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It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity

I’m sorry. I just can’t take it any more. I’m going to stop the world and get off. Yes, that’ll make the oceans slosh and drown everyone else. You should have thought of that before you bored me.

Okay, you ask. What is it now?

Drivel framed in drivel. (No, I don’t have a link to the original. I can’t be arsed. It’s in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.) Study: men with genetic variant struggle with commitment [1] Or this one from the New Scientist: Monogamy gene found in people [2]

What if you could tell whether a man is husband material just by peering at his genes?

Sure, the researchers themselves say it’s not that simple. If they did, it wouldn’t pass what passes for peer review. But they’ve done their bit to lend the “story” to the idiotic framing.

The research is in the same field as work done a while back that found oxytocin hormone levels lead to commitment among prairie voles. It follows that oxytocin levels must be determining commitment among humans. Especially since oxytocin levels spike after delivery in mammals, including women, and mothers are notorious for being attached to their infants. (There was a lot less press about the increased oxytocin levels in men after sex. Which gender was it that has a woolly minded way of mixing up sex and love? Men? That can’t be right.)

The current study shows a correlation between DNA near an oxytocin-related hormone, vasopressin, and monogamy. There were 552 men in the study. I guess only men are ever monogamous. I guess the researchers didn’t need to factor in correlations with, say, childhood experiences, how much these men actually liked their wives or girlfriends (they were all heterosexual), what their peer groups were, what their ethics were, or, any of that imprecise social stuff. That would have made it less, you know, science-y. Besides, they would have needed a beowulf cluster of supercomputers to do the statistics, and the funding probably wasn’t that good.

Give it a few years, and this’ll join the other research that got a lot of press in its day. Bumps on the head predict criminality. Extra Y chromosomes cause it. Whites are smarter than blacks (and no fair counting Asians). It all fits. Sadly, actual measurement and controlled experiments de-fits it.

But fear not. You won’t be doomed to a grey and boring world of facts and figures for long. The magic will be back any day.

Walum’s colleague Paul Lichtenstein says the team’s next task is to test how a nasal vasopressin spray affects altruism and jealousy.

Technorati Tags: vasopressin, genetics, monogamy, goodluckwiththat