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The Importance of Sex in Education

29 November, 2008

Sometimes I think that I have way too many conversations with theists.  Actually, I think I just have way too many contacts with theists.  Unfortunately, I live in the United States of America, so theists of the fundogelical bent are all too common.  Fortunately, I live in the United States where, by law (if not by actual practice) I have equal rights despite my non-belief.

One of the biggest problems in America is poor education (and it is also one of the reasons that fundamentalist, dominionist, evangelical Christianity is so prevalent here).  Our science curricula is, if taught well, mediocre.  If taught by the Book, it is execrable.  A conversation with a friend of mine, a born-again Christian, reinforced this a few days ago.

We were discussing our respective ancestries (I am a mutt:  English, German, Polish, French Huguenot, Scots Irish, a smidge of Italian and maybe some Abnaki Indian).  He said, “Well, I thought your ancestor was a fish who decided to sprout legs and crawl up out of the ocean.”

I did a great imitation of a fish out of water for a moment and then said, “That is breathtakingly stupid.”

“Why?  I thought you believed in evolution.”

“No,” I replied.  “I don’t ‘believe’ in evolution.  Evolution is a theory which explains both the modern world and the fossils.  Belief would mean that I thought something true with no evidence.  Or ignoring contrary evidence.”

“Then how would a fish become a lizard?”

I launched lecture mode (my kids will testify that I really do this (frequently)). I explained (as best I could) the idea of random mutations making it more likely that an animal survives.  Slightly better colouration.  Longer fins.  Shorter fins.  Over millions of years, blah, blah, blah.

His eyes glazed over.  I lost him (this time (and for this conversation)).

Driving home this evening, something struck me.  Sex.  It’s all about sex.  Well, a superior survival adaptation will help an individual survive, but unless the survivor can attract a mate, the trait will not be passed on to the next generation.  Unless the mutant breeds, the species cannot benefit.

In the 1970s, I remember reading about the outlandish headgear of the hadrosaurs and ceratopsians.  In these older books (most likely from the 1950s), this was presented as an example of the decay of the dinosaurs — they had reached a point in which progress stopped, and ornamentation was emblematic of this senescence.  The old age of the dinosaurs.

Now, thanks to Bakker and others, I view the ornamentation through the lens of sex.  Evolution is not the survival of the fittest, it is survival of the sexiest.  Who gets to breed?  The males who can impress the females:  the strongest elk with the biggest rack, the Parasauralophus with the biggest sounding tube, the grizzly with the biggest hump, the bird with the biggest bower, the giraffe with the longest neck, the Cardinal with the reddest plumage, the human male with the most resources. 

What changes faster — the basic structure (skeletal, muscular, cognitive, respiratory) or the sexual dimorphic characteristics (plumage colour, antlers, sounding apparatus, horns)?  Evolution works both fast and slow.  The evolution of fin to leg took millions and millions of years.  But among the early lungfishes, I would expect that secondary sex characteristics changed within a few thousand years.  Minor changes, to be sure.  Minor changes based upon diet would also, of course, be a part of this, but could beak size and shape among the Galapagos finches be reinforced by sexual selection on the part of the females?

As a child, I always felt that something was missing from the lesson plans.  Science, history and literature all seemed incomplete.  Sex was missing.  Biology without sex makes no sense — it is just mechanical processes.  History without the peccadilloes of royalty — the pressures brought to bear by mistresses and/or prospective mates — lacks a key ingredient.  Literature cleansed of sex is incomplete if not downright boring.

Our attempts to protect our children, sheltering their minds from the reality of sex, has stunted our intellectual growth.  By denying even the existence of the sexual drive among adults, by denying the decisions  made which are based upon sex, by denying the evolutionary shaping of sex, the American education system creates adults with a stunted sense of history, literature and science.  Because sex is (except for ‘sex-ed’ classes) hidden and denied, the average American student is denied the tools to understand the mechanisms which make evolution work.

My friend does not understand the theory of evolution.  And I suspect that the reason he does not understand is lack of sex in his education.  The education I received through some very good public schools taught about sex only in one very, very isolated class.  It was denied in all other appropriate situations.  Without an understanding of sex, evolution becomes disconnected facts.

Modern evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity, following in the mental footsteps of the great misogynist Augustine, continues to deny our sexual history and sexual reality.  The conservative Christian influence within public schools denies biology and human nature.  By forcing their narrow world-view upon the rest of us, they handicap America.  But they also insure future church members who, of course, provide the donations.

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11 comments

  1. You are correct. But you are “preaching to the choir’ (heh, heh).
    Evolutionary theory would predict that due to competition, a mneme, (a way of thinking about things that is shared by a group of people) that was somehow superior would win out over one that was inferior (in the sense that the one that gets more people to accept it is the superior one).
    On that basis, the theists are clearly beating us, and we are doomed to extinction.
    We gotta’ do something!


  2. In regarding evolution, the Genesis account for the unfolding productive and interactive Work of The Almighty among creation events given Prophecy ordering of events for epochs of ‘time’, for The One is Timeless and also the stars were not created yet as written.

    Also, it may helpful for ‘physcists’ to note that dark matter has certain fluid slower and colder properties which is in accordance with the writtings such that extant a formless and void earth with darknesss there was not light at that time. Therefore, since the wavelength of dark matter was mentioned, one could understand that these events may speak to a Spiritual Celestial Bodies such that darkness was separated right away as lesser light to rule the night or lucifer.


