SEK calls some conservative commentators out:
Anybody else notice the problem with Schweizer and Nolte’s defense? Of course you do. But in case either of them read this, I’ll spell it out: Palin woefully misunderstands the President’s argument, as is evident by the fact that in the terms of the analogy, she mistakes the United States for the Soviet Union. The President said that the United States now should be like the United States in 1959, not that it should be like the Soviet Union in 1959. To claim that the President wants the United States now to be like the Soviet Union in 1959 is to make an error worthy of the mockery it has received. Instead of recognizing Palin’s inability to comprehend a simple analogy, Nolte and Schweizer claim that the mockery is unfounded because bureaucratic excess eventually brought down the Soviet Union.
That’s all well and good, but Palin’s claim that its space program destroyed the USSR remains deeply, profoundly ignorant of twentieth-century history.
That being said, at least her defenders are willing to embrace a structural argument for the USSR’s collapse. One usually finds posters at Big Hollywood claiming that Reagan’s insistence on boondoggle defense programs and his willingness to call the Soviet Union an “Evil Empire” brought Moscow to its knees.
Not every behavior needs to confer a reproductive advantage, dammit!
Despite Daniel Enger’s valiant effort:
Despite this bestiary of autoeroticism, scientists have spent relatively little time on the question of why animals might have evolved to masturbate. At first glance, the behavior would seem to be maladaptive. First, there’s all the energy that’s wasted on the production of spilled seed—macaques, for example, are thought to devote between 1 percent and 6 percent of their daily metabolism to the production of ejaculate. Second, it distracts the animal from the more important work of finding food and evading predators, let alone mating. According to the literature on horses, a masturbating stallion sometimes takes on “a trance-like, glazed-eye appearance.” What could be more inviting to a hungry bear?
I still think this sounds like spandrel territory:
Still, neither the fresh-sperm hypothesis nor its discredited cousin, the kamikaze-sperm hypothesis, can account for more than a small subset of animal masturbation. Reloading might explain the behavior of bucks, bulls, and male primates, all of which tend to ejaculate at the end of an autoerotic episode. But many other animals never reach that point. Horses rarely climax, despite masturbating dozens of times per day—so what motivates the dalliance of a stallion or, for that matter, a mare? Can evolution account for female masturbation in the animal kingdom?
Just think about it for a second.
For these behaviors to be selected out of a population we would need a genetic mutation that prevented animals from masturbating but also still allowed them to take pleasure from genital sex. Like some sort of magic “anti-onanism” gene that makes it only feel good if someone else touches it.
So yeah, I say “spandrel.”
Image Source: https://daily.swarthmore.edu/2009/2/19/gilbert-vatican/