This is the second post in an ongoing series on the topic of biology and sexual orientation.
Last month, I talked about how the longstanding philosophical questions of the mind-body problem might inform or bias our understanding of how biology mediates sexuality. There was some question as to whether having a monist or dualist perspective is as significant to the topic as I theorized, but I still think it is relevant. In fact, I wonder whether the assumptions that stem from those perspectives are so fundamental to our thinking that they seem obvious and hard to imagine being any other way.
Nevertheless, setting aside the mind-body problem, the next assumption I found myself thinking about was the connection between animal behavior and human behavior. A lot of research on the biology of sexuality focuses on animal studies, either as a way to develop hypotheses to test in humans, or as an indirect way of understanding human biology and human behavior. This is for all of the usual reasons why animals are studied — lack of privacy concerns, (relative) ease of creating controlled conditions, shorter generation times (especially helpful for genetic studies), etc. Specific to this domain, there is also the ability to directly observe the behaviors of interest, rather than relying on surveys or other self-reported measures of behavior. But depending on one’s understanding of the relationships between humans and animals, this evidence will be more or less convincing.