Science told: hands off gay sheep – updated

January 29th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, scare stories, times, very basic science | 51 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday January 13, 2007
The Guardian

“Science told: hands off gay sheep.” It’s hard to think of a headline more joyous than this classic from the Sunday Times. Apparently a scientist called Professor Charles Roselli is conducting cruel and gruesome experiments on sheep in the name of eradicating homosexuality. Unfortunately this “news” story, co-written by Isabelle Oakeshott – the Deputy Political Editor no less – is little more than dystopian science fiction fantasy, conjured up to drive a pressure group’s agenda.

We’ll open with their big hitter. “The animals’ skulls are cut open and electronic sensors are attached to their brains.” It sounds gruesome. But this was simply – and rather bizarrely – not true. There’s no neurophysiology in these experiments. They don’t even measure things from nerve cells: they measure mate preference, by watching the sheep choose a mate. Cilla Black does not open up Blind Date contestants’ skulls to attach electronic sensors to their brains (disappointingly in some respects) and they don’t do it in these experiments either. From this point, if you can believe that such a thing is possible, the Sunday Times then goes rapidly downhill.”By varying the hormone levels,” they continue, “mainly by injecting hormones into the brain [cough] they have had ‘considerable success’ in altering the rams’ sexuality, with some previously gay animals becoming attracted to ewes.” This is not just completely untrue, it is, in fact, the polar opposite of what the researchers really did. The only similar work completed and published by this team of researchers was about trying to make “straight” animals “gay” (although animal behaviour researchers avoid those terms) and in any case, that experiment was negative: it failed to achieve this aim. Go read the study if you don’t believe me (Endocrine. 2006 Jun;29(3):501-11).

I could go on for pages: even the details are wrong. “Initially, the publicly funded project aimed to improve the productivity of herds…” Wrong. “Michael Bailey, a neurology professor” Wrong. “The research is being peer-reviewed by a panel of scientists in America” wrong, “demonstrating that it is being taken seriously by the academic community.” Wrong. I contacted the lab to double check: nothing is currently under peer review, because nothing has been submitted for publication, because no current experiments are completed. There aren’t even any grants under review.

But most bizarre is the suggestion that the research was somehow ultimately about making gay people straight. This is stated and restated, even at the very top of the article: “Scientists are conducting experiments to change the sexuality of “gay” sheep in a programme that critics fear could pave the way for breeding out homosexuality in humans.”

For those of you at the Sunday Times with some catching up to do, here’s a news flash: we cleared up the question of Lamarckian inheritance of acquired traits over 100 years ago. If it helps, you could think about whether boob jobs will make future generations have larger breasts. And even if you could intervene to make a gay human straight – which only the Sunday Times and their friends are claiming here, not the researchers – then in any case, you might reasonably expect this to make any inherited tendency towards homosexuality more prevalent, rather than less.

And even then, the scientists have been very clear that this is a basic science study, from animal behaviour researchers, aimed at gaining an understanding of the biology of sexual attraction. They’ve been proactively clarifying that from the moment PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – started campaigning against them. Because that’s where this disinformation seems to have come from, in case you hadn’t guessed it yet. I’ll say this nicely – because we all know animal rights people can be scary – but almost all the misinformation and misunderstandings in this Times piece appeared first in a PETA campaign, clearly aimed at recruiting the political energy of the gay community to the animal rights cause. And it’s not even a very recent campaign: the the blogosphere has already run – 6 months ago – and then subsequently retracted PETA’s Roselli story.

There are serious ethical issues in science – including animal rights – and there are also interesting discussions to have about whether theoretical research into sexual behaviour makes us nervous. I’m not even going to start on them here, not just because I’m out of space, but because these are matters for us all, not just scientists or medics like me. It was a funny headline. But the biggest barrier to a sensible discussion of what we all think and feel about research ethics is inaccurate, ill-informed prejudice, slander, and disinformation.

