Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Just Because Its Science Doesn't Mean Its Objective

Yesterday's New York Times Article Pas de Deux of Sexuality is Written in the Genes by Nicholas Wade reads as though it were based on an objective series of thoroughly vetted scientific results pointing to verifyable results about sex, gender and sexuality.

There's no doubt in my mind that there are important genetic differences between men and women, and that there are overlaps between gender, sex, and sexuality, and that there is possibly a genetic explanation to sexuality (although I think it is important to acknowledge and enable individual choice in this matter), bad research is just bad research.

One comment on a Feminist Economics listserve to which I describe said about the article:

For me, this article by Nicholas Wade is the last straw. Remember Judith Miller who is no longer with the NYTimes, in part, because she was a shill for the Bush administration hard-liners. Well, Wade has been an uncritical shill for many scientists who come along with poorly-based genetic theories about race, gender differences in abilities, homosexuality, etc. Remember the "brain-size gene"
(microcephalin) of a year and a half ago, suggesting that sub-saharan africans had a polymorphism that might explain cognitive differences?

Full coverage of a notoriously weak argumetnt by Wade. A year later, with new scientific articles refuting the argument about intelligence and Science Magazine's Michael Balter reporting that the lead author had had to retract his speculations about intelligence. Where was Wade's reporting on that?

And, now, he uses J Michael Bailey as a lead authority in today's NYTimes article. We use a 1990's paper by Bailey and Richard Pillard on twin studies of homosexuality in my class as an example of a bad behavior genetics paper. In that paper, the authors dismiss a control (fraternal twins) that did not fit with their theory by saying that in another study they got a number that did fit. Then, I heard Pillard speak at Harvard where he mixed data from the two papers to make their conclusions that homosexuality was genetic look good.

If you're interested in sex differences and where you stand, check out this cool test passed on to me by She-Who-Is-Named-For-The-Elf-Princess.


Dan said...

Indeed. I was disgusted by the Times continuing use of Bailey as an "expert" -- and wrote them to say so. My letter is also up at

giddings said...

Thanks Dan --
sorry for not citing you directly. I had not asked permission and was too impatient to get your excellent comment out. Also, you posted through a FemEconer but not yourself. Are you on the listserve? In any case, thank you so much for your insights and thanks for your blog and letter with the actual links to the faulty studies.