London’s Natural History Museum commits the naturalistic fallacy—repeatedly

June 30, 2022 • 9:15 am

It appears, from the tweet below, that London’s famed Natural History Museum has taken its place in the Woke Parade, for the tweet below clearly means to validate different human gender identities and parade the Museum’s pro-LGBTQ+ credentials by publicizing the several lizard species that don’t require male sperm to have offspring. This phenomenon is called parthenogenesis, meaning “a form of asexual reproduction in animals that does not require fertilization by sperm.” In effect, all members of a parthenogenetic species (if one can call them “species”) are female.

What irks me is that this has NOTHING to do with LGBTQ+ people, who do not reproduce without fertilization. None of us do! This is simply virtue-signalling using animals to support human behaviors (I suppose it’s relevant to gender identity in this case, or if you are an extremist, the superfluity or toxicity of males). And vindicating human behavior by pointing to animals is a form of the “naturalistic fallacy“: the view that “whatever is natural must be good.” If you think I’m overinterpreting the intention of this series, have a look at the second video below or full Monty tour (a 26-minute video) produced by the Natural History Museum.

Of course humans don’t have parthenogenesis, so connecting it with LGBTQ+ in a video tour (see below) is simply mistaken. The naturalistic fallacy, too, is mistaken: that’s why they call it a “fallacy”.  There are plenty of natural animal behaviors that we would not want to see in our species, including infanticide, murder of conspecifics, cannibalism, eating one’s mate after copulation, robbery, adultery, theft, and the whole gamut of crimes and sins.

Yet Leftist biologists in particular are prone to this fallacy, constantly pointing to the diversity of sexual behavior in animals to somehow justify the diversity of sexual behavior in our own species. If I hear one more person bang on about how the clownfish—a sequential hermaphrodite that can change from male to female when a female in a group dies—I’ll scream. (Note that there is a definite change from one binary sex to another: a change from producing sperm to eggs.) Gender or sex change in humans need not be justified by pointing to its occurrence in nature: it’s something to accept and respect regardless of whether it occurs in nature. (And if it didn’t, would that make transsexuality bad because it’s “unnatural”?)

The orange clownfish (Amphiprion percula) much beloved by biologists who commit the naturalistic fallacy. Nemo is of course one of these.

But I digress. Offspring produced without male fertilization are common among invertebrates, especially insects. Vertebrates can have it too: it’s been seen not just in lizards, but in snakes, sharks, fish, and birds. In some of these (like the Komodo dragon), parthenogenesis may occur alongside normal reproduction, and so two sexes are not just present, but “needed”, for without males, the parthenogenetic variant would eventually disappear. (Whether to call parthenogenetic lineages that are genetically different as “different species from each other” is, as I implie above, a matter of taste.)

Komodo dragons MATING. Yes, males are needed to keep the species going.

Parthenogenesis in reptiles, is, as the video below shows, usually results from hybridization between two species. The hybrid offspring have two different genomes, one genome from each of the parental species, and this may mess up the normal process of meiosis that forms sperm and eggs. If it gets messed up in hybrids that, without fertilization, eggs can go on to develop into adults (and these eggs must still have two genomes), we have parthenogenesis.

Sometimes the asexual reproduction persists and we get a new “species”, but a feature of parthenogenesis like this is that it is very often an “evolutionary dead end.” For reasons probably connected with a lack of genetic variation, parthenogens don’t hang around for long as a group. They tend to go extinct well before other species. We know this because looking at the genes of the parthenogenic individuals show that they’re very similar to those of the parental species, which means that the new asexual form hasn’t been around long enough to genetically diverge from the two parental species. The “dead end” nature of this asexual process isn’t mentioned by the Natural History Museum!

Even in parthenogenesis, two sexes are sometimes “needed”, because in many forms of the trait, even in reptiles, sexual activity is needed, even without fertilization. This can take the form of a female mounting another female (“pseuocopulation”), or even copulation with males from one of the parental species—copulation that doesn’t cause fertilization. For some reason we don’t understand, the process of egg development may require a behavioral trigger of copulation or pseudocopulation. Thus the Natural History Museum is also misleading in saying that “two sexes aren’t needed.”  In some cases they are, though they’re needed in one of the two parental species.

Finally, the Natural History Museum errs by saying that all parthenogenic reptiles are clones (genetically identical to the mother). This isn’t true. There are a variety of ways that animals can produce offspring without sex. Some of these involve all the offspring being clones, producing eggs by simple development of an egg that happens to have the same genomic constitution of a mother, i.e. two copies of each chromosome. This form, called apomixis, produces offspring that are all genetically identical to themselves and to their mother. These are all clones.

