Fatal attractions: a fear of pheromones

In Nature, Fatal Attractions Can Be Part of Life

Excerpt: Why, for example, would a fur seal try to mate not just with a different species but with an entirely different class of animal?

My answer: That’s obviously an olfactory/pheromonal mistake! The other mate has no visual appeal, but something has gone wrong because it smells right.

In Nature, this article was published in 1996. Insect pheromone in elephants

A decade later, Insect pheromones and precursors in female African elephant urine, suggested that “…findings may yield valuable insights into chemical communication among African elephants.”

In 2012, it was no longer clear that the initial findings on insect (1996) to elephant (2006) pheromones had yielded valuable insights because the pheromones in elephants are now called chemical signals or semiochemicals, as they often are called in discussion of other mammals.

What’s in a name?

Lewis Thomas suggested in 1971 that we have a A Fear of Pheromones. And in 1980, he wrote:

I should think we might fairly guage the future of biological science, centuries ahead by estimating the time it will take to reach a complete comprehensive understanding of odor. It may not seem a profound enough problem to dominate all the life sciences, but it contains, piece by piece, all the mysteries.

In 1995 I co-authored The Scent of Eros: Mysteries of Odor in Human Sexuality, the first book written about human pheromones (now in paperback, since 2002, and ebook since 2012).

If we continue to allow the human pheromone-deniers to deny that pheromones control reproduction in all species from microbes to man, their fear of pheromones will prevent us from understanding the fact that “Olfaction and odor receptors provide a clear evolutionary trail that can be followed from unicellular organisms to insects to humans.“And we can blame the fearful human pheromone-deniers for our inability to understand the development of our preferences for the physical features of others, whether or not our attractions are fatal or perfectly suited to the enhancement of life on this planet. The fear of pheromones is denial of reality.




Author: James Kohl

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