Francis Crick and Christof Koch’s NCC model – Similar to My Consciousness Model Published 3 Years Earlier!

Francis Crick, the renown molecular biologist and biophysicist is best known for having discovered the structure of DNA, a crowning achievement for which he and James Watson were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize. Less well known, is that after 1979 he concentrated his efforts on solving something equally enigmatic and important: understanding consciousness.

It was for this reason that in 2002, I sent him a copy of my paper on human sexuality (True Nature – A Theory Of Human Sexual Evolution – published in 2000 in the JGLMA) in which I proposed a robust neurological model of consciousness and used it to show that increased human intelligence eventually reached a threshold that culminated in the loss of all instincts, including the sexual instinct. I was quite familiar with Crick’s papers on consciousness up to that point, and knew that my neurological model was a dynamic and testable model – unlike anything
Crick had ever put forth. I was eager for a response. A few weeks after mailing the paper to him, I received an email reply not from him directly, but from a post-doc research student in his neuroscience lab informing me that Dr. Crick had received the paper but found that it was not relevant to his research interests. This could hardly be true I thought, and instead surmised that Dr. Crick had likely found the paper too provocative to comment on.

Francis Crick passed away in July 2004 of cancer, but not before publishing a series of papers in 2003 (‘What Are The Neural Correlates Of Consciousness?’) and 2004 (A Framework For Consciousness) with his long time collaborator Christof Koch, in which they outlined their own ‘Neural Correlates Of Consciousness model’ (NCC). To my astonishment, I learned through an internet search in 2014 that Crick’s final papers closely mirrored the salient features of my own consciousness model. I cannot know to what extent my paper influenced Crick and Koch’s formulation of their NCC model, or whether it did so at all, for they may have independently conceived their model at about the same time that Crick received my mailing. If this was indeed the case, it was a remarkable coincidence – but one that surely could not have escaped his attention, because when sending him the paper I included a cover letter in which I outlined my proposed neurological model in detail. Whatever the case may be, my paper – published in 2000 – has precedence with respect to the most important elements of their consciousness model outlined in their 2003/2004 papers. I will forego the exercise of juxtaposing our 2 NCC models, and will leave it to the interested reader to compare my model to Crick and Koch’s given above. I will however, state the important elements of my consciousness model, which are basically re-stated in their own consciousness model in 2003/2004 – and for which they are currently given attribution:

1. Neurons form transient assemblies (viz. temporary groups) based on relevant associations relating to past experience, current goals/motivations and/or sensory data, considered options, and projected consequences.
2. These transient neural assemblies are not necessarily localized, but may involve neurons broadly distributed in different regions of the brain.
3. These temporary groups of neurons are self-promoting and are involved in consciousness.
4. They compete against each other for dominance, suppressing rival neural groups with a strength proportional to their own summed neural activity strength.
5. This competition between rival neural assemblies of neurons is necessary because each group may be trying to prescribe a different movement response/option, and therefore some discrimination must exist to prevent possible conflicts of movement.
6. The dominant neural assembly/group – the victor – represents consciousness at any instant in time and determines what we do, think, or are conscious of.
7. Due to a refractory period (viz. rest period) that ensues after neurons fire, the dominant neural group’s control of consciousness is transitory, allowing for a new set of competing neural assemblies to engage in another battle of attrition to determine the next dominant neural group.
8. This process continually repeats, resulting in what we perceive as the stream of consciousness as different groups of neurons successively become dominant and occupy the seat of consciousness for short instants of time.

Francis Crick was not the only researcher to whom I sent copies of my paper. Scores of other researchers in diverse fields were sent copies of the final draft of my paper beginning in the fall of 1997, several years before it was published in the JGLMA in 2000. Through internet searches I had identified a few hundred prominent figures in their respective fields: a LARGE number of brain researchers and cognitive scientists (including professors at leading universities, some Nobel Laureates, and distinguished authors), numerous psychologists and psychiatrists that were part of national boards and associations, dozens of sex researchers in Europe and America, anthropologists worldwide, eminent educators, and evolutionary biologists.

These recipients of my finished draft in 1997-1998 were given to believe that I was someone else – Dr. Richard Rembrandt – an alias I created in order to add some measure of credibility to the paper and motivate a serious reading by professionals. Some recipients were sent hard copies by regular mail, while others were sent emailed copies. I heard back from only a handful, who were mostly dismissive and incredulous, with one notable exception – the director of a sex research institute in Europe who encouraged me to get it published because while not perfect, he recognized its importance and felt the paper deserved a broad discussion. In retrospect my paper might well have elicited a lively professional and public discourse, but its publication in a rather fledgling journal, and my decision to retract my pseudo credentials prior to publication likely both contributed to it not reaching a wider and more receptive audience.

The prevalence and meaning of same-sex dreams

Try finding some published stats on same-sex dreams on the internet, and you’ll likely see your efforts produce scant results of questionable accuracy. The problem is two-fold: even though studies on same-sex dreams do comprise part of the archive of research into human sexuality, their results are not widely known and seldom referenced, presumably because the implications of same-sex dreams are troubling to many. The subject matter is particularly unsettling because science does not have a satisfactory explanation for why almost half of people who define themselves as heterosexual acknowledge having same-sex dreams, albeit with varying frequency. The published statistics for same-sex dreams likely underrepresents the actual number by a considerable margin, because understandably, in a world still rife with homophobia fewer participants are bound to be truthful as to whether they have experienced same-sex dreams.

What is the significance of same-sex dreams? Individually speaking, each one of us has the right to decide for ourselves what our dreams signify. No one can rightfully claim to know what someone else’s same-sex dreams intimate. Whether we have a single same-sex dream, or hundreds of them in the course of our lives, if we interpret them as meaningless and inconsequential we are correct in doing so. If they make us question our sexual orientation, that is also legitimate. An individual’s happiness is found in striving for harmony between the inner and outer self, and relies on a nurturing environment, not one that usurps the right to define oneself.

Whatever their interpretation may be at the individual level however, the almost universal nature of same-sex dreams says something profound about human sexuality as a whole. As Freud noted, dreams are not vacuous entities disconnected from our inner selves. Dreams reflect, without a doubt, some aspect of our subconscious states, our veiled desires, our fears, our aspirations, and our preoccupations. In the case of homo-erotic dreams, they don’t necessarily inform us of what we wish to be, or truly are, but they do perhaps tell us what we might have been if the transformative vectors and environments that shaped us had been different. They are always a product of attrition between 2 realms – the outer self that is constrained by worldly imperatives and which is accountable to society, and the inner freed self that finds silent expression in dreams when it transiently subjugates the sensibilities that characterize our wakefulness.

So what do our same-sex dreams connote? Perhaps we’re all inherently bisexual by nature? It’s a logical conclusion, but the history of human sexuality invalidates this hypothesis. There is another possibility, ostensibly an unbelievable one, that human beings lost their sexual instinct in the course of evolution, and that they would naturally tend to develop a homosexual orientation – if not for societal repression / discouragement against it. This view is supported by scientific evidence, and a comprehensive theory of human sexuality found at www.humansexualevolution.com.

The Hidden Homophobia War That Stems From Same-Sex Dreams

You might think the world has made huge strides in the past decade in making homosexuality more acceptable. While this opinion does reflect a modicum of truth, this acceptance is not whole-scale and is highly dependent on region of the world, and on demographic factors like education, religion, race, age, and gender. The reality is that at the ‘ground level’ homosexuals in even the more progressive countries are still habitually at risk of confronting considerable opposition, alienation, prejudice, and ridicule. So, in a world that is still considerably anti-gay what might the consequences be of the majority of heterosexual people having at least one same-sex dream in their lifetime? (See previous blog (The Prevalence And Meaning Of Same-Sex Dreams.) What also of the consequences of not-so-uncommon childhood same-sex encounters and their potential to affect our adult sexual psyches by casting lingering doubt on the veracity of our heterosexual orientations?

As per my previous blog, same-sex dreams relate to aspects of our sexual psychology that often times remain inaccessible to us in our waking lives, existing in a repressed state. This repression is at root a response to societal disapproval of homosexuality. Most heterosexual individuals are able to downplay the significance of their homoerotic dreams and/or childhood homosexual experiences because they either attribute them to normative aspects of human existence, or because they are sufficiently accepting of homosexuality to not pay them any more heed than they rightly deserve. This is not the case with homophobic individuals. They are perturbed by such events in direct proportion to (a) how recurring their homo-erotic dreams are, (b) the extent to which they sense even a faint attraction to the same sex, and (c) how homophobic they are.

Western society is more un-accepting of male homosexuality than female homosexuality, by-and-large. Thus, a homophobic male in particular who has experienced a troubling same-sex dream or past homosexual encounter, will likely wish to keep his experiences personal. You would think that accomplishing this would be as simple as not verbally disclosing such experiences to others. That will work just fine with liberal-minded heterosexuals, since they are not preoccupied with others’ sexual orientation and perceive only what is overt.

