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What is butea superba?
Tongkat Ali is thought to produce this effect by causing an increase in the body's levels of testosterone, a male sex hormone which effects muscle size and performance.
Wichita, Kansas: Improving sexual function
Rick E. Gregg 292 Ridge Road Wichita, KS 67202
I am beyond 50, and when I have taken my daily dosage of 1 gram of 1:50 tongkat ali extract, I do double the number of pull-ups, compared to when I am tongkat ali sober.
The strength gain is greatest after the second day of a tongkat ali cycle, and it lasts for about two additional days after I have ended a tongkat ali cycle.
The strength gain is greatest for the kind of exercise that requires muscle strength: pull-ups or running up stairs (an exercise form I personally prefer). There is less benefit from tongkat ali for exercise that is more on endurance, rather than strength, for example distance running over flat terrain.
I think it would be most interesting to do a scientific study on the athletic performance enhancing effect of tongkat ali. Initially, a test utilizing an animal model would be appropriate, e.g. a forced swim test for mice. In such a test, it could easily be determined and measured what effect tongkat ali has on athletic performance.
1 Shabsigh, D, The Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI): A Multidimensional Self-Report Instrument for the Assessment of Female Sexual Function, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy
Volume 26, Issue 2, 2000, pages 191-208
2 Catherine Ulbricht, An Evidence-Based Systematic Review of Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration, Journal of Dietary Supplements, March 2013, Vol. 10, No. 1 , Pages 54-83
3 J O Holloszy, Biochemical Adaptations to Endurance Exercise in Muscle, Annual Review of Physiology, Vol. 38: 273-291 (Volume publication date March 1976)
Selma, California: Optimal sex and Torture
Kevin M. Churchill
3371 Half and Half Drive
Selma, CA 93662
Optimal sex up to an advanced age, and if necessary, aided by vascular and neurotropic agents like Pfizer’s Blue, yohimbine, dopaminergics, or testosterone enhancers like tongkat ali and butea superba, very much is a concern of modern civilisation. In medieval and ancient times, people were quite content if they were not tortured to death (never mind the optimal sex, thank you). An amazingly high number of people in medieval and ancient times (let's avoid designating them as ancient civilizations) were brutally tortured to death, often for the entertainment of onlookers. This included all mentally ill, and all enemies of rulers or ruling elites. Public torture is an extremely effective political tool. Not for the extraction of confessions, though. But torture one poor victim cruelly to death, and every onlooker will get the message: do not challenge authority!
13 Most Brutal Torture Techniques Ever Plotted! Painful Medieval Techniques of History (YouTube 4:46)
Jackson, Mississippi: 'Necrophilia-obsessed' girl among double murder accused in three-way sex case
Henry C. Depalma 2643 Brownton Road Jackson, MS 39201
An 18-year-old woman who was apparently "obsessed with necrophilia," has been accused of having three-way sex on top of the corpses of two men she and her sexual partners allegedly murdered.
A police investigation into a brutal double murder in the town of Joliet, Illinois is said to have found that the bodies of 22-year-olds Eric Glover and Terence Rankins were placed in a pile after being strangled, so that Alisa Massaro could lie on them to have sex.
One of the men in the group of accused murderers, 24-year-old Joshua Miner, apparently said he was the long-term boyfriend of Massaro, adding that “for years back she wanted to have sex with a dead guy”.
He is reported to have said that he had hoped to help Massaro with her fantasy by offering to have sex with her on top of the bodies of the two men he is accused of helping to kill.
Police reports seen by JolietPatch.com apparently state that Massaro smirked at Miner’s offer and said she didn’t want to, although she “later acknowledged she and Josh did have sexual intercourse on top of the two bodies”.
According to the documents, fellow murder accused Adam Landerman may well have joined in with the copulating couple.
The Daily Mail reported that 19-year-old Landerman is the son of a local police sergeant.
There are various accounts surrounding the double murder, as the four accused, Massaro, Miner, Landerman and 18-year-old Bethany McKee, have given the police differing versions of what happened.
