Much fuss about nothing at all

Jesse Bering disappointed me recently. He started off another evolutionary psychology story with this warning.

Consider this a warning: the theory I’m about to describe is likely to boil untold liters of blood and prompt mountains of angry fists to clench in revolt. It’s the best–the kindest–of you out there likely to get the most upset, too. I’d like to think of myself as being in that category, at least, and these are the types of visceral, illogical reactions I admittedly experienced in my initial reading of this theory. But that’s just the non-scientist in me flaring up, which, on occasion, it embarrassingly does. Otherwise, I must say upfront, the theory makes a considerable deal of sense to me.

Oh, boy. I love the throb of adrenaline coursing through my bloodstream. So I read further, expecting fierce data and challenging ideas.

They weren’t there. The hypothesis is rather bold — it’s the idea that homophobia is actually adaptive — but there’s no substance there. It turns out the data is all dueling surveys of people’s views about gay people. “Meh,” I said, and unclenched my fists and dabbed at the blood that was going to squirt out my eyes and damped down the fires that had just begun to flare up from the sparks crackling from my fingertips. That isn’t even interesting. They know nothing about heritability, they’ve shown nothing about differential survival or fecundity, they haven’t even tried to sort out cultural biases from biology. Is this to be the fate of evolutionary psychology, that it shrivels away into irrelevancy as its proponents overhype feeble, pathetic data sets?

I couldn’t even muster the enthusiasm to spit contemptuously, but fortunately, Jeremy Yoder has taken on the subject and nicely dismantled the exaggerations and fallacies. Go read that.

Adding breasts doesn’t make it more plausible

I don’t believe one word of this study that claims staring at breasts improves longevity. It doesn’t make sense, the evidence can’t support it, and the methodology is dubious.

A rather bizarre study carried out by German researchers suggests that staring at women’s breasts is good for men’s health and increases their life expectancy.

According to Dr. Karen Weatherby, a gerontologist and author of the study, gawking at women’s breasts is a healthy practice, almost at par with an intense exercise regime, that prolongs the lifespan of a man by five years.

She added, “Just 10 minutes of staring at the charms of a well-endowed female, is roughly equivalent to a 30-minute aerobics work-out.”

Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. I try to put in a half-hour or more on our exercise bicycle every day, and I’m sure I spend even more time than that observing my lovely wife, and physiologically, the two are not at all comparable (and I know which one I enjoy more), and it’s malpractice for a doctor to be claiming they are.

And how did they determine this amazing medical fact?

Researchers at three hospitals in Frankfurt, Germany did an in-depth analysis of 200 healthy males over a period of five years. Half the volunteers were instructed to ogle at the breasts of women daily, while the rest were told to refrain from doing so.

Yeah, right. They found 100 men who didn’t look at breasts for five years. What were they doing, comparing the general population to a prison population?

This study is even more unbelievable than the recent nonsense about bacteria in meteorites.