On the 6 Sucks Sex blog, the subject of human sex and romance will be addressed many times in many ways. In this primary article, a foundation and context for discussion will get laid with this summary of Western science’s understanding of the evolutionary origin and history of sexual reproduction.
This is so we’re all more or less on the same page regarding what it is we’re talking about, when we talk about sex and romance, and men and women, and I’ll refer people to points in this article when certain questions arise sooner or later during the course of this blog project.
We are the living expression of the gene pool
Organisms are the living representatives and perpetuators of their gene pool. Earthly organisms, at least in most cases, eventually die physical deaths due to their genetic coding. If these organisms reproduce before dying, their individual DNA and genes survive in their offspring and are passed on to subsequent generations.
It’s estimated that 99% of all species that ever existed are now extinct. However, at the quantum level of reality – the reality that supports the apparent existence of the seemingly-physical Universe – information is neither created nor destroyed.
Biological life on Earth goes back around 4 billion years. The first organisms were apparently asexually-reproducing prokaryotes (archaea, bacteria), which today still comprise the majority of all biomass.
The late, great and controversial biologist Lynn Margulis observed that it’s not entirely accurate to refer to ‘species’ of bacteria, as some prokaryotes are able to effectively change their ‘species’ and even their ‘genus’ when placed in certain environments, as they’re able to incorporate and reject new genetic material in ways that changes their genetic structure and biological functions, which is not possible for eukaryotes.
Bacterial colonies are different from multicellular organisms in significant ways, but similar in others, in that bacterial cells in colonies may specialize and divide labor to support the function and health of the colony as a whole. Margulis proposed thinking of bacteria as a whole, an uninterrupted continuum from their origin.
Asexual reproduction is the oldest form of biological reproduction on Earth, used by prokaryotes and viruses. Prokaryotes reproduce through cell-division and replication, which results in offspring genetically identical (barring DNA-copying errors) to the single parent. Viruses reproduce by hijacking cellular life forms.
Asexual reproduction methods are used by many forms of life, including some forms that use sexual reproduction, such as plants, fungi, and also many types of insects and other animals, including birds, reptiles and fish. Parthenogenesis is when a female reproduces without a male; her eggs develop into offspring without fertilization and the combination of chromosomes from two parents.
Bacterial conjugation, a method of horizontal gene transfer, is when there is exchange of genetic material through cell-to-cell contact or a bridge-connection. It appears similar in ways to sexual intercourse and sexual reproduction, but it isn’t considered the same thing, as gamete cells are not involved.
Evidence of sexual reproduction first shows up in the fossil record about a billion years ago. Sexual reproduction is a type of procreative biological reproduction that occurs on Earth, technically, only in eukaryotes – single or multicellular organisms that evolved from prokaryotic (bacteria) organisms. Eukaryotic cells have a nucleus and certain organelles enclosed by membranes; prokaryotes don’t have a nucleus or mitochondria.
Most eukaryotes reproduce sexually, including protists, fungi, plants and animals. The species that do are composed of ‘female’ and ‘male’ organisms that produce gametes, specialized reproductive cells – the egg and the sperm. Females produce eggs that are fertilized by the males, in the process yielding new and distinctly different organisms that usually have one half of the chromosomes from each parent, thus forming a full set of chromosomes. Offspring are usually male or female, but may be intersex.
Conception in organisms occurs when two or more haploid cells (cells with half of a complete set of chromosomes) join, forming a complete new diploid or polyploid cell out of which a new, discontinuous and distinct (from the perspective of Western science) organism will emerge. Diploid cells form the basis for most Eukaryotic life, with some documented exceptions under the polyploid umbrella.
Sexual reproduction has a two-fold evolutionary ‘cost’ that asexual reproduction does not; only half of a parent’s genes are passed on, and half of a species (the males) is unable to produce offspring directly. Despite these costs, sexually-reproducing organisms are tremendously successful in a great range of Earthly environments where there is competition for space and resources with asexually-reproducing organisms, and sexual reproduction is more common among organisms than asexual.
Sexual reproduction has led to great variety and resiliency in species, showing that the benefits of sex, diversification, cellular specialization and cooperation outweigh the costs. At the least, it provides various evolutionary advantages to the parents and gene pool of the offspring, such as increased genetic diversity; useful new genotypes; faster accumulation of beneficial traits; better resistance to parasites; and improved avoidance and removal of harmful mutations from the gene pool.
Sexual types, behavior and outcomes
Most plants and many thousands of animal species are hermaphrodites; the living organisms contain both male and female gametes and reproductive organs. Some species adopt a specific sexual role and function for mating, and in others there’s self-fertilization. Heterosexual behavior, including in hermaphrodites, is how the sexual reproduction process begins. This refers simply to the actions by the organism(s) that cause their gametes to join.