· Please send your bad science to bad.science@guardian.co.uk

And by the way…

One thing I thought was pretty strange about the Times article was the way it was suggested that simply researching a biological basis of sexual preference was somehow an inherently iffy or even homophobic project to be involved in. This is particularly surprising given things like this:

www.popmatters.com/pm/columns/article/8970/the-ugly-duckling-has-two-daddies/

Also, The Advocate, a US gay and lesbian newsmagazine, reported in 1996 that 61% of its readers believed that “it would mostly help gay and lesbian rights if homosexuality were found to be biologically determined”, and a cross-national study in the United States, the Philippines, and Sweden found that those who believed that “homosexuals are born that way” held significantly more positive attitudes toward homosexuality than those who believed that “homosexuals choose to be that way” and/or “learn to be that way”.

Ho hum.

Update 28/1/07:

The Sunday Times, 4 weeks later, has had the decency to express some kind of correction. They don’t quite ‘fess up to the spectacular extent of their fantasies but the stuff at the end, about how they should have got a science journo to look the story over, could have sprung from my own sweet mouth.

The Sunday Times January 28, 2007

Corrections
The report “Science told: hands off gay sheep” (News, December 31) contained several inaccuracies in its description of research into the brain’s role in sheep’s sexual partner preference being conducted at Oregon Health & Science University and Oregon State University. The research is aimed at understanding the role of the brain in sexual attraction. The researchers deny that they were trying to “cure” homosexuality in sheep, a statement that is backed up by their published studies. The research included a study that limited androgen in sheep to determine if this resulted in same partner preference. Our report misconstrued this experiment. The researchers also stress that contrary to our report they have had no success in altering the sexual preference of the animals. The research is funded by the National Institutes of Health and is not being conducted to improve farm productivity. The authors of our report were not science specialists and we should have ensured that the story was checked by the science editor before publication. We apologise for the errors and any subsequent confusion.


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51 Responses



  1. rueroy said,

    January 13, 2007 at 3:27 am

    I watched that whole video hoping for some hard core ram on ram action. Damn, 38 seconds of my life wasted, guess I’d better read the rest of the article now.

  2. Ben Goldacre said,

    January 13, 2007 at 3:34 am

    yeah, i tried some shagging sheep on there, but i thought that might be perceived as mocking the peril of the sheep in the experiments – which to be fair you shouldn’t do – and i don’t want my dead relatives disinterred. consider me successfully censored by the vague threat of violence and my own late onset maturity.

  3. jackpt said,

    January 13, 2007 at 3:43 am

    I spotted the offending article at the time but overlooked it because I had presumed the headline had at least some kind of factual basis. Now I feel soiled. There really should be an unofficial set of guidelines for journalists writing science stories, written by scientists and journalists. At the moment it seems a story’s slant is dictated by the quality of the PR department of the originator.

  4. jackpt said,

    January 13, 2007 at 3:45 am

    And, of course, human sexuality is more complicated. I think.

  5. Paul Crowley said,

    January 13, 2007 at 8:46 am

    I’d be interested to know more about Michael Bailey’s part in all this – he’s a controversial figure who has earned my personal ire in being part of some very dodgy research which attempted to show that male bisexuality doesn’t exist, so alarm bells go off when I see his name.

  6. Paul said,

    January 13, 2007 at 8:51 am

    Ben said “yeah, i tried some shagging sheep on there”

    Were the sheep you tried shagging male or female – and did they let you?

  7. ayupmeduck said,

    January 13, 2007 at 10:03 am

    This Udo Schuklenk seems to be a reasonable type – I read a few of his blogs. You can see his gay sheep posts by using this link:

    ethxblog.blogspot.com/search/label/gay%20sheep

    (Somebody needs to tell me how I go about finding Endocrine 2006 Jun;29(3):501-11 etc, but I trust that Ben is correct and the whole Times article is nonsense. )

    So Schuklenk might be reasonable, but is it ethical to be a Professor of Bioethics, sit back and watch themselves being quoted with sensationalist stuff like “Imagine this technology in the hands of Iran…” and “It is typical of the US to ignore the global context…”, but also be so lazy as to not check any of the basic facts?

