The hubba-hubba theory of human evolution

Not again. Oh, no, not again. It’s more garbage from the Journal of Cosmology, with an article titled Sexual Consciousness: The Evolution of Breasts, Buttocks and the Big Brain. Hang on a moment before you click to rush over there, though. Here’s the abstract:

As first proposed and detailed by Joseph (1992a, 1993, 1996, 2000a,b), the evolution of human consciousness is directly related to the evolution of human female sexuality and full time sexual availability signaled by the evolution of a permanent enlargement of the female breasts and buttocks thereby mimicking the signs of estrus in other primates, and her ability to choose her sex partners. When females became fully bipedal the breasts expanded in size, mimicking the patterns of the buttocks, thereby signaling to males and females alike her sexual availability when walking on two legs and standing upright. Through sexual selection breasts and buttocks expanded in size and became the norm. Female sexual choice served to weed out the most brutal, frightening, and less intelligent males who were denied opportunities to breed, whereas continual sexuality receptivity motivated male possessiveness and a willingness to provide females and her offspring with meat and protection on a full-time basis; all of which led to and corresponded with the establishment of a semi-permanent home base heated by fire and the first hearths for the cooking of food which became easier to chew thereby allowing the jaw to decrease in size. Coupled with improved nutrition and female sexual preference for the more intelligent males who would provide for her, the cranium and the brain increased in size. Female sexual choice also contributed to the evolution of an enlarged male penis which could also be easily viewed when standing upright. The female pelvis also increased in size to accommodate the birth of big brained babies, and which resulted in a permanent enlargement of the female hips and buttocks. With the evolution of breasts, buttocks, the big brain, and human intelligence, sexual consciousness evolved, and human females began mirroring the signs of estrus in other primates by inventing and applying cosmetics and perfume to their bodies. Males were also becoming domesticated, civil society began to evolve, and modern human consciousness emerged–a direct consequence of the first sexual revolution and the liberation of female sexuality. This article is a review of the evidence and theories first proposed and published by Joseph.

Before you look, a warning: it’s an article full of soft-core porn (literally—they look like a random assortment gathered from google with safe-search off) photos of women and chimpanzees in estrus. The photos are entirely gratuitous; there’s no data gathered from them, they often aren’t even referenced in the text, they’re just freely sprinkled throughout. Women have large breasts! And whoo-eee, look how big they are! And now here’s a gelada baboon in heat just so you know this is serious zoology.

Here’s an example of the level of sober science presented here.

The human female is the sexiest female on the planet, and she continually signals this fact as she has evolved an enlarged derriere and prominent breasts which remain swollen even when she is not pregnant, lactating, or sexually aroused. Those swollen breasts, and posterior protuberance, her buttocks, have been driving males wild with sexual desire for over half a million years.

This passage is followed immediately by some cheesecake of two nearly naked (one is wearing garter belt and stockings, admittedly) women posing next to a bright red car.

And there you have it, the totality of Joseph’s theory, which is his and he’s welcome to it: human women are really, really sexy — they are also multi-orgasmic and sexually insatiable — and this has driven the evolution of the big male brain, and also, our penises (“the human female is aroused by the sight of the male penis and the bigger the penis, the more aroused she becomes”). Unfortunately, he fails to present any evidence that intelligence is linked to sexiness, or even that human females are even sexier to human males than female rabbits are to male rabbits, or female cockroaches to male cockroaches. I mean, sure, you can make me drool by showing me pictures of lovely naked women, but so what? The scent of a female cat in heat has an even more dramatic effect on the local tomcats, but you don’t see them using tools and writing sonnets.

Maybe his thesis would have been better supported if he’d shown this data: that even alien monsters from another planet are driven mad with horniness at the sight of scantily clad Earth women. It’s no worse than any of the other ‘evidence’ he flashes at us for his hypothesis.

Maybe he needs to get together with James Watson to refine his ideas.

Jonathan Wells’ weird notions about development

Jonathan Wells recently gave a talk in Albuquerque at something called the “Forum on Science, Origins, and Design”, a conference about which I can find absolutely nothing on the web. I wasn’t there, of course, and I don’t get invited to these goofy events anyway, but I did get a copy of Wells’ powerpoint presentation from an attendee. It’s titled “DNA Does Not Control Embryo Development” — shall we look at it together? It’s really a hoot.

