Joan Roughgarden, Professor of Biology at Stanford University, will discuss her new book, The Genial Gene: Deconstructing Darwinian Selfishness. Building on her book Evolution's Rainbow, "in which she challenged accepted wisdom about gender identity and sexual orientation," Roughgarden upends the notion of the selfish gene and the theory of sexual selection and develops a compelling and controversial alternative theory called social selection. This scientifically rigorous, model-based challenge to an important tenet of neo-Darwinian theory emphasizes cooperation, elucidates the factors that contribute to evolutionary success in a gene pool or animal social system, and vigorously demonstrates that to identify Darwinism with selfishness and individuality misrepresents the facts of life as we now know them.
Joan Roughgarden is Professor of Biology at Stanford University. She is the author of Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People (UC Press), Evolution and Christian Faith, and Primer of Ecological Theory.
The Genial Gene: Deconstructing Darwinian Selfishness author Joan Roughgarden challenges Darwin's theory of sexual selection in regard to the peacock. The peacock's tail, according to Darwin, attracts peahens as a marker of superior genes. Roughgarden contradicts the theory, citing studies of peahens disregarding males' plumage.
Process that results in adaptation of an organism to its environment by means of selectively reproducing changes in its genotype. Variations that increase an organism's chances of survival and procreation are preserved and multiplied from generation to generation at the expense of less advantageous variations. As proposed by Charles Darwin, natural selection is the mechanism by which evolution occurs. It may arise from differences in survival, fertility, rate of development, mating success, or any other aspect of the life cycle. Mutation, gene flow, and genetic drift, all of which are random processes, also alter gene abundance. Natural selection moderates the effects of these processes because it multiplies the incidence of beneficial mutations over generations and eliminates harmful ones, since the organisms that carry them leave few or no descendants. See alsoselection.
So are you saying that the studies showing that peacocks' tails do not influence the penhens' choices were wrong, or poor studies? Your earlier point about asymmetry being an indicator of healthy was interesting. I'm not a scientist but all humans can tell from experience just how much we're influenced by attractive faces!
My main objection to Roughgarden's talk was how much emphasis she put on the moral implications of the selfish gene theory, as though those who accept the theory would also adopt it as a moral code, which is ridiculous. Nature may be amoral and favour ruthless competition, but that doesn't mean we have to build our societies on the same principles. I got the impression she doesn't like the idea of such a ruthless natural world because that would give lie to the idea of a loving creator - scientists should not try to prove ideas because of their emotional appeal.
It is important to note that there are many more studies indicating symmetry as a function of good genes and, just as importantly, good environment during development.
Fluctuating asymmetry, as the term is called, is the measure of how identical in size and orientation certain physical characteristics of the body are across the midline. The theory is that mutations and the environment of the womb or egg (eg Hox genes, distribution and concentration of hormones, diffusion of signaling molecules) can throw off the balance of development rather minutely, indicating a less-than-ideal male. Aggregated over the whole body, fluctuating asymmetry is a pretty good indicator for sexual selection as studies have shown.
Any flaw in a peacock's huge tail (which is very sensitive to minor mutations or bad environment) can result in fewer offspring as even more studies show. If this is not evidence for Darwinian evolution, then I don't know what is.
I dont agree on the idea that sexual attraction between human beings is all about males competing for females who chooses one of them. How does she base that scientifically? She does'nt. Pretty serious flaw in her idea.