However, this strategy of verbal non-disclosure does not work with the homophobes I am referring to in this blog, who, because they are acutely aware that there must be others out there similarly vexed by same-sex dreams and/or childhood homosexual experiences, are hyper-focussed on the sexual orientation of others. For such individuals, looking at the world suspiciously in this manner for signs of latent homosexuality creates a veritable mine field in which they inevitably identify each other, often through only mutually apprehensive, averted eye contact. It’s akin to two pickpockets in a crowd recognizing each other as cons because each sees the other similarly scrutinizing the crowd for vulnerabilities. A senseless battle of attrition ensues between mutually identified homophobes that pits otherwise descent people against each other in a game of psychological warfare where each combatant ironically seeks to non-verbally convey the same message to the other: ‘you are gay, I’m not .. and I dislike gay people’. This behavior manifests itself daily in settings as benign as workplaces, on streets, and in public gatherings – anywhere such individuals have a chance to deduce a common history based on the subtlest of visual cues.

There are no real victors in this battle, merely those that are somewhat better equipped at doling out and enduring psychological warfare. Ultimately this vicious behavior only serves to surreptitiously poison human interactions, erode the spirit, and stultify true potential. The extent to which individuals are thus affected is variable – from only slightly irritating for some, to debilitating and affecting quality of life for others. Sadly, individuals mired in this conflict most often can’t appeal for help from anyone because they are homophobic to begin with, and are thus unlikely to acknowledge having had the troubling homoerotic dreams and/or experiences that would explain why they’re acutely sensible to such silent rebuke and unfriendliness.

Misconception Of What An Instinct Is

When it comes to human sexuality, we all have our own views – and that’s understandable because each of us possesses a lifetime of accumulated perceptions on a subject that one way or another, affects us all. However, it does not mean that our individual opinions on the subject necessarily have validity: personal biases cause us to focus on data that reinforces our views, and to discount/minimize that which invalidates them.

Consider the question of whether or not humans possess a sexual instinct. I have had people viscerally object to my assertion that as a species, we lack one. And I must say that the objections have come from intelligent, and often times, well-read people. They’ve expressed incredulity as to how I can be so blind to the obvious fact that without any apparent prodding, billions of people are in heterosexual relationships – or heading there, that they produce over 100 million offspring yearly … and they’ve been doing this evidently for millions for years. The world is frenetically sexed up, they add, with males and females perpetually preoccupied with engaging each other sexually. Thus, my detractors think that to even question the naturalness of heterosexuality is absurd. Moreover, how else would our species be able to survive if not for heterosexual intercourse? Surely, they argue, ‘heterosexuality must be innate, and therefore instinctual’ because of its absolute necessity for species perpetuation.

So, where does science stand on this issue? Evolutionary biologists and anthropologists generally speak loosely of human beings possessing some sort of an instinct to reproduce, to nurture our young, etc. But this is clearly a case of widespread scientific bias because they lack proof of this, and not surprisingly, come up shy of definitively saying that most people on earth are heterosexual due to some genetic predisposition they possess. There is after all, no gene they’ve ever found that determines one’s sexual orientation. And they also do not have a comprehensive theory of human sexuality, one that can explain:

1. why human sexual history has been so bizarre: numerous cultures have displayed almost universal homosexual activity at times, permitted within the boundaries of a societally sanctioned bisexuality. Why did these cultures need to endorse/enforce a minimum level of heterosexuality if it is supposedly innate/instinctive in most human beings?
2. the lack of convincing evidence for human sexual pheromones.
3. our unique freedom among all animals to not reproduce, if we choose. Not a single other animal species has this sexual freedom.

My theory True Nature – A Theory Of Human Sexual Evolution makes the assertion that humans lost their sexual instinct in the course of human evolution, and that it occurred because instincts at some point began to be a barrier to maximizing the potential intelligence of our mushrooming brain. But, we could only lose this sexual instinct once we had discovered that it was heterosexual intercourse that allowed us to reproduce, and that it was beneficial to produce children because they could take care of us in old age. If you wish to acquaint yourself with my ideas go to www.humansexualevolution.com . Here, I want to focus in more detail on the objections people have expressed to my theory.

One female wrote to me saying that pretty much all women experience heightened sexual feelings and arousal during the ovulatory phase of their monthly cycle. This was proof, according to her, that humans have a sexual instinct. She said that she’d come to know many females who shared similar tendencies. Furthermore, she cited scientific studies that showed that female strippers in the ovulatory phase danced more provocatively and were judged to me more attractive by male patrons, and subsequently got more tips than their non-ovulatory counterparts. These same studies presented data that purported to show that females at peak cycle emitted sexual pheromones that presumably were detected by males, who in turn responded more strongly to these females and gave them higher tips after a lap dance.

My response to this was as follows: First of all, humans have no pheromones that have ever convincingly been shown to exist. My explanation for women having heightened libidos during the ovulatory phase was to suggest that when we lost our sexual instinct, we essentially also lost the characteristic visible reddened swellings (present in chimpanzees,) that accompanied the female estrus. I propose that when the pheromonal and visual triggers for the human sexual instinct were lost in the course of human evolution, anything that might have increased the chances of a couple having sex during the ovulatory phase – such as a heightened sexual arousal – would have been favoured by natural selection. This heightened sexual arousal in ovulating women would have constituted a behavioral tendency, not a slavish compulsion like that arising from an instinct. Let’s just remember that none of these women showed a complete lack of sexual self-control (as one would expect from a sexual instinct) during the lap dances … they did not compulsively mate with the patrons, nor vice versa. Lesbian women also have this same heightened arousal at peak ovulation, yet their sexual interest is directed at other women – proving it is not a component of a heterosexual instinct.

What about the notion that heterosexuality is so effortlessly maintained in the world? Is it really? Look at the world around you. No matter what strides we’ve made in some parts of the world in making homosexuality more acceptable, there’s still a lot of stigma and un-acceptance associated with being homosexual. That alone is going to strongly bias a heterosexual orientation development. Being born into a predominantly heterosexual world is another huge influence. And although no one is pointing a gun at us telling us what our sexual orientations ought to be, how many parents would really not object to their children developing a homosexual orientation? Sure there are lots, but statistically they are small in number. Most parents encourage – or at least embrace – signs of heterosexuality in their children, but attempt to stamp out the first signs of any homosexual tendency. Thus, human sexuality does not develop automatically/innately to be largely inclined toward heterosexuality. Heterosexuality is masterfully encouraged from every angle in the environment of a growing infant. A strong indication of when something is forcefully maintained (viz. heterosexuality), is when great effort is made to eradicate anything that opposes it (viz. homosexuality). But, ask yourself why it would be necessary to suppress/control homosexuality if it is indeed genetic (as some would argue), yet only affects a small minority of people statistically (2-4%). Well, clearly the way humanity has always dealt with homosexuality fearfully and/or conditionally, leads one to conclude that it must not be genetic after all, and that the paltry current statistics belie its immense power to seduce an entire population – if an equally opposing force is not marshalled.

So yes, we are all sexed up, and yes most of us are attracted to members of the opposite sex, but that does not mean that human beings by and large have an instinct to heterosexual … it’s just the way the world is largely conditioned to be, and for most of us the intended sexual conditioning was ‘successful’. Similarly, those that are homosexual also do not owe their sexual orientation to genes or biology, but instead to individual experience. An instinct is simply a compulsory pre-programmed behavioral response to a specific environmental stimulus. It is never within conscious control, and by definition can’t ever remain unattended to! Yet there’s nothing compulsory about our sexual natures: our ever-present desire for sexual gratification, so often incorrectly interpreted as a sexual instinct, is comparable to our desire to nourish ourselves – both are biological drives, not instinctive ones – which although mediated by the action of genes, are completely under our conscious control. For example, we also spend a substantial portion of our lives procuring and consuming food, but we can put off eating for days if we wish, and then eat only what our life experience has taught us is adequately appetizing and nutritious. So it is with sex: the object toward which our sexual interests are directed are individually variable based on one’s life experiences. It’s all in the upbringing, in the environment one is exposed to. And like the satiation of hunger, which can be foregone to the point of death by starvation, sex (and reproduction) are completely voluntary acts that can be put off indefinitely with strong resolve (ie. religious celibates).

Chinese Origins – Population Bottlenecking, Primary Incest, and the Evolution of Mongoloid Features

We reign supreme on this planet, but this mastery is relatively recent. In the process of becoming ever more knowledgeable, and commanding, of the different environments and geographies we found ourselves contending with over the past 6-8 million years of our evolution, it is known that at times we faced tremendous environmental challenges that appear to have wiped out entire regional populations, and subjected others to tremendous population bottlenecking -a term that refers to a severely reduced population that links periods of comparatively larger prior and subsequent populations. It is what happened during these bottlenecking periods that I propose explain certain phenotypic traits – epicanthic fold, among others – characteristic of oriental and oriental-derived groups of people, a small subset of the Northern European population, as well as bushmen tribes in Southern Africa.

