Oops – it looks like the study back in the 1940s that so many have based their notions of higher male promiscuity on for so long was botched from the beginning. Using the best methods of the time it produced results – that promiscuity gave male fruit flies and advantage that it did not give females, ergo males fuck around and females keep their legs crossed – that no one has been able replicate since. Nonetheless it has become conventional wisdom that males fuck around and females keep their legs crossed. Well now someone has gone back in and done the experiment over, this time with DNA analysis to establish actual parentage, and found the original conclusions are wrong.
- Remain skeptical. Doubt everyone’s, including your own, data and certainly doubt all conclusions, and when new methods become available, go back and review the conclusions to see if they still hold up.
- Don’t overgeneralize your conclusions. Don’t blithely assume that the same evolutionary constraints work on species separated by over 400 million years of evolution. There are universals, yes, but there are lots of them, and one is that a species faces new situations with all its past solutions hanging around in its DNA, not as a blank slate, and those old mutations are themselves new evolutionary constraints. A marine mammal species is not free to just suddenly lose the lungs and develop gills, however much more advantageous that might be. (And it doesn’t take 400 million years for this kind of disparity to develop. Don’t blithely assume that chimpanzee sexuality is necessarily any kind of model of human sexuality.)
- So pay some attention to detail. Look at the totality of the constraints a species faces. A species with long childhoods requiring high parental investment probably does not derive the same evolutionary benefit from promiscuity as one who just sows eggs broadcast into the passing currents might.
- Expect those disparate constraints to challenge your intuitions. Here’s a species of antelope where the females pester the males for sex, and the males play hard to get. And this arrangement benefits the females. How would a study on fruit flies predict such an outcome, or even be able to predict it? Who says gender roles are not malleable, even at the genetic level?
- Sometimes if you look carefully enough, you get exactly the opposite results. Look, here’s another species of fruit fly for which the indications are that female promiscuity enhances species survival in general. Oops, that study on fruit flies would indeed have gioven the same result as the one on topi antelopes.
Scepticism is the sword that destroys certainty, delusion and superstition.
- The Woman Card - May 2, 2016
- Frat boy bachelorettes and the invasion of gay bars - April 15, 2016
- “Not my kid….” - February 22, 2016