Thursday, January 25, 2007

The perils of studying gay sheep

Pity the poor researcher, Charles Roselli at Oregon health and Science University, who set out to discover what physiological factors might explain why about 8% of rams seek sex exclusively with other rams instead of ewes. An article in today's New York Times describes the firestorm of controversy that ensued when PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) started a campaign against the research. The research has used humane treatment guidelines in sacrificing about 18 animals to examine their brains (over 4 million sheep are killed annually for food and clothing in this county). The Sunday Times of London amplified the misrepresention of the work as having the goal of controlling sexuality in humans rather than simply understanding its basic science, and Andrew Sullivan and other popular blogs passed on the mis-information. The New York Times article describes how in this case the researchers fought back, striving to make an accurate description of the research to the critics. Several blogs, including Sullivan's, corrected themselves.

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