Monday, September 24, 2007

An Attraction to Legacy

An article in The Boston Globe describes the changes that are supposedly afoot in the life sciences:

For half a century, the core concept in biology has been that every cell carries within its nucleus a full set of DNA, including genes. Each gene, in turn, holds coded instructions for assembling a particular protein, the stuff that keeps organisms chugging along.

As a result, genes were assigned an almost divine role in biological "dogma," thought to govern not only such physical characteristics as eye color or hair texture, but even much more complicated characteristics, such as behavior or psychology. Genes were assigned blame for illness. Genes were credited for robust health. Genes were said to be the source of the mutations that underlay evolution.

But the picture now emerging is more complicated, one in which illness, health, and evolutionary change appear to be the work of almost fantastical coordination between genes and swaths of DNA previously written off as junk.
With this in mind, let's peek in on Dr. Lonnie Aarssen, as he searches assiduously for the "Mommy gene":
“Only in recent times have women acquired significant control over their own fertility, and many are preferring not to be saddled with the burden of raising children," says Lonnie Aarssen, a Biology professor who specializes in reproductive ecology. "The question is whether this is just a result of economic factors and socio-cultural conditioning, as most analysts claim, or whether the choices that women are making about parenthood are influenced by genetic inheritance from maternal ancestors that were dominated by paternal ancestors.”
These women "prefer" not to be "saddled" with a "burden"...what else could this be but a clue to the rigors of daily life in the Pleistocene?
Dr. Aarssen suggests that because of inherited inclinations, many women when empowered by financial independence are driven to pursue leisure and other personal goals that distract from parenthood.

“The drive to leave a legacy through offspring can be side-tracked by an attraction to legacy through other things like career, fame, and fortune – distractions that, until recently, were only widely available to men”.
Enjoy it while it lasts, bitches, 'cause the times they are a-changin' back:
The women who leave the most descendants will be those with an intrinsic drive for motherhood. The ones who would rather forego parenthood in order to have a career, lavish vacations and leisurely lifestyles will of course leave no descendants at all. Over time those genetic traits that influence women away from motherhood will necessarily be ‘bred out.’
I suppose we could fret over the loaded language here (e.g., an "intrinsic drive" that some women would "rather forego"), but it'd be irresponsible given the gravity of the threat we face. If feminism is to survive, its adherents must learn to ignore "personal goals that distract from parenthood," as well as the "economic factors" that seem (to the untrained observer) to offer an alibi for childlessness.

Can these barren quasi-women learn to embrace the "genetic predisposition for mating and having children"? Or will they continue to heed their "genetic inheritance from maternal ancestors that were dominated by paternal ancestors," and consign themselves to the evolutionary ash-heap?

Only time will tell.

(Illustration by W.K. Haselden, 1906.)

1 comment:

echidne said...

For a critique or Aarssen, This is excellent.