Thursday, December 11, 2008

We Have a Winner!

As the final moments of the contest ticked down, Heather snuck onto my blog and posted this:

It's an odd argument... that if there is a genetic benefit that is more relevant to daughters than to sons, the drift will result in more daughters born than sons (and therefore that attractiveness is more important to pass on to daughters than to son).However, this argument makes an awful lot of assumptions:... that attractive parents will have attractive children... that attractiveness is not valuable for boys... that a phenotypic benefit automatically results in genotypic changes

Ding ding ding! That's what the authors of Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters (no, I am not typing out the rest of that long title) claim: traits that are more beneficial to one gender over another tend to be linked to having more children of that gender. (I left the book at home, so that's a paraphrase.) Let's face it; youth and beauty generally make a woman more attractive to men. It's not PC to say so, but our genes evolved long before we even had the letters "P" and "C." On the other hand, women tend to want high-status males (i.e., rich and powerful) as mates. This isn't to say that women are unappreciative of a man's appearance, but it's not as important to them. (And yes, Heather, the authors of this book do specifically say men in general are less attractive than women.) So it does make sense for beautiful people to pass on that trait to daughters, not sons, or for tall people to pass that on to sons instead of daughters. Of course, life isn't always this neat and determined, and the environment affects how these traits develop. (For example, a women with genes for clear skin may contract a disfiguring disease, or malnourishment may stunt a child's growth.) But as a science fiction writer, I find it fascinating to think about evolutionary psychology. It gives me ideas for developing aliens who are just as affected by their biology as we are by ours.

Thanks to Heather and Russ for playing! Heather, please send me your address; I'd like to package up some cookies tonight. Russ, don't worry; we'll put extra cookies in your box too. And I guess the next time I run a contest, I'll have to choose a topic with greater general interest.

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