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Sep. 4th, 2007 (UTC)

This is wonderful--thank you! I may have to add this to my memories as it touches on a couple of my own pet peeves about people's "understanding" of evolution.

Another couple of pet peeves of mine:

1. People assuming that if you say that something is an evolved trait, you must also be claiming it's a morally defensible trait. An example of this is when some scientists suggested that rape is an evolved behavior that has allowed men with little access to willing women to propagate their genes anyway. There was a huge feminist uproar about this--not attacking the actual science behind the suggestion, but attacking the idea that anyone would even dare voice this hypothesis. Evolution isn't morally based. Sometimes we evolve in ways that are politically incorrect. I don't think it's really fair that men are on average bigger and stronger than women, but I shouldn't attack scientists who study this and find it to be true. When a scientist tells us what *is,* they aren't telling us what *should* be. Nor are they telling us that we have no choice in the matter. Our genetic makeup isn't the only factor that governs our behavior.

2. Similarly, and also something you touched on...I hate when people assume that an evolved trait is necessarily the ideal one. For instance, people promoting that "hunter-gatherer diet" claim that because we evolved in hunter-gatherer societies, a diet similar to that of our ancestors must be the healthiest one we can eat now. But just because our bodies adapted to survive and reproduce in certain limited conditions, that doesn't mean other conditions can't be even better. It's not like our ancestors had the opportunity to try. Certainly, some products of agriculture/industrialization *are* unhealthy for us, but others (such as access to dairy products, so that pregnant mothers don't wind up losing teeth with every child) are most definitely a good thing. The mother who loses all her teeth in childbearing (because the human body is designed to feed the fetus first, the mother last) is just as much of a reproductive success as today's toothy mom. But I'll take my cow's milk and pearly whites over a gummy stone-age grin anyday.

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