The Gateway (University of Alberta)
EDMONTON (CUP) ”“ The field of evolutionary psychology is often described as unique for its salacious mix of sexual nuances and the facts of scientific discourse — but for Jay Ingram, host of the science news broadcast Daily Planet, there’s another discipline perfectly paired with the habitually book-bound topic.
“There are plenty of lyrics in the blues that you could look at and say, ”˜that’s actually describing an evolutionary principle,’ ” Ingram said, referring to the musical genre that accompanied him in his lecture at the University of Alberta on Nov. 18.
At first, the two might not seem to have much common, but evolutionary psychology, according to Ingram, shares much with the musical genre.
“Once you’ve done it, you kind of think it’s pretty obvious. When you’re talking about human mating behaviour, there is no other music than the blues that goes with it perfectly. The blues is all about human mating, and mating behaviour goes with the blues,” he said.
The biological differences between men and women, Ingram continued, can be traced back through history to our evolutionary roots.
“If you look at it from a strictly evolutionary point of view, the goal is to reproduce. The fact is that men and women are different enough biologically that their strategies for reproducing as efficiently as possible have to be different,” he explained.
“Women invest way more in the birth of a child than men do. I’m not talking about modern society where men and women bring in half the money each. Strictly from a biological point of view, the woman is pregnant for nine months, (and) she nurses.”
These biological differences result in different strategies for optimizing reproductive output, and these simple rules, when projected over the intricacy of modern human interaction, make for dynamic conversation.
But while the reconciliation of our sexual history with the superficial themes of a musical genre might seem far-fetched, for Ingram, who obtained his bachelor of science in microbiology from the U of A, the combination is easy to get around.
Before Daily Planet, he hosted CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks, taking the reins from David Suzuki, and has written several books on science in everyday life.
He has made it his business to distill scientific data for the masses. In fact, it was for that reason that Ingram found himself at the U of A.
In addition to giving a lecture, he was also in town to receive some appreciation for his biological expertise.
Ingram received an honorary doctorate of science degree at the university’s convocation ceremony — ironic, he said, considering his start into the world of science at the university.
“My last year at the U of A was not a standout academic year . . . I love science, but hate lab work. It took me a while to realize that, but I did and it started at the U of A, and the end result is I’ve had the career that I’ve had,” he said.
“There’s an important lesson in it: when you get a degree, it’s really a time to start questioning yourself. It is an achievement, but it’s probably not the last one, and it’s a great time to check your goals and the reasons for having them and questioning that. Am I doing this because I’m supposed to? These are questions to ask at your convocation.”