Friday, February 21, 2014

Jerry Coyne: "If women gave birth through their stomachs, semen would taste great"

Browsing through old Jerry Coyne posts on his blog (not recommended), I came across this foray into evolutionary science (posted by Coyne on April 18, 2009 at 5:42 am-- this is not a parody):

Evolutionary psychology: the adaptive significance of semen flavor

I have long been critical of many evolutionary psychologists for their over-the-top stories, but today I am forced — albeit briefly — to join their ranks. I have thought of a hypothesis that shares all the salient traits of the best ideas of evolutionary psychology: it is brilliant, makes evolutionary sense, and is untestable. 
It is the conventional wisdom in human sexuality that semen tastes bad.
I didn't know that.
Anyone with minimal sexual experience knows that although many women will perform fellatio on their partners, most bridle at the thought of swallowing the ejaculate.
Nor that.
Its flavor is frequently characterized as revoltingly bitter or salty. The “swallow or spit” dilemma faces any woman who performs such an act, and whose partner regards swallowing as a gesture of love. 
Oh...
The universal distastefulness of semen is attested by the many internet sites that give advice about how to improve the taste of one’s ejaculate, for example, here, here, and here.
The internet is increasingly being used for science research, especially at 5:42 am.

To get a better scientific handle on this idea, I took a poll, asking a woman friend, Dr. Fawzia Rasheed, to canvass her female acquaintances about their willingness to swallow after the act of fellatio. Twenty-four women were asked this question: 
Sperm…would you spit or swallow? In other words, can you abide by or do you hate the taste?

Doesn't the University of Chicago (Coyne's employer) have a sexual harassment policy?

There were sixteen responses...
and eight lawsuits.

One answer was a non-response (“I should be so lucky”). The other fifteen included eleven “spits” and four “swallows”...

I'll spare you the next paragraph, in which Coyne provides his "results" section.

Coyne concludes that semen tastes bad because it is comprised of things that taste bad.
But this proximate answer will not satisfy the diligent evolutionary psychologist. After all, natural selection could presumably add some sugars or good-tasting stuff to semen if it were advantageous to do so. Why does it not do so?
A moment’s reflection gives the answer.
Evolutionary psychology is waiting in the wings...
Natural selection maintains the repugnant taste of semen so that a man’s sperm will wind up in the appropriate place: the vagina and not the stomach. So long as sperm tastes bad, women will not be tempted to swallow it, but will turn their male partner towards conventional intercourse, which of course is the only act that will produce children. In other words, any male with good-tasting sperm would have fewer offspring than his competitors. A man whose sperm tasted like honey would probably not have any children at all. 
I can think of only two ways to test this hypothesis, both of them impractical or impossible: 
1. If women gave birth through their stomachs, semen would taste great 
2. Those males with genes giving them better-tasting semen will leave fewer offspring than other males. 
This theory is offered as a modest proposal, only partly (excuse me) tongue in cheek. It may even be true. 
Notes added post facto: Although light-hearted, the post is somewhat serious; it’s the kind of interesting speculation that evolutionists indulge in over a few beers. And everything in the post is true, including the survey of women. 
And note to T.R. Gregory: I don’t think this idea is refuted by finding, say, primate species that don’t have oral sex but do have similar compounds in the semen. The whole idea rests on those compounds TASTING BAD to females, and we’d need to know something about the taste reactions of females in these other primates. The evolution, after all, might have been in the female taste receptors rather than in the semen. 
Finally, apologies to readers who find the subject distasteful.

Don't you get the sense at times that Darwinism is less a bizarre scientific mistake than a psychological disorder?

16 comments:

  1. This is what passes for science these days.

    TRISH

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    Replies
    1. Trish,

      Jerry Coyne is actually writing that it's not science. He doesn't like evolutionary psychology because it's untestable.

      Egnor is touting this as science in order to discredit science.

      Even if it was science (which I don't think it is either), it would be bad science - not all science is first rate. This paper would fall in the bottom 0.0001% of science papers. Not worth reading.

      Delete
    2. It's only half kidding. Which means it's half not-kidding. Yes, he says that it's speculation that goes on over beers, but he also says:

      "To get a better scientific handle on this idea, I took a poll, asking a woman friend, Dr. Fawzia Rasheed, to canvass her female acquaintances about their willingness to swallow after the act of fellatio."

      A SCIENTIFIC handle?

      "Natural selection maintains the repugnant taste of semen so that a man’s sperm will wind up in the appropriate place: the vagina and not the stomach. "

      Ah, well that's cute. It must have evolved that way. It kind of makes you think that semen has a place that nature wants it to be, and it isn't in mouths or buttholes. If I said that you'd freak. Hey, it's just science.

