Advanced Search

Why Nature selected only 2 genders through evolution, why not 3, 4 or any other

Why Nature selected only 2 genders through evolution, why not 3, 4 or any other number?

There are species with only female gender (parthenogenetic species such as some lizards), and species with three or more genders (some bacteria, insects and fish). An interesting and accessible book that explores gender and evolution is Evolution's Rainbow by Joan Roughgarden.

There are species with only female gender (parthenogenetic species such as some lizards), and species with three or more genders (some bacteria, insects and fish). An interesting and accessible book that explores gender and evolution is Evolution's Rainbow by Joan Roughgarden.

To what extent is one responsible for how accomplished one can be in life? Many

To what extent is one responsible for how accomplished one can be in life? Many assume that hard work is all that is needed. Personally i'm in college, and i've been getting A's because of hard work. I am however almost tormented by the thought that alot of my childhood was spent doing pretty much nothing. John Stuart Mill was fluent in Latin and Greek by the time he was twelve or so, because he was pushed so hard by his father. Mill was an accomplished man off course, and most people could not do the same things as he did even if they worked hard later in life. Should one just give up trying to excel academically if one has not had a privileged childhood as he did?

John Stuart Mill was a childhood prodigy, as you say, but in later adolescence he suffered a "nervous breakdown" (probably depression) which he thought was caused by too much intellectual work as a child. So, at the same age you are now, he was not very functional. He also died when he was 67--not a long life by today's measures. There are many routes to academic accomplishments; perhaps hard work is the only thing they have in common, and you know that you are capable of that. In any case, you cannot change the past or guarantee the future--only work with the present. If you enjoy academics and aspire to greatness, I wish you the best of luck!

John Stuart Mill was a childhood prodigy, as you say, but in later adolescence he suffered a "nervous breakdown" (probably depression) which he thought was caused by too much intellectual work as a child. So, at the same age you are now, he was not very functional. He also died when he was 67--not a long life by today's measures. There are many routes to academic accomplishments; perhaps hard work is the only thing they have in common, and you know that you are capable of that. In any case, you cannot change the past or guarantee the future--only work with the present. If you enjoy academics and aspire to greatness, I wish you the best of luck!

The idea underlying many concepts of illness is that something has gone wrong

The idea underlying many concepts of illness is that something has gone wrong with a biological system and some part of that system which has gone awry must be restored to it's proper function. The proper function of a biological systems is usually whatever allows that entity to live, breathe, exerts it muscles freely and vigorously without pain. When it comes to mental illness we extend that idea of proper functioning to anything that causes mental distress and is presumably due to biological problems with the brain. However there seems to me that something about that way of thinking is flawed because while it seems obvious when biological systems are disrupted rather than acting their natural course it does not seem obvious that mental distress is a product of biological aberrations. It seems rather like it is plausible that that is the normal course of life for humans even if that misery has a biological explanation.. So isn't mental illness essentially a flawed concept?

Hi, Miriam. I completely agree. The concept of illness is very flimsy. It is something like: an abnormality or disorder of a mental or physiological organ or system. Attempts to give a serious scientific account of 'normal' or 'orderly' have proved unsuccessful. Illness is just a vague folk notion and probably does not correspond to anything more scientifically or philosophically solid. Questions about the true underlying nature of specific mental illnesses (psychiatric disorders as they are now called), their treatment etc. are best deal with case by case. The same applies to physical illnesses though. There is nothing special about physiology here.

The definition of "illness" that you are using was originally developed by Christopher Boorse, and many others who have looked for an "objective" concept of illness have also adopted it. You are correct to say that on this view, all illness, including mental illness, is due to some dysfunction. And you are correct to note that we do not know (for most mental illnesses) whether or not there is a brain dysfunction. In fact, some have suggested that depression can be a functional response to failure and/or loss. Different concepts of illness are worth considering here. For example, "subjective" concepts in which "illness" is defined as an undesirable or unwanted state. According to such definitions, there is mental illness when there is (serious)mental distress (since distress is undesirable or unwanted). In practice, much can hang on whether or not something is labelled an "illness": medical treatment, insurance reimbursement, sympathy, excuses, responsibility, etc. That's really too bad, in my...

If in the future, science makes it possible to use cloning to "create"

If in the future, science makes it possible to use cloning to "create" Neanderthals which were isolated in their own environment, would the revived species of Neanderthals evolve back into Homo Sapiens millions of years later? Would the process of evolution yield a new species of "humans" with Neanderthal ancestry?

You ask an interesting question about the process of evolution. Neo-Darwinians typically argue that species evolve by natural selection on random mutations. At any particular time, there is more than one kind of random mutation that is of selective advantage, and it is contingent which one of these (if any) occurs. So evolutionary history has a certain randomness and unrepeatability. If we recreated Neandertals and did not interbreed with them, they might evolve into yet another (new) human subspecies.

Some biologists have argued that some mutations are directed--i.e. not random and in response to specific environmental challenges. To the degree that this is so (and that environmental challenges repeat themselves) evolution might repeat itself. But this is a controversial theory and is not generally thought to account for much mutation.

You ask an interesting question about the process of evolution. Neo-Darwinians typically argue that species evolve by natural selection on random mutations. At any particular time, there is more than one kind of random mutation that is of selective advantage, and it is contingent which one of these (if any) occurs. So evolutionary history has a certain randomness and unrepeatability. If we recreated Neandertals and did not interbreed with them, they might evolve into yet another (new) human subspecies. Some biologists have argued that some mutations are directed--i.e. not random and in response to specific environmental challenges. To the degree that this is so (and that environmental challenges repeat themselves) evolution might repeat itself. But this is a controversial theory and is not generally thought to account for much mutation.

