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Cat Bohannon On Women Driving Evolution

Cat Bohannon On Women Driving Evolution

She has an excellent new book on the subject.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Cat is a researcher who focuses on the evolution of narrative and cognition. Her essays and poems have appeared in Scientific American, Mind, Science Magazine, and other publications. Her fascinating new book is Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution, and I highly recommend it.

You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player above (or on the right side of the player, click “Listen On” to add the Dishcast feed to your favorite podcast app). For two clips of our convo — on the combat that occurs within a pregnant woman between mother and child, and the magic of nipples while breastfeeding — pop over to our YouTube page.

Other topics: Cat growing up near the “Confederate Mount Rushmore”; her mom the pianist and her dad the research psychologist; Cat helping him in the laboratory he ran; why medical research has ignored female subjects; plastination and Body Worlds; studying the first lactating mammal, Morganucodon; the origins of sex bifurcation; how “binary” is now controversial; how your gut contains countless organisms; how the placenta protects a fetus from being attacked by the mom; the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth; preeclampsia; how human reproduction is much longer than other mammals’; postpartum depression; why the left breast is favored in breastfeeding; the maternal voice; Pinker’s The Language Instinct; humans as hyper-social animals; how women hunted and obtained just as much protein as men — in different ways; our omnivore flexibility; sexed voices; how even livers have a sex; the only reliable way to determine the sex of brains; how male cells can end up in a female brain; why women are more likely to wake during surgery; sexual pleasure; bird copulation; duck vaginas; the chimp’s “polka dot” penis; why the slower sex of humans was key to our evolution; my challenging of Cat’s claim that 20 percent of people are homosexual; and foreskin and boobs and clits, oh my.

On that “20 percent of humans are homosexual” question, which I challenged directly on the podcast, it turns out Bohannon made a mistake which she says she will correct in future editions. As often happens, she conflated the “LGBTQ+” category with homosexuality, and relied on a quirky outlier study rather than the more reliable and standard measurements from places like the Williams Institute or Gallup. Williams says 1.7 percent of Americans are homosexual, i.e. gay or lesbian. Gallup says it’s 2.4 percent. The trouble, of course, with the LGBTQIA+ category is that almost 60 percent are bisexual, and the “Queer” category can include heterosexuals as well. As a way of polling actual, same-sex attracted gays and lesbians, it’s useless. And designed to be useless.

Note too Gallup’s percentage of “LGBTQIA+” people who define themselves as “queer”. It’s 1.8 percent of us. And yet that word, which is offensive and triggering to many, and adopted by the tiniest fraction of actual homosexuals, is now regarded by the mainstream media as the right way to describe all of us. In the podcast, you can see that Cat simply assumes that “queer” is now used universally — because the activists and academics who form her environment have co-opted it. She readily sees how that could be the case, when we discussed it. I wish the MSM would do the same: stop defining all gays the way only 1.8 percent of the “LGBTQ+” “community” do. Of course they won’t. They’re far more interested in being woke than telling the truth.

Browse the Dishcast archive for another convo you might enjoy (the first 102 episodes are free in their entirety — subscribe to get everything else). Coming up: McKay Coppins on Romney and the GOP, Jennifer Burns on her new biography of Milton Friedman, Joe Klein with a year-end review, and Alexandra Hudson on civility. Please send any guest recs, dissent and other comments to A listener writes:

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanks to you and Chris for all your work over the years. The Dish has helped keep me sane. 

I don’t know how much of a hassle it is to post transcripts of the podcasts, but if it’s easy, could you make them available? I’m very much looking forward to reading or hearing the Matthew Crawford interview.

Transcripts are indeed a hassle to make accurately. But our listener is in luck; Substack just rolled out a feature that auto-transcribes each episode:

The transcript has its flaws — especially since it doesn’t distinguish between who’s speaking — but it’s certainly better than nothing. Big props to Substack for the useful feature.

Here’s a listener on last week’s chat with Matthew Crawford on antihumanism:

I loved this episode! So right on, and interesting, and just a great conversation —and a real conversation. Thank you for introducing me to Matthew Crawford.

It’s funny I have followed you for years and largely disagreed with you, but learned from you. I find now our thoughts are converging. I sometimes get there a bit differently than you do, but I am nearly at the same place as you. Life is strange.

Yes it is. Another adds, “I subscribed to the Dish because I was interested in the interview with Matthew Crawford.” We got several emails along those lines. The podcast portion of the Dish is driving most of the new subscriptions these days.

On to some substance:

As I began listening to your podcast with Matthew Crawford and your usual — and nearly always useful — opening inquiry about your guest’s background, I thought OMG, you’ve finally found someone I can’t listen to for an hour and a half. The ashram at age 9. His drawling tone of voice. His tendency to start comments with the word “so” (a current habit of too many people deemed brilliant). But I soldiered on, scotch in hand.

