January 18, 2006

You're Right! Tomorrow I'm Going to Punch Nature In The Back of the Head!

Warning! Incoming Rant!

Boy oh boy, do I get tired of asinine 'news' stories about scientific studies that personify 'nature' and make simplistic, misleading statements about evolution.

Take, for example, this story from Netscape: No. 1 Reason Women Are Unfaithful.

"A woman who yearns to have sex with someone other than her husband can blame it on evolution.

That's the excuse...er, scientific finding, of researchers . . ."
(emphases mine).

See, now, this (anonymous) journalist knows he or she is being a douchebag, it's pretty clear— ho, ho, ho, it's so hilarious to blithely gloss over (and, as you shall shortly see, flatly contradict) what the quoted researchers actually say, because, gosh!, it's not as if marital infidelity is an issue that costs immeasurable amounts per year in legal fees, emotional pain, physical harm, etc., etc. No, far better to make a joke out of the "fact" that women (a nice change, as the argument is usually made about men) are biologically incapable of being faithful as long as their partner looks like a goose anus:

"Nature is no fool. Men who are less attractive seem to have an innate sense to guard their ovulating wives from other men . . . The men have to protect what is theirs" (emphasis in original).

Right, okay, so, in addition to being incorrigible sluts who can't keep their panties on whenever a stud walks past, women also need to be jealously guarded by their husbands who will otherwise lose "their"... what? Meal ticket? Sex machine? Ticket in the genetic lottery?

And all this is attributed to the omnipresent and, apparently, agency-endowed "nature", who is "no fool" and is only looking out for the species as a whole— so, ladies, if you feel the need to cheat, you'd better go for it! That's nature talking!

At least (in this study, anyway) the actual scientists involved were relatively careful not to be so flippant: "We aren't saying that women are genetically programmed to be unfaithful . . . They aren't robots following genetic instruction . . . Infidelity itself is a choice." Sadly, this well-reasoned little caveat was slipped in at the very end of the article, after several hundred words of vacuous pop science that pretty explicitly suggests genes control all. Still, at least this article has such a caveat, unlike...

Becoming a father 'civilises' men, from BBC News. In this study, researchers found that men who were fathers had significantly lower testosterone levels than even other married men with no children. Unfortunately for the BBC (who at least like to pretend that they're good reporters), they couldn't find any sensational soundbites from the actual researchers, so they quietly brought in another quack to comment on the study results, instead.

Said Dr Nick Neave, who, as far as I can tell, had no affiliation with the study whatsoever: "Nature doesn't want testosterone levels to be high at a time when there is a baby . . . It's nature's way of making males civilised— at least for a short time."

Ah, yes, once again "nature" is "doing" what's best for us, because men are, inherently, violent, drooling warthogs, who cannot control their atavistic urges to kill each other and screw as many women as possible without a little help from their hormones. Thank goodness for the 'civilising' power of fatherhood!

What I find so irresponsible about this kind of 'reporting' is that relatively innocuous scientific data is being cruelly twisted in a very conscious way to conform to imbecilic stereotypes and expectations about how men and women naturally "are", which only serves to justify behaviour that is morally repugnant and totally unnecessary. Guh.

Thanks for listening.


At 18/1/06 18:19, Anonymous Mariana said...

Swedish Chef on SNL, played by Andy Samberg.

This has nothing to do with nature or adultery. Although, if I was married to someone, and Andy Samberg walked by, I'd totally bone him. Because genetically, my children have a better chance of survival if their father is famous.

At 18/1/06 22:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First you hate fun; now you hate nature. Where is this going to end? Do you hate balloons?



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