Friday, January 24, 2014

What is Natural about Human Sexual Behaviour? Scientific Understanding of Homosexuality

It is often argued in public debates that homsexuality is not 'natural'. In the following article that has been published elsewhere, I argue that the natural science's construction of heterosexuality as the natural (and hence devinely approved for theology) is shaped by our own cultural values that favour heteronormativity. 
[Varughese, Shiju Sam 2012. “The Queerness of Creation: Science, Religion and Human Sexuality”. Gurukul Journal of Theological Studies, XXIV/1, January, pp. 41–55]

The Queerness of Creation: Science, Religion and Human Sexuality

Shiju Sam Varughese


The scripture and nature are considered by Christian theologians as two books which differently reveal the will of God.[1] While the Bible embodies the special revelation of God’s purpose to humanity, the Nature reveals God’s wonders as a creator before everyone. The Bible is widely read and interpreted by both believers and biblical/theological scholars to understand the will of God, and as we know, a wide spectrum of hermeneutical tools is employed. It is a well-established fact that biblical texts have to be subjected to rigorous hermeneutical exploration to comprehend the divine messages. Therefore, a serious methodological debate on the interpretational tools and frames is part and parcel of the process which also includes questioning the epistemological assumptions and cultural prejudices behind the textual analysis. The interpretation of nature by science also is subjected to methodological debates among the scientific community. However, the crucial difference scientific knowledge production carries is the lesser emphasis on critically evaluating its own epistemology.[2] Scientists usually do not discuss the background assumptions which shape their experiments and inferences. The social status of science as the highest form of knowledge-seeking allows scientists to claim that the cognitive process is not affected by ‘social impurities.’ Science is hence conventionally understood as socially disembodied and ‘objective.’

This lack of reflectivity and negligence of contextualization of the knowledge production process is taken for granted by those who have attempted to develop a theological response to science also. Even a cursory look at the literature on science and religion reveals this.  Theological responses to science can be broadly classified into two categories. The first is an outright rejection of the scientific interpretation for the challenges it raises to the biblical narratives and the truth claims. Here, the scripture is being perceived as the Word of God, and the scientific discoveries and theories which contradict the Bible are condemned as blasphemous. The creationist resistance to evolutionary theory is the best example for this attitude. However, this conservative standpoint does not enjoy much legitimacy in contemporary theological debate. A second response is to devise new interpretive tools to read Bible in the light of sciences’ interpretation of nature. In its crude form this appreciation of science by theology falls prey to a trend that upholds the irrefutability of Bible by arguing that scriptural accounts had foreseen the advances of contemporary science.[3] For instance, John 1:1–5 is interpreted by the advocates of this position as the biblical revelation of the primacy of genetic codes (the triplet codons) that constitute genes as ‘the Word that was with God’. The academic endeavour called ‘Science and Religion Dialogue’ (SRD), on the contrary, tries to bridge theology with science in a more positive and rigorous manner, wherein the latter is appreciated for its potential to interpret nature and being highlighted as one of the most vital resources and a model for theology.[4] Scholars like Ian Barbour and John Polkinghorne[5] in the 1960s, and more recently Arthur Peacocke[6] and Nancey Murphy[7] exemplify this trend. This dialogic approach at its best ends up as an attempt to demonstrate that scientific interpretation of the Book of Nature need not be contradictory to scripture and that science and religion can be mutually engaging unlike the popular portrayal of them as in perpetual conflict.[8] The problem with the SRD perspective is that its proponents also tend to share the dominant standpoint that scientific knowledge production is a socially disembodied activity. Stated differently, unlike the positive scepticism maintained by the theological community on the epistemological questions on hermeneutics, the theological investigation of the SRD does not seem to critically evaluate the way science reads the Book of Nature.[9] At their best, the scholars in the field rely on the philosophical debates on the method of science to recast theology in the image of science.[10] Such an attempt to rebuild theology modelled on science is in fact an indication of the crisis faced by theology in a secular, modern world that acknowledges the supremacy of science over other forms of enquiry.
The absence of a rigorous attempt to examine how nature is scientifically interpreted has grave consequences for the current theological debate on human sexuality. Although contemporary theology approaches human sexuality beyond the norms of heterosexuality, it either avoids a deeper engagement with the scientific discourses on sexuality, or uncritically accepts the dominant scientific positions. This paper is an attempt to initiate a critical engagement with science and its understanding of human body and sexuality for contemporary theology, informed by the Feminist Studies of Science which traces the gender relations of scientific knowledge production.[11]

