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Science, sex, and reproduction

November 21, 2017

Paul Goldstein, a photographer and professional guide, caught a pair of male lions having sex in the wilds of Kenya. To a naturalist, that is an interesting and not much surprising tidbit. The reactions of human moralists are sad and no more surprising. Ezekiel Mutua, an official censor in Kenya, worries “The demonic spirits inflicting in humans seems to have now caught up with animals. .. The very idea of sex even among animals is for procreation. Two male lions cannot procreate and therefore we will lose the lion species.”

The Daily Mail, infamous for its bad science reporting, gets the basics wrong: “According to Darwin, the sexual impulses of animals are designed to cause reproduction, and are therefore necessarily heterosexual.”

Blech. 1) According to Darwin, biological characteristics are not designed. And to the extent that characteristics are adapted, they all have been because they serve eventual reproduction. 2) Biological drives and abilities often get put to multiple uses. Dogs’ mouths did not evolve to catch frisbees, which are less than seventy years old, but do a fine job of it anyway. 3) Neither lions nor people are going to go extinct because they practice varieties of sex that aren’t reproductive. On the positive side, the article does explain that homosexuality is observed throughout the animal kingdom, and interviews, Petter Bockman, an actual zoologist. I wish they had given his words more space. I like what he says when he ponders homosexuality in birds: “Birds are really complicated. What goes on in birds’ brains is anyone’s guess.”

Dr. Jen Gunter explains why contraception is important to health, taking to task a rather absurd article in The Federalist.

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