  3. You know what would make Genesis prophetic? If it said “dark matter”. You can’t go pulling shit out and saying “oh, well this clearly means this other thing” and then from that conclude “all the rest of it must be true, too!”. You know why else you can’t do that? Because the Bible calls bats birds and can’t even get pi right.

    FAIL


  4. () –

    That ‘mechanical processes’ line doesn’t work with the ladies.

    jack david –

    Perhaps if you learned to write English instead of gibberish you might find an audience that would give you at least a cursory hearing.


  5. Without an understanding of sex, evolution becomes disconnected facts.

    Excellent point. I read The Origins of Virtue recently and was impressed by how much sex had to do with moral development. I’m going to read The Red Queen soon, which deals specifically with sex and evolution.


  6. One has watched certain things on farms and in nature.

    I understand that there are certain salmon which don’t mature like others of their breeds and do not go to sea and return like others of their kind. They live in the natal waters and look like the pre adult stage, but are mature sexually. When the “big boys” who have made it back fight it out and breed, these often sneak into the redd and contribute their own genetic material to the eggs. And they live a long time.

    We had goats and sheep where I trained horses, and I saw somewhat the same thing. The rams and billys would be figting and one of the smaller, scruffier examples would sneak in and do the deed while the big ones were fighting or too tired to do something about it.

    I have also heard it cosidered that perhaps there was a lack of genetic diversity that led to the extinction of some species. The biggest and strongest do most the breeding, and over centuries the variation starts to wane. A variable (or several) enters into life and adaptation becomes problematic.


  7. Once again you tread upon what you do not understand in the way of the world and the way of the Word. S-x is a creation of the great Satan. It was created by the sin of woman in the Garden of Eden and before she ate of the apple and condemned all mankind and all animals to death except those saved by the grace of the One True Christ and Savior there was not death and no s-x. Her sin condemned us all and created the sinful world in which we all must live. There is hope though my friend. You must accept freely the love of the One True God through his only Son Jesus Christ who died for all of our sins including the belief in evolution. You are just like Obama wanting to force s-x into the classroom why not just strip the students and have an orgy to teach them about s-x just like Obama wants to do with kindergartners. Your drivel sounds like the rantings of an insane person. You desperately need to go to church a real church and be saved by the Blood of Christ. If you don’t you will be condemned forever and ever to an eternity of hell because you do not freely accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.


  8. S-x?

    WTF?

    Billy, your blog must smell nice or something because it’s attracting all kinds of mindless things crawling out from under their rocks. Maybe they think you’re a Republican?


  9. Well that makes sense, doesn’t it? We need women for sex but hell, they’ll be the death of us. :)~

    If being a Christian means you interpret sex ed as stripping children and raping them, perhaps you should consider cutting back on the Jesus, or eliminate it entirely. It’s REALLY messing you up. Again, another example of FAIL.


  10. All: Had I known that a post regarding evolution and sex would garner this response from the fundogelicals out there, I would have posted something else. On second thought, no. I (in a perverse sort of way) actually enjoy these encounters with theism’s more extreme element.

    Sam: Thanks for stopping by. Inferior/superior may matter in a cataclysmic event (then again, who knows what may help an individual or species to survive during said cataclysm), but for a stable species, breeding is the key to preserving your genes. Atheists (and other free thinkers) are obviously sexier, so the advantage must be ours!

    Jack: Welcome to my blog. I’m curious how the Bible predicts a substance which cannot be seen directly, cannot be touched and cannot even be measured directly? Then again, the Bible predicts God, which cannot be seen, touched or measured, and, unlike dark matter, has no effect at all upon the universe. May reason and knowledge find you despite your beliefs.

    Philly: You seem to have a thing for Pi. Thanksgiving leftovers? I agree, though. If the Bible gets so much wrong, how can it be considered prophetic?

    Ric: Sex Ed, (at least when I was in school (have no idea how they handled that in your day (1930s?))) dealt strictly with the mechanics — sperm + egg = baby. Love, sex, emotions were all left out.

    Chappie: Thanks for the heads up re: The Red Queen. I will check that one out.

    Sarge: The ‘fittest’ goats didn’t always get the girls? Depends on your definition of ‘fittest,’ right? Obviously, the scrappy little guys are better suited for sneaky sex.

    …..: Welcome back. Are you afraid of the word ‘sex?’ Are you married? Do you have children? Or are you a ten-year old with severe hangups? You are entertaining, I give you that. Any by-the-by, the bill Obama voted for in Illinois specified age apropriate sex education using the best scientific research available. For the youngest kids, it meant “Good Touch, Bad Touch” and “It’s Okay to Tell.” Is there some specific reason you do not wants little kids to know this?

    Ric: I do seem to attract them. Maybe I need to go through and clean out some of the garbage.

    Philly: (((Wife))) helps keep me sane. In all ways. It works. Your pretty brutal on the grades. Not that I disagree, but you haven’t given a pass yet.


  11. Hi everybody! Happy Thanksgiving!! 🙂 🙂 🙂
    Thanksgiving is 1 of my favorite holidays, and every year I like to get into the mood-extend the holiday, as it were-by reading “Thanksgiving novels.” Not surprisingly, these stories are mostly about family, about coming together to heal old hurts and giving thanks for the gift of love. … . “”
    Think You’re Far better Off Today Than You Were four Years Ago?



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