Reading the Book of Nature

As mentioned earlier, human perception of nature is crucially shaped by science in general and biological sciences in particular. To put it differently, our understanding of nature is mediated through a complex process of knowledge production within the different branches of biological sciences. Feminist scholars have demonstrated that the knowledge production in biological sciences is not a socially disembodied activity. Instead, they argue that our scientific knowledge production process is influenced by the values and gendered prejudices of patriarchal culture. This indicates that science is not neutral, and that its claim of objectivity is weakened by the lack of reflexivity towards its gendered cultural prejudices about nature. The fact that modern science is Eurocentric and masculine in its methodology is well established by different feminist philosophers.[12] Sandra Harding hence calls for a strong objectivity for science to reflexively re-examine the powerful background beliefs and cultural assumptions against which knowledge is produced.[13]

If biological sciences are culturally shaped by the norms and values of contemporary society, then the picture of the ‘pure’ nature given by science is not something ‘out there’ available a priori to us: instead, it is actively being constructed through scientific discourses. In this sense, nature is a reflection on the mirror of culture. In other words, nature is no more pre-discursively available to us, because it is complexly interwoven with culture. The realization that nature is a scientific construction thus makes it difficult to hold the traditional view that nature is the precondition for social organization as incurred from the myth of Genesis: The second creation story in the Bible (Genesis 2:4 – 3:24) presupposes a divine, perfect nature created by God and the expulsion of humans from it and thereby their sinful initiation into culture. This powerful story of the origin of universe constructs and perpetuates the assumption that nature provides a strong (divine) biological foundation for our existence; as human beings, ours is a double existence as animal being (zoe) and political/social being (bios).[14] The statement that ‘man [sic] is a social animal’ represents this thought. For, the ‘animalness’ in us is our umbilical cord with the divine nature. Our body in this sense is biological; it is deeply linked to nature. At the same time, humans are social beings too, as we cover up our animal instincts in the cloak of culture. This thought that separates zoe from bios is the philosophical foundation of our understanding of natural and cultural dimensions of life.
This binary has become so foundational to our understanding of culture that we always look back to nature to know how things were originally supposed to be in nature. According to this understanding, fall is a perennial human condition and we are expelled from Eden. Unlike the rest of God’s creation (who do not own bios but only zoe), we are distanced from nature, we have lost our innocence forever. At the same time, this Edenic image of nature lures us back to our natural past which humans cannot regain because of our tainted social existence in the (modern) present. However, when this binary-logic is challenged, we refer back to nature to re-legitimize it. This legitimization process is reflected in the apprehension of ‘homosexuality as an unnatural act,’ and hence against the will of God, the Creator. To reject homosexuality as a legitimate sexual practice we look into nature to examine whether it naturally exists among any other animals. The latent assumption here is that animals, unlike humans, still enjoy their natural biological life without being pestered by society and culture.  Such use of nature to verify what is ‘natural’ and ‘normative’ leads us to scientifically conclude that homosexual behaviour is ‘unnatural’ and therefore, is a sinful cultural trait (that has no biological basis) that further alienates us from nature and the Creator. The doctrine of heteronormativity is built on this ‘scientific’ assumption.
Donna Haraway
If science is a social enterprise shaped by socio-economic, political and cultural discourses and processes like any other human activity we have to critically analyze the influence of gender, race, and class on the scientific process of mediating nature. Science, at its various stages of knowledge production reproduces the gender assumptions prevalent in the cultural backdrop. Our patriarchal cultural values and norms are projected onto nature by science in its attempt to understand the phenomenon of sexuality and what is ‘seen’ in nature is projected back to culture in order to propose that heterosexuality is ‘natural’ and hence socially legitimate. While the process of science studying nature and the society’s reliance on the knowledge produced are publicly accepted, the influence of culture on science is always made invisible. This indicates that there is no nature existing ‘out there’ to scientifically observe how human sexuality had ‘originally’ and ‘biologically’ been, untainted by cultural values and social norms and regulations.  What is actually available to us is a natureculture, where both nature and culture cannot be separated, as pointed out by Donna Haraway.[15] What we see as natural is deeply cultural. Similarly, the cultural is derived from our understanding of nature. As shown in the figure, this simulation between culture and nature is a constant process mediated by science. This theoretical insight from Feminist Studies of Science may help us to look at the debates on sexuality in various scientific disciplines in a new light, opening new vistas for our theological reflections on human sexuality. 

