Richard Prum, Coe Professor at Yale University and author of “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex,” reveals details of Darwin's theory on gender. This particular hypothesis was not well accepted, even years after Darwin's first publication. Today, this gender theory is being analyzed in a different way. Following is a transcript of the video.
Today, most evolutionary biologists think that sexual selection by mate choice is really a kind of natural selection. So, when they see the peacock’s tail or a beautiful ornament in nature, they imagine that it evolves because it provides objective information about the quality of the mate that choosers need to know.
However, Darwin himself proposed an alternative theory. And it’s one that I’m very interested in trying to bring back into the sciences.
Darwin proposed that mate choice is really about the aesthetic quality of the experience of the chooser. It’s about what the animals themselves think of as beautiful. When Darwin wrote the “Origin of Species” he had several problems at the end.
He had no theory of genetics. No elaborated theory of the origin of humans. And his real additional problem was the origin of beauty.
So he worried about it for more than a decade and then came out with a brilliant second book “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex.”
In there he proposed a second theory of evolution. A theory based on sexual selection. Immediately at the time, it was rejected as impossible. People thought that animals would not have the technical capacity to evaluate different forms of ornament.
And in addition, some of the responses were explicitly misogynistic. They thought that females were specifically incapable of making these kind of choices. As a result, Darwin’s theory of mate choice was driven out of evolutionary biology for more than a century.
So, one of my goals is to bring beauty back into the sciences by restoring an aesthetic view of the process of evolution — to mainstream biology.
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