Tuesday, May 17, 2005

All The News That's Fit to Survive

Today's New York Times is a virtual cornucopia of Darwinian entertainment:

An editorial not so cleverly refers to the intelligent design movement as "The Evolution of Creationism."

Harvard professor of cognitive science Steven Pinker speculates as to the evolutionary explanation for both homosexuality and opposition to it in his op-ed contribution. Here's an excerpt:
Homosexuality is a puzzle for biology, not because homosexuality itself is evolutionary maladaptive (though no more so than any other sexual act that does not result in conception), but because any genetic tendency to avoid heterosexual opportunities should have been selected out long ago. Perhaps "gay genes" have some other compensating advantage, like enhancing fertility, when they are carried by women. Perhaps the environments that set off homosexuality today didn't exist while our genes were being selected. Or perhaps the main cause is biological yet not directly genetic, like differences in hormones or antibodies that affect the fetus while it is developing.
Just as puzzling is the existence of homophobia. Why didn't evolution shape straight men to react to their gay fellows by thinking: "Great! More women for me!" Probably the answer lies in a cross-wiring between our senses of morality and disgust. People often confuse their own revulsion with objective sinfulness, as when they dehumanize people living in squalor or, in the other direction, engage in religious rituals of cleanliness and purification. An impulse to avoid homosexual contact may blur into an impulse to condemn homosexuality.
Finally, the Science section features a new book by philosopher of science and biology professor Elisabeth Lloyd in which she rejects 20 leading theories concerning the evolutionary function of a certain aspect of female sexuality.

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