This 1997 article has now been superseded by the research site "Sexual Paradox":
1: Original Sin - Sexual Exploitation and the Ovum.
Sex is the origin of mortality, because rather than reproducing clonally as bacteria do, we only transmit half our genes to our offspring, and they will never naturally exist in the same combination again. But sex is also the enchanted loom of all living animals, plants and fungi for the recombining of sexuality has brought endless new successful combinations of genes into existence, without which complex organisms could never have evolved. The few higher species which do reproduce by parthenogenesis generally also rely on sexuality to restore such variation.
Before there was gender there was sex. In many fungi today, any two strains of a species can fertilize one another through conjugation - sex but no gender. Many primitive single-celled protoctists still use identical isogametes (Margulis and Schwartz). All multi-celled animals however depend on the cytoplasm of the egg to differentiate into the tissue layers of the developing embryo, and its organs. Egg and sperm have become yin and yang, as wave and particle are to physics and chaos and order are to complex systems (King 1996).
Here 'sex' means the differentiation of cells into two mating types, which most commonly fuse half their genes again through the fertilization of haploid sex cells each containing half of the chromosomes found in the diploid form of the organism. By 'gender' is meant the differentiation of sex cells (and the organisms bearing them) into complementary 'male' and 'female' morphologies.
However, before the earliest multi-celled organisms evolved, the 'original sin' of Adam, sexual exploitation of the female, had already begun: "In some respects a big isogamete would have an advantage ... because it would get its embryo off to a good start. ... But there was a catch. The evolution of isogametes which were larger then were strictly necessary would have opened the door to selfish exploitation. Individuals who produced smaller than average gametes could cash in provided they could ensure that their smaller than average gametes fused with extra-big ones. ... There was a large-investment, or honest strategy. This automatically opened the way for a small-investment exploitive or 'sneaky' strategy. Each honest one would prefer to fuse with an honest one ... [but] the sneaky one's had more to lose, and they therefore won the evolutionary battle. The honest ones became eggs and the sneaky ones became sperms" (Dawkins 1976). There is an irony here because this very differentiation may have been the result of killer genes in the female cytoplasm resulting from the selfishness of our symbiotic organelles, not the male.
"Sperms and eggs too contribute equal numbers of genes, but eggs contribute far more in the way of food reserves: indeed sperms make no contribution at all, and are simply concerned with transporting their genes as fast as possible to an egg. At the moment of conception therefore, the father has invested less than his fair share (i.e. 50 per cent) of resources in the offspring. Since each sperm is so tiny, a male can afford to make many millions of them every day. This means he is potentially able to beget a very large number of children in a very short period of time, using different females. This is only possible because each new embryo is endowed with adequate food by the mother in each case. This therefore places a limit on the number of children a female can have, but the number of children a male can have is virtually unlimited. Female exploitation begins here" (Dawkins 1976).
While it is clearly facile to blame the male gender for what has now become a biological necessity for the organism, this 'disparity of complementation' has clearly also continued to have a significant impact on the evolutionary life of all organisms and reaches its 'long arm' into human socio-biology, for while the investment of the human female in the egg itself is small, her investment in the fertilized ovum is immense and pivotal to both her own survival and the survival of her offspring, and continues through some ten to seventeen years of child-rearing. Although the male often does play a major and sometimes even pivotal share of this work, being 'left holding the baby' is not a figure of speech without reason. This very ancient biological motif has thus become a theme we must respect in our very 'conception' of evolving human society and fail to do so at our peril. I would not call the argument anthropocentric, but rather note that in evolution humanity has become conjugo-centric - an evolutionary reflection of the Tao.
Musical Score: Aria to "The Queen of the Night" Mozart (M. Weimer)
2: The Mozart Paradox: Why why, the X and the Y?
The evolution of mammals has chosen a profound trick to line up with the honest egg and the cheating sperm. The female has XX and the male has XY. This means that the male is haploid X and the female diploid XX. The haploid state provides for maximal selective advantage because there is just one 'pure' copy of each gene, not two 'confused' interacting copies. When the female embryo reaches the million cell stage, in each cell apart from the sex cells, one or other X randomly collapses. So a female brain is single X, like the male, but with a difference - it is a mosaic of cells of two genetic X-identities, those of her father and mother. The male by contrast is endowed with one pure maternal X-dose. When he is good he is very very good - but when he is bad he is retarded. There are at least 8 forms of X-linked male mental retardation because the X chromosome, the only haploid human chromosome is carrying several key genes for brain development at the spearhead of human evolution (Turner 1996).
