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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Why sex? Red Queen's race to nowhere

Red Queen and Alice (by J. Tenniel) 
Science is now proving that people who say they can’t live without sex might - in a sense - be correct.

According to Life’s Little Mysteries, the preservation of the species (many species, take your pick) works better with sex than without it.  Although this might seem self-evident to Marilyn Monroe fans, it’s not as basic (nor as base) as some may think.  Because “a population of
asexual females can grow at double the rate of a population that produces sexually,” some have even asked why sex and/or males exist at all.

The excitement level of the biological answer is on par with that of most sermons.  It turns out that the answer to “Why sex?” lies somewhere within the Red Queen’s Hypothesis - derived from Lewis Carroll’s contention:  It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.  In other words, sex is much ado about something –
and that “something” turns out to be biological immunity rather than just biological reproduction.

Wikipedia defines the Red Queen’s Hypothesis this way:  In reference to an evolutionary system, continuing adaptation is needed in order for a species to maintain its relative fitness amongst the systems being co-evolved with.  Scientist Michael Brothurst from the University of Liverpool contends that this “relative fitness” has to do with the ability of a host organism to become less susceptible to its parasites.  The Red Queen’s “race to nowhere” takes place when both the host organism and its parasites are constantly trying to “out-evolve” one another. 

Brothurst also contends that sex is the ace (or whatever) in the hole that often balances the evolutionary scales in the host’s favor.  This happens because sexual reproduction makes for a bigger and more resistant allele gene pool than does asexual reproduction.  In Brothurst’s words:  “sexual recombination allows hosts to reshuffle their pack of alleles and generate new, rare combinations in their offspring.”

Therefore, biological evolution seems quite dependent upon sexuality.  However, spiritual evolution might be altogether different.  According to Leo Tolstoy, if humans were celibate, “mere” biological evolution would no longer be important since spirituality would already prevail…


Copyright January 7, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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