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  • Back to index of Evolution: Origins of Life, V. 1.1
  • Evolution: Origins of Life

    Edition 1.1

    Chapter 3: Sexual Selection

    By Punkerslut

    Start Date: June 1, 2004
    Finish Date: August 1, 2004

    Section I: Sexual Selection

         While it seems that there is no doubt, that the processes of inheritance and variation can be productively used with Selective Breeding, there might be some arguments against such a theory being applied to the natural world. When observing the natural world, there is no doubt that every organism seems to be perfectly (or nearly perfectly, or at least, perfectly enough) adaptated to its environment. From the teeth of the tiger to the strong legs of the gazelle; from the powerful jaws of a shark to the powerful fins of whales. Everywhere on this planet, there is no doubt that organisms are well adaptated to their environments. There are two responses to this observation: that organisms were created perfectly by a creator, or that organisms evolved to their current state through the processes of inheritance and variation serving them, and consequently dividing them into the complex organization we have afforded them. The enormous evidence on behalf of the theory of Evolution is presented in this book. The evidence on behalf of a creation theory, much to the dismay (or delusion) of Creationists, is rather non-existent A person might ask how the pen they are holding was placed in their hand, and if they have enough conviction and lack enough reason, they might force themselves to honestly believe that god created every molecule of the pen at that very moment. Witnesses might say that they saw the person pick up the pen, that they saw it delivered to their desk, that it came from a store, and then from a factory. They will deny it, saying, "My theory explains it equally well." And, so, we have the essential arguments between Evolution scientists and religious Creationists. However, it was not my intention to attack Creationism in this book, but only to provide a sound foundation for the theory of Evolution.

         With all that said, there is one particular form of Natural Selection that would seem particularly odd, if the world truly has a creator. In nature, there appears to be a form of Sexual Selection. Sexual Selection occurs when sex-related attributes of an organism are preserved through inheritance. By sex-related, I mean things that might reflect beauty, including ornaments and other aspects of an organism's physiology that would incline one person to think that it was not created, but came from a long line of successive progenitors. To quote Charles Darwin...

    There are many other structures and instincts which must have been developed through sexual selection- such as the weapons of offence and the means of defence- of the males for fighting with and driving away their rivals- their courage and pugnacity- their various ornaments- their contrivances for producing vocal or instrumental music- and their glands for emitting odours, most of these latter structures serving only to allure or excite the female. It is clear that these characters are the result of sexual and not of ordinary selection, since unarmed, unornamented, or unattractive males would succeed equally well in the battle for life and in leaving a numerous progeny, but for the presence of better endowed males. [*1]

         If it is true, that a creator created all of our organisms, I am quite curious: why has he implemented such strong, marked attributes for sex? After all, if there was such a creator, he could have created female animals to simply desire the strongest male for a mate. The vocal chords to produce music and sound, the glands for emitting odors, the physical ornaments used simply to arouse partners, all of these things could not have come about by simple natural selection, but rather, by a process known as sexual selection. (On a similar contradiction, why would a god ever create such strongly marked and powerful sexuality in organisms when, apparently, his followers consider the sex act to be obscene and blasphemous? Of course, I could use all the paper in the world if I wanted to discuss the problems of Christianity, but this is a book on Evolution.) With all this understood in good reason, I submit the observed form of Sexual Selection as an evidence that Natural Selection is effective in the wild and as an evidence that the organisms of the planet evolved, and were not created. Elsewhere, Darwin further describes other examples of Sexual Selection: "When we behold two males fighting for the possession of the female, or several male birds displaying their gorgeous plumage, and performing strange antics before an assembled body of females, we cannot doubt that, though led by instinct, they know what they are about, and consciously exert their mental and bodily powers." [*2] and "...female birds in a state of nature, have by a long selection of the more attractive males, added to their beauty or other attractive qualities." [*3] and still "The absence of bright tints or other ornaments may be the result of variations of the right kind never having occurred, or of the animals themselves having preferred plain black or white." [*4] In a longer excerpt, Darwin describes the process of Sexual Selection...

