My interview with Red Ice Radio on Smart and SeXy

Listen to the whole thing here. You can get a copy of the book here. Additional reviews and excerpts can be found here. Here is a summary of the first hour:

Roderick joins us for an eye-opening conversation on the biological differences between men and women. After a lighthearted rumination on International Women’s Day, we dive into the main topic of the show. Roderick explains that most scientists are aware of racial and sexual differences, but choose to keep quiet for the sake of their careers. Next, we discuss anthropologist Melvin Konner’s assertion that maleness is a defect – an absurd claim, to be sure, which Roderick easily refutes. We then discuss the discrimination hypothesis. Roderick argues that it is biological differences, not discrimination, that results in different outcomes for men and women. The first hour covers much more, including male-female differences in intelligence, transgenderism, and homosexuality.

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Trump panders to feminists.

Trump signs two laws which create programs promoting STEM disciplines to girls.

“It’s not fair and it’s not even smart,” Trump said of the low percentage of women with STEM degrees who actually work in the field. About a quarter of the women with STEM degrees work in the field.


The topic of women in tech has grown more heated over the past few years. Although women account for about 47 percent of the workforce in the US, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they make up only 25.6 percent of computer and mathematical occupations, and 15.4 percent of architecture and engineering occupations. These days, women earn only 18 percent of computer science degrees. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama‘s administration projected there were more than a half million open jobs in information technology.

Trump signed the bills surrounded by various women like Rep. Barbara Comstock, who introduced the INSPIRE Act, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, as well as his daughter Ivanka Trump and First Lady Melania Trump. Vice President Mike Pence was also on hand, along with Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, to name a few.

“That’s really going to be addressed by my administration over the years with more and more of these bills coming out and address the barriers faced by female entrepreneurs and by those in STEM fields,” he said.

Sorry Mr. “suddenly progressive” Trump, it is completely fair that there are not as many women in high IQ fields (and other fields). And there is decades of research indicating exactly why that is. So now he is going to double-down on promoting women in stem, who aren’t suited for it, there by wasting who knows how many millions of taxpayer dollars. Not to mention this will also likely result in more support for wasteful affirmative action which will both make American companies less competitive and make it more difficult for talented men to just get along with making their contributions to society. For anyone who thought Trump was actually going to Make America Great Again, you can rest “easier” knowing that the progressive Cthulhu is still swimming left just as determinedly as it ever was.

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Autism and the Extreme male brain

A new excerpt from my book, Smart and SeXy has been published on

Increased fetal testosterone affects brain morphology, which results in increasing sexual dimorphism in a variety of brain regions. Excessive testosterone triggers super-normal male-typical development of the brain. This hypothesis is consistent with the fact that ASCs have a heavy male bias. It is theoretically easier to transition from normal male testosterone levels to excessive levels than it is to go from normally low levels in females to excessive levels. Further evidence for this theory includes recent research showing that women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a condition which leads to elevated levels of Androgens in the fetal environment, have a 59% increase in the risk of having children with an ASC.i In support of this idea, in traditional autism, the gender disparity ranges from 4:1 to 8:1 male to female sufferers depending on the study. For Asperger’s specifically, the ratio may be as high as 11:1.

Read the rest at

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115 lb female “Fire Fighter”

There was a reddit thread in /r/fitness in which a 115 lb woman somehow qualified to undergo fire fighter training. Here is her original post(archive):

Hey Reddit!

So I accomplished a huge dream and kicked ass at my PAT today for fire school. I’m pretty short at 5’2 and 115lbs. I was the third person to finish out of a group of mostly guys on a 2 mile walk with an SCBA on in under 30 minutes which was brutal. As well as an obstacle course per se right after (climbing 5 story w high pack, raising 2.5 hose up, keiser sled, charged hose drag, dummy drag) that I completed in under four minutes with a 7 min time limit.

I am just wondering what exactly can I do to improve on my endurance and still be able to build strength? Should I run for a certain time and do weights after? Or maybe just do weights one day and run the next? I’d like to put on some muscle but not sure if cardio will make that difficult..

I was doing crossfit for a couple months before training with a fire dept who helped set up a course for me such as dummy drags and tire drags with a hose.

Fire school doesn’t start for another month so I just want to prepare while at home over xmas and can’t go to a crossfit gym or train with the fire dept where I’m at.

Thank you for any advice!!

EDIT: [this was added sometime after I interacted with the thread]

Thank you to those who actually gave sound advice!! There are some great replies on here I’ll definitely be trying out workouts suggested to help prepare myself even more!

I blew by men over twice my size who struggled immensely by not being prepared. It’s about heart and who’s willing to do the work to get themselves to that level.

I of course responded to this insane nonsense.

You are too small to carry someone out of a burning building. Your presence in a job you aren’t suited for risks the lives of people in very dangerous situations. The other fire fighters will not be able to depend on you to carry 100s of pounds with either the strength or endurance necessary, so it also puts their lives in danger.

Get out before someone dies because you aren’t up to the physical demands that are required. It isn’t your fault you aren’t suitable to be a fire fighter, you weren’t built for it. But it will be your fault for knowingly endangering your community and fellow fire fighters because of whatever stupid “girl power” propaganda you have been fed.

Many commenters responded to this common sense to inform me that I was an “asshole” and an “idiot” for pointing out the realities of human nature. For example:

It’s assholes like you that beat down the dreams of women willing to try that piss me off the most. Just because there are physical and mental differences between men and women doesn’t mean we don’t have a part to play. The ones willing to put up with your sort of shit and try are way more motivated than some guy who’s had this whole process made a lot easier by societal expectations.

