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Do humans have a mating season? Turns out we do—sort of.
There’s still a controversy among scientists as to why humans seem to follow a certain pattern.
Most animals mate at a certain time of year. One of our evolutionary advantages is we can continuously mate and have young. However, if you look at birth patterns, you'll notice that most birthdays tend to occur at certain times of year. For a mammal with no official mating season, it's surprising that the majority of births occur between July and September. September is the most common birth month in the US, according to one Harvard study, with September 16th being the most common day. Count back the months and you'll realize that these babies were conceived around the holidays.
Some call this our “mating season." But in fact, births peak two times a year, around the holidays, and again in late spring to early summer. How do we know this? More children are conceived at these times, more STDs are diagnosed and treated, and more condoms are purchased. Abortions also peak at these same six month intervals. A 2001 study suggests that late autumn and early winter are the best times of the year for sperm health, as they are when men are more likely to have a higher sperm count. While from August to October, sperm counts are at their lowest.
Researchers have also seen a particular pattern in Google searches. More sexually related searches occur during the holidays and in early summer than at other times of year. Dating terms are also more commonly searched, too. Researchers looked at patterns occurring over five years. They examined searches related to topics such as dating, pornography, and even prostitution.
The fact that babies are often born at certain times of year makes scientists think we may have something of a “mating season." But are there biological factors at work or others?
In terms of psychology, during the holidays, when the weather begins getting cold, and we aren't used to it yet, we may long for the physical warmth a partner provides. Women's bodies are designed to keep their core warm, where the womb and organs reside. Ever notice a woman's hands and feet tend to be cold in winter? This is why. As a result, the desire for a partner at this time of year, may be stronger for them. But yearning for physical warmth might be sublimated into a desire for romance, at least according to a 2012 study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research. More romance novels and movies are consumed during late fall and early winter than at any other time of year, the study concluded.
Since the holiday season is the most common time for people to couple up, it's being called “cuffing season," meaning you cuff yourself to someone, in the romantic sense. Around this time of year, we often focus on relationships, be they with friends, family, or someone special. Singles can feel lonely around the holidays. Plus, there are a ton of parties and social events and a lot of people don't want to go alone. Family members too are known to nosily inquire about the love lives of single relatives, which can act as a motivating factor.
Even so, according to scientists, this isn't exactly a mating season. For instance, a woman may be receptive to sex regardless of what time of the year it is. They ovulate not annually, but every 28 days. Evolutionary biologists aren't exactly sure why humans have this unique ovulation mechanism. It conveys an advantage, to be sure. But why it developed is still a mystery. It may have been so the woman can shed her endometrial lining and ward off infection, thus preserving fertility. STDs were a scourge among our early ancestors. Another theory is that it was a way of reducing mating disputes between partners in the band or group.
Several factors may be in play, pushing people together at certain times of year.
Some studies suggest that the high birth rate occurring around June might be due to climate conditions. Sunlight exposure and warmer temperatures can help improve the rate of sperm production, and thus the likelihood of conception. Other studies suggest that hormonal or menstrual changes in women might increase the conception rate at this time. These are hard to prove however, as it's difficult to reproduce seasonal conditions in a laboratory environment.
While humans can mate all year long, other female mammals have an estrous cycle. This is when they're “in heat." Changes in the animal's physiology and behavior occur. It only happens once a year. But a woman's sex drive can be active at any time of year. For this reason, some sex researchers reject the idea that seasonal changes affect humans.
Instead, the temperatures cooling down and people spending more time indoors together may mean couples cuddling up more and so a higher likelihood of things getting steamy. Some research has shown that infidelity is lower in winter months. Even so, on the whole, pregnancy isn't very predictable. Though we may not have a hard and fast “mating season." Being the complex creatures that we are, there could be environmental, social, biological, and psychological factors all working in concert, giving us a tendency to mate and conceive at a certain times of year.
To learn more about the quasi-human mating season(s), click here:
How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.