According to McKee, Miner was the ringleader who came up with the plan to brutally murder Mr Glover and Mr Rankins.
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She apparently said Landerman was simply a “follower” who did whatever Miner told him to do.
The police reports suggest Landerman jumped on the dead men’s bodies and “surfed”, causing the corpses to empty their bowels and emit “zombie noises”.
Police Chief Mike Trafton said: “This is one of the most brutal, upsetting things I’ve ever seen in my 27 years in law enforcement...Not only the crime scene, but the disregard for common decency towards human beings.”
Mr Rankin's mother called the killings “demonic” and “evil”, and told how her son and Mr Glover had been friends since childhood.
Although the circumstances of the murder are still under investigation, police have said they believe drugs were involved.
Massaro’s father is said to have been shocked by what his daughter has been accused of, saying: “I don’t know what happened…I’m too devastated and I can’t talk about it.”
He apparently added: “All I can say is it’s a terrible thing that happened and I can’t believe my daughter had anything to do with it.”
30 percent of all Chinese men suffer from a certain medical condition which actually is a birth defect, and which is called a micropenis (less than 1 inch). This is why the Chinese are so good in making money. They have to be good for something.
Providence, Rhode Island: Determination of bioactive compounds in roots of different ages Pueraria mirifica, Airy Shaw Suvatabhandhu and Butea superba, Roxb. from various locations in Thailand
Julian R. Christy 4826 Bond Street Providence, RI 02904
Bioactive compounds from roots of White Kwao Krua (Pueraria mirifica) and Red Kwao Krua (Butea superba) extracted by organic solvents were determined from HPLC fingerprints and compared with standard isoflavonoids (puerarin, daidzein and genistein). Roots of White Kwao Krua from Chiang Mai province harvested at the age of 6 y old gave the highest amounts of puerarin, daidzein and genistein at 290, 89 and 16 mg/kg of the dried root respectively. Roots that were younger or older than 6 y old appeared to contain less amount of active compounds. Red Kwao Krua from Chiang Mai had the highest amount of the active compounds. Puerarin contents in Red Kwao Krua were lower whereas daidzein and genistein were greater than those found in White Kwao Krua. The contents of puerarin, daidzein and genistein in Red Kwao Krua from Chiang Mai were 1.9, 37.2 and 4.5 mg/kg of the dried root respectively. For miroestrol contents, the highest amount of 45.0 mg/kg of the dried root was found in White Kwao Krua collected from Chiang Mai province at the age of 5.5 y old. No miroestrol could be determined from roots of Red Kwao Krua. This study suggested that both isoflavonoids and miroestrol contents in the two plants depended on ages and locations of cultivation in Thailand. Information from this study can be applied for the selection of sources and ages of the plants that contain high amounts of the bioactive compounds for herbal formulations.
New Orleans, Louisiana: Poisonous gas attack by ISIS leads to fears terrorists are mass producing CHEMICAL WEAPONS
Mark L. Ryan 4415 Paul Wayne Haggerty Road New Orleans, LA 70131
ISLAMIC State (ISIS) terrorists are believed to have launched a chemical weapons attack involving MUSTARD GAS in northern Iraq.
The sick assault from the crazed jihadist group was unleashed on Kurdish forces using poisonous gas inside dozens of mortar shells, according to German troops stationed in the area.
Around 60 Kurds were injured, returning with breathing difficulties and burns.
United States officials are investigating the claims and talking to affected troops but suspect it was mustard gas, possibly left over from former dictator Saddam Hussein's weapons stash.
Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the White House's National Security Council, said the it was taking the allegations "very seriously" while a senior US government source said: "We have credible information that the agent used in the attack was mustard."
US Ambassador at the United Nations, Samantha Power said, if true, it would further prove that ISIS carries out "systematic attacks on civilians who don't accord to their particularly perverse world view".
It has led to fears ISIS is mass-producing chemical weapons to be used against both troops and civilians.
