Dawkins on the de-evolution of the bakulam in humans

all primates (except for humans) have a bone, or bakula, in the penis.  why did humans lose the bone over time?  dawkins speculates:

All that females need is a dependable tool for diagnosis. Doctors don’t use an erection test in routine health check-ups–they prefer to ask you to stick out your tongue. But erection failure is a known early warning of diabetes and certain neurological diseases. Far more commonly it results from psychological factors–depression, anxiety, stress, overwork, loss of confidence and all that. (In nature, one might imagine males low in the ‘pecking order’ being afflicted in this way. Some monkeys use the erect penis as a threat signal.) It is not implausible that, with natural selection refining their diagnostic skills, females could glean all sorts of clues about a male’s health, and the robustness of his ability to cope with stress, from the tone and bearing of his penis. But a bone would get in the way! Anybody can grow a bone in the penis; you don’t have to be particularly healthy or tough. So selection pressures from females forced males to lose the os penis, because then only genuinely healthy or strong males could present a really stiff erection and the females could make an unobstructed diagnosis.

There is a possible zone of contention here [some might say, “a bone to pick”]. How, it might be said, were the females who imposed the selection supposed to know whether the stiffness that they felt was bone or hydraulic pressure? After all, we began with the observation that a human erection can feel like bone. But I doubt if the females were really that easily fooled. They too were under selection, in their case not to lose bone but but to gain judgement. And don’t forget, the female is exposed to the very same penis when it is not erect, and the contrast is extremely striking. Bones cannot detumesce (though admittedly they can be retracted). Perhaps it is the impressive double life of the penis that guarantees the authenticity of the hydraulic advertisement.

Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, pp 307-308

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6 thoughts on “Dawkins on the de-evolution of the bakulam in humans

  1. I need to read this Dawkins book. I’d like to know if he addresses the human penis size problem. How is it that if we where made in the garden that a third of the men penises are too big for their mate. A man only needs 4 1/2 inches to do the job, but many of us are running around with as much as 12 inches. So penises range from 2 to 12 plus inches. How would it be if some other part of the body varied that much in size? Wierd huh? 1/3 of women experience pain in intercourse and still most of the male population believe size does matter.

  2. It is a shame that people feel embarrased about sex talk in general. Most Mormons don’t understand the first thing about it and we still interview kids and ask about their masterbation habits. We tell them it is unnatural. So they learn to lie. A mission president in our stake said in a conference that the reason his missionaries weren’t baptising was that 25% of his missionaries were masterbating. The real reason was that 75% of his missionaries were liers. We make people lie in the church by asking people about stuff that’s none of their dam business. Many young people in the church are changing their attitudes about sex and Acknowledging that its ok for females to have an orgasm even if it takes a vibrator or masterbation. A complete lack of understanding of sex has caused untold hardship in marriages. In the late 80’s a decree was sent to the Bishops that individuals that preformed anal or oral sex would not be able attend the temple. As if the two were related! It was recinded less than six months later. So much for inspiration. Men still believe that if you do it long enough she’ll orgasm. Oh yes! They will just to get you off of them. (See Harry Met Sally – with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. Of course it was rated r so Mormons couldn’t even get that much sex ed) Only 30% of women orgasm through sexual intercourse. The rest need direct stimulation of the clitoris which is maybe 2 inches away from the action. This is because of the way the genitals are formed in the early stages of the featus. If God had intended for us to have only coitus he should have put the clitorus closer to the vaginal canal. But he is not known for really good engineering in the first place. 95% of all the species that has been on the planet have become extinct. Our own bodies are rife with defects and we are susceptible to every immaginable problem and a bunch of gut puking maladies that are right from a bad science fiction novel. Every time someone talks about our perfect bodies i want to drag them into a childrens ward at the hospital and show them how wrong they are.

    The point is, in sex, our plumbing is far from perfect and we to talk to each other and compare notes like Kinsey wanted us to, so that we can understand each other and each others needs. If are left to our instincts we are reduced to being like chimpanzees which according to our leaders we are not related. If we are human we need to be allowed to act like humans. The irony of course is that the Bonobo has great sex 4 or 5 times a day, doing it with anyone in his troop, and using every postion known. A chimpanzee knows more about sex than the average Mormon. Pathetic.

  3. lol so true. i actually have a friend (okay, here comes the anecdotal evidence) who married a bishop’s daughter a few years ago. her whole upbringing in the church and under her father’s dominion had her believing sex is one of the worst things in the world. this had been drilled into her so hard (no pun) that by the time she got married, procreation was not for recreation. my friend says they would go for four months without any nookie nookie. he said that it would get to the point that he would end up going to porn sites on the computer, and then leaving the history open for her to see where he was online. she would then take a hint and “do her dues”. he was extremely frustrated and didn’t know what he could possibly do- how do you undo the way she was raised in regards to sex? you can’t just hit CTR + Z.

    also, masturbation is healthy and necessary in order to prevent prostate cancer. in addition to this consider how hard it is to be a growing teenager trying to fit in in school or on a mission. add to that an extreme amount of guilt on the kid from his parents, bishop and church about not relieving himself of something god-given and natural, and you have a recipe for depression and suicide… of which utah leads the nation in young male adults. 😦

  4. I am surprised to read this by Dr. Dawkins because it sounds so wrong to me. I completely fail to see the mechanics of this “selection pressure” from females on males. I thought natural selection does not work this way. If it did work this way, then none of the species which are ornamented purely for courting purposes would look the way they do. On the contrary, it seems to me that if there were no other stronger reasons to lose the bone, then the bone would have been selected, because it increases the chances of procreation by extending the capable age of the male.

    Besides, there is a much simpler explanation for losing the bone, and in science, a simple theory has merit over a more complex one which explains the same thing: when standing upright, a constantly erect penis a) kind of gets in the way, and b) constantly conveys the wrong message if it used to be a threat signal.

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