Posts filed under Science

Sex, and not the natural kind.

Here’s a story from last month over at Science Made Easy, featuring a nice diagram which is (misleadingly, in my view) called the Tree of Sex.

What makes a creature male or a female? If you mentioned the X and the Y chromosomes, you are correct. I mean, you’re correct if you ignore most forms of life on this planet. If you actually take the time to examine the lifestyles of different life forms, many of the basic assumptions about sex differences don’t hold.

I am going to try and explain this to you, using the Tree of Sex. This family tree traces the ancestry of sex in all of its weird and wonderful manifestations. Those Pie charts are coded according to the method of sex, and I will be explaining what each of those colour codes mean below.

. . .

— Faz Alam, What can we learn from the Tree of Sex?
Science Made Easy (3 June 2014).

You should read the whole article, because if you’re not familiar with this stuff, it’s pretty interesting from a scientific standpoint.

That said, I think that the main thing that this kind of diagram shows is that really it’s kind of a silly and obsolete bit of cultural detritus that we go on pretending that bees and mayflies and fig trees even have male and female sexes that way that humans or turkeys (kind of, somewhat) have male and female sexes. They have sexual reproduction, sure, but when it comes to the idea of the sexes of individual organisms, what we’re talking about across all these different species are basically very different biological phenomena. They’re basically very different in what they arise from, structurally, and they’re also basically very different in how they function. Trying to wrap them up with human categories for sexual dimorphism[1] is at this point kind of like imagining that the queen of an anthill goes around wearing a little crown and ordering ant commoners to do her bidding. Biological sex is not a natural kind, it is the projection of a social metaphor, and often it’s kind of a misleading or an unhelpful one.

  1. [1] Actually, spoiler alert, biological sex is actually also really complicated in human beings and the binary social categories don’t line up all that perfectly with the diversity of actual human bodies.

Your Tuesday morning Spontaneous Order

A marine photographer managed to capture hundreds of wide-eyed fish apparently posing for a picture. Californian photographer and conservationist Octavio Aburto had spent years photographing the school in Cabo Pulmo National Park, Mexico, and had been trying to capture this shot for three years.

Fish are pretty awesome. (So’s technological civilization.)

(Thanks to Cap’n Midori.)

Wednesday Lazy Linking

Wednesday Lazy Linking

  • Another flabbergastingly stupid comment from Jim Pasco. Dr. Q, Gangsters in Blue (2010-10-18). Since the issue of filming police became a hot topic in the mainstream press (see here), I’ve been very interested in hearing the arguments that police use to justify placing limits on the right to record cops. To me, the idea that people ought to be allowed to film police... (Linked Monday 2010-10-18.)

  • Boofrickityhoo. Unqualified Offerings (2010-10-18). "Now, I do realize that there might be economic repercussions if bankers are unable to recover some of their losses. Fortunately, I have a solution: They can sell their own organs to raise cash." (Linked Monday 2010-10-18.)

  • The Explosion of Pink. Rachel, Our Bodies Our Blog (2010-10-12). It’s October, so the explosion of pink products at the grocery and other stores shouldn’t surprise us: it’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the time of the year when we’re asked to eradicate breast cancer by buying pink-ribboned  products. Over the years, many women’s health activists have criticized the pink... (Linked Monday 2010-10-18.)

  • Primary Sources for USA vs George Donnelly. George Donnelly, Anarchoblogs in English (2010-10-18). As promised, here are my primary sources for the short film United States of America vs George Donnelly: How US Marshals Framed a Peaceful Photographer. I apologize for the delay. I’m working on getting even more information and hope to release it soon. Here is the raw video footage from... (Linked Monday 2010-10-18.)

  • Kathryn Schulz on Wrongness. Igor Kandyba, FiveBooks (2010-10-17). The author of Being Wrong says punditry is conducive to bombast and certainty, both major contributors to wrongness. You are not more likely to be right if you’re on the left, or on the right. ‘If you think like a fox you’re more likely to have a sophisticated, nuanced way of thinking.... (Linked Monday 2010-10-18.)