In the end, I thought the episode was perhaps the best podcast I had listened to since I became a subscriber. I found Crawford a giant dose of fresh air, and he drew some deeply felt thoughts out of you on themes you have often articulated before — e.g., your respect for English tradition and devotion to your Catholic faith from childhood on.

What particularly touched me was Crawford’s articulation of the current lack respect for — or interest in — manual labor. Now 83, I grew up the only Jewish kid of my generation in a small town in Eastern Pennsylvania. I had wonderful parents, of limited formal education, who were religiously non-observant. They, of course, had the principal impact on me. Yet as I matured, was educated and moved away, I have often said that I was “formed” in that town. 

The local schools were “average,” but the teachers provided a decent secondary education to all, including the majority who were not going on to college. Most of the adults with whom I had contact were craftsmen, factory workers or, like my father and uncles, truly small businessmen. There wasn’t a stinker in the bunch. As a generality, they were Lutheran, Pennsylvania Dutch, patriotic, main-street Republicans — and Rotarians, Lions, Kiwanians, Elks, Moose, Legionnaires, etc. They made wonderful scoutmasters. I left the town, but the town never left me.

I went on to become a lawyer — able enough, successful enough, but always mindful of Keats’ misplaced self-epitaph that he was one whose name was writ on water. I regarded law practice as both a profession and a skilled craft. Given my “formation,” I always maintained respect for the manual crafts. I have either bored or amused generations of plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc., with the same tired line: I promise not to practice X, if you’ll promise not to practice law.

Please continue to find reason to give a hurrah to those whose talents lie more in the physical than the intellectual. They are a lot of us, if not most.

Matt and Trey recently gave a hurrah to handymen:

Another listener sends a fantastic quote from John Gardner, who served as the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under LBJ:

The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.

A dissent over the episode:

I tried to keep an open mind, listening to Matthew Crawford, and I was successful for almost half of the interview. What finally derailed me was his ridiculous claim that there is very little consumer demand for driverless cars. What bizarro world does he live in? I would love to have my own personal chauffeur always on call to drive me anywhere I want to go. And if that personal chauffeur takes the form of a robot car, great.

The story of human civilization is inventing tools to do tedious tasks for us. If that’s dehumanizing, what other technological progress do you want to get rid of? Why have cars at all? For thousands and thousands of years, part of being human was to walk everywhere. Cars have denied us that aspect of being human. Surely we need to stop dis-valuing our legs and ban all cars, not just driverless ones.

But a March 2023 survey supports Crawford’s stance:

Americans remain skeptical of autonomous vehicle technologies. Some 68 percent of drivers surveyed by AAA said they were “afraid” of AVs, compared to 55 percent last year. The increase is largely attributed to high-profile incidents involving accidents affiliated with autonomous vehicle technologies or driver assistance features like Autopilot used by Tesla. […]

The AAA poll coincides with a new public opinion poll conducted by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which found strong majorities of drivers from all age groups “are concerned about sharing the roads with driverless cars,” according to the report. The concerns are not just related to the vehicles’ highway safety, but cybersecurity safety as well.

Driverless cars might be a good fit for seniors:

Here’s a listener on the episode with Judis and Teixeira on how to save the Democratic Party:

This was literally the best episode I have listened to in two years, despite some other great ones (Bari Weiss and Jonathan Haidt). Judis and Teixeira are refreshing and grounded in fact and pragmatism. Also, you let them speak at length, which you don’t always do.

The sting in the tail of that email! Another fan of the episode:

What an outstanding discussion, thank you. Among other things, it was a rumination of how smart people who start out with horrible ideas can course correct over time.

Another writes:

I’m old enough to remember Kevin P. PhillipsThe Emerging Republican Majority, which came out in 1969 shortly after Nixon’s election. Needless to say, it was many years, decades in fact, before that majority manifested itself in the election of George W. Bush and the first GOP trifecta in my lifetime. I immediately thought of this when you introduced your guests as the authors of The Emerging Democratic Majority.

Where this genre of political writing usually fails is in assuming that the world is static and that the trends they see will continue. But parties change when they observe that they are losing, and voters’ loyalties change as their circumstances change, often in ways that are unpredictable. And there are always unforced errors. No one in 1969 could foresee Watergate, which set the Republicans back at least a decade, probably more; or the rise of Trump who, is sui generis.

Another clip from the episode:

Another listener on “the superb interview with Judis and Teixeira”:

As center-right American, I found the conversation to be most illuminating and thought provoking. But I disagree with their assertion that Biden has a bit better than 50/50 chance of being re-elected.

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