Posted by olvlzl.
Gina Kolata of the New York Times New Service began a recent piece in the usual way, with an explanation steeped in the current fashion for explaining everything as being an expression of an ancient and adaptive genetic heritage:
Everyone knows men are promiscuous by nature. It's part of the genetic strategy that evolved to help men spread their genes far and wide. The strategy is different for a woman, who must go through so much just to have a baby and then nurture it. She is genetically programmed to want just one man who will stick with her and help raise their children.
Surveys bear this out. In study after study and in country after country, men report more, often many more, sexual partners than women.
Which is an odd way to start when you go on to read the rest of the article which is about the surveys which show that heterosexual men, on average have had about three to four more sexual partners than heterosexual women. You might have seen similar “scientifically conducted” polls bandied about on the blogs, on TV and perhaps even mentioned as yet another prop for biological determinism of gender roles.
However, there is a huge mystery about all this. Who are the extra women these men are having sex with and why are they apparently keeping silent about it. Otherwise, it just couldn’t figure.
- It's about time for mathematicians to set the record straight, said Dr. David Gale, an emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley.
"Surveys and studies to the contrary notwithstanding, the conclusion that men have substantially more sex partners than women is not and cannot be true, for purely logical reasons," Gale said.
Dr. Gale goes on to give a simple demonstration with equation anyone with fourth grade math could master. But not most of those in the media and even on some "Scienceblogs".
Despite all the confident assertions that the reported disparities are “proof” of a genetically programmed difference between mens’ and women’s brains apparently the original reporters of those illogical numbers know that what they’re reporting is bogus.
"I have heard this question before," said Cheryl D. Fryar, a health statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics and a lead author of the new federal report "Drug Use and Sexual Behaviors Reported by Adults: United States, 1999-2002," which found that men had a median of seven partners and women four.
But when it comes to an explanation, she added, "I have no idea."
"This is what is reported," Fryar said. "The reason why they report it I do not know."
While they’re noticing these seldom mentioned lacunae in today's common received wisdom perhaps they might want to notice something else.
Despite the reservations I’ve expressed here about polling and, even more so, the reporting of polls and surveys I do know one thing with absolute certainty. The methods of polling today are much, much more reliable than those of the Pleistocene period, the period about which the stories like the one at the top of this piece, are told with such confidence by biological determinists. We have no idea at all if our early ancestors were swingers, none. If men today, most of whom seem to be able to count, at least on their hands, are unsure about how many women they have had sex with, why would men at the dawn of humanity be more credible? Maybe cavemen were liars and it is the propensity to lie about such things to people like pollsters (and other interviewers) which is the actual heritage we have from them. At least we know with some confidence that the lie is real.
In the end of Ms. Kolata’s article is this:
Ronald Graham, a professor of mathematics and computer science at the University of California, San Diego, agreed with Gale. After all, on average, men would have to have three more partners than women, raising the question of where all those extra partners might be.
"Some might be imaginary," Graham said. "Maybe two are in the man's mind and one really exists."
Maybe the stories of evolutionary psychology need to be subjected to similar levels of scrutiny.