If Elisabeth Lloyd’s take on the female orgasm is correct—i.e. if it is homologous to the male orgasm—then FEMALE ORGASM is not a proper evolutionary category. Homology is sameness. Hence, male and female orgasms belong to the same category. The orgasm is an adaptation, whether male or female (and Lloyd should agree). It is not a spandrel or by-product.
I’ll get back to this in a moment, but first some background. There are five NewAPPSers who have a particular interest in the philosophy of biology. Roberta Millstein, Helen De Cruz, Catarina Dutilh Novaes, John Protevi, and myself. Aside from Roberta, each of us comes at it from a related area in which biological insight is important. For me, that area is perception. I have written quite a bit about biology, but my mind has always been at least half on the eye (and the ear, and the nose, and the tongue, . . .).
There is a divide among us with respect to a leading controversy in the field. Catarina is strongly anti-adaptationist and I am strongly adaptationist (perhaps because of my motivating interest in perception, which is exquistely adaptive). Roberta, Helen, and John are somewhere in between, but likely closer to Catarina than to me. You can gauge where I stand when I tell you that in my view, Gould and Lewontin’s 1979 anti-adaptationist manifesto, “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm” is one of the worst, and certainly one of the most mendacious, papers I have ever read in any field. Among the five of us, I am sure I am alone in this.
Given all of this, my take on adaptationism with regard to the orgasm may get a hotly negative response from my co-bloggers. Nevertheless, I’ll get on with it.