Joan Roughgarden is an evolutionary biologist at Stanford that challenges Charles Darwin’s theory of sexual selection. Roughgarden is calling for an overhaul of the way science defines the mechanism for natural selection, which Darwin introduced as sexual selection. In her most recent book, The Genial Gene (2009), she has proposed an alternative theory, social selection, which is focused on the prevalence of teamwork and co-operation throughout nature, rather than the narrative from sexual selection which presents the world as fundamentally at conflict and individualistic. Her major opposition has come from modern-day Darwin theologians who feel that her examples, which she claims are counter to the sexual selection narrative, can all fit into it. They firmly believe that Darwin was limited by his times, but fundamentally, he was correct and thus his theory merely needs to be adapted to the times.
In a class I took from her in the fall we spent a great deal of time debating the need for social selection, while also questioning whether natural selection needs a similar overhaul. In the end the distinguishing factor between natural selection and sexual selection was the validity of the fundamental principles. For natural selection, the fundamental principle is that evolution occurs through a step-by-step mechanism of random mutations that survive and spread throughout the population if they give the individual an evolutionary advantage. If this is true, than Darwin was right and everything since can build off of his idea. In sexual selection, the fundamental principle is that the default behavior of nature is selfishness and conflict.
An interesting side note, which alas, never seems to be deemed unimportant, is the personal life of Joan Roughgarden. She is a M2F transsexual and has admitted, “she has an agenda: to develop a theory with room for outsiders like gays and transsexuals.” This agenda, however, does not mean she’s wrong. The question remains, what is the fundament principal of life, co-operation or competition?
Review of The Genial Gene: http://www.theamericanscholar.org/the-peacock-problem-by-long/
Still I think Darwin Rocks. Right or wrong, he got the conversation started.