02 August 2010

Sex Makes the Survivalist Go 'Round

In keeping with my recent interest in biology, evolution, and human nature, I took to commencing Geoffrey Miller's The Mating Mind, How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature. I have not yet finished the first chapter and already I find myself in slight defense against the material Miller presents. I suppose it would be key to mention that I have a hard time separating Natural Selection from Sexual Selection or vise versa. The lack of such a perspective, which Miller states early enough for its importance and relevance to his argument, supports my favor towards the idea that reproduction is part of biological survival, rather than parallel to it.

I do not disagree with his main theory, namely that our human brain is more or less a peacock's tail, an ornamental display to enhance our chances of sexual choice by a prospective mate; that our minds have evolved as a result of intelligent mates being preferred over lesser intelligent ones--therefore such genes that encouraged intelligence were passed on from generation to generation while those that were not chosen as mates did not pass on their genes, for obvious reasons. This theory appears sound enough to me yet as I've mentioned above I need further convincing that the passing of these genes does not qualify as a form of survival.

For me, there are two ways of viewing reproduction in terms of survival, one is as a species and the other is genetically. In terms or species it can be said, reproduction is necessary in order to continue the generation or existence of the family, the entire species. In terms of the individual its not so different from its species only you're now viewing it from a genetic standpoint. The genes in a sense, become the species; replicating themselves and surviving through body to body reconstruction. Whether its the species or the genes, reproduction preserves the lineage or continuation of an organism. Sexual selection is an active mechanism within that preservation that favors the best genes to pass on down the line. What's happening is that the seemingly best traits are chosen for the future generation's survival, whether it be individual or as a species. This is how I understand so far.

Most of what I'm feeling from Miller's first chapter, which I am unfairly writing about as I've not yet fully finished reading--is that Miller's argument seems arbitrary, he seems to be picking a fight with ideas that could better his theory if he incorporated them rather than isolated. Then again, the book was released in 2000 and researched for ten years before, so perhaps his manner was the only way to penetrate the subject at all with any successful impact. His aim does seem more directed towards a reaction to further the curiosity of the matter than to define it once and for all. Or maybe I just need to shut up and read the entire work before criticizing it with my inferior non-biologist opinion.

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