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Telegraph “Science” Correspondent Talks Bollocks-shock horror!

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Research at Aberdeen University reported in the Telegraph seems to show a correlation between women’s preferences in men and availability of and standard of health care. No surprise there.

However the Telegraphs “science” correspondent Richard Alleyne, seems to think the preference for the Johnny Depp type by those with access to affordable health care compared to a preference for the Sean Connery type by those with poor access to affordable health care  is because they (the women) no longer need to worry about survival of the fittest. With the subtext that a tough guy appearance/image correlates with “fitness” and the other type is unfit but it does not matter if you have health care to look after the kids, and not that in relatively good times a man who will help look after the kids is fitter in the Darwinian sense than the guy who can hunt, wrestle etc but will spend most of their time in a bar drinking and playing backgammon.

The basic idea of natural selection is not selection of the biggest strongest most arse kickingest, but selection of the best adapted to the present environment.

Now let’s assume that women’s preferences in men are not for the equivalent of the peacocks tail (and I would not bet on that myself). What this would mean (assuming that improved health causes the observed difference in preferences and it is natural selection at work here) is that in the present circumstances the cluster of characteristics that correlate with Deppiness increased probability of survival for offspring (or greater numbers) than those correlated with Conneryness.

The problems with the Telegraph article are:

1. The failure to understand that “survival of the fittest” means “preferential survival of those best adapted to survive” and it is contingent on the environment. If “science” correspondents can’t understand this is it surprising that the public do not (I won’t mention creationists – Oops… I just did).

2. Failure to understand that correlation does not imply causation.

3. In the presense of sexual selection all bets are off (think pacock’s tail).

4. I’ve forgotten what I was going to put here but it was a humdinger, and will add it when I do recall.

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Written by CaptainBlack

March 17, 2010 at 09:40

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