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Thoughts on Roughgarden

Shlomo's picture

I'm starting this post from a very strange place.  I have been thinking a lot this break about why Roughgarden's writing bothers me so much, and I would like to share these thoughts with you.  But at the same time, I feel like I am the class whiner, that one kid who always hates everything.  I don't hate everything.  I love readings about gender and sexuality.    And I don't like complaining.  But I am struggling so much with Roughgarden that I'm going to do it anyway.

My misgivings with Roughgarden began early, when she stated in the first chapter that living things are impossible to categorize.  As far as I know, biologists are almost always able to classify living things into one of several groups: Animal, Plant, Fungi, etc.  Second, she states that the science world is torn between a diversity-affirming and a diversity-repressing explanation for sexual reproduction.  The Biology Department at Haverford has never said any such thing.  Instead, the truth (as I have been taught it) lies in the middle.  Sexual selection and the recombinations and mutations it produces both lead to diversity and keep things the same.  So I was very distrustful toward Roughgarden from the start.

As I kept reading, I got more and more upset.  Her anecdotes about various sexual behaviors in animals are fascinating, no doubt.  But does pointing out exceptions to the rule mean that Darwin was "wrong"?  I don't think so. And what is the point of knowing about fish that change sex frequently?  It's fascinating, but it really doesn't apply to human gender and sexuality, as far as I can see.

I am forced to conclude that I dislike Evolution's Rainbow in large part because of how hard it tries to offer an alternative to the generally accepted model.  Learning about new ideas and alternative theories are an important part of learning any discipline, but I think we need to learn the widely accepted model before delving into the mess.  I am a Biology major, but I don't feel like I have a very firm grasp on medical and scientific views on gender and sexuality.  I feel like I would benefit more from learning and discussing the mainstream views before turning to Roughgarden.  


wggmn3's picture

What is Roughgarden's full name? + I agree with you

Though I'm not a biologist, or even a scientist, I agree with you.. I just wish you had used Roughgarden's full name so one could look him/her up.. Thank you ----