Women have on the mean, comparable (or even superior) intelligence to men. Women are generally superior in language development, although some men have the edge in mathematical mechanics (Kimura). There are very intelligent women, however the occasional man gets the pure benefit of a fortuitous pure X in complementing his other (good) brain genes on the diploid chromosomes to become an extra-gifted genius. The irony is this. The male never can transmit this heritage to his sons. It is always the maternal X that goes to the son, because to be a son he must have got the paternal Y. The females are thus the progenitors of the prodigies, but the males are doomed ducks. This is the ancient sacrificial saga of the gene. The only hope for a male genius is to have daughters! By contrast, females can fortuitously give direct birth to geniuses. The situation is actually worse for the male than this. New research suggests that the non-sex chromosomes (autosomes) are imprinted in a way which gives the mothers genes a key developmental role in the cortex and the fathers only in the mid-brain emotional centres.
It is common to animal species that the reproductive potential of females is relatively equivalent, because of their limited number of eggs and rate-limiting reproductive commitment. That of the males varies widely depending on opportunity and reproductive fitness. Mammalian evolution has thus put the haploid X purity into the 'sneaky gender' which carries the sacrificial doom - to be the victim of the grim reaper of strong reproductive selection by the female. This is however ideal, for it has put the haploid X just where the evolutionary selection can have the greatest effect.
I am not taking any position here concerning the relative biological potentialities of males or females as individuals to display creative genius, nor in the nature/nurture debate on intelligence. I personally believe in the qualitative complementation of nature and nurture and in the capacity of culture and education to mediate natural differences. The thrust is simply that human evolution is pivoting naturally around gender paradox in a way which capitalizes on the XY arrangement to facilitate male sexual selection through this process. However differences are noted between the genders in the statistical distribution of cognitive skills, in a way which supports the 'Mozart X' concept of Turner.
Sexual Genetics Articles
3: The Unbearable Beauty of Eve.
So what is sexually unique about humans? The sexual evolution of the female. Every other animal has a short, well-defined oestrus, outside which, excepting bonobos and hyenas (de Waal, Gould, Watson), love-making as a purely social activity is rare. In humans sexual evolution is unique in the female in the combination of several apects. The oestrus has become cryptically - concealed. Females have evolved physically in several ways to become perpetually attractive to males and able to make love in continuum, over prolonged periods and involving the whole-body. Sexual relationship is intense and long-lasting. Socio-sexual interaction has thus been proposed to be the prime generator of social diversity and the resulting evolution of the human brain all the way to the Homo level because the paradox perpetuates all the way up the tree of increasing social and intellectual diversity (Wilson 1975, Stone 1997).
Cranach: Adam and Eve in the Garden (Ayensu 15, Pagels 1988 cov)
Sexual Sociobiology Articles:
Sex, Evolution and Complementarity
Honesty and Deceit and Sexual Strategies
Hormones, Pheromones, Addiction Attraction and Orgasm
Mating and Reproductive Choice
How Females Choose Their Mates Lee Dugatkin and Jean-Guy Godin Sci. Am. Apr 98 46
"The idea that females are discriminating and can actively choose with whom to mate was controversial from its inception - perhaps because male-male battles can be quite spectacular. ... In comparison female choice is much more subtle. Over the past 25 years, a considerable body of evidence for female choice has accumulated. Females actively choose their mates in a large variety of species."
"Although people are more complex than guppies and grouse, some of the same mate-choice rules may apply to human mating games. According to popular wisdom, it is human females who are the choosier sex when it comes to selecting a mate. As a species, humans meet the criteria for female choice: men for the most part, will avoid fighting to the death for the hand of a young maiden. And females can distinguish between various males on the basis of their characteristics."
The authors' studies on 'lowly' guppies even indicate that the complementation of genetic 'nature' and social 'culture' extends down even as far as the fishes. Although female guppies prefer larger, brighter orange, daring males who closely explore predators, they will also follow a previous females choice in 'social copying', and favour a less-orange mate, provided the differences in organge colouration between two males are less than 25%, but will reject such indications as 'bad advice' and revert to their genetic preference for a more orange mate if the difference is any more pronounced.
This conception of the significance in Homo sapiens of the unique features of female sexual evolution is enshrined in many of our founding archetypal myths including the Fall from the paradise of Eden in Genesis, where it is Eve's natural beauty which is tragically linked to her earthy temptation:
The relatively smaller reproductive investment of the human male in each offspring than the female favors polygyny. This is common in hunter-gatherer bands, endemic to ancient cultures such as the Old Testament Jews.