Theists often claim that the complexities of nature and the tiny details that

Theists often claim that the complexities of nature and the tiny details that allow human life to exist are evidence of god, as nothing so intricate and unlikely could happen without a designer. I believe that this is not the case as the universe is infinitely massive, and there are thousands, probably even millions of different planets. Logically, it is inevitable that at least one of those randomly created planets would have the required characteristics for life to survive. Can anybody provide a convincing counter argument to this?

Actually the universe is not infinite, although it is extremely large. Your claim that "it is inevitable that at least one of the millions of planets has the required characteristic for life" is not a logical claim (it is not true because it follows the laws of logic); it is an empirical claim and depends crucially on the likelihood of (a) a suitable planet and (b) suitable evolution on that planet. We don't yet know how likely or unlikely the evolution of life is, because our understanding of evolution, and life, is paltry. Intelligent design theorists take advantage of this ignorance to argue that a designer was necessary for the wonderful yet highly improbable complexity of life. But in fact we do not know how (un)likely life is in this universe or how a designer might work in the universe.

Actually the universe is not infinite, although it is extremely large. Your claim that "it is inevitable that at least one of the millions of planets has the required characteristic for life" is not a logical claim (it is not true because it follows the laws of logic); it is an empirical claim and depends crucially on the likelihood of (a) a suitable planet and (b) suitable evolution on that planet. We don't yet know how likely or unlikely the evolution of life is, because our understanding of evolution, and life, is paltry. Intelligent design theorists take advantage of this ignorance to argue that a designer was necessary for the wonderful yet highly improbable complexity of life. But in fact we do not know how (un)likely life is in this universe or how a designer might work in the universe.

Actually the universe is not infinite, although it is extremely large. Your claim that "it is inevitable that at least one of the millions of planets has the required characteristic for life" is not a logical claim (it is not true because it follows the laws of logic); it is an empirical claim and depends crucially on the likelihood of (a) a suitable planet and (b) suitable evolution on that planet. We don't yet know how likely or unlikely the evolution of life is, because our understanding of evolution, and life, is paltry. Intelligent design theorists take advantage of this ignorance to argue that a designer was necessary for the wonderful yet highly improbable complexity of life. But in fact we do not know how (un)likely life is in this universe or how a designer might work in the universe.

A lot of people think we shouldn't conduct stem cell research or cloning based

A lot of people think we shouldn't conduct stem cell research or cloning based on the idea that man shouldn't 'play god.' My response; why not? Now, I'm an atheist, but even if we were to assume the bible were literal truth, why should we not try to emulate god if he is so perfect and wondrous? Is there any logic behind the playing god argument? What logic *can* be attributed to religion, at any rate...

I think you are right to discern that the "playing God" objection to stem cell research/cloning is not what it seems to be. Those who offer this objection seem quite comfortable with the idea of "playing God" in well proven medical interventions e.g. appendectomy for appendicitis, C-section for obstructed labor, chemotherapy for leukemia. Of course there are some people (Christian Scientists, for example) who forgo most medical care on religious grounds. But the vast majority of those who worry about "playing God" with stem cell research/cloning are happy consumers of the best that health care has to offer. The question is, why don't they extend that happy consumer attitude to stem cell research/cloning? I am not sure of the answer to this, but I think it may have to do with the uncertainty that currently exists around these new technologies (will they work? will they produce monsters of some kind?). So it may be a risk aversive attitude of the kind "leave it to God, we don't know enough to intervene in this area." It expresses caution about experimenting with human beings, and modesty about our technological abilities, which is appropriate (if not taken too far).

Of course for every person who says that we shouldn't "play God" there is usually another person who says "God helps those who help themselves." Religious language can be used on both sides of this debate.

I think you are right to discern that the "playing God" objection to stem cell research/cloning is not what it seems to be. Those who offer this objection seem quite comfortable with the idea of "playing God" in well proven medical interventions e.g. appendectomy for appendicitis, C-section for obstructed labor, chemotherapy for leukemia. Of course there are some people (Christian Scientists, for example) who forgo most medical care on religious grounds. But the vast majority of those who worry about "playing God" with stem cell research/cloning are happy consumers of the best that health care has to offer. The question is, why don't they extend that happy consumer attitude to stem cell research/cloning? I am not sure of the answer to this, but I think it may have to do with the uncertainty that currently exists around these new technologies (will they work? will they produce monsters of some kind?). So it may be a risk aversive attitude of the kind "leave it to God, we don't know enough to...

Eugenics has a bit of a history for being unethical; between disputes over what

Eugenics has a bit of a history for being unethical; between disputes over what makes people 'better' and outright genocide of those that don't make the cut, this is quite understandable. However, what about other methods of eugenics? I've recently come across a movement, I can't vouch for size but I imagine rather small, called Transhumanism. It calls for the improvement of human physical and mental aptitudes and abilities with modern science and technology. Surely THIS isn't immoral, right? Unless patients were unwilling, procedures unduly risky, or improvements distributed unequally or based on race or income, surely the desire to improve the human race can't be construed as immoral, can it?

Your last sentence is correct, I think, with the exception of the word "improve," which I would replace with "modify" or "enhance." "Improvement" raises all the questions that critics of eugenics have raised about classifying human beings into better or worse.

By the way, we are already Transhumans, if you count glasses, sneakers, computers, etc. Perhaps the movement Transhumanism want the modifications integrated with our biology. But why would that be better?

Your last sentence is correct, I think, with the exception of the word "improve," which I would replace with "modify" or "enhance." "Improvement" raises all the questions that critics of eugenics have raised about classifying human beings into better or worse. By the way, we are already Transhumans, if you count glasses, sneakers, computers, etc. Perhaps the movement Transhumanism want the modifications integrated with our biology. But why would that be better?