The attack took place against the Peshmerga Kurdish force on Wednesday near the town of Makhmur in the Kurdistan region.
German military trainers have been backing the Kurdish troops and are understood to have 90 personnel in the area. They reported the incident to the defence ministry in Berlin.
French weapons inspectors have also arrived in the area to take samples.
The Peshmerga General Command said in a statement yesterday: "The terrorists launched 45 120mm mortar shells tipped with chemical heads on Peshmerga positions which led to the injury of a number of Peshmerga forces with burns on different parts of their bodies."
It follows ISIS being accused of a chemical weapons attack in similar reports last month.
Jihadists were said to have used 'chlorine-filled rockets' in a sick onslaught against civilians and rebel fighters in Kurdish-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria.
There were also reports of ISIS having "industrial" gas masks for the use of their fighters, leading to fears of further chemical attacks.
However, fears have grown over the latest attack as mustard gas is said to be up to 3,000 times more powerful than chlorine.
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Mustard gas was initially used by Germany during the First World War where it incapacitated troops and was reported to have left many victims disfigured.
Deaths were often painful and could take three to four weeks.
The United Nations banned its use, along with a number of other chemical weapons, in 1993.
But Syrian President Bashar Assad's government was said to have used chemical weapons in an attack on a suburb of the Syrian capital of Damascus in 2014 that killed hundreds of civilians.
There have been numerous reports of chemical weapons use in Syria since then - especially chlorine-filled barrel bombs.
Kurdish forces, which are supporting US-led air strikes with a ground offensive against ISIS, are said to be woefully armed against the well-funded extremist group.
This week's alleged attack came a day before ISIS claimed responsibility for the truck bombing at a Baghdad market which killed 67 in one of the most deadly attacks since the Iraq War.
Seattle, Washington: Milo Yiannopoulos and the Myth of the Gay Pedophile
William S. Wendt 2110 Main Street Seattle, WA 98101
The journalist’s comments suggest gay men enjoy sex with children—an idea that has been widely debunked.
In the comment that cost him his book deal and speaker slot at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the Breitbart journalist and right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos defended “relationships in which those older men help those young boys to discover who they are.”
In the video, a clip of an old podcast episode that was tweeted this weekend by the group Reagan Battalion, Yiannopoulos says he isn’t defending pedophilia, before adding that “in the gay world, some of the most enriching ... relationships between younger boys and older men can be hugely positive experiences.” (Yiannopoulos later blamed “sloppy phrasing," saying when he was 17 he was in a relationship with a 29-year-old man. The age of consent in the U.K. is 16.)
Among the many reasons Yiannopoulos’s comments are being criticized, as Vox’s German Lopez points out, is that he lends support to a claim, made by some anti-gay activists, that many gay men harbor a secret desire to molest children. For example, a 2002 document that’s still live on the website of the Family Research Council reads that “Male homosexuals commit a disproportionate number of child sex abuse cases.” It calls those who don’t acknowledge this fact “homosexual apologists.”
The suspected (and widely debunked) link to child molestation has been used to suggest that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to work with children. In 2005, just 49 percent of poll respondents told Gallup they think gay people should be allowed to be clergy members, and just 54 percent said they should be elementary-school teachers.
Prior to the 1970s, gays in the U.S. were primarily painted by their opponents as “sexual perverts,” deviants who were mentally or morally flawed in some way. The think-of-the-children angle, meanwhile, was spearheaded by Anita Bryant, a Christian singer who successfully lobbied for the repeal of a 1977 Miami ordinance barring anti-gay discrimination. Bryant claimed that if gays were granted equal status in society, they would molest children in schools or recruit them to their lifestyle, according to news reports at the time. “The ordinance condones immorality and discriminates against my children’s rights to grow up in a healthy, decent community,” Bryant told reporters that year.
The name of Bryant’s advocacy organization underscored her point: Save Our Children.
