The Hive Recap: Variable and Full of Perturbation

Variability and Perturbations of the Spiral Universe Inside Us
By Cosima Herter, Series Science Consultant

I was born with the sun in Pisces, the moon in Aquarius, and an Aries ascendant. What does this tell you about me? According to my mother, who had an astrologer cast a natal horoscope for each her children when we were born, it doomed me to chronic ambivalence when faced with big life decisions and a sensitive soul. She believed this map of celestial motion at the time of my birth divined all manner of potential pathologies and behavioral expressions. It foretold the complications she’d have in our relationship, what kind of careers I’d be interested in, outlined the likelihoods of my romantic involvements, and even provided insight into my future financial practices. Insofar as it revealed the unique constellation of my innate qualities and characteristics, my mother believed it to be both an instructional tool in childrearing, and a useful apparatus by which I could channel my innermost being towards adulthood in the most effective and fulfilling ways possible. She also made us sleep with crystals under our pillows to aid prophetic dreaming, and consult tarot cards when unsure of what action to take next.

I grew up thinking that the fact that Saturn was conjunct with my ascendant bound me to an irrepressible sense of loneliness, and my Aquarian moon and twelfth house Venus made me the kind of person prone to secret love affairs with unconventional people. And when I was being particularly naughty and defiant as a child my mother would levy my Aries rising against me like an indictment. To be honest, I really don’t know whether or not the interpretations of these configurations that were espoused to me when I was growing up accurately match those conventionally taught by professional astrologers. What I do know is that I was taught that my personality traits were to be understood as qualities influenced and fixed by the zodiac, and the ‘stronger’ the geometrical relationship between planets and signs indicated a higher likelihood of expression throughout my life. A bit sheepishly, I’ll admit that well into my adulthood, I still indulge secret fantasies that each failed relationship might have been due to the rather depressing array of my planetary aspects, my Neptune in Sagittarius makes me a irrepressible idealist, and every time I get a headache I still describe it to myself as a momentary Aries affliction. Old frameworks by which one has been taught to analyze the world – fiction or not – are hard to suppress, I suppose.

Today we often find our horoscopes relegated to the final pages of beauty magazines and online dating questionnaires, but astrology as a soothsaying tool has a long history. Early modern western astrology was employed as a predictive model by which one’s fate could be foreseen. It was deeply integrated into medical practice, and was considered an indispensible tool for treating ailments and formulating surgical practice. Now, of course, professional astrologers are quick to defend their craft by explaining that they do not profess to reveal predetermined fates, rather potentials – potential experiences an individual may have during their life because there is a pre-existing tendency towards certain kinds of capacities that compel one to behave and respond to their world when the planets are aligned in a particular way. Yes, your idiosyncratic cosmic propensities matter when expressing yourself, but they are inextricably influenced by the idiosyncratic conditions you encounter in your material world. Nothing is written in stone, despite what deep-seated astrological proclivities one might have. Proneness does not equal inevitable.

Sexuality

We are also born with certain genetic potentialities. To be sure genetics provides an epistemic access to certain anatomical truths that astrology does not (and I certainly put my trust in the science of genetics far and above astrology!). Breast cancer runs in my family, but I am not fated to succumb to it. Heterosexualism also seems occur with some regularity, but I am not predestined to succumb to that either. There is little doubt in my mind that genetics plays an important role in just about everything that happens within our bodies, but there is a hefty surtax on thinking that our genes furnish us with compulsory behaviors that we are unconditionally bound to express. Indeed, this thinking often contributes to an arrested development of understanding about how genetics ‘work.’ No geneticist worth their salt will argue that simply because some particular gene sequence occurs within our genome it necessarily must express itself, let alone in a very specific predetermined way. Genetics is not a synonym for determinism any more than astrology is.

Human sexuality, for example, is as much a biological characteristic as it is a political institution. It is a lighting rod for controversy, and the subject of an increasing number of contentious, yet politically efficacious, scientific studies. Civil liberties, human rights, access to health care, basic respect and human dignity, and freedom from prejudicial violence are at stake. But, insofar as sexuality has a genetic component (like all biological characteristics) it is not so simply explained by genetics alone. Moreover, it is not regulated by any one single gene. Despite how studies on the genetics of sexuality are represented in the popular press that either decry or redeem the genetic basis of sexual orientation, none of the research to date that espouses to have found the “gay-gene” (or, more recently the “male-loving gene”) are actually supported by a claim that one gene, and one gene alone, determines sexual orientation. Sexuality is complex, both as a biological component and a political identity. Our genes do not define who we are, and while certain genes may indeed be present, they may or may not be expressed depending on a whole spectrum of environmental and biological circumstances. The reductionism of either ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’ is far from adequate to explain sexuality. The “Brief on Sexual Orientation and Genetic Determinism” published by the Council for Responsible Genetics offers a sensitive and cogent discussion of this issue: “The social urgency to answer questions regarding sexual orientation has pushed a greater interest in the “science” of it. Yet a narrow focus on the variability of sexual expression threatens to cloud the issue altogether. Without giving proper attention to the mutability of human sexual expression, questions regarding its origins and character cannot be answered.” [1] Neither genetics, nor sociological and psychological studies, alone can answer the questions we ask about the origins of human sexuality. By no means am I attempting to position myself as an authority on this subject. I sincerely do not know how much of a role my genetics, my familial, social, physical environment, or my choices play in the configuration of my sexuality. But it’s important not endow either genetic or social science with an epistemic reach into the truths about ourselves that they simply do not have (and that most geneticists would not grant themselves). All manner of factors affect the expression of genetically coded traits like height, hair color, and disease, just as much as they affect the expression of sexuality. Genes are no more the final arbiter of my sexual and romantic relationships than my moon and Venus in Aquarius.