The Science of Human Sexuality: Two Case Studies

In this section two case studies will be discussed to demonstrate how the natureculture is produced. The first case is from Primatology, a very influential discipline on our reflections on the evolution of sexual behaviour and social organization. Secondly we will examine the case of the research on hormonal impact on the biology of female Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta). While the first case will demonstrate how heteronormative family is imagined as ‘natural,’ the latter will show us how deviance from the normatively assumed sex/gender roles and behaviours is studied in biological sciences. These case studies will help us to understand how cultural assumptions on heteronormativity and transgendered bodies influence scientific knowledge production and vice versa, constantly producing the ensemble of natureculture.

The Monkey-Puzzle

Primatology has emerged as a major scientific discipline in the post World War II period. As Haraway points out in her book Primate Visions,[16] the early evolution of the discipline is deeply linked to the functionalist discourse that developed in the West during the first half of the twentieth century. According to functionalism, an established social order is the prerequisite for any society to function smoothly. From this perspective, the society must be organized like the organs of the body are connected to and regulated by the head. Like the human body, an organic connection to the centre is essential to bring about order and control in society. Therefore, it is important for any society to engineer its body politic by developing a centralized and hierarchical functional system. This very idea, like many ideologies and practices of the era, influenced Primatology as well. In order to understand humanity’s foundational organizing principles which existed a priori to society and culture, the early primatologists turned to primates. They studied the primate behaviour and social organization. In the 1920s primate studies developed with the claim that the basic factor that differentiates primates (including humans) from other mammals is their reproductive physiology. Influenced by this theory, Robert Yerks, an experimental primatologist, through his research on Pigmy chimpanzees (Bonobo: Pan paniscus) in the Yale Laboratories of Primate Biology in USA in the 1940s, established the primacy of sex in biological and social processes.[17] This has led to the categorization of homosexuality and unhappy marriages as sexual illnesses to be medically treated. Homosexuality thus became a medical problem, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons deviants who enjoy ‘unnatural sex’ and hence ‘fallen from the grace of God.’[18]