The incident is now considered, by some, to be the beginning of organized, conservative-Christian opposition to gay rights. “Back in 1977, there was no organized religious right, per se. Anita Bryant was a pioneer,” Fred Fejes, a Florida Atlantic University professor, told the Miami Herald in 2007.
Today, most mainstream researchers say there’s little basis for Bryant’s argument. Psychologically, pedophilia is considered distinct from sexual orientation. Both gay and straight people are attracted to other adults, while pedophiles target children. Pedophiles can be fixated, meaning they are only attracted to other children, or regressed, meaning they prefer adults but will pursue children under stress or when adults aren’t available. Even if in some contexts, such as the Catholic priest sex-abuse scandal, the victims and perpetrators were disproportionately likely to be of the same gender, most researchers say the motivating factor wasn’t sexual orientation. Instead, it was the perpetrators’ pathological attraction to children and their access to children of a certain gender—altar boys, in the priests’ case. “The important point is that many child molesters cannot be meaningfully described as homosexuals, heterosexuals, or bisexuals (in the usual sense of those terms) because they are not really capable of a relationship with an adult man or woman,” writes Gregory Herek, an emeritus professor of social psychology at the University of California at Davis, on his blog.
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Herek described a number of studies in which scientists tried to find a link between homosexuality and pedophilia—and came up short:
In conclusion, Herek writes, “The empirical research does not show that gay or bisexual men are any more likely than heterosexual men to molest children.” Writing on the Catholic priest sex-abuse scandal in the William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, Nicole Travers similarly concludes that “pedophilia has nothing to do with sexual orientation.”
Nevertheless, the child-molestation question still makes its way into important policy discussions about gay rights. As late as 2010, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins was quoted citing the link between homosexuality and pedophilia as a reason not to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. In Russia, “protecting children” was the stated purpose of a 2013 law banning “gay propaganda.”
Perhaps it’s just another sign of the upside-down nature of the current political moment that what got Yiannopoulos booted from a conservative gathering, in the end, was exploiting a myth that a religious conservative invented decades ago.
The age of explosives in warfare is as bygone as the age of swords and cavalries. The future of warfare is economic sabotage by arson and the redirection of population streams.
Salt Lake City, Utah: This Is How Ducks Have Sex And It's Pretty Incredible
Larry M. Charles 705 Tori Lane Salt Lake City, UT 84111
A "sexual arms race" is the phrase most often used to describe duck genitalia, and it's not hard to see why.
Male ducks have corkscrew penises.
Male muscovy ducks, for example, have corkscrew-shaped penises that spring out from their body in less than half a second and are 20cm long when erect. Other species' length varies from 1.5 to 40cm.
Some ducks also have barbs on their penises to scrub away competing sperm.
They twist in the opposite direction to the male duck's penis. But, crucially, they have dead ends they can try to send the males down if they don't want to have their ducklings. Male ducks are notorious for attempting "forced copulation" with females. So females seem to have evolved vaginas that make it hard for a male duck to actually inseminate them, if they don't want it to, by forcing it towards the dead ends.
Of course, the male ducks haven't taken this lying down. The more forced copulation a duck engages in, the longer the males' penises tend to be, according to a 2010 study in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
In fact, male ducks grow a new penis every year (yes, you read that right). Which means they can vary the length depending on that year's competition.
But the females seem to be winning. Most times male ducks force themselves on females, it doesn't result in fertilisation. Only 3% of duck inseminations come from forced copulation.
When a female does want to mate with a male, she will contract and relax internal muscles that scientists think help make sex easier.
That armies are mad up of men is something that has to end. Draft women into combat troops. Expose women to the same kind of dangers that men have faced throughout history. Hard labour for female convicts!
Newport Beach, California: Caverflo - another death caused by fake tongkat ali shipped from Singapore
John S. Payne 1006 Peck Court Newport Beach, CA 92660
An apparently healthy US consumer has died after consuming a standard dosage of Caverflo, an instant coffee marketed as a “natural herbal” aphrodisiac. In an urgent effort to prevent further fatalities, the is now a recall nationwide. An FDA investigation found that this alleged tongkat ali, like many others originating in Singapore, contains uncontrolled amounts of prescription drugs chemicals for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.