But there’s another way of reproducing without sex that produces genetically diverse offspring. It’s called automixis, and can occur in several ways. One is that meiosis (production of gametes) produces genetically diverse egg cells, two of which can fuse to form a diploid egg that’s capable of becoming an adult. Since the eggs themselves are genetically different, the diploid eggs will differ from each other too, and  thus the offspring that result will not be clones of each other—or of the mother. Some lizards use this method of reproduction, and so the offspring are not “clones”.

That’s the biology lesson, so you can see that there are at least two errors in the Natural History Museum tweet that I’ve put below again.. However, the tweet’s purpose is not scientific accuracy, but to imply that reproduction without sex somehow supports LGBTQ+ people. As I said, it doesn’t, for no LGBTQ+ folks, or any other human, reproduces parthenogenetically. Readers may wonder what mindset made someone decided that parthenogenetic lizards are part of the “LGBTQ+ tour.”

The video below, labeled above and on YouTube as another part of the LGBTQ+ natural history tour, is pretty anodyne, and in fact doesn’t even mention the L+ sequence. But look at the one below that,designed to vindicate human homosexuality by showing that some beetles have same-sex behavior!

Oy vey! The advantage of the video below is that it’s short. It describes same-sex sexual behavior in insects. Why? Because it’s meant to show that homosexual behavior in humans. because it occur in animals, is “natural”. Ergo, we can’t criticize it. But as I said in my review of Joan Roughgarden’s book Evolution’s Rainbow, a review published in the Times Literary Supplement, this argument doesn’t hold water:

But regardless of the truth of Darwin’s theory, should we consult nature to determine which of our behaviours are to be considered normal or moral? Homosexuality may indeed occur in species other than our own, but so do infanticide, robbery and extra-pair copulation.  If the gay cause is somehow boosted by parallels from nature, then so are the causes of child-killers, thieves and adulterers. And given the cultural milieu in which human sexuality and gender are expressed, how closely can we compare ourselves to other species? In what sense does a fish who changes sex resemble a transgendered person? The fish presumably experiences neither distressing feelings about inhabiting the wrong body, nor ostracism by other fish. In some baboons, the only males who show homosexual behaviour are those denied access to females by more dominant males. How can this possibly be equated to human homosexuality?

Ironically, while narratorJosh Davis, says that the early entomologists describing same-sex copulation in insects did so to justify homosexuality as “natural” in humans, Davis doesn’t go on to say that this whole endeavor is meaningless.  What if there were no same-sex behavior in insects or other animals? Would that mean that human homosexuality should be deemed abnormal and deplorable? Of course not!

This whole “LGBTQ+ four of the Natural History Museum appears to rest entirely on the naturalistic fallacy (see the  26-minute video, too). Whatever happens vis-à-vis sex in animals has nothing to do with how we regard homosexuality (or any other non-cis sexual behavior) in humans. We do lots of things that animals don’t, and judging our behavior, morally or otherwise, must rest entirely on human considerations like the morality we’ve developed that isn’t seen in animals. It’s ironic that in their desire to be au courant with woke ideology, biologists have reverted to adopting a fallacy that they rejected long ago.

The Natural History Museum has fallen into a real trap here, and it’s embarrassing that it are producing these videos. But of course science is now increasingly prey to “progressive” ideology, and so much worse for science.

Be sure to watch the long video that claims that “some sheep are homosexual”—in the human sense. That is, they choose to be homosexual—as if human gay people choose. It’s all a big mess.

h/t:  Luana, Greg Mayer


24 thoughts on “London’s Natural History Museum commits the naturalistic fallacy—repeatedly

  1. > NOTHING to do with LGBTQ+ people, who do not reproduce without fertilization.

    It does not apply to LGBTQ+ /humans/ (not all humans are people (the dead one’s aren’t); it’s possible that not all people are human, personhood is determined by government, after all). It does apply to some other LGBTQ+ lifeforms (if we assume that ‘+’ includes asexual). The post itself is not an example of the naturalistic fallacy, but the fallacy may underlie the intent behind the post.

    1. Give me a break! What kind of pecksniffery and nit-picking is this? And what other LGBTQ+ lifeforms are there besides humans?

      Knock off this kind of trivial stuff if you want to keep posting here.

  2. Thank you for this; it was very timely since my son, very highly educated, last week quoted a graduate professor he had who spouted this fallacy. In class. I warned him about this (after reading your WEIT book, thank you for that book) but was not as eloquent and detailed as you. I have forwarded this article to both him and his sisters. Every day can be a post-graduate day.

        1. Send it to the department, to forward to the professor involved. Probably only a few of their academic staff teach your offspring’s year.

  3. Hear hear! Such fallacies also result from the misinterpetation of comparative studies, often construed as to discover the SIMILARITIES of basic biological mechanisms. Comparative studies also reveal DIFFERENCES between animals prompting the question, Why? – as well as How? The London Natural History Museum sadly never fails these days to disappoint. How are the Trustees (there is a list on the website) letting this happen?

