Did you catch the fawning interview of Richard Dawkins in Slate by the ordinarily sober and skeptical Jim Holt (whose writings on contemporary physics I quite look forward to)?
"[If] one finds oneself smiling frequently in the presence of this Oxford don," we're told, "it is out of sheer enjoyment at his gift for rendering the most subtle evolutionary ideas absolutely lucid." Okey-doke. Let's hear it!
"Why did humans lose their body hair? Why did they start walking on their hind legs? Why did they develop big brains? I think that the answer to all three questions is sexual selection," Dawkins said. Hairlessness advertises your health to potential mates, he explained. The less hair you have on your body, the less real estate you make available to lice and other ectoparasites. Of course, it was worth keeping the hair on our heads to protect against sunstroke, which can be very dangerous in Africa, where we evolved. As for the hair in our armpits and pubic regions, that was probably retained because it helps disseminate "pheromones," airborne scent signals that still play a bigger role in our sex lives than most of us realize.
I'm no creationist, and I understand that evolutionary biologists have to rely on speculation (running time backward, after all, is not in their experimental toolbox), but I fail to see how this is any way "subtle," or anything more than a just-so story of the sort peddled by E.O. Wilson et al. Consider the counterfactual alternative: "The more hair you have on your body, the more protection you have against sunstroke, which can be very dangerous in Africa, where we evolved. As for the lack of hair in our armpits and pubic regions, that probably evolved because it helps limit the number of lice and other ectoparasites in our pheronomone-producing regions; pheromones are airbone scent signals that play a bigger role in our sex lives than most of us realize." Compare the stories, and I doubt that one is more believable than the other. Except that we happen to be mostly hairless -- and we fit an "absolutely lucid," data-free narrative to the facts. QED. Or something. (And what about the hair on [some of] our arms?) I'm sure there is an evolutionary path to our current hair distribution, but I think the truly lucid (or at least true) explanation has more to do with genetic distributions and physiologic limitations than any hand-waving about pheromones.
The big head-pounder comes at the end, though:
At this point, Dawkins' wife, the actress Lalla Ward, shimmered into the lobby to collect him. One could not help noticing that, in her radiant blondness, she is even more attractive than her husband. Book tours are hard work, so I regretfully relinquished the celebrated author. Still, I could not forbear asking one more question as he walked away.
"You've called religion a 'dangerous collective delusion' and a 'malignant infection,' " I said. "Don't you think you're underplaying it a bit?"
Dawkins turned, smiled a small fox smile, and said, "Yes!"
Let's share a chuckle (but not before we've admired Dawkins's beautiful wife) over the "delusion" and "infection" that is religion. Perhaps Dawkins, with his great gift and vulpine smile, or Holt, for that matter, could "render absolutely lucid" why these claims are true. Or is it just too "subtle"?