Industries need to change and that includes professions like firefighting. It may be that she couldn’t ever carry your conceited ego down flights of stairs, but being small and feisty is certainly a trait that is worth a hell of a lot! Especially if she’s brace enough to enter buildings most of us would run from.

Stop letting your ‘facts’ about the differences between men and women blind you to the fact that we are tough, we care more, and we fight the status quo.

The only part you play is slowing down the men doing the actual work and making them work harder than they otherwise would have to. They have to pick up the slack for everything you can’t do because they are basically down a man.  “Small and feisty” translates to tiny, shrill and obnoxious bitch. I am not sure in what circumstances or by whom such traits are valued, but it isn’t in fire fighting. And not in wives for that matter. Lastly, I am advised to stop letting facts get in the way of the righteous fight for social justice because tiny women “care more”. Care more about larping as men than the potential victims of house fires is what I guess she meant. When past elites came up with the idea of negative eugenics, it is people like this they had in mind.

This comment thread generated quite a large amount of controversy as hyper-triggered SJWs fought tooth and nail with semi-motivated realists. I had a couple more comments, and there were a large number of other comments by other users both for and against my hate-fact mean-truth. Probably a 35/65 percent split (sigh, but it is better than it used to be in my experience). Unfortunately, thought-crime is illegal in weimerica and all of these comments were nuked, I was banned from /r/fitness (lol), and the entire comment thread was locked. There is no way for me to directly link to these comments since they have been removed, but if you go to the original thread and follow the instructions at “unedit” you can restore them for your viewing pleasure. You will have to scan for them though.

One enterprising user posted the following video, which demonstrates male vs. female ability in situations mimicking that of a fire fighter on the job using an actual female “fire fighter” alongside amateur males (this was also removed):

I was banned so quickly I didn’t have a chance to cite additional research. I fully intended to once I triggered enough people. In my book, Smart and Sexy: The Evolutionary Origins and Biological Underpinnings of Cognitive Differences Between the Sexes I actually devoted a chapter to physical differences because those too are actively denied in our culture with great negative consequences. And this is despite how much more obvious these differences are compared to the admittedly much more subtle mental differences. Our culture refuses to believe our lying eyes. I also didn’t even get into the financial waste of spending millions of dollars installing female bathrooms into fire stations in a major city such as Los Angeles. There were only 27 Female “fire fighters” in LA at the time this money was spent. Anyway, here are some excerpts from “Smart and Sexy” on female strength, endurance, and proneness to injury (all studies used are listed at the end of this post):

Differences in physical strength, endurance, and athletic proficiency are an order of magnitude more striking [than mental differences]. The average woman has only 52% of the upper body strength and only 66% of the lower body strength of the average man. Similar numbers are found when comparing muscular endurance. Another way to consider this difference is to look at the overlap in strength distributions between genders. When such a comparison is made, it turns out that only the strongest 2.5-5% of the female distribution overlaps with the male mean strength. Mirroring this, only the weakest 2.5-5% of male distribution overlaps with the mean female strength. One study which measured hand grip strength found that 90% of females had less hand grip strength than 95% of male group. The strongest control group female was surpassed by 2/3rds of the male control group. In the same study, female athletes who specially trained for sports they played were also considered. Even these athletically elite females only managed to reach the 25th percentile of untrained males on average. Seemingly though, cognitive dissonance knows no bounds because there are feminists who would deny this reality in the face of unambiguous and overwhelming evidence; not to mention plain common sense.

Percentage of Males and Female with a Given Handgrip Strength or More


The graph above compares maximum male and female grip strengths. At any given strength level the percentage of males or females who were able, when exerting maximally, to reach at least that minimum level of force or greater is shown. For example, all volunteers could exert more than 150 Newtons worth of force so 100% of males and females could exert that level of force or more. As the minimum required force increases, progressively fewer people have the strength to exert that force. Dotted lines are used to compare the strongest 5% of females (shaded area) to the male curve. It can be seen from this comparison that just over 90% of males are stronger than 95% of females. In other words, the strength differences between males and females are so large that their distributions barely overlap even at the tales. Neither males nor females in this group engaged in special athletic training.

Comparison of the Hand Grip Strength Distribution between Typical Males, Typical Females, and Elite Females

Above is a graph comparing the distribution of hand grip strength between typical males, typical females, and highly athletic females (i.e., elite females). Each distribution is divided into quartiles and each quartile is bounded by a horizontal black line. The grey area denotes 50% of the overall population (25th percentile to the 75th percentile). As can be seen from the graph, the strongest typical female is weaker than the male mean. Among the athletically trained female population, only the far tale of the distribution overlaps with the male mean. This indicates that even with training few women are able to attain a strength comparable with the untrained male population. This comparison does not include an athletically trained male population, but it can be expected that there would be little to no overlap with the female cohort if such a population was included. The shape of the curves were added as a qualitative representation of the relative population density at a given maximum strength where greater width indicates more of the population has that strength.

Data from Leyk, D., Gorges, W., Ridder, D., Wunderlich, M., Ruther, T., Sievert, A., Essfeld, D. (2007) Hand-grip strength of young men, women and highly trained female athletes. Eur J Appl Physiol (2007) 99:415–421

… [lack of physical aptitude in military recruitment, non-italics are a direct quote from a study listed at the end of this post]

At the time of enlistment, a seventeen-year-old female is expected to do thirteen push-ups, compared to thirty-five for males, while for forty-one-year-olds, the numbers are six and twenty-four, respectively. A seventeen year-old girl is expected to run two miles in nineteen minutes, forty-two seconds or less, which is twelve seconds more than a forty-one year old man gets. A forty-one-year-old woman has to “run” two miles in twenty-four minutes and six seconds, almost five minutes more than a man receives.

