2012’s Cheap Thrills thru Evolution in Review

I look back on top posts of 2012, while ALLELE speakers Eugenie Scott & Greta Schiller educate students

I look back on top posts of 2012, while ALLELE speakers Eugenie Scott & Greta Schiller educate students in the background

I sit in Highland, NY at my in-laws’ watching crappy bowl games (Rutgers v. Va Tech, can either of you find an offense?), reading a cool manuscript draft about psychoneuroimmunological disparity in monastic cemetery remains for my friend Sharon DeWitte, & looking for excuses to avoid composing my spring syllabi & revising an NSF proposal due in two weeks.  Lo, inspiration appears from the blogosphere in the form of Patrick Clarkin’sReview 2012” & Daniel Lende’sNeuroanthropology — 2012 in Review” (which gives props to me, Jason DeCaro, Max Stein, & Bama Anthropology!)  I will write about my own 2012 writings.  What a great idea!

2012 is the year I began blogging.  Such a grandiose & self-indulgent exercise!  How many highlights can I possibly have for only having written for 12 months (10 actually, as I first posted in March)?  As it happens, I have posted nearly 50 times on this site alone (not to mention posts on the newly established Anthropology Blog Network), & those posts have approximately 9,600 combined views.  Yes, I counted.  I included blogging in the required Biosketch for the NSF proposal, so I’m monitoring any of my own fluff that makes me sound synergistic.  Seriously though, as John Hawks pointed out to us on his visit last month, we can do more service for our disciplines by posting on a no-cost blog site than any number of high-cost websites or other outreach efforts.

That astounds me.  I thank all of you who read (or just clicked–gawd knows how little of what I click on I actually read), commented (on the posts or, usually, on Facebook), & posted/re-posted/tweeted/re-tweeted/etc.  I’ve really enjoyed blogging.  It’s made me realize that I can love writing again.  I wanted to be a writer growing up but came to the realization that I have no imagination.  So I turned to academia & scientific writing.  Scientific writing is mechanical & painfully unsatisfying.  It is largely soul-less if it is good.  I love blogging because it has a focus, but there is also this freedom to blather on like I’m doing right now.  It’s like urinating when you’ve been holding it in too long.  Necessary, pleasant, & thoroughly undignified.  The other thing I love is that there is a community of bloggers out there with which I feel I’m beginning to connect.  There are many others doing far more scholarly writing than I, writing more regularly, etc.  Nevertheless, the pings & retweets from them give me the illusion of being part of something, & an imagined community is better than no community at all.  So thank you all for a good year!

Following are the top 10 posts I made this year, based on your clicks, & a brief word on what my point may have been (I am totally ripping you off here, Patrick–buy you some sort of drink in Knoxville next year, for the sake of my utter shamelessness?).

10. HBES 2012 Roundup 2: Brian Hare’s Chimp/Bonobo Cognition Plenary, Mommy Brain Fogs, & Baba Brinkman Evolution Raps (June 20) — The 10th most-read piece I wrote this year was part 2 of a summary of the Human Behavior & Evolution conference talks I went to.  It included discussion of primatologist Brian Hare’s plenary, a talk by Doug Kenrick, my introduction to the “lipstick effect” & other applications of evolutionary psychology in economics,  Laura Glynn’s plenary about pregnancy brain, a cool talk about the connection between smoking & the behavioral immune system, & gushing over Baba Brinkman’s evolution rap performance.  172 views.

9.  Are We Confusing Self-Deceptive Enhancement with Illusory Superiority? (May 20) — I was trying to tease out distinctions in the uses of theoretical constructs like self-deception, self-deceptive enhancement, & illusory superiority & inferiority.  Add to that positive illusions, the Lake Wobegon effect, & the better-than-average effect, among others.  178 views. 

8. ALLELE: Alabama Lectures on Life’s Evolution(April 15) — This was a summary of the 2011-12 lecture series associated with the University of Alabama EvoS program.  It includes remarks about evolutionary psychologist Brad Sagarin, evolutionary biologist Paul Ewald, documentarian Greta Schiller & NCSE executive director Eugenie Scott, archaeologist Brian Fagan, paleontologist Ryosuke Motani, & primatologist Frans de Waal.  This post has been viewed 197 times.

7. Becoming a Lightning Rod for Controversy by Starting an Evolutionary Studies Program in Alabama: Part 1 (March 8) —  This was my very first blog post.  It was about how great an idea it is to start an EvoS program when you are an untenured professor.  The jury is still out in terms of being a boon or a bane to tenure, but it’s been successful, fun, & totally worth it so far.  288 views.

