Sex: A Spicy Problem for Evolutionary Theory

ID the Future
Andrew McDiarmid
Jonathan McLatchie
Audio File (18.05M)

Sexual reproduction ought to be a recipe for evolutionary disaster. It’s a seeming waste of resources producing little or no short-term advantages. It demands an entirely different form of cell division and requires highly designed interconnected components to succeed. And yet, sex reigns supreme in the biological world. On this ID The Future, host Andrew McDiarmid begins a series with Dr. Jonathan McLatchie on why sex is the queen of problems for evolutionary theory and why instead it bears the hallmarks of a system governed by forethought and engineering.

In Part 1, Dr. McLatchie explains why sexual reproduction is a conundrum for evolutionary theory, including the waste of resources in producing males and the disadvantage of passing on only half of one’s successful genotype. Dr. McLatchie also explores the differences between meiosis and mitosis, the need for male and female complementarity, and the problems with proposed Darwinian explanations for the origin of sexual reproduction.

After critiquing evolutionary proposals, he switches gears to discuss how key components of the sexual reproductive process exhibit design. He begins with the irreducible complexity of sperm cells, including the crucial role of the head, middle piece, and flagellum. In further episodes, he’ll discuss other components needed for successful sexual reproduction.

Could sex be the product of a gradual evolutionary process, one dictated by “numerous, successive, slight, modifications,” as Darwin himself put it? Dr. McLatchie thinks that argument strains credulity: “Many attempts at offering an evolutionary explanation of sexual reproduction and indeed other biological phenomena fail to seriously grapple with the incredible organized complexity and delicate regulation and control of these systems that we observe in biology in the real world.”

This is Part 1 of a three-part conversation. Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3!

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