Let me start this off with a quote from Charles Darwin:
I have been struck with the likeness of many of the half-favourable criticisms on sexual selection, with those which appeared at first on natural selection; such as, that it would explain some few details, but certainly was not applicable to the extent to which I have employed it. My conviction of the power of sexual selection remains unshaken; but it is probable, or almost certain, that several of my conclusions will hereafter be found erroneous; this can hardly fail to be the case in the first treatment of a subject. When naturalists have become familiar with the idea of sexual selection, it will, as I believe, be much more largely accepted; and it has already been fully and favourably received by several capable judges.
Descent of Man, preface
And now let’s look at this news story that has as its focus a “challenge” to sexual selection.
Simon London wrote:
“If you have a theory that says something is wrong with so many people, then the theory is suspect,” says Joan Roughgarden, looking up from her Caribbean chicken salad. “It is counter-intuitive that nature should have done such a bad job - or, if you prefer, that God should have made so many mistakes.”
The theory in question is Charles Darwin’s theory of sexual selection; the “mistakes” are homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals - anyone who does not fit into the neat categories of heterosexual male and female.
By challenging the great 19th-century naturalist, Roughgarden, a professor of biological sciences and geophysics at Stanford University, is making waves in academia and beyond. The implications, not only for science but also for society, could be profound. After all, you don’t need to be versed in the Origin of Species to share Darwin’s twin assumptions that, broadly, the purpose of sex is reproduction and that females select mates on the basis of genetic characteristics or traits.
Being versed in Darwin studies would mean that one would know that instead of Origin of Species one should be looking at Descent of Man for Darwin’s full explication of his theory of sexual selection. And when one looks there, does one find that sexual selection is founded strictly upon the two “assumptions” identified above? No, one does not.