C.R. Carpenter, a disciple of Yerks took forward this argument from within the same functionalist paradigm, while transferring primate research into the field from the laboratory, observing wild primates. Sir Solly Zuckerman’s (a pioneering scientist in the field) proposition that menstrual cycle is universal to all primates turned to be important for Carpenter’s research. The Zuckerman thesis continues to be foundational for the study of social organization amongst primates based on gender differences. In his field research on the sexual behaviour of Rhesus monkeys, Carpenter argued that the social hierarchy among the male members of the community was strongly determined by their sexual behaviour. Through an experimental removal of the alpha male (the leader of the group) from the colony of rhesus monkeys, Carpenter proved that the social organization of the group was deeply affected by losing its ability to compete with similar groups in the same habitat, leading to scarcity of food, high infant mortality rate and reproductive incapability. When he replaced the alpha male, the group became well-organized.[19] This was a major development in primate studies, due to its emphasis on the alpha-male centred patriarchal organization of primate communities. The hierarchical order was found as essential for the well-being of the community, where females were seen as submissive to the sexual/masculine prowess of the male primates. Women were portrayed in such studies as family oriented and hence investing more time in rearing the infants but men as taking care of the economic and political activities like collecting food and boundary maintenance through violent negotiations with other groups residing in the same habitat. However, it is interesting to see that Carpenter never attempted to remove the females of the community to know whether this had some impact on social organization: a clear demonstration of how the cultural values of the Western society he belonged to shaped his experimental design.
The understanding of the organization of primate communities in the wild as based on biological sex differences and the corresponding gender roles became foundational to the discipline in the subsequent decades. In the 1960s, although several women scholars started their research on primates,[20] this continued to be the central organizing principle. The women researchers in the 1970s however gradually shifted the focus of the field from male-centred social organization to a more mother-child based observation and analyses.[21] Male members of the community were still studied for their strong sexual inclinations and dominant behaviour, but the reproductive characteristics and child rearing activities of the females were also emphasized. This growing interest on females and infants among the researchers placed the metaphor of primate communities as organized around the ‘family’— the mother-children units — at the centre of Primatological research.
However, by this time, strong challenges were raised against the key findings in the field. The emergence of the second wave feminism and its questioning of monogamous family as a patriarchal institution and the radical feminists’ attempt to problematise the epistemology of science accentuated such a drive within the discipline. For instance, the study conducted by Thelma Rowell among the baboons of Uganda in 1966 suggested that the male dominance among the species does not have any evolutionary significance, but was caused by transitions in the ecosystem.[22] Similarly the Japanese scholars who studied Chimpanzees in Japan argued that considering mother-child relationship as foundational and of evolutionary importance could be misleading, as both male and female members of the community of chimpanzees were keen in interpersonal relationships.
These alternative observations, inferences and theories on primates could not attain upper hand and continued to be largely on the fringes as the discipline predominantly continued with its patriarchal belief that heteronormative family is a positive evolutionary trait. By the beginning of 1980s this theory was again strongly challenged by the new primatologists who were influenced by feminist and queer politics. These new primatologists challenged many of the early findings regarding the sexual behaviour of primates. The argument that primates were heterosexual beings, as we have seen, had been the unchallenged foundational assumption of the field till 1970s. In the next decade it was found that the sexual behaviour in primates may not necessarily be linked to reproduction and that the sexual virulence is not a masculine trait. It was observed that in many primate species, the females were randy than males.

A female Bonobo pair making love
For example, in chimpanzees and langurs the females were seen as actively soliciting sex.[23] It was observed by a study that some female chimpanzees engaged in sexual intercourse with eight different males in a single hour.[24] In Bonobo (Pan paniscus) monkeys, males are sexually passive and the females have to take sexual initiative.[25]
The new studies also contested the argument that females are sexually active only for a short period (oestrus) within the menstrual cycle due to the influence of female hormones. This argument had been used to link sexuality with reproduction. New research instead established the prevalence of homosexual behaviour in many primate species like rhesus monkeys, baboons and chimpanzees which seemed to be not induced by hormonal variations.[26] The genito-genital rubbing quite common in the pigmy chimpanzees was considered earlier by primatologists as a greeting behaviour, because of the notion that sexual activity is limited to the hormone induced oestrus in these animals. In 1984, a primatologist called A. Morri, through his detailed statistical analysis of the behaviour, proved that the genito-genital rubbing was a lesbian sexual behaviour.[27] Another study in stump-tailed macaques (Macaca arctoides) proved the presence of female sexual orgasm during lesbian mounting. The study established that the lesbian females who achieved orgasm were not in oestrus.[28] The same study also found that orgasm was attained more times in lesbian intercourse than male-female mating, challenging the dominant view that orgasm is an evolutionary adaptation associated exclusively with heterosexuality in order to facilitate reproduction.
The above mentioned narrative of the evolution of primatology demonstrates how the knowledge production in the discipline is shaped by wider cultural and political processes. Cultural factors crucially shape each stage of research. The preoccupation with the functionalist ideology guided the early primatologists to reinvent the same order in nature that in turn sanctioned the hierarchical ordering of human society as an evolutionary achievement. In the next phase, the heterosexual family bonding between the female primates and infants became central to the analyses of primatologists, legitimizing the patriarchal celebration of family as the primary unit of social organization. The advent of primatologists with a feminist orientation, influenced by women’s and LGBT movements in the West, as well as research in non-European cultural contexts as in the case of the Japanese researchers however successfully opened up the discipline to a more rigorous, non-patriarchal and inclusive culture of knowledge production. These interventions reshaped the field to be open to alternative possibilities for theorizing social organization and sexual behaviour among non-human primates. The alternative theories and observations also disputed the ‘scientific’ belief that reproduction-oriented-heterosexuality is an evolutionary advantage.
In the next section, we will discuss the research on hyena, an animal with unique morphological and physiological features of pseudo-hermaphroditism to show how ‘deviance’ is studied in science, based on the same heteronormative assumptions that helped primatology to theorize a natural order based on heterosexual reproductive relationships in primate communities.