Many species tend to have built-in inhibitions/mechanisms to avoid incest. It is a way of preventing deleterious recessive traits from expressing themselves through homozygosity. Incest avoidance also results in a greater genetic variability in a population’s gene pool, which increases its overall robustness in coping with environmental changes. The evolving human line, like their closest primate relatives, would have likewise had this aversion. Although incest-avoidance no longer likely had any inborn impetus after the human line lost its sexual instinct about 200,000 years ago (see www.humansexualevolution.com), incest would have nonetheless continued to be avoided based on the collective wisdom passed down over countless generations, that it tended to produce offspring with physical deformities, a host of health issues, and intellectual deficiencies. However, when populations declined to the point of near-regional extinction due to environmental conditions that took the form of biting cold, drought, or other effects, small isolated groups barely surviving amid such hardships would have had to forego any social taboo against incest. It is easy to see why: in the unforgiving ancient world of early humans, population stability of small groups was key to survival, because efforts, and perhaps resources, were communally pooled. Moreover, producing children that would one day be able to provide assistance and care to their parents in old age or infirmity, was of paramount importance to the future survival of every individual.

But the age group most severely culled by the harshest environmental conditions are the very young, and the very old, because both groups tend to have the smallest energy reserves, and the weakest immune systems to contend with environmental insults. For this reason, couples that remained childless due to significantly higher infant mortality during bottlenecking periods would have been desperate to produce surviving children, even as females got closer and closer to the age of menopause. But, it is known that the incidence of congenital disorders, most notably Down Syndrome, increases markedly with a mother’s age as she approaches menopause. Males with Down syndrome are almost uniformly infertile, and hence act as a dead-end for further progeny. Females with Down syndrome are significantly less fertile than unaffected individuals, and often have difficulties with miscarriage, premature birth, and difficult labor. There is approximately a fifty percent chance that the offspring of someone with Down syndrome will also have the syndrome themselves. So what we have is bleak circumstances turning ever more bleak within only a few generations, resulting in even greater population depletion. Therefore, when incest was the only way to beget children during periods of extreme environmental challenges, the forebears of humanity must have committed to it, time and again.

As is well known, engaging in incest in fraught with dangers. A large percentage of children – in the range of 50% – born out of primary incest (involving fathers/daughters, mothers/sons, siblings) have autosomal recessive disorders, congenital physical malformations, or some intellectual deficits. But importantly, healthy viable offspring can also be produced by incest. Among the physical traits commonly seen in children born out of incest is epicanthic fold, a skin fold of the upper eyelid covering the inner corner of the eye, giving a characteristic slant-eyed appearance. Of great significance, I believe, is that this feature is also seen in all oriental peoples (chinese, japanese, etc.), in peoples of ancestral oriental origin (Inuit, native americans, etc.), in bushmen tribes in southern Africa (!kung, koisan, etc.), people in some parts of the Pacific Islands, and also in people of Scandinavian descent. The leading explanation for epicanthic fold is that it is an evolutionary adaptation to extreme cold. However, thermal studies of the face show that none of the cranial features of mongoloids show any heightened resistance to cold. But equally damning, cold adaptation as an explanation for epicanthic fold clearly cannot account for its presence in the bushmen tribes of southern Africa, people who are not known to have ever contended with extremes of cold.

Clearly, a more consistent explanation is needed for epicanthic fold, and mongoloid features in general, which appear to varying degrees in the few aforementioned distinct groups of people. I hypothesize that the Mongoloid features associated with oriental peoples, including epicanthic fold, were a result of a marked increase in primary incest – possibly for a period lasting hundreds of years – within small isolated groups. All oriental people are thought to have descended largely from a small group of people that had made their way to the furthest reaches of northern Siberia about 25,000 years ago, likely following reindeer herds. But then, they found themselves confronted with the peak of the last global glaciation. The latest climate research reveals that temperatures dipped to -80 degrees Celcius in this region, and it became unimaginably dry as well, forcing this likely dwindling band of people to retreat to a slightly more hospitable location in eastern Siberia near the town of Mal’ta by about 22,000 years ago. Here temperatures still hovered around -40 degrees Celsius, and its inhabitants probably just barely survived with populations that remained marginal for perhaps centuries, leaving no option but to engage in fairly regular and sustained incest.

I propose that this same environmentally-induced population depletion – with its attendant obligatory incest – played a role in imparting the epicanthic fold and the suite of other mongoloid traits, in all populations exhibiting them. Did sexual selection also play a role in the evolution of mongoloid features? Others have previously speculated that it was sexual selection ALONE that resulted in oriental populations acquiring mongoloid features such as epicanthic fold, for example. One of the problems with this hypothesis is that it does not explain why these features would have been favored by only a subset of human populations. And is it only a coincidence that these preferences arose only among peoples living in harsh and precarious environments where extreme environmental conditions were present at times? And how did such features arise in the first place, for sexual selection to then act upon and magnify further? These should objectively be viewed as troubling holes in this hypothesis. Instead, I am proposing that only after mongoloid features became endemic as a result of primary incest during bottlenecking periods, did sexual selection probably begin to further refine those existing features. The second part of my hypothesis is that the longer the period of incest, ie. the more consecutive generations, or near-consecutive generations, that engaged in it, the more amplified the mongoloid features became – and the larger the suite of characteristic mongoloid features, some of which may be viewed as a reversion to more archaic ancestral phenotypes – and include traits like shovel-shaped incisors for example. And lastly, the more isolated these groups remained, the less outside genetic mixture there was over time to dilute the phenotypic signatures of incest, and the longer they retained them. Populations eventually mushrooming out of these small groups would have had the chance of retaining these distinct phenotypic traits, which then had the potential to characterize an entire race, or group of people.

This blog is part of my main site www.humansexualevolution.com, which showcases a theory of human sexual evolution I wrote and got published in the Journal Of The Gay And Lesbian Medical Association in 2000.

The Evolution of Human Sweating: A New Hypothesis

The purpose of sweat is to liberate excess heat.  That much is obvious, since we sweat when we are hot.  But why is it that no other primate builds up heat in its body to the point of necessitating such an efficient cooling mechanism?  Nor do other mammals sweat for that matter, the horse being the only other mammal species that produces large amounts of sweat to cool down.

The most widely held explanation for human sweating is decades old:  it is part of the Savannah Hypothesis, which proposes that major physical adaptations occurred about 4-6 million years ago when hominins moved from their forest-dwelling environment to the open savannah on the plains of Africa.  This transition, so the theory goes, introduced a major heat stress due to the action of the sun and encouraged three major evolutionary responses to it: bipedalism, loss of body hair, and the emergence of sweat glands.  Bipedalism is thought to have reduced the amount of body surface area exposed to the noon-day sun, while the loss of body hair made evaporative cooling from the skin possible, and favoured the emergence of sweat glands.  The problem with the Savannah Hypothesis is that there is no explanation of why we were unable to contend with this heat stress – without tremendous physical adaptations – while other animals on the savannah appear to get by just fine without them.

Around 2008, I came up with the hypothesis that it was the evolution of a subcutaneous fat layer that triggered the evolution of sweat glands in humans.  (This is the first time however, that I am sharing this hypothesis). A layer of subcutaneous fat, I propose, acts in essence like a blanket over the body’s heat generators – our muscles – thereby effectively containing the heat we then need to get rid of through sweating.   But why do we have subcutaneous fat in the first place? No other primate does.  The only mammals that have appreciable quantities of subcutaneous fat tend to be those that are in a sufficiently cold environment where insulation is required: aquatic and semi-aquatic mammals, mammals that live in northern regions, and those that live at high altitudes.  Two notable exceptions exist, humans and members of the pig family.  And it is noteworthy that pigs have a coat of hair as well as subcutaneous fat – two potent insulators – but ineffective sweat glands, leaving them with relatively poor heat tolerance.   As a result, wild pigs are either nocturnal, or tend to move about during the day under the shelter of brush or tree cover.  All other species of mammals store fat viscerally (ie. within the abdominal cavity, around organs like the kidneys, and the intestines).  The primary function of this fat is as a source of energy, and to some extent cushioning, but not as a means of insulation.   Storing fat internally allows them to dispel heat sufficiently well through a combination of panting, and heat radiation through either the fur, or thick skin layer they might possess.   In mammals possessing fur, it can seasonally adjust in length to compensate for temperature variations.   It is clear to me that given that the subcutaneous fat layer functions as an insulation mechanism, it goes completely against the Savannah Hypothesis’ argument that we actually lost our body hair because we were too hot.

