Dec 13 2008

Moralizing Science

Published by at 5:34 pm under culture,psychology

This title to a recent science article caught my eye:

Myth About ‘Dirty Old Men’ Supported By Science

The lead paragraph goes:

Middle-aged men want younger women, often touting their intelligence and their high income. This is shown in research at Gothenburg University and Oxford University that studied 400 lonely hearts ads to see how men and women choose partners.

Hmm. So science supports a) a myth that b) old men are dirty.

Why are old men dirty? Not enough soap and shampoo? No, they “want younger women.”

Um, if the same person who wrote the above — presumably someone educated in science, or someone who writes for a science department and is familiar with scientific methods and thinking (one can always hope) — were to witness a ten-year-old male house cat mount a one-year-old female, would he or she think, “dirty old cat”? I tend to doubt it, unless the person were engaging in a degree of anthropomorphizing. The cat is just doing what cats are likely to do.

To support the notion, even indirectly, that the phenomenon of older men desiring young women is dirty, unclean, gross, or plain bad, is to leave the realm of science and enter another realm. The aim of science, as far as I know, is to tell us “what is,” and not “what should be.”

True scientists describe how the world works but do not prescribe better behavior . . . . unless presented with a clearly defined problem and objectives.

As to the sentiment that older men desiring younger women is dirty, well, I am fascinated by the question of where that comes from. “Should” older men stick to women their age because younger males don’t want the competition and older females fear abandonment? Hmm.


2 Comments to “Moralizing Science”

  1. [...] my post yesterday, Moralizing Science, I argued that morality and science are distinct. Notice I did not write, “Moralizing [...]

  2. [...] Andrew Bernardin criticizes science journalism that draws unwarranted moral conclusions, in Moralizing Science. [...]

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