes can control multiple steps of that system. (A lot of our more complex biological systems also have some level of redundancy, which makes it even less likely that selection could really bring its considerable force to bear on less-favored alleles because they’d hide completely from its force until they met some other less-favored alleles with a bang and resulted in a variant phenotype.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Siggy February 10, 2016 / 8:48 am


    Yeah, but for your niblings, r=0.25. Let’s say that having two children suffices for reproductive success. Then you’d have to raise 4 additional nibblings to be reproductively successful. And that’s on top of the niblings that your siblings already would have raised successfully on their own. And well if you’re that good at raising children, maybe you would have been better off raising your own four children? So yeah, what Sciatrix said.


    The evolutionary biologist was you. You replied to the tumblr post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sciatrix February 10, 2016 / 10:13 am

    I totally forgot about that until I clicked on the tumblr post! Evolutionary biology, it is my catnip. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ettinacat December 10, 2016 / 3:07 pm

    “Then you’d have to raise 4 additional nibblings to be reproductively successful.”

    Or raise a full sibling who would otherwise not been born or not survived. Most animals who forego reproduction to help family instead are primarily helping their parents raise their younger siblings, not helping their siblings raise nieces or nephews. Florida Scrub Jays and meerkats are both examples. (Though many meerkats also end up helping with nieces and nephews, the majority of helpers are older siblings.) Ants are an extreme example.
    This makes sense because siblings share 50% of the same genetic material, the same as offspring do. But it’s really not plausible to think that being LGBA makes you more helpful with younger siblings, because unlike most animals, human siblings have overlapping childhoods. Most animals have litters or a single offspring, raise them to maturity and then have another batch, often around the same time that their previous offspring is sexually mature. Which makes it a lot easier for a nonbreeding adult to help raise younger siblings.


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