Why did humans evolve this subcutaneously fat layer, and at what stage of our evolution?  The answer to this question is that the subcutaneous fat layer’s emergence was intimately tied to the evolution of bipedalism – but in a most surprising way that is linked to the sexual evolution of our species.

At the point of the hominid line’s divergence from an ancestor common to chimpanzees, we possessed a sexuality much like theirs.  Our VNO (vomeronasal organ) deep in the nasal cavity, responsible for sensing sexual pheromones and triggering a sexual instinct, had been declining in size and strength of operation for several million years prior.   This much is known, since Old World primates do show a reduction in VNO size and functioning.  In step with this decline in pheromonal reliance, had been the evolution of trichromatic vision and a new kind of reproductive sexual signalling stimuli that it had made possible, namely the visible estrus (the red swelling of a female’s sexual skin that correlates to hormone changes and the probable time of ovulation). The advantage of the visible estrus is that it made a fertile female identifiable from a further distance.  The visible estrus thus worked in tandem with the VNO (though reduced,) to trigger the sexual instinct to reproduce.  It is important to note that both were required to operate together to induce an instinctive mating response – much like they function synchronously in chimpanzees today.  Hence, the visible estrus was vital to reproduction.

The evolution of bipedalism however, would have made the retention of the visible estrus virtually impossible, because it is bulky and can swell up to impractical size, making bipedal locomotion difficult.  The loss of visible estrus – a visual stimuli for sexual attraction and intercourse – was, I suggest, replaced by the loss of body hair, which made clothing necessary and thus artificially generated a sex drive by creating sexual curiosity by concealment of the sex organs.

When we lost our body hair, we still had a sexual instinct that was at least partially mediated by sexual pheromones, as in evidenced by the retention of armpit and genital hair, two areas which mature at puberty – a time of sexual maturation – and which emit chemical substances which at one time presumably acted like pheromones.  The sexual curiosity provided by clothing I suggest worked in tandem with the sexual instinct mediated by the VNO, much in the same way that the visible estrus had worked in tandem with it up to that point.   The fact that ovulation would from now on be concealed, strongly worked to favour pair bonding – a shift from the promiscuous sexuality of chimps.

Hence, we can see that there were four evolutionary changes that were linked in a cascading fashion: bipedalism arises first, which then triggers the loss of body hair, which in turn creates a need for an insulating subcutaneous fat layer, which in turn necessitates the evolution of sweat glands.

This blog is part of the blog portion of my site www.humansexualevolution.com.

New Hypothesis: Dog Domestication Linked To Loss Of Human Sexual Instinct And Neanderthal Extinction

HOW DOG DOMESTICATION CHANGED THE WORLD

The kinship and partnership between human kind and dog has existed for many thousands of years. We have benefitted from that relationship in a multitude of ways, some clearly utilitarian – such as when dogs have served the role of guards, herders, hunting aids, and sled pullers – but of equal value, dogs have been our beloved companions, who through their unbounded love, affection, loyalty, and sometimes uncanny perceptiveness, allow us to connect to deeper emotional layers of ourselves, to nurture the esteemed human qualities of kindness and love, and to allay the stresses of daily life in ways human relationships often fail to do. Despite this acknowledged indebtedness to ‘man’s best friend’, I hereby propose that the most important role dogs played and one which changed the fate of the planet, has been lost in the margins of time – as the sole enabler for the emergence of modern man, Homo Sapiens. This relationship was directly responsible for the ascendancy of human beings, and the demise of the Neanderthals. Had dogs never been domesticated, our species’ would not have its defining highly honed intelligence level, and we would likely still be sharing the planet with Neanderthals.

Anyone familiar with the study of human evolution will know that the swift disappearance of Neanderthals from all areas where modern humans moved into, is one of the long standing mysteries in anthropology. Neanderthals were a highly successful hominin species that thrived right across Europe, southwest Asia, and Siberia for around 300,0000 years before modern humans arrived. Their survival amidst some of the most challenging climatic conditions during the last global glaciation attests to their resourcefulness. Yet, within the span of a few thousand years humans completely obliterated Neanderthal populations everywhere, presumably by outcompeting them. We were plainly smarter, it appears: we had more-refined tools, larger social and cultural networks, we developed an aesthetic sensibility as revealed by the first wall murals, figurines, and musical instruments ever created, we moved into areas of the globe Neanderthals had not succeeded venturing into, and most telling, we acquired a chin – not possessed by any other hominin species – which serves as a point of muscular attachment facilitating minute movements of the lips associated with speech (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chin). Neanderthals it seems, never had the ability to communicate anything so complex as to require a highly developed language, a further sign of their lower relative intelligence level. These differentiating attributes of intelligence are all the more perplexing when one considers that Neanderthals had brains that were as voluminous as ours, on average. How can one explain this parity is brain size, but disparity in intellect, between Neanderthals and humans? I believe the answer lies in examining the relationship between instinct and intelligence.

There is a most fundamental connection between instinct and intelligence at a neural level that has previously not been suspected, but which has tremendous explanatory power. It reveals that instincts place a constraint on intelligence level in all organisms, and furthermore, losing instincts allows brains to achieve their full potential intelligence level. The salient points of the argument (found at www.humansexualevolution.com) can be summarized as follows:

  • Brains require neurons to tell them what to do, and this requires neurons to get activated and send a nervous impulse to other neurons.
  • A neuron never works alone, but instead forms a temporary working group with other neurons that all fire synchronously (viz. together) to produce a combined neural signal whose strength is the summed strength of all neurons comprising the group
  • At any instant, there are many such independent neural groups. Each of these temporary groups of activated neurons represents one different thing that the brain could do in the next instant to time, for example, have a particular thought, observe something, initiate a movement, focus visual attention at some object, etc.
  • The group of neurons with the greatest neural strength of operation wins out over all the other neural groups with lesser neural strength of operation, in so doing is able to dictate what the brain commands next, and occupies the seat of consciousness for the instant that it operates.
  • Another neural-group battle begins anew in the next instant of time between different groups of neurons, all vying for control of consciousness. The content of the succession of dominant neural groups defines what we perceive as the stream of consciousness.
  • Intelligence is simply any experience-based response, and is categorically different from instincts, which are inborn responses to environmental stimuli.
  • Experience-based responses (viz. intelligence) and instincts vie for control of consciousness because both require large scale control of movement, and therefore can’t work properly simultaneously because each may be trying to tell the brain to respond to the environment in ways that require conflicting movement responses.
  • In nature, operation of instincts have such essential life-supporting and species-survival roles, that nature ensures that they must generally be able to displace from the seat of consciousness any prescription for behavioral response stemming from experience. To be able to do so, the number of experience-linked neurons that can form a single group, and their combined strength, must be less than that corresponding to instincts.
  • Increased intelligence however, requires more and more input from past experience, and this requires more and more neurons becoming simultaneously involved in conscious decision making and problem solving- which is to say, larger neural groups. However, given than instincts are characterized by neural groups that are relatively fixed in size and do not grow proportionately with increases in brain size, they therefore constrain intelligence level in all animals possessing them.
  • The loss of instincts would therefore eliminate this constraint on the number of neurons allowed to form a single group, thus permitting greater use of prior experience in decision making – the prerequisite for increased intelligence.

Based on this neural model, it is clear that the key to higher human intelligence was losing the sexual instinct. My hypothesis is that of all hominins that ever existed, only Homo Sapiens – our species – was ever able to lose the sexual instinct. Losing the sexual instinct allowed Homo Sapiens to start on the road to maximizing the potential intelligence derivable from the existing size of their brain, allowing huge increases in intelligence without significantly increasing brain size. Neanderthals conversely, must never have lost their sexual instinct, and this would account for their lesser intelligence. There are those who would argue however, that humans still possess a sexual instinct. Theirs is an untenable position – the most definitive indication that humans do not possess a sexual instinct is the freedom every one of us has to choose NOT to reproduce – a reproductive freedom that has no parallel anywhere else in the animal world! Instincts most characteristically, are compulsive in nature so this universal reproductive freedom is all the proof one needs that human beings uniquely lack a sexual instinct.

Why is it that it was only our species, Homo Sapiens, that managed to lose its sexual instinct, and not a single other hominin species that ever existed? The answer lies in the formidable barriers to losing it, which entailed first discovering a benefit to producing children, and then discovering what caused reproduction. Only then would reproduction be relatively assured without a sexual instinct, and a species still be able to survive. One of the barriers to losing the sexual instinct must have fallen at least a few hundred thousand years ago. In the course of hominin evolution there was a progressive increase in intelligence. At some stage, hominins would have acquired enough intelligence to understand the concept of aging and death. And with this knowledge came the realization that the prospect of survival in old age without the assistance of younger individuals was bleak. This was motivation enough to value having children. Neanderthals three to four hundred thousand years ago show some evidence of having cared for the elderly, implying that perhaps they already understood the predictive nature of aging, and formed social units in which prolonged parental investment in offspring was geared toward insuring care and protection in old age. But what of the other barrier – the knowledge of reproduction?

