The “Red Queen” Hypothesis of Evolutionary Biology explains sexual reproduction as a means of staying ahead of parasites, especially among more complex organisms. A corollary is that in the absence of parasites, females can reproduce asexually, and that males are essentially created by females (the default organism) simply as a means to protect their offspring. Does that mean we’re a bunch of disposable meats?
I suppose that much of the “Red Queen” Hypothesis is complex and evolving, but I got most of my information by reading “The Red Queen” by science writer Matt Ridley, which was highly compelling if somewhat popularized. It makes you believe that at a genetic level (and even at a sort of barely-conscious level), women are secretly in charge of everything, and men are their unwitting servants. It also helps explain some of the “battle between the sexes” and how women are constantly trying to decide between the philanderer (with good physical genes) and the nurturer (the good daddy), even though they won’t always admit this. It even explains why women tend to do the righteous “I would never cheat!” thing, even though mathematically it takes two to tango, and in “pair bonded” animals, cheating is occasionally done by both sexes to increase diversity (try that excuse next time you get caught cheating?)
The Need to Reproduce Sexually-Something that at first seems to be the best thing that ever happened to men, is less so once it is explained by biologists. At one time, long ago, it is posited that even human females could reproduce asexually (in the absence of genetic parasites, such as viruses etc). We always knew this to be true for “boring” organisms like amoeba and starfish, but it is surprisingly, occasionally true of organisms such as lizards, snakes, crayfish, and sharks. The theory is that sexual reproduction is needed to “fool” the parasite by constantly reshuffling the deck (the genetic makeup) of the offspring. As such, “men” are more or less the genetic creation of “women” (the opposite of the Bible) used to create stronger offspring. Along the way, the females of many species evolved males to be protective as a bonus, with a kind of system to demonstrate who had the best genes. These genetic “contests” vary by species, and often involve feather displays or dances among birds, and sports/warfare among humans. This way, the females are able to select for the best genes (often from the “handsomest”, or “most athletic” male). (Wetzell,2020),(Hamilton,2011)
Philanderers vs. Nurturers-So far, it would seem that selection for females is easy, just pick the handsomest available stud. But for more highly evolved species (apparently birds, humans, and some rodents?) it is not so simple. Females must also select for “nurturing” (probably due to the complexity of raising offspring). This selection can work both ways, but biologist believe that “female choice” is the big driver of evolution. So at this point, think of Richie Cunningham and the Fonz (of Happy Days), who move into a house next door to Marilyn Monroe and Janet (of Three’s Company). Richie and Janet are the nurturing male/female and the Fonz/Marilyn the philandering male/female. Both types are apparently needed for good genetics, as philandering distributes the genes far and wide (good for hybrid vigor) and nurturing stabilizes the population. We always hear about the man “sowing his wild oats” but it happens among women too (it is very female also to try and suppress this fact). A classic female trick is to get impregnated by the philandering male (let’s say the Fonz gets Janet pregnant), and then con the nurturing male into thinking the child is his (sorry Richie). They say even birds do this (a great trick if you can pull it off). Its not clear what strategy Marilyn Monroe is employing, except to harbor a cocktail of male genes and hope for the best. (sciencedaily.com,2015)
Battle Between X and Y Chromosome-According to another Ridley book, Genome, the X and Y chromosomes (remember that the Y chromosome is the one that determines the male XY gender, while females are XX) do a kind of battle genetically. The Y chromosome is very small and seems to have a simple function, simply to determine what half the offspring will be male, and perhaps to conspire to maintain a kind of power in the male-female relationship. It apparently does this by ensuring that men have muscles, and the female has a placental/mammal birth and doesn’t lay an egg (something that gives the female much less freedom during pregnancy, a kind of “keep her barefoot and pregnant” strategy by the Y chromosome). SRY is the gene on the Y chromosome which determines many male characteristics, and is thought to play a part in evolutionary “seduction”, which is in conflict with “resistance”. It is further thought that the Y chromosome is “under attack” by the X chromosome, because it is so small. One imagines that the X chromosome thinks it is paying too high a price for this cross-breeding mechanism. Meanwhile, the sneaky Y chromosome is basically saying “ok babe, here’s the contract…I’ll protect your offspring genetically and physically, but in return you’ve got to stay home and nurture or it’s no dice” (this no doubt makes feminists cringe, but essentially this contract is written into our genes, except for those lucky enough to marry a handsome, protective nurturer like Tom Hanks?)(Chick,n.d.)
The Mystery of Elaborate Bird Displays-Elaborate plumage in birds (especially peacocks, who have been extensively studied) has been a mystery to biologists. Simply put, the females tend to mate with the male with the most elaborate displays of plumage (he is the most parasite-free, as great plumage only occurs on healthy birds) and yet these males are also the most prone to predation (elaborate plumage makes it harder to escape a coyote or wolf). This might be related to a similar question in humans, “if the noblest and most desirable males are war heroes, how does the species prosper when many don’t come back alive”. The answer, it turns out, is that it doesn’t take very many males to service many females (it can be a 100:1 ratio among birds). With respect to humans, I suppose that war “selects” to some degree for great males (they become the officers that survive, as opposed to the “meats” that don’t?) and that desirable human males may procreate at a very high rate (while undesirable males and females may not procreate at all). (Dahlin,2018)
The Mystery of Those Left Behind-There is also the mystery of “those left behind”, who are not pretty enough to be first in line for mating. It appears that in bird/mammal groups there are “ladies/gentlemen in waiting” that are waiting their turn to mate (assisting with the offspring in the interim). There is also “mate guarding” behavior by secondary males/females. After all this male and female selection, there is also plenty of secondary mating (not all of it successful, judging from the quality of our species). Some have described a kind of “animal rape” observed in the wild, as a kind of “last chance at opportunistic mating”. (Kappeler,2012),(Gillum,2005)
Why Most Males are Meats-Since genetically, half the offspring must be male, the female genome probably feels that it is paying too high a price for staying ahead of the parasites. But conveniently, much of this “male excess” is put to work providing food or protecting, for better or worse. The male genome may be programmed to periodically cull its numbers (called the genetic trigger for war) when there are too many males. There are even theories that the world is better off with fewer males (called “male expendability”). In any case, males seem programmed to take more risk, and as such seem to be purposefully more mutated. This may explain the genetic “males exhibit higher highs and lower lows” that may explain the existence of both Albert Einstein and Ted Cruz. Women tend to hover along the genetic baseline, in many traits. The infamous “lack of self-esteem” seen among teen females (who previously out-performed the males) may be due to a) their bodies transitioning into the all-important genetic-selection-for-childbirth years and b) the latent development of males, who at reproduction age are coming into their strengths and c) the high stakes of risk-taking (coming back from war a hero/or in a coffin, which favors the male victors). Nobody ever talks about the men that lose (and there are many). That’s because often they are stuck doing grunt work, die in silly wars, or never get to mate. Increasingly, when you go to a Civil War Museum, the likes of “Joe the Runaway Slave”, “Little Billy the Drummer Boy” or “Clara Barton-Civil War Nurse” are featured, while the reality is that about 2,000 nameless meats died for every Joe/Billy/Clara” (it’s not fair, really). It is to those “meats” that this article is dedicated. (Schrager,2015),(Humphreys,2018),(sciencedaily.com,2015)