In the animal kingdom, the mate that bears the greater cost in terms of risk, time and energy devoted to gestation and nurturing of offspring is usually the choosier of the mating pair. The other half may invest in bodily features or behavior to demonstrate their fitness/desirability, sometimes engaging in competition with rivals for the mating opportunity. In most cases, but not always, the female is the one bearing the greater cost, e.g. pregnancy, birth and nurturing of the young.
Various forms of non-reproductive sexual behavior engaged in by humans and other animals, that are or were considered perverse in many human societies, have been observed in a great number of species within the kingdoms of mammals, birds, reptiles and insects.
In many human societies, these behaviors are, or were at one time, considered perverse, such as infertile sex-for-pleasure, masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, homosexuality, bisexuality, juvenile sex, inter-species sex producing infertile offspring, and necrophilia – no shit. Well, no; pigs like to fuck in shit and so do some humans. Furries? Well, non-human animals are born in their cosplay outfits. But i digress.
Non-reproductive sexual behaviors may not be directly useful for reproduction, but researchers have noted various evolutionary advantages or adaptations in other ways, so they are maintained in potential in the gene pool, and in action in its living expression – existing organisms.
There are also a number of reproductive sexual behaviors humans share with animals that are considered also perverse in civilized societies: cuckoldry (males tricked by mates into raising kids not their own), other forms of ‘cheating’ by males and females, promiscuity, pornography, sexual coercion (‘rape’), prostitution, sexual cannibalism, interbreeding (fertile offspring) and copulatory wounding (sexual violence).
Artificial insemination of female humans and other animals doesn’t involve sexual intercourse, but it’s sexual reproduction – the joining of gametes. When gametes join and begin the process of forming a new, distinct being, that embryo is what it is and will be, genetically. However, it may not yet be discontinuous, i.e. viable outside the womb, and it may die at any point in the process between conception and birth, due to any number of reasons.
The phenomenon of twins, triplets and so on occurs in the following ways. Fraternal twins: two eggs and two sperm. Identical twins: one egg, one sperm, with the egg splitting later in the development process. Conjoined twins are a type of identical twins, where the split happened much later in the process.
Semi-identical twins: Sometimes an egg is fertilized by two or more sperm, resulting in a cell containing extra chromosomes. This arrangement is unstable and usually leads to cell death, but occasionally it results in offspring, which usually don’t survive long after birth due to serious genetic defects. Sometimes, the extra chromosomes are eliminated during development, resulting in offspring that appear normal – the semi-identical condition may only be discovered through genetic testing.
Some takeaways from all this:
In biology, as well as in and between other fields of Western science, boundaries, rules, models, paradigms and definitions sometimes blur and break down, showing that the whole truth is larger and more complex than our current level of scientific understanding. Indeed, it seems that the more Western science discovers to be ‘true’, the more beautifully complex and detailed the whole truth seems to be, with new questions being raised by new information.
Love, life, sex and being, among other things, are significant. These ‘things’ predate you and me, these are how we got here, and, in some ways these define and influence our being and our limits. This includes biologically and socially; sex DNA, sex roles, gender roles, behavior, ideas, etc. Love, life, sex and beingness are aspects of who we are in this human experience.
The ‘fact’ and ‘reality’ is that our biological drives are deeply rooted in the nature of biological life on Earth. Our pleasure and passion exist because of the billion years of mating, fucking, lovemaking and genetic mutation that preceded the evolution of Homo Sapiens and our own personal conception as life.
The birds and the bees and acceptable behavior
We humans have a lot in common with other organisms. Some reproductive and non-reproductive sexual behaviors considered wrong in human societies have been shown to be natural, non-harmful, evolutionarily advantageous or adaptive. People are discriminated against and punished in many human societies, including by death, for real and perceived sexual preferences outside the norm, that may have their root in biology, not in choice. And even if by choice, present no harm to others.
Some sexual behaviors, such as rape, have documented individually and socially damaging effects, which perpetrators may be aware of and may be the reason for their behavior, in whole or part. Violence toward other human beings, including sexual violence, occurs regularly in most human societies. This also violates norms and laws in most societies, though in some circles and circumstances it may be tolerated or expected.
Fundamentalist Holy Book-thumpers (Jews, Christians and Muslims) may assert that the Earth is only several thousand years old, and that ‘perversion’ in the animal kingdom is not due to animals not having knowledge of good and evil, but due to the willful fall of man from grace, which put the whole Earth under a curse.
Maybe not all fundamentalists claim that, but regardless, this is a conclusion not supported by a plain-text and between-the-lines, letter-and-spirit, reading and acceptance of what the whole Bible really is. This is even more obvious when the Bible is considered in the context of the natural Universe it exists in – and the Bible repeatedly refers to nature and human behavior to illustrate spiritual truths. I say this, and I also say the Bible is a/the Word of God. However, this topic is outside the scope of this article, and will be addressed in other blog posts, but your questions and comments are welcome in the thread below.