The knowledge of reproduction is so fundamental to human existence that it is easy to believe we have always possessed it. But like all knowledge, it had to be acquired at some point. How, and when, did we learn the role of heterosexual intercourse in reproduction? And furthermore, did other hominins also acquire this knowledge? Though there has been scant speculation about these matters, the unstated assumption is that hominins must have already understood reproduction by as early as perhaps a million or more years ago. This view does indeed appear reasonable when one considers that hominins were already displaying considerable skill in building stone tools by that point in time, an ability that requires forward planning, design conceptualization, selection of appropriate materials, and fine motor skill control to create the desired form from stone. Additionally, hominin species had also demonstrated remarkable adeptness at meeting new environmental challenges after spreading widely over the African continent, and then crossing into Eurasia about 1.8 million years ago. Surely, a mind capable of such feats would have likewise been able to deduce what made reproduction possible, wouldn’t it? I believe a compelling argument can be made to answer this question in the negative.

The reason is that instincts are triggered to operate solely by environmental stimuli, without the need, or capacity, to reference past experience. Hence, there’s a disconnect between instinct and long term working memory, and this presumably exists to prevent past experience from adversely affecting the operation of instincts. But in order to figure out the role of heterosexual intercourse in reproduction we require to correlate 2 events that are significantly separated in time: the incidence of heterosexual intercourse, and the resulting pregnancy. It was therefore an impossible task for any hominin species possessing a sexual instinct – irrespective of brain size – to have solved the mystery of reproduction by scrutinizing its own sexual behaviour. They had to deduce the role of heterosexual intercourse in reproduction by making the necessary observations on another animal species first. These prolonged observations on another animal’s sexual behaviour were only likely to have been made with the first steps toward animal domestication. Accordingly, we have to focus attention to the dog, the first animal to be domesticated.

The places and dates of wolf domestication are much debated. What is certain however, is that all the archaeological evidence indicates only humans domesticated dogs. Studies comparing the haplotypes ( a combination of alleles (for different genes) that are located closely together on the same chromosome and that tend to be inherited together) of dogs with that of wolves from different parts of the world, show that dog domestication may have begun as early as 135,000 years ago. The domestication process however, may have had multiple starts that lacked continuity even before this date, so we may be justified in speculating an upper limit for the advent of wolf domestication to be in the range of 200,000 years ago.

It is likely that humanity’s first steps toward that domestication process had its roots in Africa, probably in Ethiopia -the cradle of mankind – where the Ethiopian wolf is found in mountainous regions there. In fact, the basenji dog – the only canid in Africa that lives in the rainforest of central and western Africa – has an annual estrus timing that closely matches that of the Ethiopian wolf. Curiously, feral or domestic dogs in south Asia living in the tropic forest also match the Basenji’s annual cycle ( http://www.dibubasenjis.com/papers/comparison.pdf ). This may be of significance because the colonization of the world outside of Africa did trace a southerly path through Asia, and humans would have likely carried their dogs with them. A plausible scenario that would have allowed humans to infer the role of heterosexual intercourse in reproduction is one in which a female wolf pup was stolen, or adopted as a rescue. The importance of a female – and not a male – in this scenario is that a female wolf would have attracted wild male wolves when she was in heat, and matings would have at times perhaps occured at a safe but observable distance, enabling her observant human masters over time to eventually make a connection between these sexual encounters and any ensuing pregnancies. Years in which male wolves were not present to mate with the female wolf, would have conspicuously stood out as years in which the female did not become pregnant. After innumerable such observations the deduction regarding reproduction would have eventually become inevitable. This I propose, was the single greatest piece of deduction in the history of mankind, one that would unleash the full power of human intellect and bring the earth and all its creatures under our dominion!

What was it about our species that made us adopt a different attitude toward wolves, a species that must have long been regarded as a competitor? Why had Neanderthals never been inclined to do so? We’ll never know for sure, but we can conjecture. We see differences in culture presently between 2 closely related chimpanzee species – the bonobo and the common chimpanzee. Bonobos show less aggression toward each other than the common chimpanzee, and resolve disputes with sex and hugs/kisses. Similarly, there may have been a difference culturally between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals – one that caused Homo to have empathy in certain situations, like when coming across an orphaned wolf pup, or throwing scraps of food at a wolf that stayed begging. Neanderthals conversely, may have always killed wolf pups on sight, or shooed away any lingering wolf, because they saw them as rivals. It is also likely that from the start our species was just a little more intelligent, even while still possessing a sexual instinct, because we were the newest branch of the family tree – and Africa’s Rift Valley had for millions of years consistently thrown up better and better versions of hominins leading eventually to us. Perhaps this latest increase in intelligence gave Homo an increased self confidence and prowess in all areas, including hunting, and it did not see the wolf any longer as a formidable competitor. Whatever the true story of wolf domestication, it had a most profound effect on our species’ intelligence, and it eventually spelled doom for the Neanderthals.

Homosexuality And Human Evolution – Why Homosexuality Is Natural

 Homosexuality has perplexed and challenged humanity from the very beginning.  It has at times been merely tolerated, sometimes conditionally embraced, but mostly feared and guarded against for its effects on population stability.  While historically this fear might have been justified, our modern societies are robust enough to accommodate new scientific insights, however daunting the consequences may be.  That at least, is what one hopes to be the case.

A curious fact has always escaped being reconciled with any explanation for homosexuality: societies have always, without exception, found it necessary to suppress or constrain homosexual behaviour, while concurrently needing to promote and reinforce heterosexuality through various means.  The need for this, in the face of statistically meagre levels of homosexuality in the range of 2-10%, defies explanation in terms of genetics and points to an experience-based sexuality for human beings.   This is clearly evidenced by the historically numerous examples where mere societal endorsement of homosexuality led to it becoming overwhelmingly prevalent.    In all such historical cases, the innate heterosexual drive to reproduce widely believed to be present in the vast majority of human beings was arguably nowhere to be seen, for why then, would all such societies have resorted to promoting, one way or another, a level of heterosexual activity sufficient for population maintenance.  This apparent synthetic quality of human sexuality points to a uniquely human attribute – a freedom from compulsory reproduction – and an attendant bias toward homosexuality. 

The conclusions regarding human sexuality appearing below are largely derived from a paper that was published in the Journal Of the Gay And Lesbian Medical Association in 2000 (True Nature – A Theory Of Human Sexual Evolution, C. Gomes, JGLMA Vol. 4, No1. and Vol. 4, No. 2), but also reflect new insights gained since publication.  They are a restatement of what appears at  www.humansexualevolution.com.

1.  We are unique  in the animal world  in not possessing a sexual instinct that would compel us to engage in heterosexual intercourse. 

                      What indications are there that this is true?

  • Humans are the only animal species that can choose not to have offspring.  All other sexually reproducing animals are compelled to engage in heterosexual intercourse and reproduce when they sense the right combination of seasonal, pheromonal, and/or visual cues.  This proves that humans do not rely on environmental cues, neither pheromonal nor visual, to dictate their sexual behaviour. 
  • Humans are the only species where exclusive homosexual subgroups exist.  In all other animal species where homosexual activity is seen, the same individuals invariably also engage in heterosexual intercourse because their sexual behaviour is underpinned by a reproductive instinct. 

2.   It was the tremendous rise in intelligence in the course of human evolution that made the loss of our sexual instinct possible.

                      Why was a sufficiently high intelligence level necessary? 

  • For our species to continue surviving, the human line could not lose its sexual instinct until it was possible for reproduction to be relatively assured without it.  And this was only possible after humans had first found a benefit in     producing offspring (realizing that children could provide care and protection in old age), and then discovered what caused reproduction (linking heterosexual intercourse to it).  The tremendous insight required for both discoveries was only made possible by a sufficiently high intelligence level. 

3. Humans discovered the role of heterosexual intercourse not by scrutinizing their own sexual behaviour, but by making that correlation on another species first.  The reason this was necessary is that instincts are not tied to memory, and  hence leave no memory trace of their operation with which to correlate a future event.  Crucially then, the domestication of dogs provided the first opportunity to closely observe the sexual behaviour of another animals species, and eventually make the breakthrough correlation. 

4.Once the mystery of reproduction had been solved, the road was paved for a short-lived nasal plug during fetal development to eliminate the sexual instinct in the human line. It did so by isolating the developing vomeronasal organ (VN0)- critical for pheromone detection and response – from chemical ‘set-up’ signals that would have likely emanated from the concurrently differentiating sex organs, thus inhibiting the VNO’s proper development and functionality. This developmental change appeared within the last 200,0000 years. Of all hominid species that ever existed, only homo sapiens gained knowledge of the essential role of heterosexual intercourse in reproduction.  Hence, all other hominid species necessarily continued to possess a sexual instinct (viz. a functional VNO), irrespective of their brain size.

