Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Three Disturbing Things

1. There were six pickled fœtuses at the Phyletisches Museum today. Human fœtuses: one aborted at four weeks, one at eight weeks, one at twelve weeks, one at sixteen weeks, one at twenty-four weeks, one at thirty-three weeks. Some of them were curled against a preserved slice of uterus, cut away so that you could see the tiny limbs tucked into the tiny body. They're suspended in formaldehyde, and arranged so that you imagine it's the same fœtus aging. I found myself talking to the biggest ones, as if they were babies, and alive, and needed comforting. Whose were those uteruses?

2. In the same room, there is a chart – a recent chart, inspired by the Out-of-Africa hypothesis – that illustrates the degree of relationship and distance between the human races. Races, so called. There's no human race that can't be undone with a single act of sexual reproduction. Not that you'd think so, to look at this chart.

3. One of the stranger papers at the conference last week was titled "What Women Want - Men Want Something Different". I'm of the "one is not born a woman" school, so I'm unreceptive from the get-go to evolutionary accounts of why "women" and "men" behave the way they supposedly behave. Even if I weren't, though, even if I thought I was nothing but my biology, and that my biology was something static and predetermined and identical with that of 51.2% of my species, this paper would have gotten my goat, by her beard. It went like this: women want men who will enable their babies to prosper, high status men with lots of money; men want women who are healthy and fertile, and monogamous, so that they can be sure that they're investing their paternal energy into their own offspring; there is no upper limit on women's desire for their mate's status and wealth; and so men are driven to relentless capitalism; cue – smoke-stacks, landfill, disposable ermine earmuffs; conclusion – the environmental apocalypse has been caused by women's desire.

11 comments:

TimT said...

I think I'll open up a cattery and raise large families of kittens to send out into the world. I plan to indulge in the most relentless catipalism the world has ever seen. Try and stop me!

TimT said...

Walt Whitman once wrote an ode to kitty litters, you know.

It began,

O catpan, my catpan!

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

My one reservation about this otherwise completely unproblematic plan, Tim, is that large families of kittens only be sent out into the world with their parents' consent.

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

"Catpan" sounds uncannily like something you urinate into when you're in hospital.

Zoe said...

How entirely unremarkable that it is all the fault of Teh Wimminz. Again.

I hoped you pelted the speaker with formaldehyded kittens. Or something.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Yes, I'm with Zoe. It sounds like something out of A Room of One's Own.

Mitzi G Burger said...

Good old Walt Kitman. Paws and reflect on the kitterary impact of 'Leaves of Catgrass'.

Somewhat limited in intelligent response to wierdo speaker.

Ms Rachy said...

I know someone who tried to justify the "Twilight phenomenon from an evolutionary biology perspective, i.e. women wanting attractive, virile mates etc

Needless to say, I changed the topic as quickly as I could

Gropius said...

Oh for the love of Pete. Fetuses in jars are the worst. There's a room of them at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, FL, and it's just a little too much for me. I'm sure they're incredibly instructive and all, but really...

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

Ms. Rachey, topic changing is one of my strategies too, but I want to get to a point where I can talk a person towards a more sensible position. I'm working my way through some of Stephen Jay Gould's stuff: he's the spokesperson for the Darwinian-but-not-evolutionarily-psychotic team, and I'm hoping he'll help me clarify my quivering feeling of distaste whenever anyone tries to explain why biology makes men rape blah blah.

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

Gropius, yessir. These ones are a hundred years old or so, which in a way is more troubling, 'cause I can imagine unmarried pregnant women committing suicide and stuff and having noone around to stop them from being stuffed into a specimen jar.