Instincts and desires that lead to the survival and reproduction of individuals, populations, species and gene pools are evolutionarily advantageous, and thus these instincts and desires are among those traits that nature selects for, sexually and asexually. Humans may be aware of this, but we and the other animals do not need this information to feel and act on these drives.
Sex is good and so is God
The evolution of biological life proceeds by merciless natural selection for reproduction of the environmentally-fittest organisms. It’s a meritocracy where allegedly arbitrary and unintelligent environments do the judging. Breeding is intentional artificial selection of organisms for mating, to produce organisms with human-desired traits; humans taking advantage of a natural process.
It seems quite arrogant and unimaginative that atheistic scientists, many of whom are in awe of the natural world, dismiss out of hand the possibility that an obviously self-organizing system like this Universe – from the Big Bang to the Information Age – would have an intelligent designer. This, despite the fact that this Universe has produced intelligent designers, and the system of evolution/process of life are quite intelligent. It may seem mindless, but it is orderly. How does order arise from nothing and chaos without a creator and organizer? It’s truly a miracle.
In an ‘immaculate’ conception of a human in a human woman’s womb, a deity donates the additional X or Y chromosome. An immortal organism need not reproduce or engage in sexual behavior, though it might wish to, especially if doing is pleasurable and advantageous in other ways.
However, it might also abstain, if doing so is expedient – for instance, if doing so would interfere with or simply not contribute to a larger and more ambitious agenda, such as the salvation of humankind from impending doom and damnation and sharing the gift of infinite love, boundless grace and eternal life. A being with such an ambitious agenda might find the idea of sexual intercourse and perpetuating their personal genome a rather small, uninteresting, undesirable and unworthy endeavor.
For the rest of us who can accept it, God made sex, and made it so it can be good or bad, depending on what we make of it. I like making love great. When humans think of, talk about and have sex and make love, most of us, including me, are focused on ourselves and the one we’re with, experiencing the pleasure and passion, the sights, sounds, scents, tastes, sensations and emotions of the sexual act and relationship. Meditations on the origin and maintenance of sexual reproduction and copulation may be far and away out of our minds when we’re lost in the throes of emotionally and lustfully passionate lovemaking, kissing, licking, tasting, touching, sucking and fucking.
This is normal and fine. However, sex is deeper and broader. Sex is natural. Sex is life-affirming and fundamentally good in that it can give rise to more life, more beings, including human and humane beings – if you believe that’s a ‘good’.
Lovemaking-sex has many health benefits – it’s exciting, interesting, fun and feels fantastic; it increases overall well-being and health, promoting personal peace, joy, healthy self-esteem and happiness; it’s physical, mental and emotional exercise; it lowers blood-pressure, diminishes stress, tension and pain, and reduces the risk of cancer and heart-attacks; strengthens the immune system and stimulates production of feel-good, healing, life-enhancing hormones; fosters bonding, closeness and communication in couples, strengthening relationships; and improves restful sleep, even prolonging life. And, with the right intention and practice, sex can lead to spiritual development, enlightenment and the Love of God.
Tantra and Truth
Tantra is a spiritual science and the art of love. Among other things, it’s a way of relating to and experiencing the universe, reality, life, being human. Tantra holds that God is consciousness in love. Every biological human experience of life can be either a doorway to the divine or a deceiving trap. The experience, experienced and experiencer are all one, in love and truth. Tantra uses everything in life, every experience, to embrace and express the love of God, including the powerful living energy and clarity of consciousness produced by lovemaking.
Tantra holds that we are all weavers; we weave the web of the reality that we live in, combining the threads of our experience into our understanding of this universe we find ourselves in, with the expression of ourselves in our lives and our being here/now in the natural laws of spacetime, and the interplay of matter and energy.
The duality of sex is apparent, and duality is present in other features of the Universe, though ultimately it’s illusory as the many are from one, and one and resolve in one. Also, it’s not true that male and female are ‘opposites’ or ends on a spectrum, anymore than 1 and 0 are opposites and represent the complete range of numbers, which are infinite.
The appearance/perception of divisions and separation from love are illusions that can be hellish but are just illusions. The context in which we hold anything colors our perspective, making things seem good or bad that truly, ultimately, are all in love, as mysterious as it seems sometimes to us experiencing the amusements and horrors of the university of life from within these fleshy vessels for our souls. This is also true according to my understanding of what the Bible really is and who Christ really is.
This article touches on a wide range of topics and raises a lot of questions that will be addressed in future posts; just wanted you to know, if you actually read this far, that I get that.