- A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
- It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
- While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Tribalism and discrimination<p>One question the "Genetic Pressure" series explores: What would tribalism and discrimination look like in a world with designer babies? As designer babies grow up, they could be noticeably different from other people, potentially being smarter, more attractive and healthier. This could breed resentment between the groups—as it does in the series.</p><p>"[Designer babies] slowly find that 'everyone else,' and even their own parents, becomes less and less tolerable," author Eugene Clark told Big Think. "Meanwhile, everyone else slowly feels threatened by the designer babies."</p><p>For example, one character in the series who was born a designer baby faces discrimination and harassment from "normal people"—they call her "soulless" and say she was "made in a factory," a "consumer product." </p><p>Would such divisions emerge in the real world? The answer may depend on who's able to afford designer baby services. If it's only the ultra-wealthy, then it's easy to imagine how being a designer baby could be seen by society as a kind of hyper-privilege, which designer babies would have to reckon with. </p><p>Even if people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can someday afford designer babies, people born designer babies may struggle with tough existential questions: Can they ever take full credit for things they achieve, or were they born with an unfair advantage? To what extent should they spend their lives helping the less fortunate? </p>
Sexuality dilemmas<p>Sexuality presents another set of thorny questions. If a designer baby industry someday allows people to optimize humans for attractiveness, designer babies could grow up to find themselves surrounded by ultra-attractive people. That may not sound like a big problem.</p><p>But consider that, if designer babies someday become the standard way to have children, there'd necessarily be a years-long gap in which only some people are having designer babies. Meanwhile, the rest of society would be having children the old-fashioned way. So, in terms of attractiveness, society could see increasingly apparent disparities in physical appearances between the two groups. "Normal people" could begin to seem increasingly ugly.</p><p>But ultra-attractive people who were born designer babies could face problems, too. One could be the loss of body image. </p><p>When designer babies grow up in the "Genetic Pressure" series, men look like all the other men, and women look like all the other women. This homogeneity of physical appearance occurs because parents of designer babies start following trends, all choosing similar traits for their children: tall, athletic build, olive skin, etc. </p><p>Sure, facial traits remain relatively unique, but everyone's more or less equally attractive. And this causes strange changes to sexual preferences.</p><p>"In a society of sexual equals, they start looking for other differentiators," he said, noting that violet-colored eyes become a rare trait that genetically engineered humans find especially attractive in the series.</p><p>But what about sexual relationships between genetically engineered humans and "normal" people? In the "Genetic Pressure" series, many "normal" people want to have kids with (or at least have sex with) genetically engineered humans. But a minority of engineered humans oppose breeding with "normal" people, and this leads to an ideology that considers engineered humans to be racially supreme. </p>
Regulating designer babies<p>On a policy level, there are many open questions about how governments might legislate a world with designer babies. But it's not totally new territory, considering the West's dark history of eugenics experiments.</p><p>In the 20th century, the U.S. conducted multiple eugenics programs, including immigration restrictions based on genetic inferiority and forced sterilizations. In 1927, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that forcibly sterilizing the mentally handicapped didn't violate the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, "… three generations of imbeciles are enough." </p><p>After the Holocaust, eugenics programs became increasingly taboo and regulated in the U.S. (though some states continued forced sterilizations <a href="https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/" target="_blank">into the 1970s</a>). In recent years, some policymakers and scientists have expressed concerns about how gene-editing technologies could reanimate the eugenics nightmares of the 20th century. </p><p>Currently, the U.S. doesn't explicitly ban human germline genetic editing on the federal level, but a combination of laws effectively render it <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">illegal to implant a genetically modified embryo</a>. Part of the reason is that scientists still aren't sure of the unintended consequences of new gene-editing technologies. </p><p>But there are also concerns that these technologies could usher in a new era of eugenics. After all, the function of a designer baby industry, like the one in the "Genetic Pressure" series, wouldn't necessarily be limited to eliminating genetic diseases; it could also work to increase the occurrence of "desirable" traits. </p><p>If the industry did that, it'd effectively signal that the <em>opposites of those traits are undesirable. </em>As the International Bioethics Committee <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a>, this would "jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics, disguised as the fulfillment of the wish for a better, improved life."</p><p><em>"Genetic Pressure Volume I: Baby Steps"</em><em> by Eugene Clark is <a href="http://bigth.ink/38VhJn3" target="_blank">available now.</a></em></p>
A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.
- A British scientist named Professor Monica Grady recently came out in support of extraterrestrial life on Europa.
- Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may have favorable conditions for life under its miles of ice.
- The moon is one of Jupiter's 79.
Neil deGrasse Tyson wants to go ice fishing on Europa<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="GLGsRX7e" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="f4790eb8f0515e036b24c4195299df28"> <div id="botr_GLGsRX7e_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/GLGsRX7e-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/GLGsRX7e-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/GLGsRX7e-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Water Vapor Above Europa’s Surface Deteced for First Time<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9c4abc8473e1b89170cc8941beeb1f2d"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WQ-E1lnSOzc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Scientists discover burrows of giant predator worms that lived on the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- Scientists in Taiwan find the lair of giant predator worms that inhabited the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- The worm is possibly related to the modern bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois).
- The creatures can reach several meters in length and famously ambush their pray.
A three-dimensional model of the feeding behavior of Bobbit worms and the proposed formation of Pennichnus formosae.
Credit: Scientific Reports
Beware the Bobbit Worm!<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1f9918e77851242c91382369581d3aac"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_As1pHhyDHY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Answering the question of who you are is not an easy task. Let's unpack what culture, philosophy, and neuroscience have to say.
- Who am I? It's a question that humans have grappled with since the dawn of time, and most of us are no closer to an answer.
- Trying to pin down what makes you you depends on which school of thought you prescribe to. Some argue that the self is an illusion, while others believe that finding one's "true self" is about sincerity and authenticity.
- In this video, author Gish Jen, Harvard professor Michael Puett, psychotherapist Mark Epstein, and neuroscientist Sam Harris discuss three layers of the self, looking through the lens of culture, philosophy, and neuroscience.