The Intersexed Body of Female Hyena

The spotted hyena is treated as a case of deviance throughout the history because of its morphological peculiarities and community behaviour. In her study on how this animal is scientifically studied, Anna Wilson argues that spotted hyenas “cause productive trouble for a gendering system based on visible difference because both males and females appear to have a penis.”[29] This system of gendering works on the basic principle that femaleness is a deviation from maleness, the norm.  In the scientific research on hyena, this is still an active principle but in peculiar ways, because of the difficulty in visually distinguishing males from females in the wild. As a clear sign of male biological and behavioural features as the norm, the females have been narrated as having a ‘male-like pseudopenis,’ because of the lack of difference the female clitoris in size and function (with the capacity of erection) has from the male penis. The females use their clitoris to give birth, and also while mounting on other females. These features, Wilson points out, make field studies on wild hyenas nearly impossible and further difficult to understand the “sex differentiated social organization and intersexual relations,”[30] like in primates. Therefore, Hyena Studies became more effective in captivity, and this also helped the scientists to study the sexual differences on the basis of physiological differences with the help of endocrinology[31] in the 1980s, mainly with the inauguration of the Berkeley Hyena Project that set up a captive colony for hyenas in the University of California’s Field Station for Behavioural Research. This development in Hyena studies was made possible by the development of endocrinology in support of evolutionary and reproductive biology since the 1970s. In the context of Hyena Studies, this shift made it possible to understand the complexities of hyena based on its internal secretions, making the social organization and community behaviour of the animal in the wild irrelevant for science. The shift to hormones also implied that social relations and culture are secondary to biology.[32]

A female heyna; her penus is clearly seen
The aberrant transsexual body of female hyena became the focus of research, and all these studies were based on the scientific assumption that the ambivalent morphology and sexual behaviour of the female hyena was because of a hormonal imbalance towards an over-secretion of androgens, the male sex hormones, which make its clitoris grow like a penis,[33] making it a natural aberration from the normal hormone-propelled expression of masculine and feminine behaviours in most of the mammals. However, the complex anatomy of the female genitals made it hard to believe the hormonal disfiguration theory: it contains a urethra (as in penis), and it is used for the entry of male penis while mating, and it is the same organ which delivers the baby. It has also got erectile capacity. This also influences her gender behaviour—the female is more socially and sexually aggressive than the males and superior in clan hierarchy. The last factor (the gender behaviour) nevertheless became crucial in prodding the scientists to assume that it was a psuedopenis. Alternatively this organ could have been understood as unique and different, possibly named as an ‘external vagina’ or a ‘clitoris’, but scientists persistently labelled it as a ‘penis’, situating the female as a (pseudo)hermaphrodite. For Anna Wilson, it is a clear case of attributing the central role of penis as a phallus in the human sign system to the hyenas.
The field observation of hyenas made in the 1990s by three scientists challenged this gendered assumption.[34] They found that the clan hierarchy among the members (both male and female) is reinstated by a greeting ceremony — the subordinate member submits his/her erect penis for examination before the powerful jaws of the superior member. This observation makes it clear that the penis does not have the same phallic role in the hyena’s sign system; it is the erection the sign of powerlessness and vulnerability to physical violence among hyenas. According to this study, the flaccid organ of the dominating animal is the sign of her authority, because she never reciprocates the gesture by making her ‘penis’ erect.[35]

