Random Thoughts

Sexual Selection, Self-worth & Deception in Nature

Darwin wrote a book on the descent of man and sexual selection. A prime example he used was that of the peacock's magnificent iridescent feathers and their influence on the mating habits of the drab looking peahen. Both male and female peacocks have limited flying ability because of their body weight and non-aerodynamic physiognomy, yet the male of the species has evolved ornate feathers of pleasing design, which increase his handicap of flying out of reach of a land based predator. Darwin's correct analysis points the guilty finger to sexual selection. Once a female preference for ornate feathers begins to become established, it leads to selective mating preference for a male with more ornate feathers. 

Chance variants with ornate feathers leave more progeny and males with unimpressive feathers are unable to mate and leave progeny. Chance mutations of genetic switches intermittently and inexorably produce offspring with even more ornate feathers, who have even greater reproductive success and further ratchet up the female preference. This vicious or virtuous cycle ramps upwards with a greater acceleration, with the only countervailing force of reduced survival from predators, by being unable to escape by flying. When Achilles was a given the choice of a short but glorious life over a long tedious one, he chose the first and so does the male peacock.

There are other examples, the antlers of the Irish elk which became so large that they may have been a factor in their extinction. Length of certain blackbird tails and more visible coloration of some fish confirm the thesis. In all the above mentioned animals and in all others except human beings, the sex drive and urge to mate, naturally leads to progeny in the absence of contraceptives. Mating is often seasonal and concentrated during the fertile period of oestrus. This is why lions and many other animals kill the cubs on capturing the pride harem, to terminate lactation in the females and bring them into fertile oestrus. Evolution by the strategically timed release of oxytocin after kissing, hugging and sex, which leads to a feeling of contentment, benevolence and attachment, ensures a partiality towards a female that any male has mated with (being culturally lost in humanity why some Afghans define democracy as freedom to fornicate without guilt, attachment or responsibility, a pandemic more dangerous than swine flu). 

In chimpanzees and even more so in bonobos, females mate promiscuously and indiscriminately to counter male aggression and ensure benevolence towards newborns whose paternity is uncertain. Male aggression is the root cause of violence in most societies including human. The male either pre-nuptially or post-nuptially offers the female choice foods to sustain her and thus the future brood (In perverted India, culture has reversed nature and it is the parents of the female who offer a large dowry). It can range from choice meat, insect , worm or a ball of elephant feces in dung beetles. In extreme cases like spiders the male himself becomes a meal, but he often ensures that his sacrifice is worth it by leaving his broken off penis in the female introitus, the first invention of a chastity belt.

In animals without a large frontal neo-cortex the competition for females involves flaunting natural genetic endowments. Variations abound from the loudness of the male croak in frogs, the brightness of flashing (light not opening the trench coat) to the sweetness of bird songs. The male weaver bird goes a step further and often collects shiny baubles including fragments of colored broken glass or shiny colored pebbles to decorate his nest to entice a female. This maybe the first precursor of jewelry. In hunter gatherer societies, altruistic gifts of spare meat to unrelated females are a Trojan horse for future seduction. In more advanced human societies, power (political, physical or monetary) serves as a signaling pheromone for susceptible females. This is the charm of kings, powerful politicians, nobles, athletes and the rich. Men brag of their castles, convertibles and other skills when looks, charm, wit or intelligence alone or in combination, will not do the trick ( pun intended). 

In human beings, certain dresses, perfumes, aftershaves, clothing, cars are acquired in the false hope of increasing one's chances of sexual conquest or marriage. Those idiots don't realize that the male hunk, the female blond or public respect doesn't come by buying the advertised product. Just because you use a product endorsed by some celebrity whom you admire, desire or aspire to become, it will not fulfill your wish, increase your self-worth or transform you from a frog to a prince or princess. You will not only remain the idiot you are but will have been made a greater fool and idiot by being duped. And there are no idiots like Indians.