    Sexual selection acts in a less rigorous manner than natural selection. The latter produces its effects by the life or death at all ages of the more or less successful individuals. Death, indeed, not rarely ensues from the conflicts of rival males. But generally the less successful male merely fails to obtain a female, or obtains a retarded and less vigorous female later in the season, or, if polygamous, obtains fewer females; so that they leave fewer, less vigorous, or no offspring. In regard to structures acquired through ordinary or natural selection, there is in most cases, as long as the conditions of life remain the same, a limit to the amount of advantageous modification in relation to certain special purposes; but in regard to structures adapted to make one male victorious over another, either in fighting or in charming the female, there is no definite limit to the amount of advantageous modification; so that as long as the proper variations arise the work of sexual selection will go on. This circumstance may partly account for the frequent and extraordinary amount of variability presented by secondary sexual characters. Nevertheless, natural selection will determine that such characters shall not be acquired by the victorious males, if they would be highly injurious, either by expending too much of their vital powers, or by exposing them to any great danger. The development, however, of certain structures- of the horns, for instance, in certain stags- has been carried to a wonderful extreme; and in some cases to an extreme which, as far as the general conditions of life are concerned, must be slightly injurious to the male. From this fact we learn that the advantages which favoured males derive from conquering other males in battle or courtship, and thus leaving a numerous progeny, are in the long run greater than those derived from rather more perfect adaptation to their conditions of life. We shall further see, and it could never have been anticipated, that the power to charm the female has sometimes been more important than the power to conquer other males in battle. [*5]

         In another proof of Sexual Selection, Darwin writes, "The wild-duck offers an analogous case, for the beautiful green speculum on the wings is common to both sexes, though duller and somewhat smaller in the female, and it is developed early in life, whilst the curled tail-feathers and other ornaments of the male are developed later." [*6] and elsewhere: "The males have thus become provided with weapons for fighting with their rivals, with organs for discovering and securely holding the female, and for exciting or charming her." [*7] Sexual Selection was the primary discussion of the book The Descent of Man, but Darwin did note on it in his earlier work...

    Amongst birds, the contest is often of a more peaceful character. All those who have attended to the subject, believe that there is the severest rivalry between the males of many species to attract, by singing, the females. The rock-thrush of Guiana, birds of paradise, and some others, congregate; and successive males display with the most elaborate care, and show off in the best manner, their gorgeous plumage; they likewise perform strange antics before the females, which, standing by as spectators, at last choose the most attractive partner. Those who have closely attended to birds in confinement well know that they often take individual preferences and dislikes: thus Sir R. Heron has described how a pied peacock was eminently attractive to all his hen birds. I cannot here enter on the necessary details; but if man can in a short time give beauty and an elegant carriage to his bantams, according to his standard of beauty, I can see no good reason to doubt that female birds, by selecting, during thousands of generations, the most melodious or beautiful males, according to their standard of beauty, might produce a marked effect. Some well-known laws, with respect to the plumage of male and female birds, in comparison with the plumage of the young, can partly be explained through the action of sexual selection on variations occurring at different ages, and transmitted to the males alone or to both sexes at corresponding ages... [*8]

    Section II: Conclusion

         With all of the evidence of the natural world before us, I think it is admissible that the theory of Natural Selection is without a doubt true, and this lends a great amount of evidence to the theory of Evolution.



    *1. The Descent of Man, by Charles Darwin, 1871, chapter 8.
    *2. The Descent of Man, by Charles Darwin, 1871, chapter 8.
    *3. The Descent of Man, by Charles Darwin, 1871, chapter 8.
    *4. The Descent of Man, by Charles Darwin, 1871, chapter 8.
    *5. The Descent of Man, by Charles Darwin, 1871, chapter 8.
    *6. The Descent of Man, by Charles Darwin, 1871, chapter 8.
    *7. The Descent of Man, by Charles Darwin, 1871, chapter 8.
    *8. Origin of the Species, by Charles Darwin, 1859, Sixth Edition, chapter 4.

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