BOGUS Sniffing for Sex

Yeah! A BOGUS Award winner here at Doc Gurley – this time for a Gold-Medal-Worthy triple jump of BOGUS assumptions. How big are these leaps? Let’s just say these could, in comparison, make the powerful Olympian from Cameroon look like she’s merely doing the bunny hop. Follow along, as we track a minor, small-study-result to a conclusion that is used to actually justify banning birth control for women. Why? For nothing less important than the survival of the entire human species! This BBC Health News report on smell preference and birth control pills shows that researchers asked a small number of women to state their preference for smells from genetically similar or dissimilar men before and after taking birth control pills. Women preferred genetically dissimilar smells before taking the pill, and then preferred genetically similar smells after taking the pill. Clearly, this study – according to the researchers and the BBC – means that taking the pill can disrupt the all-important natural evolutionary drive to avoid in-breeding. Wow, you may be thinking, that’s a serious study – aren’t those conclusions justified? Well, here’s the original article. Now look, just in the abstract, not at the small numbers used in the study, but instead at the massive number of serial assumptions that must be met to reach this BOGUS result: 1) smells reported as “favorable” (by how much? what does “favorable” mean?) cannot be linked to hunger, cuddling, food safety, or hygiene – “smell” must indicate only sexual preference; 2) smell changes after starting birth control pills (presumably taken for use in a committed relationship) must dramatically alter the relationship – in fact, the change in smell must end the relationship; 3) smell preference for relatively MHC-compatible men must induce rampant incest, and 4) having sex with MHC similar men after you’re pregnant (the physiologic state that birth control pills induce) is a massive threat to human genetic diversity. Therefore, birth control pills can damage the entire future of the human race – and reasonable people should worry about the impact of letting women flagrantly, irresponsibly take these pills.

Yeesh. When you look at it not gullibly critically, that’s just…well, embarrassing. For this sexist paranoid leap of a conclusion from tenuous (sniff) results, we award a Bad Olfactory Guesses Uncover Sexism (BOGUS) Award.

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