Some people may have taken umbrage at my last article about the Medal of Freedom for poking fun at the idiocy of America and Israel. There was no chauvinism or jingoism there. I think Indians are even worse, not because India has more vowels in common with idiot. Let me take the example of India's official foolish reaction against the unfortunate 60+ minute interrogation of Shah Rukh Khan at the Liberty International Airport in Newark. The same Indian idiots and officials did not raise a pipsqueak when Kalam, the former president of India and George Fernandes the then Defense Minister of India were subjected to a search and delay. Shah Rukh Khan is a rich and prominent actor with histrionic talent but does not represent the whole nation like the other two. 

If the justifiable rationale was that the first two were Muslims, it doesn't hold for Fernandes, who though an incompetent rabble rouser, was a Christian and a national office bearer on a diplomatic passport at the time he was traveling. If the objection of idiot Indians was that Muslims were being singled out unfairly, it doesn't hold enough power as an argument as complicity by Indian Muslims in the attacks by Pakistani terrorists on the Mumbai Stock Exchange, Mumbai trains, Indian Parliament and Glasgow airport clearly show. It is unfortunate that Muslims or brown people get such treatment from American authorities, but American security is at a level of paranoid fear and has become once bitten twice shy. 

Brazil was deeply offended by the new immigration policies of America and how they offended Brazilians. They reciprocated the policies to Americans visiting Brazil. Our supine Indian governments, be they BJP or the even more craven UPA have neither the decency, self-respect or integrity to stand up for themselves. Our Prime Minister lies down on the red carpet and lets even the minor-most of Western and Chinese officials walk all over him and grovels with gratitude at every kick he receives. 

Some Muslims refuse to sing 'Vande Mataram' for dubious religious reasons. SRK is a practicing Muslim and against idolatry. There is nothing wrong with that situation. There are idiot Hindu fans of SRK who have erected a temple to him with presumably his idol. They were amongst the prominent idiots who protested his interrogation. I would be the first to object if SRK was harmed or tortured or even imprisoned because of his name or religion. If immigration merely questioned him politely and legally, that is within their right and the law. What idiot Indians of all colors and religions should do is to raise a hue and cry about the illegal and immoral incarceration and torture of any individual without just cause or legal evidence, which is prevalent and much more heinous. 

If you are looking to enhance your self-worth merely by merging you ego with a celebrity, or celebrity endorsed products without using your brains or skills, you are like Gore and Kerry's presidential campaign. All the millions spent will only bring you failure. The classic examples in nature, who are partially or completely fooled are bees. In most cases they go to flowers to collect nectar. The flowers entice them with nectar only to shower them with pollen, they carry to other plants of the same species to facilitate fertilization for the plant. In this case bees do get some benefit (nectar), but the master fraudsters like the bankers and Wall Street are the orchids. 

Orchid flowers mimic the appearance of the female bee viewed from the behind. The male bee tries to mate, is temporarily entrapped, loaded with pollen and escapes without satisfaction or nectar reward. It is how human males are excited and fooled by mistaking a two-dimensional picture of a naked female on the TV screen while watching an X-rated movie. The horny dissatisfied male bee flies away and is fooled again by another similar plant and achieves fertilization for the orchid and frustration for itself. The word orchid is derived from 'orchis' meaning testes. From testes is derived testimony and testify. In the past in many cultures and in the present in some, your testimony is only half as valid if you don't have testes.

Human beings like bees, are fooled by appearances in another way, and that is by advertisers whose only motive is to sell them something whether they need it or not. In fact the advertisers often generate the need by offering status falsely. In India, one can buy a pair of ordinary jeans for 200 rupees. Levi's whose designer jeans sell for anywhere from 1,600 to 10,000 rupees, now has an interest free three month installment plan. If you have the money, who am I to stop you from spending it or wasting it? What gets my goat is a sentence from the front page of Saturday, August 22nd Financial Times by Suhel Seth, managing partner of Counselage, a brand advisory agency. 'A pair of Levi's can immediately catapult you on a social level'.

I feel sorry for those who are gullible enough to believe that about Levi's, Prada, Gucci, Hermes or a host of other brands. Descartes said, 'Cogito ergo sum' -I think therefore I am. He was wrong. Most of us don't think most of the time and usually don't know who we are. 


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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