  8. Andrew Clegg said,

    January 13, 2007 at 10:51 am

    Maybe OSU and OHSU’s external affairs people could make a very good case for libel?

    Although perhaps that’s why the lobbyists involved picked overseas universities to fabricate about — less likely to find themselves on the receiving end of a lawsuit.

    Andrew.

  9. Kersti said,

    January 13, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Ben, this kind of unwriggleable-out-of documentation on outright lying is the kind of thing you do best. Like others, I tend to assume that there must be *some* kind of truth behind a story like this, especially in a broadsheet like The Times, which makes me hesitate to reject out of hand things that then turn out to have no justification whatever.

    ayupmeduck, you can find the authors’ summary of the Endocrine article at tinyurl.com/yjq7uy – but you still need to be able to translate it! At all events, it can be seen that the only animal manipulation involved was injecting hormones into the bloodstream of pregnant ewes, and then measuring growth and behaviour of the lambs.

  10. Mithent said,

    January 13, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    It also seems that, although the offspring showed reduced mounting behaviour typical of males, it didn’t change their sexual preferences.

  11. Dr Aust said,

    January 13, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    Jeez – what a farrago of nonsense. It’s got to be up there with the man from LSE and his “all men in the future will have huge knobs”, although worse in some ways as it claims to be based on actual research .

    Another cast-iron case for my (sadly it’s a figment of the imagination) “scientific joint societies’ rapid response shite debunking unit”. Or Ben, as it is also known.

    As far as I can read the abstract referred to by Kersti – and even as a battle-hardened physiologist I was struggling – the ONLY change they could see was that the rams appeared a bit less inclined to jump on anything that moved (cf dogs and chair-legs).
    All other behaviour they measured was, as Mithent says, utterly unaltered, including the development of sexual preference.

    Ah well, another for my ever-expanding list of “how the media and pressure or special interest groups symbiotically promote scientific nonsense to the detriment of peole understanding anything”… see also MMR, autism, stem cells, fish oil, homeopathy, “acid foods”, nutrition generally, blah blah blah.

  12. dbhb said,

    January 13, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    You will be sure to post up the full text of their retraction, won’t you Ben! I’d love to read *that*.

  13. Twm said,

    January 14, 2007 at 4:45 am

    I was under the impression that many male animals mount other males during adolescence – either because they were ‘practising’ or the fact that farmer giles has kept the males and females apart.
    Humans can masturbate, but it’s not so easy when you are a hoofed quadruped, you have to improvise.

  14. Ben Goldacre said,

    January 14, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    ha, someone over here has rewritten the times article with the real facts:

    rhetoricallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2007/01/science-fiction-of-gay-sheep.html

    Here’s the original:

    SCIENTISTS are conducting experiments to change the sexuality of “gay” sheep in a programme that critics fear could pave the way for breeding out homosexuality in humans.

    The technique being developed by American researchers adjusts the hormonal balance in the brains of homosexual rams so that they are more inclined to mate with ewes.

    It raises the prospect that pregnant women could one day be offered a treatment to reduce or eliminate the chance that their offspring will be homosexual.

    Re-edited for factual accuracy, we get this mangled nonsense:

    SCIENTISTS are not conducting experiments to change the sexuality of “gay” sheep.

    A technique tested by American researchers which adjusted the hormonal balance in the brains of straight rams so that they would be more inclined to mate with other rams failed.

    It does not raise the prospect of a treatment for pregnant women to reduce or eliminate the chance that their offspring will be homosexual.

  15. Peter said,

    January 14, 2007 at 9:43 pm

    It really disgusts me how a story can be so twisted by a journalist looking for a flashy headline; and then given the ok to print. Quite why the paper isn’t sued for such complete inaccuracy I don’t know.