More than 50% of female trainees in the marines are unable to do even three pull-ups. Instead they are required to do a “flexed arm hang” for a minimum 15 seconds; a much less stringent requirement. Over all age ranges, women can only do about one third the number of pushups compared to men; 30 vs. 10. Men average 2-4 fewer minutes per mile on long distance running tasks (7 vs. 10 minutes for a 1 mile run and 16 vs. 20 on a 2 mile run). Women can only do 40 sit ups on average compared to the male mean of 60. Female recruits also tend to be less physically fit on average (i.e., they are fatter). One of the most remarkable reductions in standards is the lowered minimum throwing radius expected of women throwing grenades. Women are only expected to be able to throw a grenade 25 meters compared to 35 meters expected of males and many can’t even throw it that far. What happens if a female combat troop muffs her throw and gets everyone around her killed? That incurring this level of increased danger to troops is accepted is incomprehensible, and yet that is how things are actually done today.

…[female proneness to injury in the military]

 Beyond simply having less physical strength, the female body also appears much less suited to strenuous physical exertion. Multiple studies have all found similar results: Women are consistently and significantly more likely to be injured. During basic training, it can be expected that 50% of female recruits will develop some sort of injury compared to 27% of men (i.e., they are 1.8 times more likely to be injured). Women are 2.5 times more likely to develop injuries that lead to significant time loss from training. More than 50% of women are prevented from ever completing their training because of some sort of injury. This pattern has been stable since the 1970s.

Women are several orders of magnitude more likely to incur some specific injuries. For example, 1 in 367 female military personnel can be expected to suffer a pelvic stress fracture compared to only 1 in 40,000 men. This is unsurprising given that the female pelvis has evolved to accommodate childbirth, not heavy load bearing or other stresses. More generally, stress fractures occur about 10 times as often in women than men in the military. Depending on the study, ACL ruptures are between 2.4 and 9.7 more likely in women than in men. Overuse injuries, defined as an injury that results from extended, repetitive use of a specific body part, occur in 68% of women compared to 48% of men. The cumulative result of all of these injuries is that women must go to the doctor and seek medical care at 9.2 times the rate of men.

All these extra injuries constitute a huge additional immediate cost to military operations and can be expected to increase with additional female involvement in the military. However, the extra costs do not end in immediate medical costs. Injuries which cause sufficient damage result in physical disability discharges. Such discharges entitle the person who receives it to financial benefits for the rest of their lives. Consistent with their higher rate of injuries generally, women are 64% more likely to receive a physical disability discharge. And this was without them ever being intentionally exposed to combat situations at the time these studies were done. One year saw female disability discharge be as high as 140 per 10,000 female military personnel. In the same year, male disability discharge was only 80 per 10,000 male military personnel, despite the fact that they are more commonly exposed to dangerous and/or physically demanding tasks. Disability costs take up an absolutely staggering amount of the military budget. In 2001, 21 billion dollars was paid out in compensation to disabled military service personnel when all services are considered. 25% of this disability compensation budget is made as direct cash payments and this was the level of payments before the recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars even took place.

As a side note, I also summarized an anecdote recounted in Jared Taylor’s book “Face to Face with Race” [highly recommended] which digressed long enough to talk about a specific female fire fighter:

Strength isn’t the only problem, either. Gender differences in bravery and risk-taking also matter. Jared Taylor, in his book Face to Face with Race, digresses from the general focus of the book to discuss the story of a female fire lieutenant who was hired and then promoted, in complete disregard for any sensible, merit-based physical standards. The hiring and promotion of this woman, like most female fire fighters, was done by the fire department to meet politically inspired quotas. When her crew arrived to a fire, instead of doing the standard procedure of dragging the heavy hose into the house, breaking down the door to the room on fire, and putting it out, she became afraid and reminded the crew that she was in command and ordered them not to enter. They were to try to put it out from the outside. Of course this didn’t work and it wasn’t until a male chief from a different crew showed up, relieved the cowardly woman of command, and ordered the firefighters to do the correct thing that the fire was put out. Later, the female fire fighter had a nervous break down as a result of her now widely known incompetence among the other fire fighters. She was reported to have started hitting herself repeatedly as part of this. She also became enraged at the fire department and sued them for “discrimination.”

Its funny how anyone who spends genuine effort and time trying to learn about the realities of a situation like female fire fighters or military personnel, they automatically become an asshole, an idiot, and a moron. And then they get banned from polite society (and reddit sub-forums).

Bonus, the dutch version of survivor where the give men and women different islands with completely expected results:

Studies used in the sections quoted from the book:

Miller, A. E., MacDougall, J. D., Tarnopolsky, M. A., Sale, D. G. (1993) Gender differences in strength and muscle fiber characteristics. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1993;66(3):254-62.

Meyer, L. G., Pokorski, T. L., Ortel, B. E., Saxton, J. L., Collyer, P. D. Muscular Strength and Anthropometric Characteristics of Male and Female Naval Aviation Candidates. Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory.

Leyk, D., Gorges, W., Ridder, D., Wunderlich, M., Ruther, T., Sievert, A., Essfeld, D. (2007) Hand-grip strength of young men, women and highly trained female athletes. Eur J Appl Physiol (2007) 99:415–421

Browne, K. (2007) Co-ed Combat: The New Evidence That Women Shouldn’t Fight the Nation’s Wars. Sentinel. ASIN: B000W94H5I

 (2014) Marines delay female fitness plan after half fail pull-up test. Associated press.

