October 31st, 2007

Human Sexuality

Battle of the Sexes


As any nature lover knows, males and females of the same species commonly diverge in appearance and behavior--a reflection of their differing roles in reproduction.


Take, for example, the brilliantly hued male peacock and his relatively drab counterpart, or the promiscuous sage grouse male and discriminating female.

Or the Little Yellow butterfly, whose males and females are identical in color to the human eye but quite different to that of the insect, thanks to the male's ultraviolet adornments. Consider katydid courtship, unusual in that the male is the choosy one, carefully considering his options before bestowing on his bride a precious nuptial gift. 

And then there's the prairie vole, whose pheromones appear to orchestrate a reproductive strategy rarely seen in mammals: monogamy.

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A Matter of Time


More than 200 years ago Benjamin Franklin coined the now famous dictum that equated passing minutes and hours with shillings and pounds. The new millennium--and the decades leading up to it--has given his words their real meaning.


Time has become to the 21st century what fossil fuels and precious metals were to previous epochs. Constantly measured and priced, this vital raw material continues to spur the growth of economies built on a foundation of terabytes and gigabits per second.


This reduction of time to money may extend Franklin's observation to an absurd extreme. But the commodification of time is genuine-and results from a radical alteration in how we view the passage of events. Our fundamental human drives have not changed from the Paleolithic era, hundreds of thousands of years ago.


Much of what we are about centers on the same impulses to eat, procreate, fight or flee that motivated Fred Flintstone. Despite the constancy of these primal urges, human culture has experienced upheaval after upheaval in the period since our hunter-gatherer forebears roamed the savannas.


Perhaps the most profound change in the long transition from Stone Age to information age revolves around our subjective experience of time. But what is time? Physicists and philosophers have grappled with the question. So, too, have biologists and anthropologists. Hmm...

Kemo D. (a.k.a. no.7)


Good vs. Evil

Is Morality Innate and Universal?


Harvard psychologist Marc Hauser's new theory says evolution hardwired us to know right from wrong. But here’s the confusing part: It also gave us a lot of wiggle room.


A healthy man walks into a hospital where five patients are awaiting organ transplants. Is it morally acceptable to kill the man in order to harvest his organs to save the lives of five others? If you instantly answered no, you share a near-universal response to the dilemma, one offered by peoples and cultures all over the globe.


But how did you reach this conclusion? Was it a rational decision learned in childhood, or was it—as Harvard evolutionary biologist and cognitive neuroscientist Marc Hauser claims—based on instincts encoded in our brains by evolution?


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Quote of the Day

"As we look deeply within, we understand our perfect balance. There is no fear of the cycle of birth, life and death. For when you stand in the present moment, you are timeless."


Rodney Yee