  16. Dr Aust said,

    January 14, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    Ben wrote: [This one got cut to pieces, ho hum, here’s the last subbed version pre-cut]

    If only your column ran in the Grauniad’s “Work” section, Ben, where they clearly have space to fill…

    money.guardian.co.uk/workweekly/story/0,,1989000,00.html

    Note that this features the Holford Institute. Have posted the full text on the Holford “Doctoring the Record” thread.

  17. Dr Aust said,

    January 14, 2007 at 10:05 pm

    PS Getting back to sheep, were those animals in the video line dancing?

  18. Filias Cupio said,

    January 15, 2007 at 3:22 am

    Genocide charges have been laid for (wait for it….)

    advocating the use of antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV.

    www.mg.co.za/articlepage.aspx?area=/breaking_news/breaking_news__national/&articleid=295438

    Let’s hope their lawyers are as incompetant as their “scientists”.

    (Or perhaps the newspaper reporter is as incompetant as the Sunday Times one.)

  19. Craig said,

    January 15, 2007 at 4:08 am

    There was a similar article in the Sydney Morning Herald a week or two ago, lifted from the Times one:

    “AN AMERICAN university is trying to “cure” gay sheep of their homosexuality.

    Researchers at Ohio State University have discovered that 8 per cent of rams are gay and another 8 per cent are sexually ambivalent.

    After hormone treatment, some of the gay sheep began showing interest in ewes, The Sunday Times in Britain reported.

    The researchers found that gay sheep had a smaller bundle of neurones in a certain area of their hypothalamus, a part of the brain known to control sexuality, than heterosexual sheep.

    The discovery was evidence suggesting that homosexuality had a biological basis, said the research group’s leader, Charles Roselli.

    The campaign manager of the New Zealand group Save Animals From Exploitation, Hans Kriek, said that if animals were naturally homosexual, they should be left alone.”

  20. Craig said,

    January 15, 2007 at 4:09 am

    Oh, I forgot to mention the SMH version of the title: “Gay rams go straight for ewe”

  21. BrickWall said,

    January 15, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Sorry to bring this up in completely the wrong place but not sure how to start a stream in the forum (technologically web-inept I’m afraid).

    Has anyone heard anything about concerns relating to Wireless networks, particularly in schools? A letter in the TES this week alludes to the idea that schools have rushed in to the use of wireless technology and it may not be safe etc. The letter claims wireless networks should be compared to mobile phone usage and cites research (or was it Govt. guidelines?) re children under 16 not using their phones too much etc. and suggests this should be interpreted to go for wireless networks too.

    Now I wasn’t sure what category of nonsense this fitted in? Is it EMF type woo? Or phone mast worriers? Or is it reasonable comment on an un-researched realm?

  22. Rebecca Watson said,

    January 15, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    Very interesting. I’m actually shocked at how many inaccuracies surround this story, and considering the amount of pseudoscientific crap I sort through everyday, that’s really saying something.

  23. Andy said,

    January 15, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    BrickWall,

    If you looks back around 6 months or so there were a number of stories on the whole wi-fi / EM fields sensitivity issues.

    Some people definitely suffer from something which they think is caused by radio transmitters or just from the stray emissions of electronics. However in blind studies their symptoms don’t correlate to whether the electronics in question are switched on or not.

    Taking some basic precautions with cell phones (e.g. trying not to use them too much) does have some sense, you are holding a microwave transmitter next to your head, but isn’t proven to cause any problems.
    For just about everything else (cell towers, Wi-Fi etc…) the field strength once it reaches your body is significantly lower and is a non-issue. It is simply the currently fashionable bit of technophobia that is doing the rounds.