Jones, B., Bovee, M., Knapik, J. (1992) Associations among body composition, physical fitness, and injury in men and women army trainees. National Academies Press. Body Composition and Physical Performance: Applications For the Military Services.

Frum, D. (2013) The Truth About Women in Combat. Daily Beast.

Jordan, B. (2014) Data Predict Spike in Female Troop Injuries.

Springer, B.A., Ross, A. (2011) Musculoskeletal injuries in military women. Borden Institute.

Bell, N.S., Mangione, T. W., Hemenway, D., Amoroso, P. J., Jones, B. H. (2000) High injury rates among female army trainees: a function of gender? Am J Prev Med. 2000 Apr;18(3 Suppl):141-6.

Department of the Army (2011) Prevention and Control of Musculoskeletal Injuries associated with Physical Training. Department of the Army.

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Why the US military will lose

I was watching a youtube video yesterday when the following US Army recruitment video came up:

This is a joke. Or would be in a sane world. The US Army cares more about affirmative action than actually winning anything. Lots of minorities and women are featured here, which is dumb enough on its own, but a black woman is the most prominently featured. Black women are the worst possible demographic for the role of competent computer security expert. Blacks in the US have an average IQ of 85, well below the minimum level for this field and a standard deviation lower than the white average. In addition, women in general are much less suited towards technical and mathematics roles. Black females are literally the least suited demographic to this role available and the military is dumb enough to actually try to recruit this group to this role. Its like they are trying to lose.

Or maybe they just made this video with affirmative action hires to avoid the inevitable uproar from university snow flakes who at any other time would be calling for the complete dissolution of the military. If I were part of the military brass, I would declare all demographic information of the troops top secret so leftists would never find out it was entirely filled out with all White, Northeast Asian, and maybe Indian (with a dot) males.

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Vanity Marketing (for women only)

As I often do, I was browsing reddit when I found the following post by an apparent Singapore native who was annoyed that a bank was advertising a female only credit card…

In my country, only 2 banks here offer women-only credit cards; this is one bank. It’s been around for almost as long as I’ve lived so this is nothing new.

Still, it irks me that there’s all the talk about “gender equality” and “sexism” yet women here can apply for any credit card but men actually have (slightly) less choices.

First, it’s “women are constantly being discriminated by men and aren’t given ample opportunities to prove themselves”. Then it’s “banks are doing this because it’s been shown that women spend more than men due their higher disposable income”. So which is it?

To bad unlike in the US, there’s no statute to protect against gender discrimination, (there is for race, language or religion).

I suppose he is technically right that it is hypocritical to want gender “equality” while supporting gender segregated whatever (in this case credit cards). Even so, taking a “Bu, bu, but the dems are the REAL sexists” analogous line isn’t really worth bothering with. You can’t out-left the left. I reject gender equality altogether so such things don’t bother me per se. There are plenty of instances where men and women justifiably shouldn’t be treated the same. Credit cards are probably not one of those times, but meh, who cares how banks advertise this stuff. It doesn’t matter. Well, I could see banning women from getting credit cards at all because many are irresponsible with money and high debt makes for a poor wife. But that is a different topic.

Even though the above logic holds in this case, there is another reason why the proper response to things like “Women-only credit cards” should be amusement rather than annoyance. Female-focused advertising is, in most cases, a blatant gimmick with no real substance. In the case of a credit card, it probably has higher interest rates or worse conditions than non-female focused competitors. At minimum it is no better than similar gender neutral competitors. The fact that it has a gender focused marketing campaign is NOT a reason to pick it over other offerings on the market. In fact, it is hard to imagine how a credit card could be made female focused in anything but name. Perhaps it gives 1.5% back on any purchase of tampons, cat litter, ice cream, tissues, romantic comedies, and weight loss programs. Jokes aside, female-centric marketing is a naked attempt to appeal to female vanity and/or solipsism in order to bypass sound judgement to close the sale. That such marketing is relatively common suggests that the gambit works reasonably well. If the deception works that well, that means a large proportion of the female population is flagrantly stupid enough to fall for it. Ironically, the marketing which successfully appeals to female vanity and pride directly countermands its justification immediately upon the marketing’s success. Falling for baseless, naked manipulation is a sure sign that there is nothing to be proud of. The success of such branding is a clear and unambiguous indictment of female incompetence at the population level. Hence why I find it so amusing that most women hop right on the bandwagon for such campaigns without even a second thought. The joke is on them.

I think the funniest example of vanity marketing I have seen was when I was grocery shopping a few years ago. I was walking down the medicine aisle when I suddenly saw a laxative that was specifically “for women.” This marketing was absolutely preposterous because intestines do not vary by gender in their response to commonly used laxatives. I would have to look it up, but I would guess the same is true for more esoteric prescription laxatives. I stopped my cart and balked for a minute at the idea of “female” laxatives (or even just that some cheeky bastard would have the gall to shamelessly market such bullshit and it WORKED) before moving closer to confirm my suspicions. Sure enough the ingredients were all the same as every other brand in the aisle. Female laxatives, like many other “female” products, were just a stupid marketing gimmick to make women buy it, at a higher price, over other brands. Think about this for a second. The sales advantage of increasing female buyers more than made up for any sales disadvantage of alienating men away from this product. And this increase happens IN SPITE of it being identical with everything else available and more expensive. Either a whole lot of women are really susceptible to this type of marketing, or else women get clogged up way more than men do [or both]. Even if women get constipated more, that doesn’t change the fact that the “female” laxatives were no different than any other laxative. The pretty (turd?) flowers on the label provide absolutely zero rational justification to chose it as a product over any of the others.

