Because Ideas Matter...
The faculty and staff of Butler University's College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences presents
How Women Got Their Curves and
Other Just-So Stories: Evolutionary Enigmas
David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton, Columbia University
Reviewed by Michael Zimmerman
This husband and wife team, he an
evolutionary biologist at the University of Washington and she a
clinical psychiatrist, have written a delightful and
thought-provoking volume centered on perennial questions associated
with the biology of females.
Each of the five chapters that comprise the core of the book
centers on a single question: why do women menstruate; why is
ovulation hidden; what's the evolutionary function of the female
breast; is there an evolutionary explanation for the female orgasm;
and why does menopause occur.
Barash and Lipton acknowledge right at the outset that they're
not going to provide definitive answers to any of these questions
for the simple reason that no such answers exist. What they do so
very well, though, is provide numerous hypotheses along with ideas
on how to test them. For example, from the scientific literature
and from their own thoughts, they propose that the female orgasm
might facilitate fertilization, might help with predator avoidance,
might be a copulatory reward, might encourage monogamy, might be
used to evaluate mates, or might reduce infanticide.
Along the way, they present a large amount of accessible
information about biology, psychology, physiology and anatomy. Even
more important, however, they demonstrate how scientists work to
create and assess hypotheses all while having a great deal of fun.
They also show how science slowly but inexorably pushes back the
darkness surrounding complex issues and how evolutionary theory can
help us understand all aspects of human biology.
- Michael Zimmerman is Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and
Sciences and professor of biology at Butler University.