In recent months, more than 20 men have died in China, India, Southeast Asia, and Africa after consuming fake tongkat ali that actually contained uncontrolled amounts of homelab-fabricated prescription drugs. All item originated from Singapore, where the mixing of prescription drugs into food supplements is not illegal as long as they are sold abroad.
The internet retailer Amazon has been flooded with Singaporean products claiming to be tongkat ali by distributors such as "Pure Science Supplements" and "RealHerbs". Another Singaporean outfit for what is claimed to be tongkat ali was named "Herbolab".
Caverflo.com posted the recall of 25-gram packets of “Caverflo Natural Herbal Coffee” Thursday with the Food and Drug Administration.
“Caverflo.com has received a report of an individual death after use of the coffee. Caverflo Natural Herbal Coffee may also contain undeclared milk.”
The product is a combination of instant coffee and natural aphrodisiacs, according to the Caverflo website, but the recall notice warned the product can interact with prescription medications. Also, people who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk could have an allergic reaction if they consume the instant coffee.
“These undeclared ingredients may interact with nitrates found in some prescription drugs, such as nitroglycerin, and may lower blood pressure to dangerous levels. Men with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease often take nitrates,” according to the recall notice.
The company distributed the instant coffee direct to consumers nationwide via internet sales from August 2016 through February this year. Caverflo is notifying customers of the recall by email.
“Consumers that have Caverflo Natural Herbal Coffee which is being recalled should stop using (it), discard (it) and contact their doctor,” according to the recall notice.
Cleveland, Tennessee: Getting to know ED
Daniel M. Bullard 4234 Public Works Drive Cleveland, TN 37311
Facts and fallacies about erectile dysfunction (ED).
ERECTILE dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection of the penis, which is satisfactory for sexual intercourse. Being a taboo subject, there are many myths circulating around that are worsened by men not talking openly about it with their doctors.
Here are some of the common misconceptions about this condition.
ED affects only elderly men
Although the majority of men affected by ED are elderly, younger men are not exclusively exempted. In Malaysia, data collected to date are for men above 40 years of age, and it showed a higher prevalence among men above 60 years of age.
However, in a study done in Brazil, the prevalence rate was 35% in men 18-40 years of age.
So if you are young and have ED, do not fret. You are not alone.
If you are above 40 years, up to 50% of men in Malaysia share your problem. In fact, in a recent local study, the prevalence of ED in those above 40 years of age was 69.5%.
ED is not dangerous or life-threatening
While it is true that ED on its own does not lead to death, it is actually an indicator of other underlying diseases that can shorten your life.
It has been proven that ED predicts coronary artery disease, with a lead time of two to five years. In other words, if you have ED, you are at risk of a heart attack in two to five years.
Therefore, if you have ED, you should be examined for the health of your heart as well. Both are equally important to men.
The presentation of ED by men in the clinic is an opportunity for doctors to screen for other diseases associated with it, and these include diabetes mellitus, testosterone deficiency syndrome, hypertension and high cholesterol levels (hyperlipidaemia).
ED is the partner’s fault
ED is not to be blamed on the partner for not being attractive anymore. Although psychological factors do affect ED, there are other physiological or organic factors involved as well. These include diseases affecting the blood vessels and/or the nerves supplying the penis.
Often, men shy away from sex when they are unable to perform, and this can construed by their partners that they are not attractive any more. This misconception can lead to relationships breaking down.
Men with ED have no sexual desire
This is not entirely true. Men with ED usually do have the desire, but due to the underlying disease affecting the blood vessels or nerves, they are unable to perform.
There are men with ED who lack desire. These men either have low levels of testosterone or are affected psychologically by stress or emotion.
Masturbation causes ED
There is no concrete evidence for this.