5. The loss of the sexual instinct conferred upon homo sapiens a vastly increased intelligence level, and allowed them to outthink, out innovate, and out compete the Neanderthals into extinction.

                       How did losing the sexual instinct accomplish this? 

  • Brains require neurons to tell them what to do, and this requires neurons to get activated and send a nervous impulse to other neurons
  • A neuron never works alone, but instead forms a temporary working group with other neurons that all fire synchronously (viz. together) to produce a combined neural signal whose strength is the summed strength of all neurons comprising the group
  • At any instant, there are many such independent neural groups.  Each of these temporary groups of activated neurons represents one different thing that the brain could do in the next instant to time, for example have a particular thought, observe something, initiate a movement, focus visual attention at some object, etc.
  •  The group of neurons with the greatest neural strength of operation wins out over all the other neural groups with lesser neural strength of operation, in so doing is able to dictate what the brain commands next, and occupies the seat of consciousness for the instant that it operates
  • Another neural-group battle begins anew in the next instant of time between different groups of neurons, all vying for control of consciousness.  The content of the succession of dominant neural groups defines what we perceive as the stream of consciousness. 
  • Intelligence is simply any experience-based response, and is categorically different from instincts, which are inborn responses to environmental stimuli. 
  • Experience-based responses (viz. intelligence) and instincts vie for control of consciousness because both require large scale control of movement, and therefore can’t work properly simultaneously because each may be trying to tell the brain to respond to the environment in ways that require conflicting movement responses. 
  • In nature, operation of instincts have such essential life-supporting and species-survival roles, that nature ensures that they must generally be able to displace from the seat of consciousness any prescription for behavioural response stemming from experience.  To be able to do so, the number of experience-linked neurons that can form a single group, and their combined strength, must be less than that corresponding to instincts.
  • Increased intelligence however, requires more and more input from past experience, and this requires more and more neurons becoming simultaneously involved in conscious decision-making – which is  to say, larger neural groups.  However, given than instincts are characterized by neural groups that are relatively fixed in size – and do not grow proportionately with increases in brain size –  they therefore constrain intelligence level in all animals possessing them.   
  • The loss of the sexual instinct in homo sapiens eliminated the constraint on the number of neurons allowed to form a single group, thus permitting greater use of prior experience in decision making, and giving rise to unprecedented powers of observation, deduction, intuition, invention, and abstraction. 
  • This allowed homo sapiens to start on the road to maximizing the potential intelligence derivable from the existing size of their brain, allowing huge increases in intelligence without significantly increasing brain size.  This is evidenced by the comparable brain sizes of Neanderthals and homo sapiens, yet the quantum leap in technology, art, and culture made by human beings.  

6. The loss of the sexual instinct and the resulting full conscious control of reproduction was highly advantageous to humans.

  • It facilitated monogamy within a multi-family group setting because individuals were no longer compulsively drawn to mate with other individuals of the opposite sex emitting sexual pheromones, thus reducing sexual tension and permitting increased social cohesion.
  • It allowed births to be planned and timed appropriately with the availability of food and shelter resources as humans forged their way into new environments during various periods of global expansion, thereby reducing the mortality of infants and expectant mothers.
  • It allowed competing groups of human beings to increase their populations in response to ongoing conflict and competition.

7. Lacking a sexual instinct, human sexuality is completely determined by individual experience.

             What are the implications of this?

  • Heterosexuality is not genetic in human beings.  No genes have ever been found as a cause for heterosexuality.  Heterosexuality is learned.
  • Homosexuality is not genetic in human beings.  No genes have ever been found as a cause for homosexuality.  Homosexuality is learned.

8. A universal set of childhood sexual exploration behaviours exists that most strongly biases a homosexual orientation development, over a heterosexual one, or a bisexual one.  Therefore, though not inborn, homosexuality is natural in humans, heterosexuality is not. 

            What gives rise to these childhood sexual exploration behaviours?

  • All children have a natural tendency to sexually explore and stimulate their bodies from infancy, primarily the sensitive genital area, in attempts to derive tactile and olfactory pleasure from it.  This pleasurable behaviour has a much stronger potential to create same-sex attraction than opposite-sex attraction – if societal deterrents and/or a sufficiently strong heterosexual conditioning environment are absent.  Male circumcision was invented to deter a homosexual orientation development by reducing the penis’s production of smegma, and its sensitivity to tactile stimulation. 

            What indication is there that homosexuality is indeed natural in human beings?

  • If we review the history of human sexuality, we see that throughout recorded history in diverse cultures spread across the globe whenever homosexual behaviour has been embraced and permitted, it has been so widespread and dominant that every such culture found it necessary to condemn exclusive homosexuality in order to ensure that a sufficient level of heterosexual activity existed to enable its survival.  If heterosexuality was indeed an innate, largely universal characteristic of human beings, this historical regulation of homosexuality and enforcement of heterosexuality would not have been necessary.

9. Heterosexuals vastly outnumber homosexuals in the world because societies – needing to maintain their populations – universally encourage heterosexuality while discouraging, or forbidding, homosexuality.

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Fetal Nasal Plug Caused Loss of Human Sexual Instinct 200,000 Years Ago

In a section of  ‘True Nature – A Theory Of Human Sexual Evolution’ ( http://humansexualevolution.com/instinct-and-intelligence.htm) it was stated that humans lost their sexual instinct in the course of evolution due to increases in intelligence, and thus gained complete control over reproduction. After the human line had finally figured out why reproducing was beneficial to individual survival, and had also deduced what made reproduction possible, the stage was set for a quick loss of sexual instinct to occur. At this juncture it is proposed that the presence of a nasal plug during a critical stage of fetal development eliminated the sexual instinct,  and gave humans an unprecedented reproductive freedom. 

A nasal plug appears in human fetal development for roughly 8 weeks, beginning at around the 7th week after conception and lasting until about the 15th week.  Structurally, it is a mass of epithelial cells that completely seals the nostril openings.  A clue to its function is its location, right within the area of olfaction and pheromone detection. In mammals, a sexual instinct is most often dependent upon detecting pheromones via a specialized organ – the vomeronasal organ (VNO) – and passing signals onto the brain areas responsible for initiating the appropriate instinctive behavioural responses.    Significantly,  the presence of the short-lived nasal plug is concurrent with the onset of important changes in sexual differentiation of the fetus, which also begins at week 7.  The ovaries appear in the embryo by week 7, while is males, the testes begin to differentiate. Until the 9th week both males and females have a creased bump that is the phallus. In the 9th week of development in boys, the testis releases hormones that induces the crease to fuse and disappear, leaving the phallus. In girls, nothing of great significance genitally happens in week 9, but over the next few weeks the crease stays and the phallus retracts to become a clitoris.  It is my hypothesis that the differentiating sex organs were the origin of the chemical messengers in the amniotic fluid the nasal plug once served to block.  More specifically, a sexual instinct requires that the correct gender-specific form of the sexual instinct be set up at a receptor/neural level, and this would presumably require instructions from chemical signals denoting gender (arising from sexual differentiation of the foetus) to be delivered to the developing pheromonal receptors, and perhaps the developing fetus’s brain. 

I believe that this developmental change appeared within the last 200,000 years.  Of all hominin species that ever  existed, only homo sapiens gained knowledge of the essential role of heterosexual intercourse in reproduction.  Hence, all other hominid species necessarily continued to possess a sexual instinct (viz. a functional VNO), irrespective of their brain size.  It is most probable that the nasal plug is an evolutionary artefact presently in humans, no longer serving the function it once did. Its absence today would be inconsequential because for thousands of years the sexual instinct has not operated in humans, leaving its associated receptor cells and neural programs outside the controls of natural selection, thus allowing random mutations to accumulate over time and render the  sexual instinct permanently destroyed and irrecoverable.  Prolonged disuse of receptors and neural programs would have resulted in atrophying of pheromonal receptor areas in the nose.  Also, the brain would likely have recruited neural cells from a non-functional sexual instinct network for use in other brain functions.   It is therefore very improbable that the nasal plug currently has the functional role outlined above .  However, I believe that timing of the nasal plug – during a crucial stage of sexual differentiation of the fetus, as well as the formation of the VNO – points to it being a veritable ‘smoking gun’ of human sexual evolution, highly suggestive on its own that humans lack a sexual instinct.

Evaluating A Theory Of Human Sexuality

It is hard not to let one’s personal views come in the way of objectively accessing someone else’s ideas on a controversial topic, much more so when the reader himself/herself becomes the subject being written about. Such is the case when confronted with the provocative hypotheses in True Nature – A Theory Of Human Sexual Evolution. The subject of sexual orientation is admittedly a polarizing one, each of us having our own personal favourite scientific or unscientific explanations, often supported by our own life experiences.

