Real stories about dating and relationships in New York City. Truth is more interesting than fiction.

Silly Science

No, I’m not making a statement on the benefits of protein diets. C’mon people, cream pies – it’s funny! And it’s what came to mind as I was pondering the theme of silly science. Or rather, scientific theories that we outgrow as new data becomes available.

On that note, I was happy to see a (smart) post in Slate the other week that made a case against the commercialization of pheromones. In the last few years, pheromones have popped up as one of the new “it” topics in relationship and hundreds of products now claim to be spiked with pheromones (and thus guaranteed to help you with your search to either get lucky or married, whichever you prefer). I remember when they were the new new thing. I was dating a guy who insisted he wore the first pheromones infused cologne. I didn’t smell/sense anything special. But he insisted that people were drawn to him because of it. Another one of those red flags I missed?

Sloppy segue.. I get that we humans are animals. But I’m tired of people constantly trying to reduce us down to our biological instincts. Clearly, we all make choices that go against our biological imperatives.

Speaking of which. I was just re-listening to a fantabulous old Radiolab  called, “In Defense of Darwin” (which is what made me think of the Slate post from a couple of weeks ago, don’t ask me why). It was a conversation between Robert Krulwich and Richard Dawkins at the 92 Street Y. Yes, I’m that much of a .

Below is an excerpt from that conversation. I did my best to get it right. Emphasis added.

Robert Krulwich:  “…I understand this to mean, your notion of Anti-Darwinian, is that in our brain we have these tendencies to make war against people who are not like us, to assign different roles to men and women, to perhaps favor our biological children over stepchildren and in our brains we have the other places where we might make war against the tendencies that we’ve inherited.”

Richard Dawkins:  “Um, I think that’s right. I mean you’ve put the dilemma rather well. That here we do have our evolved tendencies which have these unpleasant features and it must be in some sense elsewhere in our brain that we have the desire to fight them. And I think it comes after long periods of education. We have moved away from the mores of our wild ancestors. And thank goodness we have. I’m not quite sure, it’s a very difficult historical process to wonder quite how that’s happen. But it very clearly has. I mean contraception in itself is good enough evidence that we do go against Darwinian principals. So it can be done. And the fact that most of us spend most of our lives striving for purposes, striving for goals which have nothing to do with propagating our selfish genes is further evidence that it can be done.

You really should listen to the whole conversation. It’s breathtaking, even if you don’t agree with the direction it takes.

So, what’s my point? I don’t know that I have one. Other than that, as always, I think things are more complicated than people make them out to be. Sure, we’re animals. But we’re complicated animals.


Tags: , , ,

4 to “Silly Science”


  1. Chiara says:

    First of all: not disappointed at all. I’m in awe of sexy lady geeks. Secondly, I’m actually planning on writing an article on sexual mating strategies in PLAIN terms for the rest of the world – as evolutionary psychology was my addiction in college. I think the point is, we’re not aware of the battles our genes fight. And we just wage war against subconscious tendencies (that i do believe are there). Regardless, the pheromone phenomenon is RIDICULOUS. I remember a professor I had completely debunking the entire thing and at this very moment I REALLY WISH I remembered what he said. I think it’s something about person #1 has to excrete an insanely concentrated amount of pheromones… and person #2 needs to HAPPEN to be receptive and responsive to it.. Psh. Nothing you can buy in a bottle.

    I mean, I don’t know about you but a guy telling me he’s GOT to have the newest pheromone cologne is a sure panty-dropper.
    Chiara recently posted..Wanting What You Can’t Have – The Forbidden FruitMy Profile

  2. Nikki B says:

    I freakin’ love Radio Lab. Love.

    And that was a good one… but when do they have a bad one, really? But I digress…

    We are animals. We are creatures of Culture. We are shaped by genes, and society, and our upbringing, and our friends, and the media, and whatever other influence you care to add. Hey. It’s complicated.

    That does not ever never negate our innate ability for THOUGHT. The power of our own little brains to think about animal instinct and culture and genes and society and upbringing and social circles and media. We can blame every influence we’d like – or we can effing sack up and be self-aware. Self-determined.

    We’re animals – but we’re also humans. The end.
    Nikki B recently posted..A Tale of Two Farm Boys…My Profile

  3. Simone Grant says:

    Thanks ladies for sharing my complete obsession/fascination with this stuff. YOU ROCK!!

  4. Hi,

    We’ve monkeyed around with pheromones for years, and I know there’s more to it that just that placebo effect. We have people who buy it to spray in their air con units to reduce their female staff turnover! Silly science indeed!!
    Keep up the good work!
    Molly.