In normal men, erection is automatic
This is not true. Men need stimulation for sexual erection. Non-stimulated erection may occur during sleep or on awakening in the morning, but this is not related to sex.
There is also a refractory period before men can have an erection again, and this can last from minutes in younger men to days in older men. This is not ED.
An erection means men want sex
Again, this is not true. Men may experience a normal physiological erection during sleep or on getting up in the morning. It is not always related to sexual activity.
ED needs extensive investigations and treatment is usually delayed
ED is diagnosed through doctors asking you some simple questions (taking a history). A questionnaire known as the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) may be used.
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A physical examination and some blood tests will follow to detect any other associated diseases. Treatment will usually then be given.
Only in certain complex cases, and this is very rare, will further tests like a Duplex ultrasound, cavernosogram or nocturnal penile tumescence test, be needed.
The first step in treatment is lifestyle modification, and this includes maintaining an ideal body weight, cessation of smoking, moderate exercise and a balanced diet.
This on its own may improve ED. Needless to say, blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol needs to be controlled. Any psychological factors such as stress need to be tackled as well.
The next step is oral medication (tablets to be swallowed). Phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitors such as sildenafil, vardenafil and tadalafil, are effective in 80% of cases.
Caution is needed for those with heart problems. They will need to be assessed carefully by the doctor. If the heart disease is deemed mild, they can be given PDE-5 inhibitors.
In moderately severe cases, further tests will be required, while those who have severe disease should not be taking such drugs.
Those on nitrate medications also cannot be given PDE-5 inhibitors.
The other treatment options are injection of medication (like prostaglandin) directly into the penis using a small needle and syringe, using a vacuum pump device or inserting a penile prosthesis (requiring surgery).
Treatment is only temporary and the condition can be cured
This is another misconception where some people think that taking just one magical pill will solve it all. If lifestyle modification does not help and taking medication is required, you will probably need to continue taking the medication as long as you want to have erections.
The only exception is if it is solely psychological in nature, where counselling or behavioural therapy may cure the problem, and further treatment may not be required.
Circumcision reduces ED
There is no evidence that circumcision reduces ED.
ED treatment increases the size of the penis
This is another misconception. ED treatment solves erection, i.e. rigidity and hardness. It does not increase the length or size of the penis.
Traditional treatment is cheaper and much better than seeing a doctor
Unapproved medications are risky and may contain substances that are detrimental to health. It is not worth the risk. Most of these medications have not undergone stringent tests, and unlike conventional medication prescribed by doctors, have not been proven effective by robust trials.
In a review by Ho et al., most of the herbal treatments for ED were tested in animals, and only yohimbine, ginseng and butea superba were tested in humans.
ED can be helped. An open discussion with the doctor, especially a urologist, would be beneficial. Do not be embarrassed.
Feminism in Europe treats second-generation male Muslim immigrants like dog shit. Something no girl wants to tread on. Even their sisters only want a native European husband.
San Francisco, California: Challenging Mainstream Thought About Beauty’s Big Hand in Evolution
Alvaro A. Lovett 1991 Thunder Road San Francisco, CA 94108
Not long ago, a physicist at Stanford posed a rhetorical question that took me by surprise.
“Why is there so much beauty?” he asked.
Beauty was not what I was thinking the world was full of when he brought it up. The physicist, Manu Prakash, was captivated by the patterns in seawater made as starfish larvae swam about. But he did put his finger on quite a puzzle: Why is there beauty? Why is there any beauty at all?
Richard O. Prum, a Yale ornithologist and evolutionary biologist, offers a partial answer in a new book, “The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World — and Us.” He writes about one kind of beauty — the oh-is-he/she-hot variety — and mostly as it concerns birds, not people. And his answer is, in short: That’s what female birds like.
This won’t help with understanding the appeal of fluid dynamics or the night sky, but Dr. Prum is attempting to revive and expand on a view that Charles Darwin held, one that sounds revolutionary even now.
