Mar 23, 11
Read in January, 1986
Dawkins loves explaining evolutionary theory, and this is one of his best books. My favourite bit is the section on long-tailed birds (peacocks, etc). From the point of view of simple utility, they are rather baffling. What use could you possibly have for that long, stupid tail?
But, as Dawkins keeps reminding us, it's not about survival of the species, or even of the individual, but rather of the gene. Suppose there's a sex-linked male gene that disposes towards long tails, and a sex-linked female gene that disposes towards finding long tails attractive. A child born of a union between two individuals carrying these genes will be likely to have both of them. Hence, if it's male, it'll have a long tail, and if it's female it will prefer males with long tails. If this combination becomes common, long-tailed males will have a larger and larger advantage in terms of being preferred by females. Tails will lengthen until the practical downside (being unable to fly, avoid predators, etc) counterbalances the upside of efficiently attracting potential mates.
I read this, and suddenly looked at supermodels in a new light. God, they're hot! In fact, if they were any hotter they'd be dead.