Cooperative or covert polygyny does not mean conventional social polygamy in which one man simultaneously has several wives, but a more dynamic pattern of sexual associations in a context of overt 'monogamous' partnerships. A male will tend to seek to fertilize more than one female to broaden his reproductive potential. An astute female may in turn seek covert adultery to be fertilized by a highly-regarded male who is not her immediate 'domestic husband' to gain the 'best of both worlds' - genetic and resource-bearing. The pattern is in this sense cooperative between the genders as part of the reproductive game-theoretic strategy shared by humans and monogamous bords, except when it is repressed, e.g. by draconian male repression of female infidelity.
Such a pattern of moderate infidelity is indicated by the existence of 'kamazaze' blocking sperm in humans, the intermediate physiology of human testes between the promiscuous chimp and polygynous but non-promiscuous gorilla, the sperm-retentive nature of female orgasm and the existence of the concealed oestrus itself, which is clearly a form of 'evolutionary female empowerment' which could have evolved only in a context in which female sexual choice was an ongoing reality, putting the female in Matt Ridley's words 'one step ahead of the male'. It is also consistent with the privacy of sexual relations which make it virtually impossible to detect covert infidelity.
Evidence also abounds for a major degree of evolutionary interdependence between the sexes. Women prefer men with complementary histocompatability (giving off a different smell) when ovulating but revert to preferring familial antigens when on the pill (mimicking data on mice during pregnancy). The newly recognised VNO organ of smell appears to be specific in sensing for such physical nuances. Recently women have been found to become resilient to stress when given small traces of testosterone analogues (NZ Herald Aug 98) and to respond to pornographic enticement with a testosterone burst of 80% over background, compared with a similar male 100% . Complementing this, males require estrogen to be fertile, as a mutant male lacking estrogen receptors demonstrated. Progestogen is likewise present in both sexes and has a pronounced daily fluctuation in men peaking in the evening when love-making is common (Scientific American Jan 94 103). Men also respond to female ovulation with increased testosterone levels, although the estrus is largely concealed. There are also indications that women prefer men with marginally more female characteristics, suggesting a Dionysian direction of human evolution.
The social pattern of overt monogamy and covert polygyny is common to both humans and colonially nesting birds, both of which gather together in close communities for reproduction and have a degree of resource dependence on a male to follow through on child rearing. In both humans and birds, genetic testing reveals that about 20% of ostensible offspring of the father are sired outside the immediate family, a significant contributor to sexual evolution of such species.
Verklarte Nacht (Transfigured Night) Schoenberg
Schoenberg was always very fond of this piece, written at 25 after Richard Dehmel's "Weit und de Welt". "Two figures walk alone together in a moonlit wood; the woman tells how in desperation for happiness and fulfillment, she has become pregnant in the embraces of a stranger. Life had quickly avenged this act bringing her into contact with the man she now loved. He dissolves the burden of her guilt, replying that their mutual love binds them and the unborn child, which he will accept as though his own. They wander on through the tall oaks." Christopher Breunih 1968 (HMV ASD 2318)
Smuts suggests that females may have by such evolutionary reliance on male resources, inadvertently promoted patriarchal control of the female. You might call this the Margaret Thatcher or even the Indira Ghandi phenomenon of conservative female power - the 'drone queen' strategy, for just as Indira manipulated male instruments of power, so she placed her sons Sanjay and Rajiv into the reins. In past times, a powerful female among males could place her sons into many positions of power. Currently both the New Zealand Prime Minister Jennifer Shipley and leader of the Opposition Helen Clark are women. This has done little to change the patriarchal face of politics, except to define a new-right 'nanny society' of moral demands upon the poor and beneficiaries.
At issue is not whether individual women have better innate sustainability than men (a false hypothesis) but the more subtle question of the feminine 'conception' of society and nature, something present in both men and women in principle, as the yin-yang symbol makes clear.
These evolutionary adaptions, based on female choice are likely to have been central to human intellectual and cultural development through the expanding social fluency required to adapt to such gender paradox, despite the severe repression of such 'deceitful' and 'polluting' behavior in females by virtually all patriarchal societies. Brain asymmetries usually associated only with human language have now been discovered in chimps, suggesting the adaptions leading to language go all the way back to the great ape ancestor. Language and also tool-making are thus becoming less-likely candidates for distinguishing human evolution from the great apes.
The continuing occurrence of reproductive asymmetry in human society is supported by the near uniformity of the human Y-chromosome in Africa. This finding is very significant when considered in the context of the likely origins of human diversity in Africa as evidenced by the putative African origin of the 'mitochondrial Eve' - the earliest common female ancestor to modern humanity (Jones). Genealogical studies confirm the fact that the 'Adam effect', the most recent male common ancestor being much more recent than the female because of divergent male reproductive advantage, continues in modern societies, including conservative religious groups.