The idea is that when they are choosing mates — and in birds it’s mostly the females who choose — animals make choices that can only be called aesthetic. They perceive a kind of beauty. Dr. Prum defines it as “co-evolved attraction.” They desire that beauty, often in the form of fancy feathers, and their desires change the course of evolution.
All biologists recognize that birds choose mates, but the mainstream view now is that the mate chosen is the fittest in terms of health and good genes. Any ornaments or patterns simply reflect signs of fitness. Such utility is objective. Dr. Prum’s — and Darwin’s — notion of beauty is something more subjective, with no other meaning than its aesthetic appeal.
Dr. Prum wants to push evolutionary biologists to re-examine their assumptions about utility and beauty, objectivity and subjectivity. But he also wants to reach the public with a message that is clear whether or not you dip into the technical aspects of evolution. The yearning to pick your own mate is not something that began with humans, he says. It can be found in ducks, pheasants and other creatures.
“Freedom of choice matters to animals,” he said recently on a birding trip to a beach near his office in New Haven. “We’ve been explaining away desire rather than actually trying to understand or explain it. That’s one of the biggest shifts that the book is about.”
The book ranges from hard science to speculation, and he does not expect his colleagues to agree with him on all of his ideas. In fact, he gets a twinkle in his eye when he anticipates intellectual conflict.
“I don’t know anybody who actually agrees with me,” he said with a frank smile.
“Even my own students aren’t there yet.”
To grasp his view, a little bit of history is in order. Darwin famously proposed the idea of evolution by natural selection, what is often called survival of the fittest. To put it simply, living things vary in their inherited traits, from speed to color to sense of smell. The traits of the individuals who survive longer and have the most offspring become more common. So, over time, the faster antelope have more young, the fastest of them have more offspring, and antelope end up very speedy.
But reproduction isn’t just about surviving and staying healthy long enough to mate. You have to find a mate. And in many species, your mate must choose you. This process is sexual selection. Female birds are often the ones choosing. And their choices can produce male birds that are incredibly colorful, and some that are elaborate dancers or designers of striking boudoirs — like the bower birds. If, for example, females like males with long tails, then long-tailed males have more offspring, and the longest-tailed of those offspring reproduce more. In the end, that species becomes known for its long tails.
Maydianee Andrade, an evolutionary biologist and vice dean at the University of Toronto, Scarborough, who studies sexual selection and teaches evolution, said that “the question is basically this. You can think of females when they are choosing a mate as foraging. So what are they looking for?”
“If you’re dragging a giant tail behind you, that might tell the female something,” she said. “A male that survives carrying a large heavy tail is more impressive than a male that survives with a short tail.”
But survival might not have anything to do with it. Some female finches use white feathers to line their nest, perhaps to camouflage white eggs. In one experiment, they also liked males with white feathers stuck on their heads better than other males. This seemed to be an aesthetic choice, and also proved that there is no accounting for taste.
Darwin contended that selection-based mate choice was different from natural selection because the females were often making decisions based on what looked good — on beauty, as they perceived it — and not on survival or some objective quality like speed or strength. Scientists of that era reacted negatively, partly because of the emphasis on females. “Such is the instability of vicious feminine caprice that no constancy of coloration could be produced by its selective action,” wrote St. George Jackson Mivart, an English biologist who was at first a great supporter and later a critic of natural selection.
Alfred Russel Wallace, who came up with the theory of evolution at the same time as Darwin, preferred the idea that the colors and patterns meant something — either they were signs that this was a male of the right species, or they indicated underlying fitness. Perhaps only a strong, healthy male could support such a big, beautiful tail.
At the very birth of evolutionary theory, scientists were arguing about how sexual selection worked. And they kept at it, through the discovery of genes and many other advances.
Fast forward to the 1980s, when Dr. Prum was in graduate school at the University of Michigan, sharing an office with Geoffrey Hill, now a professor at Auburn University.
