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“Women really do prefer pink, researchers say.”

I’ll first note that I haven’t (yet) read the study this article references myself. However, as represented in this article from Reuters, this is some icky pseudoscience which apparently fails to take into account that the pink = femininity association is historically a very recent development, arising sometime in the past 100 years. Prior to that, in Victorian England, blue was the color for girls. In other parts of the world at other points in history, there are other associations. (No citations for my own arguments, alas, because I don’t have them handy and I’m too tired to search some out.)

In their experimental group, they seem to have found a gender divide between the colors preferred by women versus men. Then they proceed to “speculate that this sex difference arose from sex-specific functional specialization in the evolutionary division of labor.” Rather than a much simpler explanation: our color preferences are heavily influenced by our social environment. Consider how quickly a particular shade can pass from neutral to favored to distinctly dated in the fashion world. Color preferences are not static, and while individuals clearly have native preferences, it’s also clear that these preferences are shaped by our social groups.

Insisting that a pattern found in a small group (which was most likely taken from a pool of people who are all members of more-or-less the same cultural group!) must not only apply to all people around the world, but that this pattern necessarily has a biological and evolutionary basis is an overinterpretation of the data and is piss-poor science.

If any of my readers have a source through which I can read the original paper, I’ll be most appreciative. If they’ve addressed any of these points in the paper, I’d hate to be complaining unnecessarily. I suspect, though, that getting to read the original source will only allow me to skewer it more effectively.

And remember, boys and girls, when you’re doing science, look for the simplest explanation that accounts for all known data!  Sometimes a correlation is just a correlation.

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A day to do something to honor the victims of the massacre at Virginia Tech and their families is an idea I can get behind. A day to do something and post about it on your blog, likewise.

A day of blog silence? Not so much.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It requires no positive action. It does not even require thought for the vast majority of bloggers, who do not post every day in any case. (I, for one, would probably not have gotten around to posting on this day of multiple doctor visits.)

I respect the impulse to do something, to have a community mourning. When I heard what was going on at Virginia Tech, I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach. It took my breath away and left me sick with grief.

That pain soon left me thinking about the same pain that is felt by many Iraqis and by the people of Darfur. The pain that results from having one’s boundaries violated, from having unspeakable evil committed in what I had thought of as a safety zone — my own personal safety zone.

We all have one: a circle we draw around our selves and our families, and we believe that Bad Things can’t happen here. We believe that — no matter how much we think we know better — until reality rudely intrudes.

Far too many people lost their lives at Virginia Tech. Far more lost beloved friends or family. An exponentially larger number lost their sense of safety, again.

For them all, and for all of us, and for all those around the world who have not had that sense of safety for years and are just getting by as best they can, I place here a white ribbon.

White Ribbon

In the name of and in hope for peace.