The 'Greeting' ceremony: The pink colour on the penus of the heyna (on the left) is a delivery mark.
The theory of prenatal androgen exposure[36] that leads to disfiguration of female genitals (which causes “the wrong kind of sameness” with males) and female aggression and dominance (“the wrong kind of difference”)[37] which became so foundational in Hyena Studies since the 1970s was challenged further by fresh researches in the late 1990s, seemingly an indication of how the scientific knowledge production is influenced by the changing background assumptions in the West in the wake of LGBT movements. In an alternative experiment, researchers stunted the secretion of androgens and still found that the ‘penis’ is developing in the foetus.[38] Another study noted that the clitoris formation is initiated much before the androstenedione metabolization.[39] These studies thus opened up the possibilities for fresh theorization of the female genitals in hyena as a unique mechanism and not as an evolutionary anomaly.
The case of hyena is interesting because it tells the story of how the cultural understanding of sex and gender enters the field of knowledge production. The body of the hermaphrodite is considered as deviation from the normal male body by science, extending the same old cultural and religious beliefs about hyena as demonic. The intersexed human body also is studied and interpreted in the same way as in hyenas, a clear indication of how they have been treated merely as disfigured biological bodies (zoe) which need to be studied and repaired.[40] The case of hyena as a hermaphrodite thus demonstrates how intersexed body is scientifically understood; all our cultural fears and prejudices about transsexuals provide the background assumptions for science to frame the confusing morphology and gender role reversals in the species as a failed evolutionary experiment by nature and as an exceptional, hybrid body with troubled hormonal mechanism. To make all these assumptions, science depends heavily on patriarchal culture.


The above mentioned case studies demonstrate that science is quintessentially a cultural activity. At each stage of knowledge production (that is, observations, measurements, interpretations and experimental designs), background assumptions of scientists radically shape the scientific understanding of nature. The case studies vindicated how this process happens in reproductive and evolutionary biology when scientists investigate primates and hyenas to trace the biological foundations of human existence. Since modern society is deeply heteronormative, the knowledge about nature and body produced by biological sciences also tends to be shaped by it. The nature seen through the window of heteronormativity in return legitimizes the same cultural assumptions, constantly producing natureculture. Nature and culture are coproduced by the same set of discourses and this epistemological reflection makes it important to explore how natureculture is produced at a particular historical period in a specific social context.
This opens up the possibility to engage with science to reshape it to be more responsible and epistemologically inclusive. The history of biological sciences shows that the scientific understanding of nature and body has changed over a period of time, thanks to the feminist and queer discourses initiated by social movements. The political processes in the wider society have radically reshaped the background assumptions of scientists; this process has been catalyzed by the emergence of a group of scientists (although they are a minority) who designed experiments differently because of their feminist and queer political orientations, producing alternative theories based on new observations and inferences.

This indicates that any social or intellectual movement that envisages a democratic transformation of society cannot avoid critically looking at the epistemology of contemporary science. Theology has a crucial role in this endeavour, because interpretation of the Book of Nature and book of scripture is central to any transformative politics. A conservative interpretation of both the books would continue to perpetuate heteronormativity, as religion and science still enjoy the status of being the most significant influences on contemporary culture. The background assumptions of biological sciences are deeply influenced by the Judeo-Christian world view, and we have seen how Genesis story is foundational to our understanding of the nature-culture binary. Therefore, a hermeneutically rigorous process of reading the Book of Nature is essential for theologians to challenge the heteronormativity. Theology cannot avoid a critical engagement with both the books and the hermeneutical traditions involved in reading them, to participate in our collective effort to make the world more just, inclusive and democratic.