6. Remembering Brent Colyer: Serotonin, Alcoholism, & Evolution (December 12) — One of my longest-term & best friends died on December 1.  This was a remembrance of his life as it influenced mine & frustrated puzzling over proximal & distal factors in his untimely death.  I’d like to think that 474 views in just over 2 weeks is a testament to the number of people who cared about Brent.

5. Biological Anthropology Blogs (May 8) — Before setting up the Anthropology Blog Network & requiring the blogging by my “Principles of Physical Anthropology” students, I surveyed the bioanth blogs out there.  I wanted the students to be able to see how other people in our discipline were writing on the internet, so I collected them here.  This needs to be updated, but continues to get a fair amount of action nonetheless.  590 views.

4. Were the Canela the Human Analog to the Bonobo? (April 12) — In considering the oft-cited contention that bonobos are our closest relative, especially with regard to our sexual behavior, I discuss the Canela, who were once much more promiscuous than most any other culture we know of today.  This post is based on readings & a lecture I give in the spring human sexuality course I teach, though I may need to revisit this at some point, as it’s not particularly nuanced.  I think it’s important to characterize us as diverse, rather than like any other one species.  Anyway, 857 clicks on this one.

3. (Food Erections, Gorilla Prozac, Bonobo Cunnilingus &) Apes in & at the Nashville Zoo (March 15) — This was a summary of some of my favorite visits to zoo primate facilities.  I’ve seen chimps at the Montgomery Zoo with erections at meal time, a gorilla at the Memphis Zoo on Prozac to help it with anxiety so it can mate, & bonobos at the Memphis Zoo whose (possible) cunnilingus behavior I’m still looking for a student to study.  I think the gratuitous picture of the bonobo vulva gets this post a lot of clicks.  People are weird.  1,234 views.

2. Penis Diversity is Our Business (June 10) — Speaking of weird, this is a post about the diversity of penises in the animal kingdom.  I was inspired by a piece by Darren Naish about weird turtle penises & a set of images I show in the course on human sexuality I teach, taken from Alan Dixson’s book on sexual selection.  The title is a goof on “Diversity is our Business” by Ulf Hannerz, which refers to my discipline, anthropology.  This has been viewed 1,549 times all of its own accord.  A lotta people like to look at crazy penises.  Go figure.

1. Pivoting around Smartphones & Cigarettes: Evolved to Play in Extra-structural Interludes (May 17) — This was by far the most viewed post.  It’s a riff on play theory, which suggests that mammals of all ages play to learn, prepare for “real” life situations, test boundaries, & wire up our brains. Anthropologist Peter Stromberg uses play theory to examine low-level smoking among college students, which inspired me to consider a similar application to the use of smartphones.  This came out of impromptu discussions in my spring courses, & I even drew up a picture for this post.  However, it was among my least viewed posts until the iPhone 5 came out, & a CNN.com news piece on September 26 about smartphones & boredom picked it up.  This one has been viewed a whopping 3,121 times to date.

Again, thank you all.  I look forward to blathering on about evolution & things tenuously related to evolution for my sanity next year.  Happy 2013!

Christopher Lynn

About Christopher Lynn

Christopher Dana Lynn is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama, where he directs the Evolutionary Studies program.  Chris teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in biological anthropology, human sexuality, evolution, biocultural medical anthropology, and neuroanthropology.  He received his Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology in 2009 from the University at Albany, SUNY, where his doctoral focus was on the influence of speaking in tongues on stress response among Pentecostals.  Chris runs a human behavioral ecology research group where the objectives include studying fun gimmicky things like trance, religious behavior, tattooing, and sex as a way of introducing students to the rigors of evolutionary science.  In all his “free” time, he breaks up fights among his triplet sons, enjoys marriage to the other Loretta Lynn, strokes his mustache, and has learned to be passionate about Alabama football (Roll Tide!).  Follow Chris on Twitter: @Chris_Ly
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3 Responses to 2012’s Cheap Thrills thru Evolution in Review

  1. Christopher Lynn Christopher Lynn says:

    It is, but I have to figure out a way to get my comments much sooner. They seem to have disappeared from my email inbox. But thanks–it’s been a lot of fun. I missed writing. Academia had killed the joy in it for me. I’m happy to have taken it back.

  2. Pingback: Anthropology Blogs Reflect on 2012, Onward Anthropology 2013 | Anthropology Report

  3. Hi Chris, I enjoy your writing style and am glad you joined the blogging world this year. I’m also glad you found some inspiration from the review format. It’s fun to look back on the year, isn’t it?

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