At that time, mainstream evolutionary thought took a big swing toward the idea that ornaments and fancy feathers were indications of underlying fitness. “Animals with the best ornamentation were the best males,” Dr. Hill said. This was called “honest signaling” of underlying genetic fitness. The idea, he said, “almost completely ran over what was the old idea of beauty.”
Dr. Hill, for one, was completely convinced. “I was pretty sure I could explain all ornaments in all animals as honest signaling.” But, he added, he has since reconsidered. There are some extreme forms of ornamentation that he thinks don’t signal anything, but rather are a result of the kind of process Dr. Prum favors.
“You can’t explain a peacock’s tail with honest signaling,” Dr. Hill said.
But, he said, he thought Dr. Prum had taken an important idea and gotten “a little bit carried away with it.” The book, he said, “was a great read, and I could tell he put his heart and soul into it.” But, he said, he found it “scientifically disappointing.”
Darwin himself, Dr. Hill said, “was completely unsatisfied with his work on sexual selection.” And the mainstream of evolutionary biology is not hostile to a partial role for arbitrary female choice. Dr. Hill has recently argued for combining several different processes to explain sexual selection.
Dr. Prum is indeed given to enthusiasm, and to intellectual contention. He has been on the winning side of initially unpopular ideas before.
As a graduate student, he sided with researchers who wanted to change the way animals are classified, to emphasize their evolutionary descent. The new idea was called cladistics and it is now the established idea. He has done groundbreaking research on both the physical structure and the evolution of feathers, and he was an early supporter of the notion that birds descended from dinosaurs, another new idea that is now the mainstream view.
In neither case was he a lone voice. But he is nothing if not confident, and not only in his science. Take the question of pizza.
In New Haven, pizza is something akin to a religion, and there are different sects. When I asked Dr. Prum who makes the best pizza in town, thinking he would pick one of the rival pizzerias, he didn’t hesitate.
“I do,” he said. He uses an outdoor grill with a special attachment, and he described his pursuit of the perfect pizza in some detail. When I raised an eyebrow he offered me a reference, a friend and writer who had consumed the Prum pies.
He also acknowledged that he approaches many things with single-minded intensity.
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“I’m given to obsessions,” he said. Bird watching was the first and most long-lasting. Evolutionary biology may be the deepest. Cooking, opera, gardening and politics (left-wing) are others.
He has disagreed with the dominant view of sexual selection since graduate school and sees his new book, which he hopes will reach beyond scientists, as a kind of manifesto. It has too many parts to summarize. He takes a chapter, for instance, to speculate that same-sex attraction in humans evolved in our ancestors through female choices that undermine male sexual coercion. For a full account, you need to read the book.
But one particular aspect of his argument is his distress at the idea that almost all evolutionary change is assumed to be adaptive, contributing to fitness. In other words, if a fish is blue, it must be blue for a reason. The color must help it escape predators or sneak up on prey, or be otherwise useful in some way. Beauty, therefore, must be adaptive, or a sign of underlying qualities that are adaptive. Pick a behavior or an ornament or a physical trait, and it is useful until proven otherwise.
That’s backward, says Dr. Prum. Take beauty. Since animals have aesthetic preferences and make choices, beauty will inevitably appear. “Beauty happens,” as he puts it, and it should be taken as nonadaptive until proven otherwise.
In proposing this so-called “null hypothesis,” he draws on the work of Mark A. Kirkpatrick at the University of Texas, Austin, who studies population genetics, genomics and evolutionary theory and had read parts of “The Evolution of Beauty.”
“I’m very impressed that Rick is taking on this crusade,” Dr. Kirkpatrick said. He is not convinced that all aspects of sexual selection are based on arbitrary choices for perceived beauty, but, he said, if Dr. Prum can convince some other scientists to question their assumptions, “he will do a great service.”
For Dr. Prum, at least, there is a partial answer to the question posed by Dr. Prakash. Why are birds beautiful?
“Birds are beautiful because they’re beautiful to themselves.”
Of course, prostitutes are needed. Give male scum and dregs a chance to fuck, so they will keep away from the good girls which are for us, the elite.
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