Sunday, January 23, 2005

Sex, Science, and Spring

A friend emailed and said she had read this blog and wondered why it was filled with so much doom and gloom. I didn’t think it was, and when I reread the posts, I still don’t. But here are a few things I read in various online venues today that made me happy—

From William Saletan in Slate:

Sex is easily the biggest physical difference within a species. Men and women, unlike blacks and whites, have different organs and body designs. The inferable difference in genomes between two people of visibly different races is one hundredth of 1 percent. The gap between the sexes vastly exceeds that. A year and a half ago, after completing a study of the Y chromosome, MIT biologist David Page calculated that male and female human genomes differed by 1 percent to 2 percent—"the same as the difference between a man and a male chimpanzee or between a woman and a female chimpanzee," according to a paraphrase in the New York Times. "We all recite the mantra that we are 99 percent identical and take political comfort in it," Page said. "But the reality is that the genetic difference between males and females absolutely dwarfs all other differences in the human genome."

Wow, there’s just as much genetic difference between men and women as there are between humans and chimpanzees. I swear this makes me giddy.

From the NY Times Op-Ed by Olivia Judson

“HYPOTHESIS: males and females are typically indistinguishable on the basis of their behaviors and intellectual abilities.

This is not true for elephants. Females have big vocabularies and hang out in herds; males tend to live in solitary splendor, and insofar as they speak at all, their conversation appears mostly to consist of elephant for "I'm in the mood, I'm in the mood..."

The hypothesis is not true for zebra finches. Males sing elaborate songs. Females can't sing at all. A zebra finch opera would have to have males in all the singing roles.

And it's not true for green spoon worms. This animal, which lives on the sea floor, has one of the largest known size differences between male and female: the male is 200,000 times smaller. He spends his whole life in her reproductive tract, fertilizing eggs by regurgitating sperm through his mouth. He's so different from his mate that when he was first discovered by science, he was not recognized as being a green spoon worm; instead, he was thought to be a parasite.

Is it ridiculous to suppose that the hypothesis might not be true for humans either?”

It is pure ecstasy to consider the differences between men and women and not assign, ascribe, attribute, nor concoct any socio-psychological meaning to it. Just the raw data of genes that connects us to every living thing.

From the NY Times editorial on why Intelligent Design should NOT be taught in public schools:

“Districts around the country are pondering whether to inject intelligent design into science classes, and the constitutional problems are underscored by practical issues. There is little enough time to discuss mainstream evolution in most schools; the Dover students get two 90-minute classes devoted to the subject. Before installing intelligent design in the already jam-packed science curriculum, school boards and citizens need to be aware that it is not a recognized field of science. There is no body of research to support its claims nor even a real plan to conduct such research. In 2002, more than a decade after the movement began, a pioneer of intelligent design lamented that the movement had many sympathizers but few research workers, no biology texts and no sustained curriculum to offer educators. Another leading expositor told a Christian magazine last year that the field had no theory of biological design to guide research, just "a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions." If evolution is derided as "only a theory," intelligent design needs to be recognized as "not even a theory" or "not yet a theory." It should not be taught or even described as a scientific alternative to one of the crowning theories of modern science.”

Ha ha ha. This just makes my heart sing.

From Mark Morford in the San Francisco Chronicle on how to handle the next four Bush years:

“Know that this is not you. Know that you do not have to kowtow and you do not have to succumb and you do not have to bury your head and merely endure. Know that you have this one humble and luminous choice, always and always and every single day: no matter if it's dark energy or light, low vibration or high, raw intimate self-defined sensual divinity or dumbed-down numbed-out force-fed conservative sanctimony, you can either trust that truth and follow your own hot moral compass, or allow it to be stained and warped and doused in fear and led wide, wide astray. It's not about them. It's about you. Make your choice now. Grip it like a baseball bat.

Then, the good news. No longer will you have to ask how to survive. No longer will you ask how you can possibly endure the next four miserable, homophobic, warmongering, Earth-bashing years without daily weeping and clenching and rending of karmic flesh.

That truth of yours won't just set you free; it will lay you open and feed the universe and allow you to laugh at the mad circus of it all, ultimately morphing that sad resigned news-fatigue nausea back into outrage and ire and healthy intellectual fire. And you will, by default and almost automatically, get your fine ass back in the game.”

Why do these things make me happy? Because as surely as these first green shoots of spring have poked their life-affirming leaves through the winter soil—I am filled with hope that wide-open minds will triumph over narrow-thinking.

Rexroth’s Daughter

Spring in January Posted by Hello

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