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Darwin Day 2013: Sex and the Scala Naturae

Featured Guest Speaker Marlene Zuk, Ph.D.
Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior
University of Minnesota

View the Darwin Day 2013 presentation "Sex and the Scala Naturae" here.

Featured speaker and evolutionary ecologist Dr. Marlene Zuk discussed ways in which we use—and misuse—animals as models to understand behavior. If we use model systems as the archetype, it is easy to conclude that anything that deviates from the model is aberrant or abnormal. Because we often view males as the norm, they become the model system, with detrimental effects. We also pay more attention to certain kinds of animals than others, with the idea that some species are higher, some are lower, and humans are the highest of all. This ranking is called a scala naturae, and it is completely false, leading to a counter-productive view of how evolution acts on the sexes.

About the Speaker

Dr. Zuk has studied why eliminating parasites and disease just might make us sicker; how animals teach us about parenting, homosexuality and sex roles; and why insects matter in our daily lives. A frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, her latest book, Sex on Six Legs: Lessons on Life, Love and Language from the Insect World, is an account of the many things we think of as setting humans apart—personality, learning, language—that yield unexpected insights into human interactions.


Download the event poster here.