Science Affliction #3

Posted by on Jun 10, 2011 in Story Fodder | 7 comments

In Science Affliction this week I’m going to talk about a disturbing issue that was linked in my feed yesterday before we get into the science links. Gender Selection. I’m going to discuss it here instead of turning it into a rant because I think, as terrible as it is, it is also great story fodder–especially for dystopian or post-apocalyptic stories.

I listened to the radio show, and I’ll give the quick highlights. In Asian countries, most notably China and India, women are selectively aborting female fetuses. What this has done so far is tilt the naturally occurring boy:girl ratio from 105:100 to 120:100. This is average, in some regions this ratio is even more out of whack. The estimate they gave was over 160 million female children terminated. Sex-selective abortion is illegal in most of these places by the way, but women are doing it anyway.

What are the impacts on society? When the excess men reach adulthood, it creates a situation where there is a surplus of men who can’t find wives. The women’s rights issues are easy to see–human trafficking and bride buying. Men are purchasing wives and having them shipped in from far off places. These women are sometimes attained by kidnapping and are often very young. Basically, it’s creating a culture that condones the predation of women. Blech.

The other main issue is that unmarried men are more prone to violence and crime than their married brothers. The parallel they drew was to the Old West in the US. Some communities in the pioneering era had ratios of more than 300:100. The region was essentially lawless, crime-riddled, and in general not a nice place to be.

What is the point of all this, my lovelies? Well, I imagine any sort of dystopian or post-apocalyptic world is going to be pretty heavily male. Women are kinder than men, as a general rule. If someone is going to be eaten in our post-apocalyptic nightmare, it’s the ladies. That’s not to say we’re dumb, just that we are more likely to be sympathetic, and therefore taken advantage of. Personally, I don’t intend to let my girly feelings get in the way if I have to fill some guy full of buckshot to stop him from taking my goat, but there you are.

Okay, on to our regularly scheduled science linking:

1) Some awesome pictures and a video of the diving bell spider on Ed Yong’s blog. If that doesn’t inspire some fiction, I don’t know what will.

2) explores some of the reasons that superstitions may have evolved. It comes down to opportunity cost, for those of you who dabble in economics.

3) An article on Ars Technica about probability and why we have difficulty understanding it. The basic idea is that humans try to find patterns in everything.

4) A blog called The Curious Cub explains why Jurassic Park may not be as far away as we think, courtesy of what’s called atavism activation. Basically, forced devolution back to more primitive states.

5) Here’s an article over at about a snail everyone thought was extinct. Now there’s a great story in the making. How many species that we believe are extinct, really aren’t?


  1. Yeah, any post-apocalyptic scenario where there’s a severe food shortage is going to be a total sausage fest. And when the ammo runs low it would get even worse.

    • I’m a bit worried that some people will accuse me of gender stereotyping, but I think it’s fairly well-proven that women are more gentle by nature. There are exceptions, of course. I tend to think I’m one of them. ๐Ÿ™‚

      As for ammo, I don’t know about you, but when the Zombiepocalypse hits I’m going to hole up in Cabella’s. Ammo and freeze-dried food!

  2. We were watching Planet Earth, the BBC awesomeness, and I have to tell you, some of the species that live in tropical jungles (that’s the segment we were watching) are totally sci-fi. Hard to believe they exist. One bird in particular puffed himself up into this black-and-neon-blue massively ovoid clacking thing for mating — no wonder the female flew off. And there’s a spider that goes fishing in carnivorous plants, bungee-jumping off its silk thread to the bottom of the liquid pool in the plant cup to fish out hapless ants and mosquito larvae that have fallen in. I decided Planet Earth is worth watching as idea fodder for alien species.

    • I love that show! I have the first season on Blu-Ray. I agree with you. So much good story fodder there. ๐Ÿ™‚ Have you seen the one with the snow leopard? Freaking amazing!

      • Snow leopards are my favorite big cat. I have seen that episode, and I intend to watch it again. Stunning!

  3. We have the whole thing on DVD, but haven’t watched it all yet. I will totally queue up the snow leopards for next viewing!

  4. As a mother, I can’t imagine aborting my child for any reason, let alone for gender selection. I don’t know why exactly, but I always thought that I would have a girl first, so my son was a surprise. Now I can’t imagine being without him. I wouldn’t be without him for anything, even with the fact that it looks now as if I may never have a daughter.

    As a writer, you are correct that the resulting male-dominated society does lead to interesting speculation for world building. I have done some thinking along these lines, though more as to what society would look like if a segment of the population is decimated by a pandemic. I have some ideas, if I ever write a sequel.

    Now I’m off to enjoy your science links. Thanks for posting them!

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