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Watson/Wilson

There is good cause to be aggravated by some of James Watson’s recently expressed views, but he’s still an interesting fellow who made a significant contribution to our understanding of biology; and E.O. Wilson, of course, is always cool. So here they are together in an interview with Charlie Rose, discussing the significance of Charles Darwin:

(It was a little too gushy at the beginning — Darwin certainly did get some things very wrong! — but it’s still the kind of conversation it’s fun to hear.)

Dubious parentage

It would seem like sweet poetic justice if James Watson were found to be 1/8th African, but I’m afraid I don’t quite believe it. This is news coming from a company called deCODE genetics, an Icelandic outfit that analyzes an individual’s racial background on the basis of various genetic markers. While I can buy the claim that they can assess the distribution of various alleles in populations, I really dislike the game of trying to work in reverse and assign the fraction of a race to an individual.

I don’t think Larry is much impressed with them, either. Here’s another article that brings up the flaws.

The problem is compounded by the increasing improbability of the company’s claims. Watson is also 9% Asian. He’s got a 31% lesser chance than average of getting asthma, and a 2% greater chance of prostate cancer. These kinds of numbers are meaningless when applied to individuals. We don’t even know all the genetic factors that contribute to the various diseases listed, so it’s ludicrous to pretend they can quantify the total risk for a single person that way. While I’ve got no problem thinking there are shared alleles percolating through African and European populations, there are much more reliable ways of determining that a person has an African great grandparent.

(via Accidental Blogger)

Egnor’s latest kook-fests

Michael Egnor is the gift that keeps on giving. He’s been responding to criticisms from us sciencebloggers with more and more inanities — it’s like all you have to do is poke him and he starts puking up more and more transparently fallacious creationist talking points.
Mark Chu-Carroll schools him on his tired claim that selection is a tautology, something we’ve been hearing from creationists since at least the days of Gish. In response to Orac’s challenge, requesting examples of how ‘design’ has helped modern medicine, Egnor coughed up … Watson’s and Crick’s discovery of the structure of DNA? You’ve got to be kidding me. Orac sounds incredulous, too.

I had dinner with James Watson last January, and one of the topics of conversation was, of course, Intelligent Design creationism (it comes up a lot around me, for some reason). I can tell you with absolute certainty that Watson has nothing but contempt for those fellows; so much so that he considers arguing with them beneath him (which is true enough.) If you want to read his opinion of evolution, one place to look is in a book he edited, called Darwin: the Indelible Stamp(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). It’s a collection of four of Darwin’s books, with a foreword and introduction to each written by Watson. The work he and Crick did strengthened evolutionary theory, it was not independent of it, and to try and recruit the man’s work to the side of Egnor’s creationism is simply ridiculous.

More shameless namedropping

Let’s see…what did I do today? I met with a whole bunch of people at Seed. They were cool, but they won’t notice that I mentioned them because they never read my blog.

I also had dinner with Niles Eldredge, James Watson, Adam Bly, and Laura McNeil (big guns at Seed).

It was an engrossing evening, but now you’re all going to really hate me: I can drop names, but I’m not going to reveal private conversations…other than to mention that I was honored by a toast from that distinguished crowd, which means I can either die smug, or I’ve got a heck of a lot to do to live up to it now. I fear the latter, unfortunately.

Coming to Life

Books from Nobel laureates in molecular biology have a tradition of being surprising. James Watson(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) was catty, gossipy, and amusingly egotistical; Francis Crick(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) went haring off in all kinds of interesting directions, like a true polymath; and Kary Mullis(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) was just plain nuts. When I heard that Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard was coming out with a book, my interest and curiousity were definitely piqued. The work by Nüsslein-Volhard and Wieschaus has shaped my entire discipline, so I was eagerly anticipating what her new book, Coming to Life: How Genes Drive Development(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) would have to say.

It wasn’t what I expected at all, but I think readers here will be appreciative: it’s a primer in developmental biology, written for the layperson! Especially given a few of the responses to my last article, where the jargon seems to have lost some people, this is going to be an invaluable resource.

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