Cooperative 'polygyny' leads to the following evolutionary gender paradox in early human societies: The males, to achieve reproductive success need to compromise their competition to fit with the cooperative nature of the human group, a legacy of Australopithecus, centred on the family and gathering and social relationships of the females. Selection among males reinforces not just the traditional hunting prowess and toughness ('he-man') but diverse social skills ('domestic bliss') (Dawkins 1976) "a mosaic of qualities that reflect the necessities of compromise ... good with the children, relaxed, eloquent, knowledgeable" (Wilson 1975, Hrdy, Smuts in Stone).
Women in turn are the immediate progenitors of the situation as well as resourceful gatherers of diverse plant species and societal family-builders. By attracting an exceptionally desirable partner, a woman gains the amplified future reproductive potential of her relatively desirable sons as well as that of her daughters. This explains why women are conscious of their sexual attractiveness, beauty and dress as an extension of their perpetual 'feigned' oestrus. In this way human culture evolved from the 'goddess in female sexual evolution' in a social setting where male reproductive success was mediated through the social awareness of the female gatherers, upon whom the basic food resource of the society depended.
Nisa !Kung revealer of gatherer-hunter sexual life
Relatively egalitarian gatherer-hunter societies such as the !Kung and the Mbuti have much to teach us. Such groups have been recently linked closely to our common Y-chromosome ancestor in the rift valley 100,000 years ago, so their societies are doubly pertinent. Notably in !Kung society the gathering of the females provides 85% of the diet. Both !Kung society and Bonobos support the idea that the patrilocal kinship of apes does not necessarily lead to a cultural emergence based on women being treated as commodities, but that male dominance may arise rather through cultural stress.
This is not to allege that sexual paradox has been the only evolutionary driving force for our linguistic articulacy, diverse crafts and skills, abstract reasoning and technology, but no one could deny that sexual relationship is the dominant theme in spoken fable, written literature, music and song, now winging the 'air-waves' of radio and television throughout human culture. Without it, mass media and popular literature would atrophy, if not collapse.
This view of the evolution of human intelligence is central to all the social theories of intelligence involving the dissonance between trustworthiness and deceit and the subtleties of detecting and concealing deceit and the complexity of the social 'grapevine'. Notably !Kung spend long evenings vehemently discussing their relations and their stresses often through to the dawn.
Nor is it contending that society and culture are biologically determined, but simply that biology cannot fail to contribute its heritage, subtle or frank, to the form of society and culture. Any culture which ignores, or rejects, its biological foundations will experience dissonance or repression. To ignore such factors will mean that they play out their effects in less constructive ways, despite social taboos. To repress them will result in tyranny and human misery. However in acknowledging and taking advantage of our biological roots, we may not only come to a point of genuine personal and cultural freedom of expression, but also gain the capacity to give evolutionary expression to our creative vision.
Without proposing any ideal of 'covert adultery' or 'polygyny' over partnership or individual choice, it does behove us to consider whether the current ideal of the 'nuclear family' or its common 'single-parent' variant serves the creative needs of human cultural evolution. It is not clear the ideal of the 'he-man' in the 'illicit affair' serves the reproductive interests of women, or a non-violent society of 'conjugal bliss', as well as would a more open and honest approach to sexuality and our biological roots.
4: Patriarchal Hegemony: The Fall from Eden.
We now move from the evolutionary socio-biological backdrop to the epoch in which cultural influence becomes critical. In the debate between socio-biology and cultural influence this is a transition point where cultural influence becomes frankly imposed and in a way which reflects a new ascendancy of the male reproductive principle expressed in cultural instruments.
The above description of evolving human society of course also finds its expression in early human culture, where there is a frank expression of the female sexual morphology in a variety of Goddess figurines of poetic and sexually empowered aspect, many of which antedate the animal and hunting motifs of the cave paintings of Europe. Several early European and Near Eastern societies at the transition to agriculture, such as Catal Huyuk, likewise display significant evidence of the centrality of fertility Goddess worship and the female in the life and spiritual direction of the community. The mythology of a variety of our founding cultures displays a consistent theme in which male deities, often associated with the Indo-European cultural and military expansion, precipitated a transference of power to the male. These events are detectable in the mythologies of cultures from Greece to Sumeria and Egypt. Nevertheless, even in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the founding representation of deity was both male and female.
Jacob's blessing of the Tribes (Gen 49:25), perhaps the earliest entry in the Bible is of the 'Elohim - two gods and two goddesses:
Once large urban societies developed, the rule of law and the patriarchal imperative passed the ascendancy to the male through social and military instruments of power. The males jealously adopted mores which ensured they could secure their own descendents from doubts about paternity which plague the male but are incontestable for the female.
