The Latest Conservative Outrage Is About Duck Penis

The $16 muffin ain’t got nothing on duck penis.

On Monday afternoon, posted this poll to its opinion section:

duck penis study poll fox news

The Yale animal behavior study, titled “Conflict, Social Behavior and Evolution,” is headed by Dr. Richard Prum and Dr. Patricia Brennan.

News of Duckpenisgate was broken to a shocked and outraged nation by, a conservative news site run by the Media Research Center, an organization dedicated to raging against secularism and the mainstream media. From there, Fox Nation and Fox News radio host Todd Starnes picked up on the duck penis/federal waste exposé. The duck penis news easily found its way onto other conservative outlets such as Human Events and birther website WorldNetDaily.

If you think that less than $400,000 spent on a scientific study is a prime example of waste, it’s worth noting that that’s roughly 0.0000001 percent of what the federal budget is likely to be in 2013. Also, the study, funded by the National Science Foundation (a government agency responsible for assigning billions of dollars to research and education), is not actually a waste of tax dollars. Science writer Carl Zimmer explains:

Studying animals is also a way for us to look in the evolutionary mirror. We share a common ancestor with other animals, and the same kinds of evolutionary processes play out in both us and them. Now, you may wonder what ducks—with gigantic cork-screw-shaped penises and a gigantic cork-screw-shaped reproductive tracts—could possibly have to do with us. The manifestation of sex evolution may be different in different species. But the process is similar.

As in many other species, the evolution of ducks has been driven in part by something call[ed] sexual conflict…Other scientists first explored sexual conflict in many other species first—species including ducks. That’s just how science works, no matter what culture warriors may claim.

(For related reality checks, click here, here, and here.)

There’s really no reason whatsoever for any of the right wing’s snarky outrage, no matter how ridiculous federally abetted duck-penis research may sound.

But hey, things could always be worse. It’s not like we’re all freaking out over how much it cost for the vice president to stay at a hotel in Europe, right?



UPDATE: My colleague Kate Sheppard reminds us why Republicans (particularly Todd Akin) should love duck penis.


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