___________________________

I want to thank my dear friend Cameron Lazaroff-Puck for this essay’s title. I was struggling with that, and I couldn’t be more delighted with his help with this! – Cosima Herter

[1] Brief on Sexual Orientation and Genetic Determinism, Council for Responsible Ethics, 2006.

NEXT: #AskOB Fan Q&A with Cosima Herter

This story has multiple pages:

  • Tom Horsley

    You know, I like this show. It is a fun ride, but I’m starting to have this problem: In a world where the rich and powerful can get away with things like (recently) almost destroying the entire world economy (with no one responsible going to jail or even being inconvenienced very much), why are a bunch of clones so important? Certainly no one at Dyad would have risked jail time even if the clones all showed up on the Today show. I’m gonna need some reason for the conspiracy sometime soon :-).

    • Alicia de Artola

      A successful series of HUMAN clones who survived to adulthood in secret…that’s a pretty damn important fact on its own with the questions of ethics, legality, etc adding extra layers to the conspiracy. Remember, this was a terminated government program deemed an ethical failure hijacked (illegally probably) by a corporation.

      • Vrgcodex

        Yep. Mayby the goal was to create the perfect human being. It is always about power and people will do anything to get it.

        • bodasativa

          No, they are the property of the corporation.

          • Mothman’s Dog

            “I am not a number. I am a person.” (The Prisoner)

  • MaryAnn Eva Kochanko-Norvik

    The twists and turns each week keep me hooked. The imagination of these writers is amazing, totally threw me with the addition of Tony. Love this show, only wish the season contained more than 10 shows, you guys sure know how to tease a lady and keep her hooked. Thank you!

  • Len

    I love the show but honestly, as a trans dude, Tony does not ring true to me. Would need to know more about time of transition, whether he’s been on T (it doesn’t look like it, apart from the hair, which is a little too close to drag king presentation than real trans dudes…) etc.

    in any case, i know it’s a lot to ask to be up to date on gender politics and what not. still my favorite show.

    • dynommoose

      He injected testosterone in the episode.

  • Mothman’s Dog

    And now I can no longer resist investing in Cosima, or deny that I identify with the clones on health issues. While I have had serious congenital problems all my life, including a cough nearly that bad, to paraphrase: my medical history is the least interesting thing about me. Forget girl fights being mean, rules-lawyering can get downright nasty. I have had a loaded firearm pointed at me during a Dungeons & Dragons game. So thank you for Cosima resolving a rules dispute peacefully and to everyone’s enjoyment. Gamers need more positive role models like this. Now if only I could wear a Doctor Who t-shirt in public without getting harassed…

  • Jennifer Hart

    Nature or nuture? Did you know there is, on the underside of the brain, a structure called the corpus callosum which when anatomically reversed, as in birth defect, will cause a male to self-identify as a female and a female to self-identify as a male? No kidding, check it out: Wikipedia, corpus callosum, Gender Identity Disorders. I love this show, thank you, Tatiana, Jordan and friends, everything about it. You had us see Tony before we heard him speak, you get me with your surprises every time.

    • Vrgcodex

      Wow, never knew that. So it’s a biological thing?
      And I loved Tony’s voice.

    • pmichaelt

      Read that article again. Your reporting is inaccurate.

    • bodasativa

      Gender identity disorder[edit]

      Research has been done on the shape of the corpus callosum in those with gender identity disorder. Researchers were able to demonstrate that the shape dimorphism of the corpus callosum at birth in biological males who self-identified as female was actually reversed, and that the same held true for biological females who self-identified as male. The publishers of this article argued that the shape of the corpus callosum correlates better with the mental sex of individuals rather than their physical sex.[10]

      The relationship between the corpus callosum and gender remains an active subject of debate in the scientific community.