By degrees as cultures evolved, the position of women in society deteriorated. In the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition of the West and Near-East, the females eventually became sequestered in the home, in the fields, in the burqa, in harems, nunneries and brothels. The ambiguous conjugal rites of the Fertility Goddess were repressed, the 600 year Inquisition and witch hunts were pursued consuming over 4 million European women (Walker). Marx and Engels have applied a similar critique more specifically against capitalism, but it applies to a much wider deeper swathe of history and culture - the patriarchal epoch.
Old Testament Lamentations:
Religious texts confining and repressing women (I hereby abrogate these and others like them):
Contrast this with a statement on men and Mut'a, or Shi'ite temporary marriage:
Contrast this freedom again with the way the women who opposed Muhammad were treated. The singers had their tongues cut out, the tambourine players their hands cut off:
Islam destroyed all trace of the feminine, systematically smashing temples of the Goddess. The banu-Umahmah were slaughtered for defending dhu-al-Khalasah which stood half way to Sana, and the women of Khath'am were then humiliated and debased. It is said by al-Bukhari that the Prophet himself said: "This world shall not pass away until the buttocks of the women of Daws wiggle [again] around the dhu-al-Khalasah and they worship it as they were want to do [before Islam]" (Faris 32).
In effect, the 'sneaky sex' used the male prodigy as a myth to dominate society, by following a social tradition of putting men, (only a small minority of whom are prodigies), into positions of power. By using the strategy of male competition in combination with the power and force-of-arms that occurs in large social systems and controlled domestic violence (Wright 1995), the men have turned the reproductive tables against the women, while claiming to 'protect their interests'.
The Global Fallout: Genetic Holocaust
The global fallout is that the spermatogenic imperative is destabilizing human society. The evolutionary strategy of the female to build a sustainable world into which her massive reproductive and nurturing investment will be realized over time has been overthrown by the spermatogenic venture-risk exploitation strategy of the male, who can always afford to sacrifice one opportunity for many others.
This is clearly expressed in population explosion, environmental degradation, the destruction of Earth's major ecosystems and the loss of its genetic diversity, massive exploitation of non-renewable resources by a single generation and the boom-and-bust of forced economic growth for its own short-term financial ends. The ancient, innate robustness of the biosphere which brought us here is being reduced to a fragile human technical fantasy.
Population explosion has been tacitly encouraged by the leaders of patriarchal religions, as an expression of male reproductive right and a means to ensure multiplication of believers. While some men will deny that environmental exploitation is a 'male prerogative' the case is nevertheless compelling.
Genetic engineering, cloning and male-driven eugenics could next be used to turn the entire biosphere into a bunch of 'boys toys' - a terminal condition, because the underlying diversity of natural medicinal and food species is replaced by a fragile assortment of genetically-engineered 'zero-diversity' products which are non-viable in evolutionary terms but dominate productive areas. While these technologies, used for the right purposes, have great potential to do good, it is diversity upon which we depend to survive and diversity we should foster. The gene tech industry stands to collapse the entire bubble of evolutionary diversity while playing scientific and financial 'he-man'.
A key reason for developing this meme is to address not just the 'apocalyptic' issue of genetic holocaust but to provide a sense of personal and cultural vision to address the 'creative future' our knowledge of gene technology offers. For this we need a sense of foresight for the evolutionary potentialities of our diverse life forms of today, not just their immediate commercial benefit.
When the triple-witching hour of natural catastrophe arrives, we will be a defenceless blip on an ever more precipitous and accelerating boom and bust chart. The final stock-market crash. The human species will become extinct (Leakey and Lewin).
Without being unduly pessimistic, we are foolishly heading towards a needless and serious risk of extinction. Human society still contains unacceptable levels of nuclear weapons. These nearly became a mutually assured destruction Armageddon during the cold war and should be removed completely. Our population growth is unsustainable (updated by jody). While many people are watching science fantasy on television and imagine escaping to another planet, we are unwittingly precipitating the 'sixth extinction' of life which could become as serious as the Permian one, taking 50 million years to make a substitute recovery. This indicates a serious mismatch between fantasy and reality. Even a small asteroid impact on a brittle culture in a damaged biosphere, dependent on computer planning and genetically engineered foodstuffs would cause almost certain demise of humanity. That is the reality.
Enforced feminization by estrogen pollution:
Here is how not do do the Renewal. Business as usual followed by estrogen pollution of the environment followed by sexual abnormalities resulting in the dominance of the female gender.
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