One of conservatives' favorite examples of wasteful government spending in recent weeks has been a federally funded study of duck penises. This is dumb. They should be celebrating duck penis research. As the Republican Party looks to recover from its 2012 losses, sure, it should appeal to a wider audience by talking more about immigration and talking less about gay marriage. But they should demand more duck penis research. So far, the most prominent Republican demanding this kind of path forward has been Newt Gingrich, who said that Republicans should promote the very type of technological innovation made possible by the weird science research the party is currently dismissing as silly and wasteful.
Fox News and several other conservative outlets have bashed duck penis research recently. Leading duck penis researcher Patricia Brennan defends her work at Slate Tuesday in her cold, hard, sciencey way, explaining that the federal government funds basic science — why things are the way they are — in part because it can lead to applied science. So, as Brennan explains, a new adhesive is based on research on geckos. But Brennan sort of underplays her hand here. Duck penises are incredibly fascinating. Male ducks have penises that explode into a corkscrew during an erection. Because female ducks are raped so much — as much as half of duck sex is rape — they've developed complex corkscrew vaginas that makes insemination really difficult. So, as PolitiFact noted, that thing Todd Akin said about "legitimate rape"? That the "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down"? That's actually true of ducks! Duck penises waste away when mating season ends, and grow back bigger or smaller based on how dominant the other males in the group are. The clichéd "dick measuring contest"? That is real life for ducks. They are "are essentially engineering their own phallus in response to social challenges," Brennan told Wired in 2010. Duck genitals are incredible! Really great party anecdote at the right kind of party.