Yet, in fairness to the writer one must dispel all prior notions and open one’s mind to the author’s point of view. The validity and explanatory power of the paper must be assessed only after reading it carefully and understanding the paper fully. A useful exercise is to try to summarize the paper in an appropriately detailed fashion, fleshing out the key points and their supporting arguments. Doing so will give you the author’s reference frame, momentarily allowing you to suspend disbelief and umbrage, and will then hopefully enable you to challenge the paper more objectively.

Childhood Sexuality And Its Potential For Homosexual Orientation Development

It was Sigmund Freud who first recognized the hidden sexuality of young children – those under the age of 5. Until then, young children were regarded as being essentially asexual. How astonishing this fact is, when one considers that virtually all of us go through similar stages of sexual exploration and fantasizing beginning from the very first years of childhood. Freud correctly saw the most secretive part of a child’s world as being filled with sexual curiosity, sexual indulgence, and sexual fantasy.

What is the nature of childhood sexuality, and how does it arise? Childhood sexuality most often begins with ‘self-love’, and only later transcends the self to include others. But why? From the very first moments of life we are faced with the task of becoming acquainted with all aspects of our physical being. As children, we do this by using our hands to explore the boundaries of our bodies, and in the process, we quickly discover that the highly innervated genital area is very sensitive and pleasurable to touch. Being pleasure seeking beings at the core, we repetitively stimulate our sex organs to derive physical pleasure from them.

But the sex organs are also a source of olfactory pleasure – smegma – a combination of shed cells, skin oils, and moisture that is produced under the foreskin in males, and around the clitoris and between the labia minora in females. Though never scientifically researched or written about in academic literature – because it evidently represents one of the bigger societal taboos – the smell of smegma is intrinsically pleasurable to all of us, yet is something generally never acknowledged openly for fear of social rejection. And so, children will deliberately contaminate their fingers with smegma in the process of stimulating the genital area, so that they can then smell their fingers and derive olfactory pleasure from doing so.

Though society strongly discourages both behaviours, all children tend to do it, and in great secret. If one ascribes to the belief that most of us are born inherently heterosexual, there would be no reason to believe that the childhood sexual behavioural tendencies described might have any repercussions for sexual orientation development. However, in a published paper ‘ True Nature – A Theory Of Human Sexual Evolution’ found at www.humansexualevolution.com , it is shown using various lines of argument that humans, as a species, no longer possess a sexual instinct due to our higher intelligence, thus making such behaviours capable of influencing sexual orientation development. But how, exactly?

If we are not born with a pre-determined sexual orientation, we acquire it through our life experiences and environmental influences. So what then, is the potential effect of childhood sexual exploration behaviours? In Chapter 3 (http://www.humansexualevolution.com/sexual-orientation-development.htm) we learn that because of the pleasurable tactile stimulation of the genital, and the addictive odour of smegma, there is the greatest potential – in the absence of all societal influences – to view others of our own perceived gender as sexually attractive because they possess sex organs identical to the our own – to which we have become so dependent upon for tactile and olfactory pleasure. In this same light, the sexual attraction to others of the opposite sex is much less likely to occur, because we cannot similarly associate with them – unless we are immersed in a heterosexual environment where the conditioning elements are sufficiently strong and effective enough to steer our sexual orientation development in a heterosexual path instead. Evidently, this is what societies are able to do successfully most of the time. Being born into a family with a mother and father certainly most strongly impresses upon a developing child what is expected in terms of sexual orientation. It is only when a child, through personal experience, does not respond to the vast array for heterosexually conditioning elements around it, that a homosexual orientation development (or a bixexual one,) is likely to occur.

The tendency for self-love, and its potential for homosexual orientation development, can offer us an explanation for the origin of circumcision, which has always remained a mystery. Both male and female circumcision were actually attempts by various societies across the globe to discourage homosexuality by reducing the tendency for children to fall in love with their own bodies, thereby also reducing the tendency for same-sex attraction. In the case of male circumcision, the removal of the foreskin reduces the formation of smegma, and also reduces the sensitivity of the glans penis to touch. In the case of female circumcision, the excision of the clitoris eliminates their ability to feel pleasure from tactile stimulation. In cases where the labia is also removed in female circumcision, it can be viewed as an attempt to reduce the accumulation of smega and keep the area clean.

Theories for Hairlessness in Humans: Sexual Selection, Savannah / Thermoregulatory Hypothesis, Aquatic Ape Theory, Ectoparasites

Like bipedalism, relative hairlessness is one the defining and conspicuous characteristics of human beings. Explanations for why hairlessness arose are numerous, and include sexual selection (which Darwin favoured), the Savannah/Thermoregulatory Hypothesis, the Aquatic Ape Theory (AAT / AAH), as well as ectoparasites. Of these, only sexual selection offers true insight into why the loss of hair occurred, but another element to the story of human evolution needs consideration – in particular, the role of increased intelligence – to derive a fully consistent and credible account of denudation in the human line. Here, I will outline an explanation for human hairlessness based on sexual selection, derived from a paper on human sexuality entitled ‘True Nature’ which was published in the JGLMA, and which can be found at www.humansexualevolution.com.

But first, let us examine the shortcomings of the competing explanations.

The Savannah/Thermoregulatory Hypothesis says that when humans ventured out into the more open savannah environment from their arboreal habitats (shared with chimpanzees), they experienced considerable heat stress and consequently evolved the ability to sweat, whereby body heat is dissipated through sweat evaporation from skin surface. Such evaporation becomes enhanced when skin is more bare, and thus it is argued that the evolution of sweating concurrently favoured an accompanying thinning/loss of hair in humans. Here’s the death blow to this hypothesis – why were humans unique in their response to this heat stress? No other furred species of animals on the savannah have responded to the savannah heat stress in this way, and in fact, if you examine all those furred animals, you’ll find they have longer hair on the top surface – which is most exposed to the sun – appearing to invalidate the argument that humans lost their body hair due to the action of the sun.

The Aquatic Ape Theory essentially says that the human line went through an aquatic or semi-aquatic stage during evolution that required adaptation via various changes in anatomy and physiology, chief among them, the loss of hair and the development of a subcutaneous fat layer, claimed to have decreased resistance in the water, and increased streamlining and insulation, respectively. Several damning objections can be raised. First, it appears odd that if humans had indeed passed through an aquatic stage they did not retain some innate swimming ability. Secondly, the benefits of losing body hair were presumably to gain added speed through the water, or increased ability for long distance swimming. But why would increased speed have been needed? Certainly not for catching prey, because humans have no specialized adaptations for doing so – i.e. no large jaws, and no claws, etc. As for the swimming speed of humans, it is very unimpressive when compared to even a non-aquatic mammal like a dog. So, any purported increased speed could not have been of much use in escaping predation either. With respect to long distance swimming, the proboscis monkey provides ample proof that a primate can be fully furred, yet still be a proficient swimmer capable of swimming for miles – in the proboscis’s case, from island to island. Anyway, it is a fact that only trained athletes can swim long distances, and this ability is therefore not a species-wide characteristic. Lastly human beings, despite their subcutaneous fat layer would have been ill-equipped to spending most of their time in the water as the theory proposes, because the insulation it provides is not substantial, and humans would have been ever in danger of hypothermia in even relatively warm waters, which would have still been significantly cooler than their body temperature.

The ectoparasite hypothesis says that hairlessness was favoured as an evolutionary strategy to combat fleas, ticks, lice and other biting insects that commonly plague furred animals. Once again, we see a theory calling for humans to have employed a strategy that no other species has used when confronted with the same challenges, for reasons that are never specified. Additionally, this strategy itself is arguably not very effective, since leaving hair on the head, armpits, and genital areas still subject human beings to considerable infestation with ectoparasites.

So now to the sexual selection hypothesis. In a nutshell, it proposes that hairlessness was selected for because humans found it sexier. It might seem absurd to ask why hairlessness might have been considered more appealing, given that most people would tell you that the thought of a fully furred human would be repulsive. But this is preference based merely on hairlessness being ubiquitous today. This question is important to ask, because the answer is not obvious. Darwin, an early proponent of sexual selection as an explanation for human hairlessness, did not offer this needed insight.

A more reasonable hypothesis is that hairlessness in humans forced them to clothe themselves, and in the process it heightened sexual curiosity by obscuring the sex organs. The retention of hair in the armpits and genital area is indirect proof that when this change occurred humans still had a sexual instinct, since these areas develop hair beginning at puberty, and are known to produce chemicals that might have served as pheromones at one time. True Nature Theory says that humans lost the sexual instinct at some point during their evolution because their increased intelligence level made it both expendable, and advantageous to do so. But it was in the transition period – when we still possessed a sexual instinct, albeit a diminished one – that a mutation for hairlessness arose and was favoured so that the adoption of clothing could trigger increased sexual desire, and work in unison with the declining sexual instinct to still trigger heterosexual intercourse. Ironically then, nudity, which before then had never been considered sexually stimulating because it was everywhere, now became more titillating only because it became more scarce. Hence, it was not hairlessness in itself that was initially considered more attractive, but instead, it was more likely that hairlessness was selected for because of the response to use clothing it necessitated, and the consequent triggering of sexual curiosity and desire that was born from concealing the sex organs.

