March 1, 2024

In search of a gene for naïveté

Scientists claim to have discovered a gene for infidelity

The blog Biopolitical Times has an
intriguing occasional feature called “gene of the week” – announcements of
discoveries of genes which determine our behaviour. The latest is what Fox News
delicately described as “the slut gene”. 
It allegedly predisposes people for infidelity and one-night stands.  

was manna from heaven for headline writers. But as Pete Shanks points out, the
researchers seemed to have written their press release to make the media happy.
But when you read the fine print, you discover that the study of the sexual
behaviour of 181 young adults had many caveats:

There may be alternative
explanations, the findings are “not definitive at this point,” the
behavioral outcomes are “probabilistic and by no means deterministic”
and there may be cultural influences.

Science by press release may not
always be the best science. Is there a “Golly, gee whiz” gene for journalistic
credulity? ~ Biopolitical
Times, Dec 7

Michael Cook
gene of the week