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Biologists, Orgasms and Sarcasm

David P. Barash writes a provocative book view on another provocative book, The Case of the Female Orgasm, by Elisabeth A. Lloyd. This book (and the review) ponders the evolutionary development of the female orgasm, and Barash is particularly displeased with Lloyd’s rants:

Lloyd also makes much of the fact that most women do not experience orgasm every time they engage in sexual intercourse, claiming that this somehow casts doubt on the possibility that orgasm is an adaptation. This is like saying that because lions don’t always hunt, or don’t always succeed when they do hunt, hunting isn’t adaptive. The reality, of course, is that lions have been selected for phenotypic plasticity with regard to their hunting: being more likely to do so in circumstances than others. And indeed, one of the more plausible hypotheses for female orgasm relies on the observation that it occurs at some times and not at others wherein may lie its adaptive value:

And a smidgeon of sarcasm:

On a similar note, after describing and criticizing Baker and Bellis (1993), Lloyd observes parenthetically “There is an unanswered question about how the Baker and Bellis paper ever got published in Animal Behaviour, the flagship journal in the field” (pg. 232). Firstly, as someone who – at least in the past – published quite often in Animal Behaviour, and has often served as an editorial consultant, I can’t imagine that anyone other than Dr. Lloyd considers it the “flagship journal” in human sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, or human reproductive biology, given that Animal Behaviour virtually never publishes articles concerned with Homo sapiens. This leads to the “unanswered question” whether Lloyd has ever read this journal that she ostensibly so reveres. More troubling is the snide tone of her remark itself. What, precisely, is she saying? That she posed this question (how did Baker and Bellis ever get published) to the editors of Animal Behaviour, which went unanswered? That the question arose in her mind, merely to languish unanswered? That it ought to arise in ours? That there is a conspiracy to publish articles with which Dr. Lloyd disagrees, or of which she disapproves? Readers beware: the evolutionists are coming, the evolutionists are coming!

(Thanks, Abstract Factory).

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