Since our laws require most products list their active ingredient right on the labels, it really doesn’t make sense that “female” marketing should work at all. Maybe this is a guy thing, but I know when I am shopping for something I usually spend a minute comparing price, volumes, active ingredients, other ingredients, concentrations, or anything else that might inform my decision on what to buy. This process of evaluation would almost always make such a transparent gimmick useless (or worse than useless if I was annoyed by the deceptive nature of the label). Especially in the case of the laxatives above, the ladies could easily compare “female” laxatives to the cheapest generic brand and realize what the better deal was. Many, apparently, do not go through this obvious process and marketing female laxatives is a successful sales tactic.

This seems to be true of not just neutral products with deceptive “female” labels, but also for products implicitly understood to be mostly for women. Right out of college I spent a year teaching chemistry and biology at a high school. During one of my chemistry lessons I was rudely interrupted during a very important chemistry lecture by a group of gossiping girls. They were of course talking about which brand of hair care product was the best. Well, even back then I had the general concept of this post about female purchasing habits in my mind. I suspected their concept of “best” products had more to do with labels and gimmicks than with actual active ingredients and effectiveness. As “punishment” I required all of the girls to look up the active chemical ingredient of the various brands, the chemical reactions involved, and give a comparison report in front of the class. I can’t remember exactly which products they talked about, but it ended up having peroxides so it was probably some sort of bleaching agent. Sure enough, my suspicion was correct. All of the brands had the exact same active ingredient at the same concentration. My hope was that they learned a valuable lesson on product evaluation which could save them a lot of money, but I was left with a very distinct impression that they didn’t care at all and were just going to get whatever was most expensive because that was better for signalling status. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.

Now some people might complain that there are examples of the above sort of things with the genders inverted. However, examples like female credit cards and female laxatives are a different category than the male focused products that I can think of (if you have examples I haven’t thought of, please let me know). Specifically, in the case of credit cards and laxatives, there is no implied gender of the product. Companies are taking a gender neutral product, slapping some gynocentric packaging on it, and hoping female vanity will get them more sales despite the product being in no way changed. I can’t think of any male oriented products which fits this description (A gender-neutral product which gets male-focused marketing).

The most well-known example of a male-focused marketing generally is probably the “Just for men” beard dyeing product.* However, there is a fundamental difference between this example and the two female-focused examples. Hair-dying, and thus its products, is implicitly a female activity because it is all about vanity and vanity is a very feminine conceit. In fact, I would go so far as to say that most or all activities, brands, etc which are considered feminine, outside of child-rearing, are fundamentally related to vanity. Many or most men would gladly choose grey beards over buying flowery boxes of hair dye and sissy-dyeing their beards. Either that, or they just don’t care and see dying grey hair as wholly unnecessary [or both]. The “just for men” brand is very self-consciously trying to counter the perception of hair-coloring as feminine to open up a reluctant market. Despite this direct marketing, I suspect the greying male population is still fairly reluctant to bother with hair dyeing compared to the female population as a whole. Even in this case where men might have some pretty legitimate desire to use a vanity product, vanity marketing for men just is not as effective as it is for women. This is why you never see an objectively gender neutral product labeled for men. Such things don’t work, so they don’t happen

Now before you say this is just me and my anecdotal experiences, I want to remind you that the belief that women are more vain than men has existed since ancient times. For example, in Isaiah 3 the women of Judea are described thusly:

Moreover, the LORD said, “Because the daughters of Zion are proud
And walk with heads held high and seductive eyes,
And go along with mincing steps
And tinkle the bangles on their feet,

Therefore the Lord will afflict the scalp of the daughters of Zion with scabs,
And the LORD will make their foreheads bare.”

In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, 19dangling earrings, bracelets, veils, headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, finger rings, nose rings, festal robes, outer tunics, cloaks, money purses, hand mirrors, undergarments, turbans and veils.

Now it will come about that instead of sweet perfume there will be putrefaction;
Instead of a belt, a rope;
Instead of well-set hair, a plucked-out scalp;
Instead of fine clothes, a donning of sackcloth;
And branding instead of beauty.

Isaiah also talks about killing all the men to make the women suffer even more. Male Privilege. I hope god never decides to punish women too badly…. In an excellent article which is on another topic, but which also references Isaiah, Albert Nock sees a similar pattern among women in the 1920s and 30s:

The picture which Isaiah presents of the Judean masses is most unfavorable. In his view, the mass man — be he high or be he lowly, rich or poor, prince or pauper — gets off very badly. He appears as not only weak minded and weak willed, but as by consequence knavish, arrogant, grasping, dissipated, unprincipled, unscrupulous. The mass woman also gets off badly, as sharing all the mass man’s untoward qualities, and contributing a few of her own in the way of vanity and laziness, extravagance and foible. The list of luxury products that she patronized is interesting; it calls to mind the women’s page of a Sunday newspaper in 1928, or the display set forth in one of our professedly “smart” periodicals. In another place, Isaiah even recalls the affectations that we used to know by the name “flapper gait” and the “debutante slouch.”

So I think there is more than a little something to this idea of vanity being more common in women, and unscrupulous marketeers using that fact to their advantage. Most “for women” marketing is taking advantage of female stupidity and vanity to make a profit. Most women seem completely unable or unwilling to recognize that fact. Frankly, they deserve to be fleeced if it is really that easy to do. And men should laugh at their folly rather than be mad. (Unless its your wife, in which case slap some sense into her.)