  24. jdd_london said,

    January 15, 2007 at 8:38 pm

    Wi-Fi

    The BBC are also asking for comments on the Wi-Fi and want to talk to anyone who has suffered problems, or who works somewhere that has stopped using the system.

    news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/talking_point/6264327.stm

    Guess they will not be bothered to actually look at any real science but just generating another health scare for the ”worried well”.

  25. TP said,

    January 16, 2007 at 9:08 am

    Regarding the neurological correlates of homosexuality; have you ever read Simon LeVay’s 1991 paper on “A Difference in Hypothalmic Structure Between Heterosexual and Homosexual Men”

    (www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs.cmu.edu/user/scotts/bulgarians/nature-nurture/levay.html)?

    I have used this article with psych interns as an example of science that isn’t even wrong.

    It is unfortunate that this widely quoted paper has been given so much credence, and used as the staring point for further inanities about gayness.

  26. FlammableFlower said,

    January 16, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    re 18. Oh My God – I really hope that is a hoax. If not it should get right royally stamped on in court. It comes from the Mbeke school of HIV/AIDS.

  27. BrickWall said,

    January 16, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    Re 24

    I have sent a response to the BBC request along the lines below:

    “It’s rather farcical to positively seek people who feel they have been affected by ghostly rays from computer networks unless you match it up with a representative sample of the number of people who report no symptoms of any kind. As such I am writing to register my total lack of feeling that I have been in anyway adversely affected by mysterious forces from wi-fi.
    Wouldn’t it be eminently more sensible to look at the real research done in this area, note the conclusions and then not bother with this daft approach?”

    Perhaps others may feel they’d like to register their views too? I know, I know it only gives their daft stories legs but disengagement risks insularity and the woo woos appear to be represntative and sane.

  28. RS said,

    January 16, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    TP – what exactly are you saying about the LeVay paper then? Seems largely ok to me (after a quick skim).

  29. manigen said,

    January 17, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    In related news:

    news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6270003.stm

  30. ceec said,

    January 17, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    Re #24 and #27

    I posted a true story about how my health improved once I got wireless in the house, and office. Needless to say, various other things changed at the same time, but I didn’t bother mentioning them, because I know from my own experience what a beneficial effect wi-fi has on my physical well-being.

  31. pie said,

    January 18, 2007 at 4:34 am

    RE the EM thread.. there be a new Bad Science article in the paper:

    “Can a spray really stop mobile phone signals?
    Clarins claims that its new Expertise 3P ‘screen mist’ will help protect the skin from artificial electromagnetic waves.”
    www.guardian.co.uk/mobile/article/0,,1992896,00.html

  32. oneiros said,

    January 18, 2007 at 8:26 am

    Re. #31: “They pass through metres of concrete, so imagine what they’re doing to your skin.”

    Er, passing straight through it…? ;)

  33. DrJon said,

    January 18, 2007 at 10:10 am

    Re: 31-32 “His advice for anyone worried about EM radiation? “Live as far away from the producers of EM waves as possible and live with the consequences of having no friends and no life,” he says.” Hahahahahaha

    I like that guy. But why bother reporting on obvious rubbish that hasn’t yet been published?

    Re 24,27,30
    I’ve also responded to the WiFi “have your say” – has it been published yet?

  34. Ben Goldacre said,

    January 18, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    i’m pleased to that news of my sheep story has made it to japan.

    www.aibai.cn/info/open.php?id=15991

    babelfish translation below:

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  35. Ben Goldacre said,

    January 18, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    www.steynonline.com/index2.cfm?edit_id=30

    SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT (BUT NOT THE SHEEP)
    From Jim Newman from Oregon Health & Science University, the institution referenced in your article on Sunday.

    Of course we realize that your article is based on the recent Sunday Times piece. However what you may not know is that the Times article was literally filled with errors – many of which were repeated in your commentary

    I think it’s also helpful to note that the campaign against this research is based on untruths. It was started by PETA – the animal rights group – six months ago. (a fact that was fairly well hidden in the Times article) Here’s a link to one of PETA’s initial false postings for the research.

