This is an item the creationists will probably avoid. It’s in The Australian, the biggest-selling national newspaper in the country. Their attention-getting headline is Why do women orgasm? Science in a fluster over female orgasm. (For some reason, that link isn’t working at the moment.)
The newspaper has a comments feature, and it’s rather active — at least for this article. There are almost 150 already. Here are some excerpts from the news story, with bold font added by us:
If you really want to upset an evolutionary biologist, the surest thing to do is to raise the subject of female orgasm.
Does the subject upset you, dear reader? Well, you’ll have to to deal with it. We’re proceeding nevertheless. The newspaper says:
The most furious intellectual controversies of the past couple of millennia – the divine nature of Christ, the trial of Galileo, Darwin’s theory of natural selection – pale beside the question of whether, from a biological perspective, women truly have to climax, or whether it is just a nice thing for them to do.
Your Curmudgeon is shocked — shocked! We’ve been dealing with The Controversy between evolution and creationism for some time now, yet we’ve somehow been unaware of this furious controversy. Well, it’s never too late to catch up. Let’s read on:
Now two scientists in the US have claimed that it could be explained as a relic of a long-dead age when our distant female ancestors needed something very much like an orgasm to have babies. Their theory is likely to prove controversial in a field where there are few established facts and many fierce opinions.
They’re talking about this paper, which appears in the Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution: The Evolutionary Origin of Female Orgasm, by Mihaela Pavlicev and Günter P. Wagner. You can read it online without a subscription, but we’ll stay with The Australian, which tells us:
It is not even clear what proportion of women have orgasms or how much of the time they do so.
That’s discussed for a couple of paragraphs, but we’ll skip over it because it’s a bit speculative. The news article continues:
Why they do so at all is a mystery, given that orgasm does not seem to be linked to having more children. In a new paper Gunter Wagner, from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and Mihaela Pavlicev, from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Ohio, argue that the origin of the female orgasm can be traced back deep into our mammalian history.
Egad — it’s evolution! Here’s more:
The biologists say that tens of millions of years ago, before primates split off from rodents, females only released eggs when they had intercourse with males. This meant that they evolved a sex-induced “hormone surge”, a sort of crude precursor to the orgasm, as an incentive to get on and reproduce.
The females of many modern mammal species, from rabbits to alpacas and cats to koalas, still need copulation and this rush of biochemicals to make them ovulate. Over time other species, including humans, gained the ability to get their eggs spontaneously ready to be fertilised. The female orgasm, though, appears to have survived in spite of being effectively useless to us in evolutionary terms.
Aha — the female orgasm is a vestigial reminder of our evolutionary ancestors. Moving along:
… Dr Pavlicev and Professor Wagner say that when women climax one of the most marked effects they experience is a sudden flood of two hormones, prolactin and oxytocin. This is exactly the kind of chemical surge that triggers ovulation in the mammals that still need to have sex to free up their eggs for reproduction. Why it should have hung around in humans, though, remains an enigma.
The Australian article ends by mentioning a couple of other ideas to explain the female organism: it bonds the male and female emotionally, and it somehow helps a female choose a high quality male. Those seem, at least to us, far less likely explanations than the vestigial theory — which has some evidence in its support.
If creationists bother to write about this, what will they say? We can think of three possibilities. They’ll claim that the true reason for this phenomenon is: (a) an irreducibly complex gift from the intelligent designer; (b) a reward devised by the devil that causes women to lure men into sin, or (c) it’s an abominable Darwinist fantasy.
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