One of the most thankless jobs in America today is being the president of a college or university. Not only do you have to contend with coddled tenured professors, but you have to answer why the football team did not have a winning season. Big bucks flow from football frenzied fans who write big checks to the football program. There’s big money in college football.
We mustn’t forget the know-it-all students who are offended by any slight or misspoken word. Their feelings are easily hurt, and they take it personally and they want something done about it immediately.
The latest dust up happened at the University of Iowa:
“In an interview published Feb. 18 in The Daily Iowan, President Sally Mason said she was dismayed by the reports of sexual assaults. She said ‘the goal would be to end that, to never have another sexual assault. That's probably not a realistic goal just given human nature, and that's unfortunate...”
As expected, some students were offended and hurt by her remarks given the fact that there have been a number of reported sexual assaults on campus. Chalking them up to “human nature” was considered insensitive.
But was President Mason wrong in her characterization that sexual assaults are part of human nature?
Given what we know is taught at schools like the University of Iowa, the protestations are directed at the wrong person. Every one of the “humans” on campus got there by evolutionary development. You know the phrases: “Nature, red in tooth and claw” and “survival of the fittest.” These are the things they were taught in biology and evolutionary studies.
One particular letter to the editor by an assault victim caught my attention:
“‘That’s probably not a realistic goal just given human nature’ implies that human beings are naturally inclined toward this type of behavior. Victims and advocates have been fighting to demolish the idea that ‘rape is OK’ for thousands of years. To say that it is natural is to say that it is OK, to say that it is somehow an inbred behavior. I stand for myself as a victim and for many others: Sexual assault is not ‘OK,’ it is not natural, and it is not an impulse that an attacker can somehow not control. It is not born with them. It is not a part of us as human beings.”
Several students held up signs that read, “Rape is not in human nature.” According to what evolution teaches, it most certainly is, and there is no basis in evolutionary dogmatism that says it's morally wrong.
The offended students should take their concerns to the biology department that teaches that evolution is an undisputed fact and rape is one of the processes that got us all here at this moment in time. Two university professors say so.
The offended students should take a look at C. T. Palmer and Randy Thornhill’s A Natural History of Rape (1997). The authors suggest that rape “is either an adaptation favored in past evolutionary environments by natural selection . . . or a by-product of other biological characteristics of human males, such as aggression and promiscuity.” In any event, rape has an evolutionary origin. It is the very nature of “human nature.”
Evolutionary principles explain rape as a “genetically developed strategy sustained over generations of human life because it is a kind of sexual selection — a successful reproductive strategy.”
Richard Dawkins, whose books are most likely a big hit with students at the University of Iowa, argues that “we animals exist for” genetic “preservation and are nothing more than their throwaway survival machines.” These rapists are only trying to pass their genes on so their progeny will survive and be the dominate gene pool. Dawkins offers a more full explanation here:
“The selfish-gene idea is the idea that the animal is a survival machine for its genes. The animal is a robot that has a brain, eyes, hands, and so on, but it also carries around its own blueprint, its own instructions. This is important, because if the animal gets eaten, if it dies, then the blueprint dies as well. The only genes that get through the generations are the ones that have managed to make their robots avoid getting eaten and succeed in living long enough to reproduce.”
So President Sally Mason was biologically and philosophically correct to describe the sexual assaults on the campus of the University of Iowa as “human nature.” If you believe in evolution, it’s what you must believe. It's what you were taught in your biology classes.