Homosexuality – nature versus nurture

Is homosexuality caused by nature, or nurture, or a combination of both? I will show by rational arguments that homosexuality can only be a function of nurture (more specifically, individual experience), and not nature, nor a combination of nature and nurture.
Let us first consider the possibility that homosexuality is caused by nature, or genes, in other words. This proposition basically says that that there is an actively expressed gene in homosexuals that is not found (or not expressed) in heterosexuals, which irresistibly causes the development of a homosexual orientation.
No such gene has ever been found, despite innumerable scientific investigations. Even the American Psychiatric Association reversed their position on this in 2008, stating that there is no compelling scientific evidence that would allow scientists to conclude that genes are responsible for homosexuality. To be fair, not finding such a gene does not, on its own, rule out it nonetheless might exist. However, there is a damning argument against the existence of such a gene: it could never survive in the gene pool because homosexuals would not pass on this gay gene to a subsequent generation.
But then, what about the recent suggestion that kin selection might allow a homosexual gene to survive, despite its reproductive shortcomings? Kin selection basically says that evolution can sometimes favour the reproductive success of an organism’s relatives, even at the cost of its own survival. Because close relatives often share some genes, a gene that would otherwise be weeded out by natural selection can survive if it is carried by an organism’s relatives. In the case of homosexuality, it has been suggested that homosexuals, by virtue of them not marrying, have more time and resources to devote in the rearing of their relative’s children, thereby increasing their chances of survival.
However seductive this argument might appear, it is completely invalid. The reason is that if homosexuals did indeed have the tendency to contribute to increasing the survival chances of their relative’s offspring in any significant way, then natural selection would have increased the presence of the homosexual gene to the extent that heterosexuals everywhere would have access to such additional familial care and resources from a homosexual relative. Yet all the statistics on homosexuality show that at most, 10% of human beings are homosexual, a number too small to service the familial needs of the remaining 90% of the population. Evolution relentessly maximizes reproductive fitness, and given that it has not optimized the prevalence of homosexuality in humans to this end, it can only be interpreted as proving that kin selection for the homosexual gene is non-existent. Besides, if homosexuals in society had served this beneficial role since time immemorial, one would think it would long ago have become part of humanity’s collective knowledge and defined universally favourable attitudes toward them. We would not have needed a scientist to come up with such a theory.
If a homosexual gene does not exist, then it follows that a combination of nature and nurture can also be ruled out as causing homosexuality. Why? Because if any gene existed that could be acted upon by the environment in such a way as to produce homosexuality, then that gene would be eliminated by natural selection for the same aforesaid reasons. Therefore, the only conclusion one can draw is that homosexuality must have a completely non-genetic basis: if it’s not due to nature, and it’s not due to a combination of nature and nurture, then it must be due totally to nurture.  The same reasoning must apply to other animal species as well:  homosexual activity everywhere in the animal kingdom must be due only to environment, and cannot have a genetic basis.

Do human beings possess a sexual instinct?

A sexual instinct exists in animals to ensure that they reproduce and thus perpetuate the species. It is an observed fact that animals in natural settings are INCAPABLE of resisting the urge to reproduce when sexual pheromones trigger their sexual instinct into action. They are in this sense slaves to their sexual instinct, and this is what faithfully keeps their species going. All animals then, have a sexual instinct. But do humans have a sexual instinct? One might argue that human beings are animals also, and thus must similarly possess a sexual instinct. Sexually speaking however, we are very different from all other animals on this planet.

One of the criteria for a behaviour being considered instinctive is that it must be compulsive in nature: when something in the environment triggers an instinctive drive, the organism responds with a pre-determined stereotyped behaviour. In the case of sexual reproduction, when animals’ sexual instincts are triggered they reproduce without any choice in the matter. They are slaves to their sexual instinct. The question of whether humans possess a sexual instinct is easily answered by noting that human beings as a species are uniquely capable of choosing not to reproduce. Sure, most of us do engage in reproduction, but we do so by choice, as demonstrated by the millions upon millions who instead choose NOT to reproduce. This is an amazing fact and is proof that we do not possess a sexual instinct like that seen in all other animals. As I will show in future blogs there are reasons why this control over our reproductive abilities exists, and why we continue to reproduce despite not being compelled to do so by any internal, genetically programmed drive. For those who want to jump ahead and read my published paper on human sexuality, go to www.humansexualevolution.com .

There is further dramatic proof that human beings lack a sexual instinct – the capability within out species for exclusively homosexual individuals to exist, and the supreme lack of it in all other species. It is true that homosexual activity has been routinely observed in over 450 species of animals (and counting), but there have been no exclusively homosexual animals ever observed in natural settings. Any animal that has been observed to engage in homosexual activity has – as a rule – also been observed to mate with an individual of the opposite sex when its sexual instinct was called into action.

So humans are the only species where exclusively homosexual subgroups can exist – where individuals can be truly homosexual. This is indirect proof that the sexual pheromones which trigger a heterosexual mating response in all other species of animals must clearly not exist in human beings. The grand conclusion here is that we humans have risen above animal sexuality, having lost our sexual instinct sometime in the course of human evolution. We thus as a species don’t have an instinct to reproduce, or to engage in heterosexual intercourse, and have the ultimate reproductive freedom.

Do you agree or disagree with my point of view? Have your say. Add your comments below and be part of the discussion.

If you want to read a full theory of why humans lack a sexual instinct, and why we are the only animals on earth lacking one, go to my website www.humansexualevolution.com .

Can animals be gay? Animal ‘homosexuality’ versus human homosexuality.

A recent New York Times newspaper article entitled ‘Can Animals Be Gay?’ ( http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/04/magazine/04animals-t.html) generated a lot of buzz when it revealed that 39 of 125 nesting pairs of Laysan albatrosses at Kaena Point in Oahu, Hawaii were comprised of female/female pairs. This colony had been observed and studied for decades but it was always assumed that the pairs were male-female. That is, until a keen researcher decided to sex the birds genetically to explain why many of the nests had 2 eggs – when it was known that female Laysan albatrosses are capable of laying only one egg per cycle (owing to their extra large size). It turned out that the nests containing 2 eggs were those belonging to female-female pairs. Further observation revealed that both females of a female-female pair were going out and having sex with an already-committed male, and then returning to their nests to each lay their egg.

The world had a much politicized reaction to this paper than surprised even the lead researcher, who was not trying to explain homosexual behavior, merely the albatross. Some gay rights advocates welcomed the news of same-sex families in the albatross world, interpreting it as further justification of their rights and lifestyle, while detractors were quick to point out that parallels in the animal world were meaningless as reflections of what society should embrace or permit, given that in many animal species there is infanticide and rape as well.

While the head researchers making the observations were quick to opine that they do not consider such same-sex pairs to be examples of lesbianism, they are also not sure what conclusions to draw from their observations, noting that while same-sex pairs appear to do everything male-female pairs do (preen each others feathers, nuzzle together, take turns nest-sitting while the other goes fishing, etc.), they do not have sex.

Why is this happening, and what can explain this abundance of female-female pairings within this colony of Laysan albatrosses? The researchers gave the following explanation: there are fewer male than female albatrosses in the colony and the ‘excess’ females – needing a partner to share parenting duties to enhance a hatchling’s survival chances – opt to each mate with an already paired male, but incubate their egg with another unpaired female. This way, paired females have a better chance of passing on their genes.

Even though in the case of the Laysan albatrosses there is no homosexual activity (viz. actual sex) going on within female-female pairs, it is noteworthy that homosexual activity is sometimes observed when there’s a shortage of one type of gender – in the wild but more often in zoos (known as the prison effect). In fact, the article points out that ‘same-sex sexual activity has been recorded in more than 450 different species of animals, from flamingos to bison to beetles to warthogs’ – but not exclusive homosexual sex! So, to answer the central question of this blog entry – No, animals can’t be gay. Humans are the only species where exclusively homosexual individuals and subgroups exist. We are unique in all of nature in this respect, and I will show in a future blog how it is our vastly superior intelligence relative to all other animals that makes it possible.

The many researchers in the article admit being incapable of making sense of homosexual activity seen in so many diverse species of animals, and speculate that a single unifying theory might not ever exist. I believe a good overall unifying explanation can only be arrived at when we examine the relationship between 2 biological variables – instinct and intelligence – and how they interact with environment. That will be the topic of my next blog.