Saturday, December 6, 2008

Correlation between balls and brains

When I was a teenager in Australia, a good way of insulting a fellow was to call him a dickhead. I must admit, though, that I never really knew whether this was intended to mean that his head had the same shape as a penis, or an equivalent degree of intelligence, or a similar vocation in life, or some other more subtle resemblance.

Today, scientific research carried out in the UK has revealed that men of higher intelligence appear to have sperm of better quality. Results indicated that smart males who obtained higher notes in IQ tests tended to produce a greater quantity of sperm with greater mobility.

Now, if you're anything like me, I'll bet you were surprised to learn—in that last sentence—that mobility is an important factor in the clinical evaluation of sperm. We don't generally tend to imagine that these little critters need to travel to and from work every day, or that they like to go out driving in the countryside of a weekend. Well, the truth of the matter is that a lazy sperm who is not constantly up and about, in the style of an early bird catching worms, serves no useful purpose. The unique raison d'être of a self-respecting sperm is to track down an egg, crack it open and devour it in a single gulp, sunny side up. There's lots of tough competition from other sperms, who are totally lacking in brotherly love. In their search for an egg, they jostle and trample one another violently, like US shoppers stampeding into a Wal-Mart on sales day. Suffice it to say: May the best sperm win! We're talking of the most mobile young chap, in top physical form, with first-class sporting footware, at the wheel of the procreative equivalent of a red Ferrari. The brutal battle between competing sperms is a terribly vicious affair... like the Democratic primaries in the USA or the installation of a governing committee in the French Socialist party. Weak-hearted sperms, those that have let their regular gym work slip, those that drink, or those that have wasted their physical resources hanging around in bars with loose women, don't stand a chance. The quest for the egg, like the Graal, is even more terrifyingly Herculean than the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The "dickhead" epithet might therefore be a disguised compliment, designating a superior male with balls in his brain (or maybe rather brains in his balls), whose gushing intellect and spurts of wisdom have the same volume and mobility as his sperm. In any case, this correlation between superior intelligence and award-winning sperm has an interesting corollary. Normally, according to Darwinian evolution, top-quality sperm should have a greater survival value, and it should be giving rise to more and more offspring with superior intelligence. In other words, our planet should be subjected to a relentless phenomenon of ever-increasing intelligence. Spiraling brilliance, wisdom, creativity... you name it. Frankly, I don't know. From my personal viewpoint, I'm convinced that, in our marvelous modern world, there are indeed more and more... dickheads.

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