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Male Penguin Pairs Adopt Chicks

on June 6, 2009

BBC News: “‘Gay Penguins’ Rear Adopted Chick” “Sex and coupling up in our world do not necessarily have anything to do with reproduction.” Is that what the animal world confirms?

Many readers have likely already heard stories of two male zoo penguins rearing a penguin chick together. In fact, our coverage last week of the Alameda, California, curriculum battle mentioned the book And Tango Makes Three, which is based on one such incident. According to BBC News, the same situation is unfolding in a German zoo, where male penguins Z and Vielpunkt are “happily” raising a penguin chick from an egg that was given to them.

Observations of homosexuality and other behaviors in nature doesn’t mean this behavior is appropriate for humans.

“Since the chick arrived, they have been behaving just as you would expect a heterosexual couple to do. The two happy fathers spend their days attentively protecting, caring for and feeding their adopted offspring,” a statement from the zoo said.

The BBC News report notes that the zoo has had three pairs of male penguins in the past that have attempted to mate with one another. The male penguins have even tried to hatch penguin chicks from stones. At one point, the zoo flew in four females to induce the male penguins to reproduce, but the females were removed after “causing outrage among gay rights activists, who accused [the zoo] of interfering in the animals’ behavior.”

We don’t see how anyone can consider such zoo behavior proof that these penguins’ apparent “homosexuality” is a sign that the behavior is normal or natural; after all, the penguins have been artificially separated from females, and certainly no one would suggest that trying to hatch penguin chicks from stones is normal, healthy behavior.

Not only does the behavior of these captive penguins not necessarily make homosexuality “natural,” but even observations of homosexuality and other behaviors in nature doesn’t mean this behavior is appropriate for humans. ScienceNOW reports this week on “coveting” among capuchin monkeys, and what appear to be their clever methods of stealing one another’s food.

An interesting perspective on the whole topic of animal behavior, normality, and morality comes in the form of a new book, Wild Justice, by Marc Bekoff of the University of Colorado–Boulder. The Telegraph reports several examples of apparent morality in the animal world, which Bekoff believes show that “species ranging from mice to primates are governed by moral codes of conduct in the same way as humans.”

That concept can in no way be reconciled with evolutionary ideas unless such patterns of morality can be demonstrated to have selective advantage, in which case there is no such “morality” in the first place. But on the other hand, moral designs in animals matches up with a glimpse we see in Genesis 1:30, where God restricts food consumption among all animals to eating only plants, and again in a similar passage in Genesis 9:5. Only God knows the full mysteries of the animal world (and plant world, etc.) and the extent to which animal interactions was affected by the Curse. Nonetheless, animal behavior—both good and bad—gives us a reminder that what is “natural” is not necessarily right.

Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us.

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