  • Vrgcodex

    Tony’s lines are soo funny “When did you come out? Tuesday?”
    Loved him and his weird chemistry with Felix. I was chocked. But not in a bad way.
    I thing we saw too little of him to understand. Especially with a charachter that complex. Still the most awsome show ever. Nice work everyone :)

  • http://www.subterror-radio.com/ DJ Shiva

    I continue to be proud of the thoughtfulness that is put into the plot, the science, the relationships, and the identities of these characters.

    And Felix correcting Art’s gender pronoun usage was subtle, yet hugely important as well. <3

    • http://www.subterror-radio.com/ DJ Shiva

      Oh, and I was pleasantly surprised by the semi-twisted, but definitely hot chemistry between Tony and Felix. That was a great addition, and even more of a testament to the acting talents of both Tat and Jordan to be able to flip from the brother/sister warmth all the way to that. Damn. So good.

  • Pat

    When the president is gay and the first lady is transgender, then TV characters? Just a big so what.

    • That’s Too Funny

      Ha, ha. That’s what happens when the politicians out-act the actors. I guess you can’t b.s. a b.s.er, but you can out-act an actor. lol Even those who think they have great gaydar totally miss the most blatant things right before their eyes.

  • Serena

    Please, please fix Tony’s eyebrows!!! A trans man does not have plucked eyebrows!

  • Mothman’s Dog

    In all this fuss over Tony, people have missed something very important: we now know enough clones for Alison to have trained them as a football team – and in time for the World Cup! :)
    In terms of labels and representation and starting discussions, as a “card-carrying disabled person” I would not mind seeing a disabled clone in season 3; ideally, someone with an Invisible Disability who quotes Spoon Theory whenever anyone says But You Don’t Look Sick. Maybe something like her heart and lungs being not properly formed, chest a mass of surgery scars (neat mirror to Helena there), and determined to look after herself despite not having the energy for a normal life. This would tie in to the clone illness plot, never quite sure if her breathing difficulty is due to the synthetic DNA or her disorder. Can barely make it up the stairs to Felix’s door, but won’t collapse onto his couch while anyone’s looking. And the heartbreaking twist is she’s a “failure” like Sarah, capable of having children but choosing not to; not because she’s afraid she wouldn’t be around to raise the baby, but that the child might inherit everything she’s suffered. Bonus points for a subplot where she offers Rachel a womb transplant. Though being left-handed, like Helena, I already have representation on the show; so I won’t be too bothered if the writers decide not to explore other health-related ways in which choices were taken away from the clones by their creators before they were born.
    Watching this again, I think my favourite piece of acting is Kira’s reaction to Sarah’s reaction to Ethan reading that book to Kira. More Kira please!

    • Tom Horsley

      Speaking of clones we haven’t seen yet: Will we get Tatiana in a fat suit as the clone who’s depression drives her mainly in the direction of pizza and ice cream?

      • Mothman’s Dog

        Given Helena’s eating habits, that would raise an interesting question as to the interaction of genetics, mental states, and bodily health, which could also play into the clone illness plot. Of course, we’ll probably also see a few more clones who are differentiated by their career choices (e.g. mine site boss, architect, motor mechanic) or upbringing (poverty, foreign language, family size) rather than what’s in their genes. Either way, we all know Tatiana’s bound to embrace the challenge.

  • Sarah J.

    Super interesting read. Thanks for this.

    And Orphan Black is the best thing on TV as far as I’m concerned, so thanks for that too ;)

  • Fran Agostinelli

    Nice post. I really enjoyed this read. Well i enjoy all your posts actually, but this touches me on a more personal level so thank you for addressing this topic :)

  • Tom Horsley

    There is one other thing about this episode no one has mentioned: They almost made me feel sorry for Rachel, which is a pretty astonishing feat :-).

    • Mothman’s Dog

      Rachel’s emotions have been bottled up for a long time and now her lid is off. I almost wanted to see her happy for once in her life – and then I saw the sneak peek for tomorrow’s episode…

  • rdm24

    There’s pretty good evidence that genes play a larger role in your sexual relationships than astrology. Other than the final sentence, this is a great essay.

    • Stella

      There’s pretty good evidence that astrology plays a larger role in your sexual relationships than genes.

      • rdm24

        ….because it’s so commonly used to screen potential partners on OK Cupid.

        • Stella

          And that clearly demonstrates YOUR knowledge of astrology or more precisely lack there of. It’s blatant how little some people know about astrology and yet have so many opinions about something they / you know nothing about. Your ignorance on display! Good for you, letting your true colors shine for all to see!

          • rdm24

            I am proud to be in the camp of people that think we should judged others based on their character, not their race, creed, nationality, sexual orientation, or birthdate.

          • Stella

            Astrology is not about judgement (judgment in a negative sense). It’s just the opposite. It’s about understanding. And with understanding comes compassion.