  • Drug cops smash into wrong house, terrorize elderly couple - Chicago Breaking News. www.chicagobreakingnews.com (2010-10-18). Andrij and Anna Jakymec were startled by a late night raid on their home by Cook County sheriff's police gang crimes narcotics unit officers executing a search warrant. (E. Jason Wambsgans/ Chicago Tribune) Cook County sheriff's police on a drug raid smashed into a Southwest Side house late Thursday night, (Linked Monday 2010-10-18.)

  • Intellect as Evasion. Mel, BroadSnark (2010-10-14). Normally, I like Jay Smooth.  But this video really irritated me. I understand why people are critical of the anti-intellectualism displayed by right wing populists who seem so disdainful of reading books, processing facts, or critical thinking of any kind.  But it amazes me when otherwise observant people can’t see... (Linked Monday 2010-10-18.)

  • To Protect and Serve. Daily Brickbats (2010-10-19). Cops are here to keep us safe. (Cont'd.) By running red lights, crashing into bicyclists, and leaving the scene of the accident. (Linked Tuesday 2010-10-19.)

  • Little Miss Muffet. Jill, I Blame The Patriarchy (2010-10-19). “Here is my question,” announces blamer JenniferRuth. “Can arachnophobia be blamed on the patriarchy?” The answer is yes! Patriarchy is the gnarly firmament of dominant culture, and nothing may exist outside it; therefore absolutely everything can be blamed on it. This, friends, is the beauty of patriarchy-blaming. Whenever one encounters,... (Linked Tuesday 2010-10-19.)

  • Letters Respond to Lancet Home Birth Editorial With Feminist Perspective. Rachel, Our Bodies Our Blog (2010-10-19). In July, The Lancet published an editorial, “Home Births: Proceed with Caution,” in which the editors discussed the apparent safety of home birth for most low-risk women, contradictory or low-quality evidence on infant outcomes, and the recent, controversial Wax meta-analysis. Perhaps most likely to cause feminist double-takes was the following... (Linked Tuesday 2010-10-19.)

  • Civic Engagement is for Suckers. Kevin Carson, Center for a Stateless Society (2010-10-19). I frequently encounter “progressives” who argue that political involvement is the only way to achieve significant change. Refusal to participate in the process is “defeatist” and “irresponsible.” This, apparently, is what passes for gritty realism on much of the “progressive” Left. That argument is pessimistic beyond belief. The events of... (Linked Tuesday 2010-10-19.)

  • So, I got married… Anarchoblogs in English (2010-10-20). In steampunk attire, of course. Mazel tov, Db0! (Linked Wednesday 2010-10-20.)

  • Molly’sBlog 2010-10-17 17:35:00. mollymew, Anarchoblogs in English (2010-10-17). AMERICAN ANARCHIST MOVEMENT MINNEAPOLIS:RNC (FOUR) AGREE TO PLEA BARGAIN:This the latest from the Defend the RNC 8 group. The four remaining defendants will likely enter a plea bargain next Tuesday. What this means the future will tell. Here's the story.@@@@@@@@@@Important Update on the RNC 8 Case: New Hearing Tuesday 10/19... (Linked Wednesday 2010-10-20.)

  • Dissent in the age of Obama. Phil Dickens, Anarchoblogs in English (2010-10-05). Following on from Sunday's post on Barack Obama's appalling civil liberties record, I have come across an interesting opinion piece by Cindy Sheehan. It seems that Obama's line of dissidents carries echoes of the Watergate Scandal and even the Red Scare. Her thoughts can be found over on Al Jazeera;Recently,... (Linked Wednesday 2010-10-20.)

  • Genes are left-wing. Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing (2010-10-13). Writing in the Guardian, clinical psychologist Oliver James claims that genetics has turned into a "left wing" science, because it has failed to identify any innate, genetic reasons why some people are winners and others are losers -- suggesting that, instead, it's society's fault that some people end up on... (Linked Wednesday 2010-10-20.)