osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

The Perils of Anthropomorphisizing the Gay Penguins

There has been a modest stir recently over a recent incident with "gay" penguins at the Toronto zoo. Toronto Zoo had a nesting pair of male penguins (one of whom had previously been mated to a female, but the female died). The Toronto Zoo decided to separate them to mate them (and, according to at least one story I have seen, reunite them after they had done their penguinely duty for the zoo population). Once broken up, the older, previously mated male mated with a female and formed a new nesting pair.

This article is probably the worst example of anthropamorphisizing the penguin incident. Ah, the sadness of closet penguins!

My personal opinion is that this underscores the perils of anthropomorphisizing human behavior on animals. There are plenty of examples of same sex behavior in the animal world. There are also plenty of models of behavior we would not want humans to emulate. Much as I love cats, for example, the behavior of the male cat is hardly the model of fatherhood I would urge for human beings.

There has been a tendency to point to same sex behavior in the animal kingdom to refute the charge that same-sex pairing is inherently "unnatural." But this has its limits and the penguin incident underscores the difficulty in such arguments. The case for same sex marriage should, in my opinion, rest on the intrinsically human notion of human liberty and not on biology. When we anthropomorphisize penguins, we lose sight of the unique power of humanity to build cooperative societies on principle, not on biology. This can backfire horribly, but it can also create something far more breathtaking and inspiring than biology ever has. Something as fundamental as the right to live with whom one chooses and have that choice stand on equal footing with all other choices should not rest, if you will excuse me, on the shifting ice of anthropomorphic penguin pairs.

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