    The reality is that the public is being “duped” by an animal rights group with an agenda. To meet their goal of criticizing the research, PETA crossed the line and started making baseless assertions here and here.

    As for the science fiction about this research, some of which was unfortunately repeated in your article, here’s the reality.

    – The universities have never tried to turn “gay” sheep straight. Years ago, researchers were interested in learning whether hormones played a role in determining partner preference. They boosted the hormone (testosterone) in pregnant sheep. However the research was inconclusive. If it provided conclusive results, the sheep would have preferred a same-sex partner – not an opposite sex partner. NOTE: Also – human sexuality is much more complex than that of rams – so we don’t refer to the animals as gay – that reference was created by the press.

    – Based on this former point – the Times assertion, that we have had “success” is wrong. It was the opposite of what was studied and the study was to test of a hypothesis, not a seach for a “cure” (a truly offensive suggestion)

    – Martina’s criticism is based on PETA’s false claims about this research. While we respect her right to comment, we are of course concerned that her opinions are based on many of the major factual errors about this research. These errors can be confirmed by reading the published studies in respected medical journals.

    – It’s also important to note that this research is now almost 5 years old. We did international news stories on it then (in 2002). However, now that PETA has falsely called us “homophobes trying to cure homosexuality,” it is receiving attention as if the research were new. Another major deception by PETA.

    While I don’t want to overwhelm you with info – I wanted to show you just how error-filled the Times piece was, Here’s a full list of their mistakes:

    – The subtitle of the article says that the “experiments claim to cure homosexuality.” This is not true. A review of the published data proves this point

    – The first line of the article claims that scientists are trying to change the sexuality of gay sheep. This is not true and in fact a major factual error. This is in reference to the test of a hypothesis, which is what all science does, where the scientists wanted to determine whether a change in biology during development of sheep influenced partner preference In fact, the scientists were trying to see if limited androgen resulted in same-partner preference (animals that preferred same-sex mates) the exact opposite of what the reporter states.

    – Therefore the reporter’s following statement: “The technique being developed by American researchers adjusts the hormonal balance in the brains of homosexual rams so that they are more inclined to mate with ewes.” is false. The reporter misunderstood the research and reported the opposite of what was investigated (again, in testing a hypothesis)

    – This statement “Experts say that, in theory, the “straightening” procedure on humans could be as simple as a hormone supplement for mothers-to-be, worn on the skin like an anti-smoking nicotine patch.” These experts were not us was left unattributed, so the reader has no idea who made this bleak suggestion. This statement shows a clear lack of understanding of the research and frankly a simplified, science fiction statement that has no basis in reality.

    – The story states that the scientists have had “considerable success” in changing animal’s sexual preference. This is not true.

    – The article claims that there is great public outcry. This is not true. Our university has never been contacted by any lesbian/gay group that is opposed to this research. In fact we have communicated with such groups that support the research because it validates their view that the research demonstrates a biological connection to homosexuality. As for Martina Navratilova’s letter (which we never received by the way), it came from PETA and the phone numbers listed in the letter to reach the tennis star are actually PETA phone numbers. Here’s a link to the OSU letter as PETA’s link to the OHSU letter does not work.

    – The article says the research is being conducted to improve the productivity of herds. This is not true. It is a basic science study merely aimed at understanding the role of brain structure and chemicals involved in partner preference. It is funded by the National Institutes of Health and not being done for farming purposes.

    – The article says electronic sensors are being implanted in animals’ brains by cutting the sheep brains open. This is not true. A review of all of the published research will show that this is not part of the research.

    – The article says that the study is currently under peer-review. This is not true. This statement in the article suggests that there is an ongoing scientific question about the validity of this research – there is not. Prior to funding by the NIH, the research was peer reviewed and approved for funding. This is a very significant distinction.

