The Intersection

Folks, it has been a really rough time for Sheril–she may or may not tell the full story herself, but suffice it to say that she has been hospitalized for several days and has only recently been allowed to come home, and this unfortunate turn of events has prevented her from attending the AAAS meeting in Chicago, where she was set to headline at the high profile “Science of Kissing” panel on Valentine’s Day.

That’s a very sad missed opportunity; but luckily, Sheril has also done a freelance article for New Scientist about the same subject, which has just come out and which you can read here. A brief excerpt:

As natural as kissing seems, it also means swapping mucus, bacteria and who knows what else, so how and why would such a behaviour evolve?

Science has been seeking answers for decades. Neuroscientists point to the way it unleashes a flood of neurotransmitters and hormones associated with social bonding and sex. Anthropologists explain it as a relic of mouth-to-mouth feeding from mothers to infants. Others have suggested that kissing conveys important information about prospective mates and so evolved as a guide to mate selection. It has even been passed off as a purely cultural phenomenon since some groups refrain from it entirely….

It’s a fairly brief piece, but it marks her move into real science journalism–and that’s something I want to applaud. I hope you’ll join me–and enjoy the article.


  1. #1 Ashutosh
    February 13, 2009

    Interesting hypothesis, although I am always a little skeptical about attaching adaptionist explanations to sexual or sex-related behavior. For instance, bonobos are one example, but what about sexual behaviour in our most genetically close relative the chimpanzee? I think some more evidence may be in order. These days it is very popular to ascribe everything to an adaptionist tendency and while such kind of thinking generates lots of provocative ideas, we need to be careful about interpreting them. For example read PZ Myers’s views on the recent NYT article on female sexuality where he also recommends “The Case of the Female Orgasm” by Elisabeth Lloyd as a good book on sound evolutionary thinking regarding female sexuality.

  2. #2 Ashutosh
    February 13, 2009

    Get well soon!

  3. #3 Brian X
    February 13, 2009

    Best of luck to you, Sheril.

  4. #4 Sheril R. Kirshenbaum
    February 13, 2009

    Thanks Chris. It was a fun piece to write and I’ve been learning science journalism from the best 😉

  5. #5 Wes Rolley
    February 13, 2009

    Hope you are back at full speed sometime soon.

    When you do feel that you have mastered Science Journalism, will you please go to the Washington Post or ABC and teach it George Will. He is the very reason we need more like you and Chris.

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