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Sunday, July 30, 2006

How to get yourself male offspring

Be ugly.

The Times reports:
According to research, attractive parents are 26% more likely to have a daughter than a son as their first child. It is an inexorable process that has resulted in women becoming increasingly more attractive than men.

This is because of differing “evolutionary strategies” that each sex has adopted to survive, claim researchers at the London School of Economics.
Fascinating stuff, and though it might sound loony at first, not to mention politically incorrect, it actually makes a lot of sense. (For starters, consider that the second para quoted above refers to ultimate causation, not proximate causation. Also consider that we're not talking about the volition of people or their genes, and that kind of language -- such as when we talk about "the selfish gene" -- is just a metaphor.)

By the by, the article also explains why there are more attractive girls around than boys. It quotes a researcher as saying:
We have also shown that women on average are more attractive than men, because over evolutionary history the slight bias of beautiful parents to have more daughters has accumulated, so that girls have become more and more attractive than boys.
Well, I'm not a first child, but my parents were pretty good-looking, and I'm neither female nor attractive. Any one of the two, in evolutionary terms, would have been either a setback, or merely pointless.

(Link via email from Ravikiran.)
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