  4. This stuff is so exasperating. Sometimes a parthenogenetic fish is just a parthenogenetic fish. The biologists at the Museum should know this and ought to be defenders of reason and not purveyors of known fallacies. They need to push back on those who would use biology to further a political agenda.

    1. Yes, I wasn’t aware of the “appeal to nature” definition as distinct from naturalistic fallacy, which is the term I’ve always heard used by biologists for for the “natural is good fallacy.” So just take my “naturalistic fallacy” and change it to “appeal to nature”. The argument I make is clear, I think, but your semantic issue is valid, so I’ll use “appeal to nature” henceforth. Thanks.

      I hope that despite the semantic difference, the argument I made above remains clear.

  5. The “homosexuality is found in other animals” argument was created as a rebuttal to the usually religious claim that it’s a “lifestyle choice,” or that it’s “against nature.” The fact that it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny as a moral argument probably doesn’t particularly matter, since the people who try to make a natural argument against homosexuality aren’t particularly good at scrutinizing arguments. It’s a shallow answer to a shallow claim.

    But this bit about same-sex attracted animals justifying same-sex attracted humans is a deep and meaningful point if you compare it with the trans rights activists’ Argument From Clownfish. As Jerry says, the analogy makes no sense at all — and introducing it so frequently and confidently doesn’t speak well of the ideology as a whole. The best that can be said of it is that it illustrates “nature has variety.” The worst that can be said is that it’s but one example of obfuscatory equivocation used within a system of ideas that is grounded in that very type of sloppy, deceptive thinking.

  6. This all reminds me of a science fiction short story, in which someone had invented or discovered parthenogenesis in humans in response to some crisis…and only after thousands of such children (all males) were born was it found that they all could heal the sick, raise the dead, walk on water, turn water into wine, multiply/copy/reproduce foodstuffs, and so on. It was pretty funny. But it knew itself to be absurd…unlike the above.

  7. The museum’s LGBTQ+ tour is no doubt meant as a boon to something conventionally called the LGBTQ+ “community”. This has about as much real existence as the left-handed “community”, the
    tea-drinking “community”, the no-longer-possesses-a-landline “community”, or the still-has-a-landline “community”. As for the LGBTQ variety, one commentator slyly points out: “It barely exists even
    within each letter of its constituent parts. And each has little in common with the others. …the L’s
    don’t need the G’s today, and the G’s don’t care much for the L’s, and almost everybody can be united in suspicion of the B’s. And there is tremendous dispute over whether the T’s are the same thing as everybody else or an insult to them.” [From “The Madness of Crowds” by Douglas Murray]

  8. … LGBTQ+ people, who do not reproduce without fertilization.

    Even if it is illegal – in some jurisdictions – that’s no barrier what-so-ever to people working out how to do it. Then doing it.
    A much more stringent barrier is the cost of being first-in-field. So … how many LGBTQI+ billionaires are there?

  9. I rarely lose my patience. I came pretty close in a discussion with trans teenagers who were trying to convince me that both sex and gender existed on independent spectrums.
    I pointed out that all of those in attendance live as exaggerated stereotypes of members of their desired gender.
    And they do the same things with their bodies. “you have the girls over there, the boys on the other side of the room, and most of you switch by running all the way to the other wall. Nobody stops in the middle, and decides to tell their doc that they want a cloaca.”

    I got called a Nazi for making that sarcastic observation.

    1. Sex and gender are not on independent spectra at all. Show me a new born baby and I’ll predict its adult gender with maybe 98% accuracy. I’m confident with the assertion that sex and gender are strongly correlated.

      1. About correlation :

        There was a post a few weeks ago – PCC(E) enlightened ME at least that in biology, the scientific convention is to ask if the gametes are relatively large or small.

        There was a Springer publication – a reference book, I think – I found.

        I think the guiding principle is : correlation is strong between gamete size and sex-linked traits / XY chromosomes vs. XX chromosomes.

        IOW gamete size . All else is more complicated. I guess.

  10. It is worth noting that Pride in London, the annual LGBT pride festival is happening right now in the Natural History Museum’s home city of London. The event has become a commodified fixture in the calendar, like Christmas or Valentine’s Day and every major institution and organisation in London will do something to promote its LGBT credentials, posting on social media being an easy way to achieve this. From a marketing department point of view, virtue signalling and advertising are just the same thing.

  11. Thanks for pointing this out, because a climate change organisation in my country is also becoming increasingly “woke”:

    Currently they are Making A Stand on many social issues which have nothing to do with climate change, and getting distracted from their core goal. I’m afraid that tying climate issues to this wokeness is going to affect the acceptance among the public, as Singapore is mostly quite socially conservative, but practical in the sense that we know climate change is Bad For Business.

    And just as climate scientists are not experts about the death penalty and crime, neither are lawyers experts about climate change.

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