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The Sex Lives of Insects: Part III

Posted on August 2, 2011 by James Kohl.

The discussion of the Sex Lives of Insects progressed and a participant commented about the surgical management of intersex infants. Gender assignment was/is often skewed towards female because surgeons find/found it “easier to make a hole than a pole.”  But he also chided that perhaps the same rules do not apply to the Intelligent Designer. Personally, I find such comments to be more than mildly offensive, but will address them from a professional perspective, which may not be well understood by those who are less familiar with molecular biology. The “rules” of the required molecular biology involve ligand-receptor binding. For example, from yeasts to mammals, genetic conservation of the ligand: gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), and the diversification of its receptor (GnRHR) are part of the rules. These rules suggest it is much more difficult to make a functional hole than a functional pole. If you watch the penis fencing video, you can see that no hole does not lead to no sex. Instead, it seems to lead to violent sex, perhaps due to sexual frustration! Thus, the males of many species may bear the burden of this required no hole molecular biology. And they often seem to bear the burden of sexual frustration. But sexual frustration is not the issue of discussion; it’s the hole or pole rules. Variations in the functional hole are probably best known to some sexuality researchers via their manifestation in immune system variability. The immune system variability is reflected not only in female fertility but in immune system effects on male sexual orientation (i.e., according to some theories). This suggests to me the same rules apply across all living species that have GnRH-dependent immune systems and that sexually reproduce. Any alternative rules might exclude homosexuals from the design. I think there is something wrong with such exclusions and so do many sexuality researchers. Others simply condemn what they don’t know about. But, I’m not going to joke about anything that anyone else thinks about intelligent design, or whatever they think is responsible for male/female differences or for differences in sexual orientation.  Many people take their beliefs about molecular biology as seriously as they do their beliefs about the origins of sexual orientation. But are beliefs about molecular biology like all other beliefs, or are they biologically based facts? If they are biologically based facts, they should extend well to the molecular biology of sexual orientation, which appears to me to be God’s design. From yeast to mammals the same molecular biology is conserved, and two organisms are required to sexually reproduce: one male; one female. How intelligent is that? I remember reading something about it in a book chapter called Genesis. And how ignorant is it for anyone to either judge it, or debate it? In follow-up to dialogue about the Sex Lives of Insects, another researcher advised that “Which came first — the penis or the vagina?” was not posed as a serious question. He wrote: “This is hardly an “age old question” as the answer has been clear for a long time.” But he only offered amphibian and reptilian species for examples. I know that the question was playful posed, especially given the video example. But, if we’re going to play with animal models, I prefer to use the toys from my “Biology of Behavior” toy box. Where else can I use what others might call “Tinkertoys” for molecular modeling while focusing on levels of biological organization and explanations of sexual orientation as it is readily explained from yeasts to other mammals? Nevertheless, I continue to I playfully run head-first into a Lego-like brick wall in my attempt to extend an animal model to humans? At least in this case the brick wall is neither Intelligent Design nor which came first. The brick wall is lack of consideration for other’s beliefs.



James Kohl
Retired medical laboratory scientist

James Kohl

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