January 09, 2017

Standing on Darwin’s Shoulders: Sexual Selection and Bateman’s Principles

Patty Gowaty, UCLA

The question, “What is sexual selection?” prominently immerged in 2010 at the International Society for Behavioral Ecology meeting in Perth, Australia. Since then, participants of four international symposia and workshops have concluded that the answer is “It’s complicated”. Yet, the answer as Darwin (1859, 1871) described it is simple: The definition of sexual selection is contained within its hypothetico-deductive assumptions. In this talk, while standing on Darwin’s shoulders, I (1) review the assumptions of Darwinian sexual selection that continue to provide a roadmap for testing sexual selection hypotheses and against which alternative hypotheses for evolution might be tested. (2) I recapitulate “Bateman’s Principles” and show how they obscure evolutionary potential among females, (3) describe why sexual selection in one sex is silent about sexual selection in the other sex, which provides a challenge to the logical basis of Bateman’s Principles similar to the challenge that Jeanne Altmann published 20 years ago. (5) I review how fallacies from the 1970s promoted Bateman’s conclusions and their ascendancy to “Principles". (6) I catalogue the results of previous studies of Bateman before detailing what Angus J Bateman’s raw data say about the conclusions he published in the first issue of Heredity (Bateman 1948). (7) I end with the arguments that consistency bias and theory tenacity may still be at work in modern attempts to confirm “Bateman’s Principles”, and conclude that now is the time for historically contingent social-science investigation of why “Bateman’s Principles” have ruled so fiercely in evolutionary theories of sex differences in behavior.

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