    – The article repeatedly suggests that the research is being done to cure homosexuality. This is not true. This has never been suggested and in fact the researchers have proactively explained for years that this is a basic science study. The only people suggesting a human use for this research is PETA and that claim came in the summer of 2006 (4 years after the research was announced).. Clearly PETA is attacking this research because it involves animals.

    – The reader does not find out until page 2 of the article that PETA is the pressure group mentioned in the lead. It is curious for the reporter to bury such an important detail.

    I hope that helps.

    Jim Newman
    Oregon Health & Science University
    Portland, Oregon

  36. pseudomonas said,

    January 18, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    Re: 34, I think that’s a chinese site.

  37. FlammableFlower said,

    January 18, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    Nice email from Jim Newman, unambiguously answers all the bad/made up reporting – has it been forwarded to the Sunday Times?

  38. Dr Aust said,

    January 18, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    A-1 good work from OSU… wish more scientists or their press people would do this.

    Without harping on, this is what my mad-dream-fantasy-island-hallucination

    “Joint scientific societies’ rapid response shite debunking unit” would do (if it existed)…..

    -put out stuff like this, preferably distributed widely to media outlets, with the authority of the proper scientists, pointing out exactly why what newspapers W and Y printed was credulous misleading balderdash. Who knows, newspapers X and Z might quite enjoy printing a piece showing that their rivals W and Y printed complete rubbish, and eventually they all might start covering science stuff a bit more carefully.

  39. Dr Aust said,

    January 18, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    Ben

    Could be time for another “post-MMR” style column comparing how widely the “Gay sheep” story appeared with how widely (if at all) the same outlets run the story of the Newman letter, or the story that it was all misleading nonsense and that they were conned by PETA.

  40. Delster said,

    January 19, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    PETA – they are the people that throw buckets of paint over people wearing real fur coats right?

    Ever noticed how they never try that on prople wearing other animal skin products… say for example leather clad hell’s angels?

    I think they should all try doing this at least once…..

  41. Tom P said,

    January 22, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    Just thought I should note that the blogger who first did the debunking on this story has a fantastic post detailing how the lies spread – first around blogworld, then around the traditional media – and how the debunking followed behind it. It’s a really good summary of how nonsense can be counteracted, bit by bit.

  42. BrickWall said,

    January 22, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    It seems the BBC ran with the Wi-Fi story on their breakfast show this morning.

    news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/breakfast/6278199.stm

    Can’t view this (or won’t as only have dial up connection and really can’t be bothered to wait! The intro text suggests that yet again a journalist claims to “investigate” something by treating scientific enquiry as though it were a debate between for and against with no relation to evidence. Of course I am at risk of doing the very same thing having not viewed it !!

  43. Mina said,

    January 25, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    Maybe a bit off topic, but I went to this amazing exhibition of homosexuality in the animal kingdom:
    www.nhm.uio.no/againstnature/index.html

  44. stephenh said,

    January 26, 2007 at 10:33 am

    Looks like it’s made it as far as NY Times

  45. Mojo said,

    January 30, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    But no correction to “The animals’ skulls are cut open and electronic sensors are attached to their brains.”

  46. Mojo said,

    January 30, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    Delster said, “PETA – they are the people that throw buckets of paint over people wearing real fur coats right?”

    They’re the people who throw dead dogs in dumpsters.

    www.suffolknewsherald.com/articles/2007/01/28/news/news2.txt

  47. Mojo said,

    January 30, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    This has been covered in this week’s Private Eye under the headline “the strange case of the professor, the Sunday Times and the gay sheep”. It says that the Sunday Times story had been “on the receiving end of an investigation by the mighty New York Times”, but no mention of Bad Science or Ben’s Grauniad column for some reason.

  48. Delster said,

    January 31, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    Mojo,

    thanks for the link…. seems they do!

  49. Andrew Taylor said,

    February 14, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    What I don’t understand is how they thought we could ever “breed out” homosexuality.

    Seems to me that it would have bred itself out by now.

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