In an article for Slate, scientist Patrica Brennan defended her government-funded research into duck genitalia, paid for by the National Science Foundation. She lamented the fact that 88.7 percent of respondents to a Fox News online poll were against the government funding her study.
Brennan’s research examines duck rape and how females’ genitalia have evolved to prevent insemination because the male ducks’ penises spiral counterclockwise while females’ vaginas spiral clockwise. Who knew the feminist movement could be inspired by ducks?
Brennan noted, “Whether the government should fund basic research in times of economic crisis is a valid question that deserves well-informed discourse comparing all governmental expenses.”
Of course the government should fund the study of ducks’ genitalia rather that allow tours of the White House. Instead of being inspired by the history of their country’s leaders, our children can extrapolate from the female ducks’ successful resistance to the males exactly how much males of any species are worth.
Generating new knowledge of what factors affect genital morphology in ducks, one of the few vertebrate species other than humans that form pair bonds and exhibit violent sexual coercion, may have significant applied uses in the future, but we must conduct the basic research first. In the meantime, while we engage in productive and respectful discussion of how we envision the future of our nation, why not marvel at how evolution has resulted in such counterintuitive morphology and bizarre animal behavior.
If American society has been reduced to marveling at “bizarre animal behavior,” we’re in for some big trouble.
Photo credit: Dave Gough/Flickr