[1] For the use of this metaphor in the field of Science and Religion Dialogue, see Job Kozhanthadam SJ, “The God who Reveals: The Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture as Read by Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Einstein and Davies”, Omega: Indian Journal of Science and Religion, Vol. 2, No.1, June 2003, pp. 7–30.
[2] Epistemological reflections on scientific methodology are, in conventional terms, not the duty of scientists, but of philosophers.
[3] This approach is crude and non-academic because of the anachronism involved in and the celebration of the irrefutability of Bible as the Word of God.
[4] See for a detailed introduction to the current debates in the field, Ted Peters and Gaymon Bennett (eds). Bridging Science and Religion, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.
[5] Ian G Barbour, Issues in Science and Religion, New York: Harper and Row, 1971 (1966); John Polkinghorne, One World: The Interaction of Science and Theology, London: SPCK, 1986.
[6] Arthur Peacoke, Theology for a Scientific Age: Being and Becoming – Natural, Divine and Human, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.
[7] Nancey Murphy, Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning, Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1990.
[8] For debates on the Science and Religion Dialogue (SRD) in Indian context, see Kuruvilla Pandikkattu SJ, Meaning Through Science and Religion, Pune: JDV, 1999; Job Kozhamthadam SJ (ed.), Religious Phenomena in a World of Science, Pune: ASSR Publications, 2004; For recent scholarship in the field, Kuruvilla Pandikkattu SJ (ed.), Dancing to Diversity: Science-Religion Dialogue in India, New Delhi: Serials Publications, 2008. The field in India has been developed and sustained mainly by catholic theologians. A more radical attempt to develop a ‘theology of science’ beyond the limited exercise of SRD in Indian context was initiated by scholars like MM Thomas, Paulose Mar Gregorios and S. Kappen, but their contributions are less explored and taken forward.
[9] This is not to say that there are no such attempts at all. Feminist theology, for example, is influenced by Feminist Studies of Science. Within SRD also there are novel attempts to take a more critical look at science. For instance, see Lisa L Stenmark, “Is Science and Religion Multi-cultural? Feminist and Postcolonial Perspectives”, Jnanadeepa, Vol. 5, No.1, 2002, pp. 35–44; Lisa L. Stenmark, “Feminist Philosophies of Science: Towards a Prophetic Epistemology”, in J B Stump and Alan G Padgett (eds.). The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity, Malden, Oxford and West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012, pp. 82–92.
[10] For example, Ian Barbour argues that theology operates in paradigms and through models, like what Thomas Kuhn proposed for science. See Ian Barbour, Myths, Models and Paradigms: A Comparative Study in Science and Religion, New York: Harper and Row, 1974. Nancey Murphy challenges this Critical Realist approach by arguing that theological enquiries are organized as research programmes as proposed by Imre Lakatose. See Murphy, op cit. Philip Clayton also employs Lakatose’s philosophy of science. See Philip Clayton, Explorations from Physics to Theology: An Essay in Rationality and Religion, New Heaven: Yale University Press, 1989.
[11] A detailed introduction to the debates in the field is available in Evelyn Fox Keller and Helen E. Longino (eds.), Feminism and Science, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. See also, Muriel Lederman and Ingrid Bartsch (eds.), The Gender and Science Reader, London and New York: Routledge, 2001.
[12] For more on the subject, read Sandra Harding, “Feminist Standpoint Epistemology”, in her Whose Science? Whose Knowledge? Thinking from Women’s Lives, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991, pp. 119–63; Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective,” Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No.3, 1988, pp. 575–99.
[13] Harding, “Feminist Standpoint Epistemology”, op cit.
[14] For a detailed exposition of this theme, see Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998.
[15] Donna Haraway, How Like a Leaf, New York: Routledge, 2000.
[16] Donna Haraway, Primate Visions: Gender, Race and Nature in the World of Modern Science, London and New York: Routledge, 1989. If otherwise not mentioned, the arguments in this section are based on the book.
[17] Freudian psychoanalysis provided a wider intellectual backdrop to this discourse on the primacy of sex.