*I have never used a beard dye, and I didn’t research it for this post. Beard hair is obviously much more course than other hair and that may require different formulations or tools. If so that actually makes this a distinct product from female hair dye and thus even less of a suitable analogy.

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Power, Sex, Suicide: Or why do genders exist in the first place?

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There has been a lot of crap happening the last few weeks, so I thought a not particularly political post might be a nice respite for some. Please bear with the large digressions in this post. It may not seem like it, but it is all related in a meandering sort of way. I promise. I will get to the point eventually and hopefully you will learn some interesting things along the way. Anyway, I wanted to expand on the evolutionary origins of two sexes (as opposed to none or more than 2). I did not cover it in Smart and Sexy because it wasn’t directly relevant enough to be included. The focus in the book was the intellectual differences between human genders, not why gender exists in the first place. It would have been too much of a digression to include that. I think it is an interesting question nonetheless and wanted to address it at some point. Especially since a growing group of lunatics keep wanting to expand the number of genders to the limit of infinity.

On to the first “non sequitur,” or so it deceptively seems. There was recently an askreddit thread which asked about atmospheric oxygen concentrations during the carboniferous period and reminded me of the topic of this post. Specifically, the oxygen concentration was an astounding 35% compared to today’s 21% and the person wanted to know why it was so high and why it dropped so much afterward. If we went back in time to that era, we would suffer from oxygen poisoning. I imagine that wildfires then must have been quite a hellish sight. Literally. This high oxygen concentration probably also explains why insects grew to be so large during this time, such as seagull sized dragon flies. Most insects depend upon passive diffusion to get oxygen to their cells and that is more effective at higher partial pressures of oxygen. Our lower concentration of oxygen today probably isn’t enough to enable such large insects, which is why they evolved to be smaller. Anyway, I had actually read some books which tried to answer this question and I relayed that info in the following comment:

Like most of the other ideas here this is a hypothesis. Life has made various evolutionary innovations over history and one idea is that woody bark/stems first evolved some time immediately proceeding the carboniferous. Woody stems are stronger and more resilient because there are protein cross links between cellulose strands. Cellulose being a long strand of linked sugars. Woody stems are very difficult to digest, which is why pretty much nothing eats it. When it first evolved, literally nothing ate it because it was so new and no organism had the tools to break it down. So, during the carboniferous trees and plants with woody stems proliferated because they had few or no natural predators, and probably also because they could grow taller than their competitors thanks to the strong stems and thus had better access to sunlight.  They did still die of old age however, and that woody material would just sit there without decaying. Eventually it would be buried and millions of years later we would dig it out of the ground as coal or oil. Most of the coal and oil deposits date from this period which is why it is called the carboniferous period.

Well, the process plants use to grow is that they take CO2 out of the atmosphere to build cellulose and other structural molecules and release oxygen. So what was happening in the carboniferous was that this was a very one way process. The carbon was being fixated and nothing was breaking down the large organic molecules to re-release it.

That all changed when fungi, think mushrooms and molds, eventually evolved the enzymatic equipment to break down woody stems. Some time at the end of the carboniferous presumably. With this second innovation, the woody part of plants didn’t just sit around waiting to be buried, it was broken down and the fixated CO2 was released back into the atmosphere. Obviously this added a new variable to the equation and the oxygen level in the atmosphere struck a new and lower balance.

I suggest “Oxygen: The molecule that made the world (Oxford Landmark Science)” and “Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life” by Nick Lane if you are really interested in this subject.

Some of the other comments did touch on this same idea but some people argued that the carbon dioxide concentration wasn’t high enough to account for all the oxygen. That honestly doesn’t make sense to me. The only process I know of which can oxygenate an atmosphere is photosynthesis, and photosynthesis absolutely requires carbon dioxide molecules to run to completion and release oxygen. One carbon atom is fixated for every one molecule of oxygen released (elemental oxygen is a diatomic molecule [except ozone which is triatomic oxygen but that doesn’t matter for this discussion]). Yes, CO2 was much lower in concentration than oxygen but that was because it was being used up. Venus and Mars both have much more carbon dioxide, for example, and presumably so would Earth if there were no photosynthesis.  Wildfires and volcanism were probably the main things getting CO2 back into the atmosphere which explains why it was never completely used up. In fact, carbon dioxide concentrations at the time were three times higher than pre-industrial levels, and double today’s level, but that was still only about 1-1.2% of the atmosphere. My guess is that Earth’s core was hotter, and that there was far more volcanism then than today. That would have made for a very high rate of carbon dioxide release which fueled the one way carbon fixation trip going on in the plant world. The point is, the idea that “there wasn’t enough carbon dioxide” is a red herring. oxygen release simply can’t happen without carbon dioxide, period, and the reason it was so low and not 96% of the atmosphere like on Mars is because of the stupid high rates of fixation.

As a side note, life seemed to get along just fine with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels double that of today during the carboniferous… Plants grew so abundantly in fact that this time period produced great deal of our oil reserves; perhaps even most of it. We also had monster sized insects. I don’t know why climate skeptics never mention this. It goes a long way in demonstrating a bit higher carbon dioxide concentration isn’t going to end the world.

At the end of my comment I mention two of my favorite lay-person science books. Both by Nick Lane, the first is Oxygen and the second is Power, Sex, Suicide. (You can consider the majority of this post to be an indirect summary of these books). The first one I read was the later, which also came out after Oxygen. Both books are great, but I have to note that there is a great deal of overlap between the two. For those of you familiar with mitochondria you can probably guess why. If not, the short answer is that mitochondria take oxygen and use it to to break down organic molecules into water and carbon dioxide. The energy released via this reaction is captured and used to fuel life itself. So, a book on the history of oxygen is by necessity going to overlap a lot with a book on mitochondria. My impression overall is that the material in Oxygen was reworked, improved, and added to new material to create Power, Sex, Suicide. Thus, if you read the later you will have most of the information you could have gotten in the former (though not all). If you had to pick only one to read, Power, Sex, Suicide is the best choice.

