October 01, 2004

Pseudo-scientific Garbage

You HAVE to read this column by Al Mohler. He's reviewing The God Gene by Dean Hamer. I don't have to tell you that he doesn't really think much of it; what I LOVE about this article is what he writes at the end:

As [Carl] Zimmer notes, "The field of behavioral genetics is littered with failed links between particular genes and personality traits. Those alleged associations at first seemed very strong. But as other researchers tried to replicate them, they faded away into statistical noise. In 1993, for example, a scientist reported a genetic link to male homosexuality in a region of the X chromosome. The report brought a huge media fanfare, but other scientists who tried to replicate the study failed. The scientist's name was Dean Hamer."

That's right. Dean Hamer is most famously [or infamously] known for his claim to have found a genetic explanation for male homosexuality. That study created a firestorm in the press, and though it was never replicated in order to establish scientific credibility, it quickly became standard fare for arguments claiming homosexuality to be absolutely natural, and therefore normal.

As Zimmer laments, "Given the fate of Hamer's so-called gay gene, it is strange to see him so impatient to trumpet the discovery of his God gene." Zimmer then turns the table on Hamer, arguing that The God Gene should have been entitled A Gene That Accounts for Less than One Percent of the Variants Found in Scores on Psychological Questionnaires Designed to Measure a Factor Called Self-Transcendence, Which Can Signify Everything from Belonging to the Green Party to Believing in ESP, According to One Unpublished, Unreplicated Study. In the scientific community, that's undiluted condemnation.
It isn't often that Dr. Mohler reads his column to us in class on Friday (in fact, today was a first), but he was proud of this piece, and justifiably so. Unfortunately, the questionable science behind the study will take a back seat to the sensational results -- which will be headlined everywhere.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 10:30 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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