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Darwin Day Examines Sex, Equality and Where Humans Rank

In 2013, are males and females truly seen as equals? Not according to Duquesne University Darwin Day speaker and renowned evolutionary ecologist Dr. Marlene Zuk.

Zuk will present, Sex and the Scala Naturae, as the 2013 Darwin Day lecture on Thursday, Feb. 14, at 7:30 p.m. in the Power Center Ballroom. A book signing and reception will follow the event, which is free and open to the public.

According to Zuk, males become the "model system" because they are often viewed as the norm of any given species. So then, it is easy to conclude that anything that deviates from the model-including females of the species-is aberrant or abnormal.

"Species exist of two sexes," Dr. David Lampe explained. "You can't talk about only one as being the norm. Evolution acts differently on males and females, shaping them in different ways."

Lampe and colleague Dr. Michael Seaman, both associate professors of biological sciences in the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, coordinated this year's Darwin Day lecture.

Zuk also asserts that greater emphasis is placed on certain kinds of animals than others, with the idea that some species are higher, some are lower and humans are highest of all. This ranking is called a scala naturae.

"We still think humans are the reason nature exists," Lampe said. "But every living thing on earth has three-and-a-half billion years of evolutionary history attached to it. From that perspective, we're asking people not to take an anthropomorphic view of everything."

Zuk is a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. Her latest book, Sex on Six Legs: Lessons on Life, Love and Language from the Insect World, is an account of the many things thought of as setting humans apart-personality, learning, language-that yield unexpected insights into human interactions.

Darwin Day, an annual celebration of the life and work of Charles Darwin and an opportunity to emphasize the importance of quality science education in today's world, is sponsored by the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences with additional assistance from the Women's and Gender Studies Program.

For more information, email darwin2013@duq.edu or call 412.396.6322 or 412.396.4597.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.