The title of the book was absolutely inspired. If you read the title your first thought is that it is about some game of thrones-esque political intrigue. Chimps throwing shit at each other is of course one of the most attention grabbing topics for humans available so anytime you see it on amazon, your gaze is instantly drawn there. The provocative title is what made me take a closer look. However, what makes it even better is that it is in no way deceitful. It is a book about mitochondria which are the power stations of the eukaryotic cell. All large multi-cellular life depends on this power generation. This is the most widely known fact about mitochondria and I will leave it to the reader to learn more about it.

Skipping sex for a second to briefly mention suicide, it turns out that mitochondria are important for signaling apoptosis, or programmed cell death. I.E., suicide. Two of the main reasons for this to happen is for fine tuning body structure and reducing the risk of cancer. In the first case, an example would be when hands grow in the embryo they are initially webbed then cells between the fingers intentionally die off so the fingers are separate. In the later, when a cell becomes damaged and malfunctioning (and thus more likely to eventually become cancerous) this can usually be detected and trigger the cell to commit suicide before developing into full-blown cancer. Obviously this doesn’t always work, but it definitely helps to cull damaged cells. Aging may be tied to this phenomenon because over the course of a lifetime the population of stem cells slowly depletes as they become damaged and are culled to prevent cancerous growths. Stem cells are the most likely to turn cancerous because they are the only cells which continue to rapidly divide, which means bad mutations are more likely to occur and regular or rapid cell division doesn’t need to be turned on via new mutations before the cell line becomes cancerous. Of course, having a lower population of stem cells reduces your body’s ability to keep all your tissues in a youthful state. Thus it is possible that aging, at least in part, is a result of evolved mechanisms for reducing the risk of cancer. Those suicidal mechanisms require mitochondria.

And now on to Sex. What does mitochondria have to do with Sex? Well, as it turns out, they have everything to do with sex. But to understand that, you first need to know the history of how mitochondria came to be. When life first came to exist on Earth, the planet did not have an atmosphere with much oxygen. There were plenty of reduced molecules floating around the oceans and being released via volcanic vents which could be oxidized for energy. (The term “oxidized” was originally coined when scientists thought only oxygen participated in this type of reaction, which was a long time ago. The definition has since been expanded to include reactions which don’t involve molecular oxygen but the name stuck. Path dependence. Obviously the first life wasn’t using molecular oxygen to derive energy when there wasn’t any molecular oxygen available.)

Eventually photosynthesis evolved in the ancestors of modern day cyanobacteria and chloroplasts. Light was a readily available source of energy which did not require any preexisting source of reduced molecules. Carbon dioxide at the time was probably at Venus or Mars percentages so that was absurdly abundant too. The cyanobacteria thus did extremely well, spread everywhere including places with no other source of energy, and proceeded to oxygenate the atmosphere at a massive scale. At first, however, preexisting reduced molecules present in the oceans would have quickly reacted with the released oxygen and thus the build up of the gas would have been delayed. Perhaps for millions of years. Evidence for this comes in the form of banded iron formations. Reduced iron is far more soluble in water than oxidized iron, so oxygen would be released, it would react with the iron, then the new molecule (rust basically) would sink to the bottom of the sea floor forming these bands.

Eventually, however, these reduced reactants would have ran out and oxygen would have started building up in the atmosphere. Believe it or not, oxygen is actually a very poisonous gas. And yes, that includes to you as well. We can live in it only because of evolved mechanisms that deal, incompletely, with its extreme reactivity. (This is not an endorsement for antioxidant products, personally I think that stuff is useless. Or worse than useless if it keeps cells functional long enough to avoid triggering apoptosis and thus allowing them to become cancerous). All of this poisonous oxygen in the atmosphere created a selection pressure for mechanisms that could mitigate the problem. In short, eventually this led to not only the ability to mitigate the presence of oxygen free radicals, but to actively harness oxygen as an electron acceptor in the production of usable energy. Some bacteria, including the ancestors of mitochondria, developed this ability. Though it isn’t entirely clear how it happened, one of these oxygen loving bacteria was engulfed by an archaeal cell (site with more detail). Probably with the intention of using it as food. Either that or the oxygen loving bacteria became parasitic on archaeal hosts. At some point this predatory or parasitic relationship goofed up and both cells started working symbiotically. The larger cell could provide shelter and sources of food, while the newly formed mitochondria could use oxygen to efficiently convert that food into energy and possibly transfer oxygen defense mechanisms to the host cell if it started out oxygen intolerant. This was the origin of all subsequent multicellular eukaryotic life, including you. A descendant of this lineage similarly engulfed a cyanobacteria and that become the universal ancestor of plants.

Some time later, the early eukaryotes developed sexual reproduction where genetic material is shared between two individual members of the species in order to reproduce as opposed to earlier binary fission. Reasons why are debated, but my preferred explanation is that sexual reproduction increases the probability of novel genetic combinations which may have increased evolutionary fitness especially with respect to, but not limited to, evading predators and parasites (including infections). Keep in mind that the origin of sexual reproduction is not the origin of the sexes. You don’t necessarily have to have two genders to sexually reproduce. (This is a general biological fact and should in no way be misconstrued as an endorsement of any sort of mental illness related to gender in humans. It doesn’t matter how worms do it, we are human and we only have two genders).

