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The more I know about sex...

 
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brian-hansen
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Joined: 17 Mar 2006
Posts: 712
Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Thu Mar 04, 2010 4:23 am    Post subject: The more I know about sex... Reply with quote

The more I know about sex...

The less sexy it is.
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brian-hansen
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Joined: 17 Mar 2006
Posts: 712
Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 10:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

An ongoing discussion with a friend about the evidence for evolution
has sharpened my interest in this topic.

While I've pretty much always been interested in science, I've
usually avoided the field of biology, picking up interest at
the "physics end" of chemistry, and the "cognitive end" of
human behavior, leaving quite a large gap in between.

I came across a very interesting and readable book,
"A natural history of sex : the ecology and evolution of mating behavior",
by Adrian Forsyth, which I found fascinating in it's explanations
of the different ways that various kinds of creatures reproduce.
Believe me, the birds and the bees are only the start of the story,
and by the time you get to primates, the evidence against a naive
belief in the accepted story of sexuality is quite compelling.
The effect on me has been profound. In a sense, it is similar to
the effect of learning Game Theory, or of reading "Metaphors We
Live By" or "The Selfish Gene": it does not just add to my knowledge,
but it has profoundly changed the way that I think.

Stepping back to the pre-history of sex in "Eros and Evolution:
A Natural Philosophy of Sex" (by Richard Michod) has revealed
to me that I haven't thought about these questions deeply enough
to have a clear notion of what the meanings of "sex", "male" and
"female" are, surprisingly. It may startle some to know that some
creatures do not reproduce sexually, or that some alternate
between using sexual and non-sexual reproductive strategies.
Michod examines the various theories as to why sexual reproduction
proliferates, bringing a mathematical perspective to the question,
and ultimately rejecting the common theory that I grew up with,
that sexual reproduction excelled because it introduced the possibility
of advantageous mutations that lead to species differentiation / creation.

Next on the docket are "Male, Female" by David Geary, and "The
Prehistory of Sex" by Timothy Taylor. These generally represent
a return to studying primates, leaving bacteria, worms, and yes,
birds and bees behind. I hope to get some keener insight into the
implications of the particulars of human sexual dimorphism, and
how all the members of human society we encounter illustrate the
playing out of historical reproductive strategies.

I find it so very strange. If someone wanted to understand what
it meant to be human, it seems as though they wouldn't have had
a chance, until now. Understanding what happened 4 million years
ago, and even 4 billion years ago, can be just as important as
understanding what happened 4 days ago when trying to make sense
of what is happening today.

So, it may be less "sexy", but it's still very, very interesting.
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