Darwin Day Public Presentation: "WHY SEX; the evolution of a paradox"

Professor Monika Havelka is a Senior Lecturer in the Environment Programs at University of Toronto, Mississauga.

She received her PhD in Zoology at the University of Western Ontario and at UTM has taught a wide variety of courses in evolutionary biology, ecology and environmental science.

She was twice a semi-finalist and once a finalist in the TVO Best Lecturer Competition.

A big fan of experiential learning, she has taught field courses in Ecuador, Ontario and in the Arctic, as well as supervising many student research projects.

Sexual reproduction is one of the “facts of life” - or is it?

Although sex is common along the tree of life, it is by no means the only way to reproduce, and actually represents a significant evolutionary paradox. For an organism, sexual reproduction entails significant costs – survival costs, mating costs, and genetic costs. So, why did sex evolve and persist?

This lecture explores the costs and benefits of sex from an evolutionary perpective

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  • A former member
    A former member

    "Why Sex" not the same as "Why Human Sex" [Part 4]

    [Due to the 1000 character limit on posts, this longish post is in four parts. I suggest that you scroll down to Part 1 so as to read it in the intended sequence. :-) ]

    Sexual reproduction is an interesting topic in its own right, and worthy of our attention. I thank Professor Havelka sincerely for the gift of her time.

    February 7, 2013

    • Kevin S.

      One more article for you to enjoy on this wintry day, Alex... http://www.scientific...­

      February 8, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Thank you, Kevin. I enjoyed that article, both the science and the sexy fungal humour. :-)

      February 8, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    "Why Sex" not the same as "Why Human Sex" [Part 3]
    I grant that human sexual capacities and behaviours evolved from those of lower animals. The wing evolved from the forelimb; but does a herpetologist’s lecture on the evolutionary benefits of forelimbs explain flight? The neocortex evolved from the paleocortex and the archicortex; but does an evolutionary biologist’s lecture “WHY BRAINS” go far in explaining human cognition? An exceedingly charitable answer to both these questions is that the herpetologist and the evolutionary biologist gave only partial explanations. Likewise, a zoologist’s lecture on the evolutionary benefits of sexual reproduction will likely explain only the dry bottom crust of the cake of human sexuality. It will necessarily ignore all of the aspects that are, by my measure at least, the most engaging. Listeners who keep this in mind will benefit from this lecture without the risk of acquiring an arid and simplistic notion of human sexuality.

    February 7, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    "Why Sex" not the same as "Why Human Sex" [Part 2]
    But Professor Havelka is a zoologist; and most zoologists’ explanations of sex start and stop with sexual *reproduction* -- its mechanisms, it costs, its benefits, and why it predominates among multicellular organisms. Human sexuality is so much more than a reproductive mechanism! Why do we cuddle, bond, love, take pleasure in mutual gratification? Why do these and other human sexual behaviors exist? Presumably because they are adaptive. (I bow in the direction of Shrewsbury.) I would expect a lecture with a title as ambitious as “WHY SEX” to endeavor to explain the adaptive value of a range of human sexual behaviours. Alas, no. The meagre calculus of sexual versus asexual reproduction does not – and cannot – do justice to such large questions. If the scope of this lecture is as limited as I expect it to be, then the appropriately modest title “Why Sexual Reproduction” would be more apt.
    [continued in Part 3]

    February 7, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    "Why Sex" not the same as "Why Human Sex" [Part 1]
    Greetings, fellow members!
    To my regret, I will not be able to make it to this interesting Darwin Day lecture and discussion; so I will miss the benefit of hearing your perspectives; but the converse need not be true, as I can offer you my contribution online. I will share one thought with you: my concern that some listeners might be misled by the title “WHY SEX” and the promise that “This lecture explores the costs and benefits of sex from an evolutionary perspective.” Specifically, my concern is that some listeners might assume that lecturer’s use of the word “sex” corresponds to our everyday meaning of the word – human sex – and consequently risk departing from this lecture with a more impoverished view of human sexuality than they arrived with. The juicy title “WHY SEX” entices us with the prospect of gaining a better understanding of, naturally, our own (human) sexuality.
    [continued in Part 2]

    February 7, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great topic but I can only make Tuesdays. Enjoy!

    January 28, 2013

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