Summary of Sex

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Stephen Jay Gould‘s (2002) essay: Sex, Drugs, disasters, and the Extinction of Dinosaurs, investigates dinosaur extinction theories. According to Gould, scientific conclusions are the consequence; not the essence. Gould believes science’s main problem is the failure to separate fascinating claims from the scientific methods used, stating that “…science is, basically, a way of knowing” (pg.267). Gould examines three proposed ideas of dinosaur extinction. They are sex, drugs, and violence. Since these three notions invoke the themes of our culture, they are considered fascinating claims. Gould claims two theories are speculation, while one represents science at its paramount. The first proposal uses sex as the theme, stating global temperatures had risen enough to cause sterilization in the male dinosaurs’ testes. The second proposal with drugs as a means of extinction claims dinosaurs couldn’t differentiate poisonous and non poisonous plants, nor effectively detoxify. Failure to detoxify resulted in mass overdoses. Last, a disastrous comet or asteroid may have struck the Earth leading to lowered world temperatures and extinction.

The proposal of the testicular theory was observed through the testing of alligators. Larger reptiles, this theory suggests, had a slower rate of shedding heat if global temperatures increased, they would not be able to cool themselves quickly enough in order for the testes to function in the narrow range of temperatures needed, creating sterilization. The basis of the overdose theory is that animals, when given the opportunity, will self administer drugs and alcohol. Many psychoactive flowering plants did not surface until near the end of the reign of dinosaurs. This left the dinosaurs without time to evolve defenses against the poisons. The third theory of extraterrestrial catastrophe claims a foreign object from space, possibly a comet or asteroid, struck the earth.

Gould contends the first theory has no way of collecting...
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