, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 253-277
Date: 23 Nov 2010

Sex and sensibility: The role of social selection

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Erika L. Milam

In the early twentieth century, Conway Lloyd Morgan warned psychologists against describing the behavior of animals in terms of their mental deliberations. In particular, he suggested that animal psychologists should not call behaviors choices unless they had good evidence that the animals were actually choosing—a dig at Darwinian’s theory of sexual selection (Morgan 1909). A century later, Joan Roughgarden also seeks to discredit Darwinian sexual selection. Unlike Morgan, however, she offers in its place a complex vision of what animal minds are capable of accomplishing—a cooperative model of the evolution of social behavior in which everybody gets to choose, not just females.

At the heart of Roughgarden’s book is a two-prong strategy: first, she claims that modern sexual selection theory must be rejected; second, she proposes an alternative framework, social selection, to explain the evolution of sexual diversity in the animal kingdom. In many ways, her dismissal of sexu