      Coyne's commentary is an evolutionary just-so story like so many others.

      Egnor isn't trying to discredit science. He might think that some people in the scientific community are loons with an agenda, like Jerry Coyne for example, but that's hardly the same thing as "hating science."

      You know who hates science? You do. You despise skepticism, ask us to take your pet theories on faith, and you don't give a fig if basic standards of academic honesty are upheld. You defend scientists who rape science. That makes you a co-conspirator.

      You don't fool me, phoney.

      TRISH

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    3. >>You know who hates science? You do<<

      He certainly does. I once asked him if he'd read the climategate emails, which he admitted that he hadn't. He also said that he would only read them >>in context<<. I'm still waiting on that. He's afraid of the truth.

      I used to think that Bachfiend was one of the more reasonable commenters on here, a gentleman who enjoyed a good conversation. I don't believe that any more.

      JQ

      Delete
    4. Trish and JQ,

      I don't recognise authority. Something is right because it's right, not because someone stated it to be true.

      I didn't take any notice of 'Climategate' because I didn't take any notice of the CRU beforehand. The CRU didn't inform me of my acceptance of AGW so why should a possible scandal affect my acceptance?

      And the only way I'd personally know whether there's a scandal would be if I read all the emails, in context, instead of an edited selection published by unknown individuals with an unknown agenda.

      I don't have the time. I don't even have the time to read the emails I receive.

      Anyway. Jerry Coyne dislikes evolutionary psychology. He doesn't think it's science. He's written more than one thread criticising it. This one is one of his more sarcastic ones. To appreciate it, you would have needed to have read the other threads.

      Also, Egnor often writes threads on the more trivial research that manages to get published in the journals. Let's face it - not all published research is first rate. A lot of research gets published to act as 'filler' between the significant research.

      A lot of published research deserves to be ignored. Egnor referring to it is to discount science (and he has stated in the past that he regards engineering to be more of a science than many accepted fields of science).

      Egnor has a habit of writing on trivial papers as a means of casting doubt on the field. It's like comparing pulp science fiction to quality fiction so as to declare that all science fiction is to be deplored.

      Anyway. I didn't write that Egnor hates science. I just noted that he is attempting to discredit science.

      Delete
    5. Also, why do you think that I hate science? I love science.

      Delete
  2. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyFebruary 21, 2014 at 6:50 AM

    Coyne: "[T]he post is somewhat serious; it’s the kind of interesting speculation that evolutionists indulge in over a few beers."

    Thanks for the warning, Jerry.

    Put this together with "holiday snaps" of tombstone-hugging and it encourages you to avoid being in the same room with this guy. Reminds me of Uncle Fester.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Doctor, with your strong commitment to Catholic tradition your lack of knowledge on the subject is utterly unsurprising. At least you learned something, unlike anyone who read your mocking of our President for being half black.

    -KW

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    Replies
    1. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyFebruary 21, 2014 at 7:25 AM

      I have no doubt that you are a subject matter expert, Popeye.

      Re the Lightworker und mockery, is it OK to mock him if you mock him because he's half white?

      Delete
    2. “:Re the Lightworker und mockery, is it OK to mock him if you mock him because he's half white?”

      I’m betting you honestly don’t know the answer to that question so I’ll bite. No, it’s the exact same thing. Now slither off and google some examples and get busy with your daily routine of cutting and pasting.

      -KW

      Delete
    3. “I have no doubt that you are a subject matter expert, Popeye.”

      Let’s just say I wouldn’t have to perform a survey to arrive at similar statistics ;-)

      -KW

      Delete
    4. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyFebruary 21, 2014 at 7:55 AM

      Popeye, if I have additional questions about the precise parameters of acceptable mockery, who should I consult as an authority? Whose opinion can I really trust?

      Delete
    5. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyFebruary 21, 2014 at 8:00 AM

      Popster: "Let’s just say I wouldn’t have to perform a survey..."

      I have no doubt that you participate in regular tastings and are quite the connoisseur.

      Delete
  4. Some scientific facts are hard to swallow.

    Hoo

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  5. El Booto: It smells like sperm around here.

    Jerry : Sorry, I burped.


    ********************

    Jerry :You know they call Chicago a Windy City?

    El Booto : I'll make it little windier after the bean soup.

    ********************



    Jerry : How will I know atheism won??

    El Booto: When you see me turn into a high heel pink moccasin made of bacterial flagella imprinted with prime numbers and soaked in oil of olay, all quantum entangled with a tall double latte.

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  6. Wait!

    If seminal fluid doesn’t taste great because women don’t gave birth through their stomachs, but would taste great if women did gave birth through their stomachs, what would guarantee, under that circumstance, that it got into women’s stomachs?

    ReplyDelete