            We are not all exactly the same (although we all have far more in common than we have differences). Understanding tools like astrology and other methods help one to understand themselves and others rather than judging either on subconscious programs that were laid in place by individuals and society at large at an early age or judging others because they talk or act or decide on things in different ways that we do ourselves.

            You are judging astrology when you clearly have little to no knowledge about it. You are making assumptions. Uninformed assumptions. Assumptions based on ignorance. That’s called prejudice – pre-judging.

            I hope your judgement of people is not as harsh and arbitrary as your judgment of astrology is.

          • Stella

            rdm24 said, “There’s pretty good evidence that genes play a larger role in your sexual relationships than astrology.”

            then rdm24 said, “I am proud to be in the camp of people that think we should judged others based on their character, not their race, creed, nationality, sexual orientation, or birthdate.”

            But you do judge people by their genes? Nice.

  • http://andyknaster.com Andy Knaster

    As a person that is typically labelled as “on the right,” I’d like to chime in on this. Firstly, I love the show. I stumbled across it when the slots in my TV time budget came open in late May 2014. After seeing the first episode of season one, I was totally hooked and binge-watched everything to date in a week or so. One reason that OB is a very important show, apart from excellent writing, acting, etc., is it forces people to think hard about serious ethical and philosophical issues. OB has dealt with cloning, gene therapy, human sexuality, loyalty, science, abuse, cultism, corporatism, the foster-care system, law enforcement, individual rights to privacy and self-determination, and so many more. I am an adjunct college professor, and if I was to teach a class in ethics, I could literally use OB as a textbook.

    In my experience as a 52 year old, I have seen my nation, the U.S., become progressively flabby in regard to philosophical and intellectual pursuits. For the most part, we Americans simply lock step behind the “left” and the “right” without regard for what either side truly stands for, a fact made worse by the fact that few on the left are truly liberal and few on the right are truly conservative. Dr. Hamer makes an extremely good case for the complexity behind the genetic basis for anything, be it hair color or sexuality. He also does a great job with exposing the complexity of the nature vs. nurture argument by showing that in truth, the often subtle influences of both nature and nurture, are so vast, that to even think of making a scientifically valid statement that human sexuality is solely determined by our physiology or our environment is folly and naivety.

    The one thing that Dr. Hamer did that is part of what hinders, and I fear, will forever hinder, progress into our understanding of the issue of human sexuality, and more importantly, the legislative action based on our understanding of it, is pinning the sole responsibility for the lack of progress on “the right.” This just drives a bigger wedge down the middle of a nation that is only separated by percentage points between Democrats and Republicans. The growth of libertarianism among true conservatives, me being one of them, stands in opposition to such labeling. We “liberty-minded conservatives” place the Constitution and the rights it elaborates before personal convictions, religious persuasion, or anything else. Among other things, I’m an ordained minister. I’ve performed many weddings, but I will not perform a same-sex wedding because of my theological beliefs (although, if I was ever approached to do so, I’d do my best to find someone that would). With that said, I voted for my state’s marital equality law because I believe constitutionally, particularly under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, all Americans have an equal right to the privileges and benefits that the government provides to married couples. Openly gay Republican organizations such as the Log Cabin Republicans, the real cause behind the defeat of DADT (see 658 F.3d 1162 (9th Cir. 2011)), are just the beginning of change that is happening. There are three openly gay Republican state representatives, and an openly gay Republican candidate for the U.S. House.

    The bottom line is that I hope such polarizing statements wouldn’t keep people on the “right” from watching OB, because they, like all of us, need to have our beliefs and understandings challenged, particularly while being profoundly well entertained.

  • Vrgcodex

    The season finale is coming up . And they’re already putting out sneak peeks?? They’re going to torture us slowly this week, aren’t they…And then we have to wait a YEAR for season 3 ?
    Cloneclub rules !!!

  • ThePeopleofDetroit

    The author is right about genes: they indicate propensity not destiny. She’s also wrong about astrology: it indicates absolutely nothing. It’s a pre-scientific superstition that has no basis in reality. At all.

    Shame she tarnished an otherwise useful discussion about genetics and sexuality by commingling it with the idea that astrology is sort of true.

    (Here’s a pretty comprehensive discussion of all the reasons why astrology isn’t a real thing: http://www.badastronomy.com/bad/misc/astrology.html)

    • YourBrainWashingCanBeUndone

      Shame she tarnished astrology, one of the original sciences, the one that is tried and true for this neck of the universal woods, by commingling it with the idea that geneticists’ funny ideas of helpless victim of happenstance, doom and gloom, gene for everything, is even remotely true.

      Here’s a pretty comprehensive discussion, by a cellular biologist, of all the reasons why geneticists got it so very wrong: https://www.brucelipton.com/books/biology-of-belief