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The Red Queen commentary

LuisanaT's picture

Overall this book, The Red Queen, Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature, was a fun read; even more so as the Bio 103 course progressed. Matt Ridley does an amazing job of providing readers with an abundant amount of various, compelling stories of observations to discuss ideas on sexual reproduction advantages and its correspondence to evolution. Reading this has reinforced my attitude towards certain aspects in science for I definitely have come to feel more comfortable accepting the notion that evolution is much about the reproduction of the fittest than simply just the survival of the fittest.

Now the actual extent to which his anecdotes worked to leave a powerful impression on me as the reader depended greatly on the material discussed in Grobstein’s course because they both supported similar scientific ideas. For example, in regards to the understanding of the complexity of randomness, with the “gaps” amongst the “clusters” of diversity, Riddey’s brings up the misconception of affirming the consequent; the fact that random variation can account for everything does not necessarily mean that it does. (61)

Even in they way they both these people of science go about presenting ideas to their respective audience resembles one another. Both Professor Grobstein and Ridley refrain from supplementing their scientific ideas with the jargon traditionally associated scientific discussion. Instead, both reestablish certain concepts and refute others by simply looking at the basic interpretation of the events. Whether from the book or the class, the methodology executed here successfully influences the audience because they are better able to internalize the bare necessities of the science and comprehend the subject matter more so than if delivered with all of its complexity.

I applaud Ridley for his evenhandedness throughout his book, for he supports the notion of their being no clear determining factor that makes one individual more inclined to be, for example the subordinate or the dominate one in any given situation. Likewise, he does not blatantly justify any of the social ramifications of human sex, like the considered heinous act of adultery, but interprets it simply as a force shaping the human mating system. He accepts its natural turn of events because it supports the idea of people evolving the tendency to object to being cheated on or cuckolded by their partners. (219)

Although some of Ridley’s arguments are inconclusive, one nonetheless ends with the same open-ended explanation my class came to about the origin of a particular characteristic an organism possesses. This explanation states that they are simply the descendants of those who also exhibit this same characteristic, who in turn received it from their ancestors and so on and so forth. (220) Another idea raised in class that Ridley grapples with and expands on is about the existence of things being possible only as a result of the perception of it. He brings to light the idea that females have aesthetic senses most capable of detecting which males to exploit in order to receive positive recognition. (162)

Ridley also supports the synergy of nature and nurture rather than recognizing their effect on life independently from one another. He states that behavior is simply the product of an instinct trained by the experiences the individual undergoes (175) not purely a genetic issue because nurture has the ability to reinforce nature. (252, 256) To use his exact words, “Nature is the length of the rectangle, nurture the width. There can be no rectangle without both.” (264) And as an additional criterion, or as Professor Grobstein would put it, assembly rule that makes the formation of this rectangle more difficult to achieve is the introduction of the concept of time. Ridley brings emphasis to this because it produces a critical-period of utmost importance in organisms because for one thing it determines when the individual is most sexual and reproductive successful. (285)

One story Ridley poses which I found particularly interesting is wrapped around the possibility that boys are in fact more competitive than girls. This would lend itself oneself to believe that girls would therefore be better educated apart from boys, for without them, competition between the sexes and for the instructor’s immediate attention would cease to exist. If data collected on this theory conveys that girls are indeed more successful after education in a single sexed school, it would imply that sex-blind education may be an unfair education. (249) This personally made me appreciate my decision to attend Bryn Mawr just a little bit more.



Ridley, Matt. The Red Queen, Sex and the evolution of human nature. New York: New York, 1993