[18] Sandra Harding points out that homosexuality, especially lesbianism, came to be seen as a deviance only in the late nineteenth century Europe, when the first wave feminism began to emerge. Quoting the study of Faderman (Lillian Faderman, Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love between Women from the Renaissance to the Present, New York: Morrow, 1981), she argues that “men’s fear of women’s social equality (…incited by the nineteenth-century women’s movement) and the newly emerging sciences found in each other valuable allies. Psychoanalysis and biomedical research in sex difference gained social legitimacy by defining independent women’s support of each other as pathological.” Sandra Harding, The Science Question in Feminism, Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1986, p. 128.
[19] This experiment was inspired by an early experiment being conducted by scientists on hydra, a multi-cellular organism, where they removed its head and found that a temporary chaos was emerged, and slowly a new head developed from the mutually competing cells, re-establishing the order. This shows that the functionalist ideology inspired knowledge production in various fields, which in turn legitimized the former. See Donna Haraway, “Animal Sociology and a Natural Economy of the Body Politic, Part I: A Political Physiology of Dominance”, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Vol. 4, No.1, 1978, pp.21–36.
[20] The most famous women researchers of the period were Jain Goodall, Dian Fossey, Birutė Galdikas, Thelma Rowell and Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. 
[21] Especially the field research by Jane Goodall on chimpanzees in Tanzania was from this methodological vantage point.
[22] W. Faulkner and E. A. Kerr, “On Seeing Broken Spectres: Sex and Gender in Twentieth Century Science”, in John Krige and Dominique Pestre (eds.), Science in the Twentieth Century, Australia: Harwood Academic Publications, 1997, pp. 43–60.
[23] Patricia Adair Gowaty, “Sexual Natures: How Feminism Changes Evolutionary Biology”, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Vol. 28, No.3, 2003, pp. 901–21.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Elisabeth A. Lloyd, “Pre-Theoretical Assumptions in Evolutionary Explanations of Female Sexuality”, in Keller and Longino, Feminism and Science, op cit, pp. 91–102.
[27] Ibid.
[28] Ibid.
[29] From page no 756 in Anna Wilson, “Sexing Hyena: Intraspecies Reading of the Female Phallus”, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Vol. 28, No.3, 2003, pp.755–90. Otherwise not mentioned, the arguments in the section are drawn from this article.
[30] Ibid, cited in Wilson, 767.
[31] Endocrinology studies the role and impact of hormones in biological systems.
[32] This shift to hormones influenced the studies on various mammals including humans. For a detailed study on sex hormones from feminist perspective see, Nelly Oudshoorn, Beyond the Natural Body: An Archaeology of Sex Hormones, London and New York: Routledge, 1994.
[33] According to Endocrinology, the male and female appearance and behaviour are determined by the changes in the balance between male and female sex hormones, especially in mammals. In humans, for example, it is argued that the homosexual behaviour is due to an over-presence of androgens in females. This is the same argument that gains prominence in Hyena Studies at this juncture, indicating the common biology we humans share with other mammals.
[34] Marion East L., Heribert Hofer and Wolfgang Wickler, “The Erect ‘Penis’ is a Flag of Submission in a Female-Dominated Society: Greetings in Serengeti Spotted Hyenas”, Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, Vol.33, 1993, pp. 355–70, cited in Wilson, op cit.
[35] Ibid, cited in Wilson, op cit.
[36] The scientists identified the “endocrinal mechanism whereby testosterone metabolized from androstenedione (a form of androgen) crosses the placenta to become available to female spotted hyena foetuses in utero.” Wilson, op cit, p. 774.
[37] Wilson, p. 770, op cit.
[38] Christine M. Drea et al, “Androgens and Masculinization of Genitalia in the Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta). 2. Effects of Prenatal Anti-Androgens,” Journal of Reproduction and Fertility, Vol.113, No. 1, 1998, pp.117–27, cited in Wilson, op cit.
[39] Paul Licht et al, “Androgens and Masculinization of Genitalia in the Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta). 1. Urogenital Morphology and Placental Androgen Production,” Journal of reproduction and Fertility, Vol. 113, No.1, 1998, pp. 105–16, cited in Wilson, op cit.
[40] For a detailed discussion on how science studied intersexed human bodies, Paolo Ferruta, “The Hermaphrodite as a Monster: The Photographical Genesis of the Scientific Discourse on Intersexuality since the Nineteenth Century”,, accessed on 28.08.2012.  How such bodies are repaired by medical science is discussed in Suzanne J. Kessler, “The Medical Construction of Gender: Case Management of Intersexed Infants,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Vol.16, No.1, 1990, pp. 3–26.

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