The advent of sexual reproduction, however, created a problem not dissimilar in type to the penis fencing worms in the previous link. That is, evolutionary self interest creating bad incentives for competition during reproduction. In the case of worms they are trying to reproduce without incurring the metabolic costs of growing eggs. Between mitochondria competition needs a bit more explanation, though. Mitochondria within eukaryotic cells have never completely lost their genome even today. Each eukaryotic cell thus has two methods of transmitting genetic information to descendants. One is through the mitochondria and one is through the nucleus. Even though mitochondria only increase in number via binary fission, random mutations can occur during that process thus allowing separate mitochondrial lines to evolve independently of one another. Since mitochondria have their own genome, reproduce, and are variable they are subject to natural selection. If in sexual reproduction two mitochondrial lines are placed together within the same cell, you create a situation of direct competition between both lineages for the domination of that cell and thus the opportunity to be passed on down the line. Competing mitochondria could and would evolve ways of eliminating rivals. Ways which would only have minimum concern for the overall well being of the host cell. What does it matter how the host cell does if that other mitochondria wipes you out?  Even at the cellular level, diversity + proximity = war. An evolutionary war between mitochondrial lineages going on within the cell is obviously not a desirable situation for the organism as a whole. Eliminating the potential for mitochondrial war would be a great advantage to any eukaryotic organism which managed to accomplish it. Basically, the nuclear genome would need to step in and tell everyone to play nice… Na, its much easier to build a big wall.

Which, 2500 or so words in, FINALLY gets us back to the title of this post. I do apologize, but I feel the explanation is incomplete without the requisite background information. Having two sexes is a direct response to this issue of battling mitochondrial lineages and is what gives us our most universal definition of two sexes. Having distinctive male and females genders is “the wall” so to speak keeping different mitochondrial lineages from directly competing with each other. Specifically, the female sex is that which donates mitochondria to offspring and the male is that which does not donate mitochondria to offspring. That’s it. This is the commonality, the only commonality, between all males and all females in all species which have distinct genders. It also explains why more than two genders is in no way necessary. Two individuals is enough to gain the benefits of sexual reproduction and two sexes is enough of a wall to prevent intracellular competition via natural selection in mitochondria.

As I have already pointed out, there are examples of sexually reproducing species which do not utilize two different genders. In the case of fungi, I am not sure how they deal with the issue of mitochondrial war (or if anyone else does) but I am sure they have some mechanism for it even if unknown. Maybe creating billions of spores renders it a moot issue because there is more than enough opportunity for both lineages. In the case of the penis fencing worms, you can see the problem of not distinguishing genders quite saliently. Two individuals attempt to forcefully inject (rape?) each other with sperm while not getting injected themselves. You have got to love the sadistic creativity of nature for creating a species in which each individual acts as both the rapist and the rape victim at the same time. You’ve got to rape before you get raped. This method of reproduction can and does cause injury to the rape “victim” which could lead to infection and other issues. Not exactly ideal from a fitness perspective.

And this is why sexually reproducing organisms have evolved a binary gender dynamic many, many times independently. Evolving a male and female sex is one of the best examples of convergent evolution because it has happened so many different times.  Most people are already familiar with sex determination in mammals which is determined via an XY system. Two X chromosomes gear the human form to passing on mitochondria (i.e., female) as well as other things, while an X and a Y chromosome gears the human form to not pass on mitochondria (i.e., male) again among other things. But the mammalian XY system isn’t the only way this mitochondrial division of labor can be accomplished. Fruit flies, for example, have an independently evolved and completely unrelated XY sex determination system. Hymenoptera insects (ants, bees, and wasps) have a haplodiploidy sex determination system in which the male only has one set of chromosomes (haploid) while the female has two sets of chromosomes (diploidy). A number of lizards and other reptiles use a temperature determination system. Some fish determine sex via social hierarchy. (Again this is not an endorsement of mental illness in humans, despite wikipedia believing it is.) Even plants can’t wait to give up hermaphrodism and divide into two sexes and that has happened independently a ton of different times. Last in my list, though I won’t claim it is exhaustive, is the ZW sex determination system present in some birds, turtles, crustaceans and so on. Mirroring the XY system, ZZ is male and ZW is female. Like with mammals and fruit flies, when these species are not closely related chances are these systems are also independently evolved. It has recently been called into question that the bird ZW is actually independent of the mammalian XY because of discoveries with the playtpus sex determination system. I tangentially discussed this in an April fools article I wrote on hybridization theory a while ago and I will let you read it to come up with your own conclusions. Keep in mind, a joke works better if you mix in some facts to make it more believable…

Regardless, you can see that using two and only two sexes has evolved again and again and again and again and again in completely unrelated species with incredible levels of divergence. Even in the sex changing fish they opted to have two sexes rather than just stay hermaphroditic. The fish are never both male and female at the same time. Having two and only two sexes, regardless of how that is accomplished, seems to be some sort of evolutionary equivalent of an energy minimum. Dealing with mitochondrial war doesn’t strictly require two sexes and other arrangements can work (in species that aren’t human), but clearly the two sex binary is one of the easiest and most effective ways for nuclear genomes to prevent intracellular war between mitochondrial lineages. Judging by the widespread level of convergence, cellular civil war must be a very common and extremely grave problem for biology to deal with. The existential urgency of preventing the internal war probably accounts for why an astoundingly large and diverse list of species have all converged on the two and only two sex binary. They keep falling back to that arrangement via remarkably different yet equally effective systems. And so that is why we have two sexes and not zero or a million. And it is why we will always have two and only two sexes.


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