Monday, November 15, 2004

Bad research topics

I was reading my Avantgo and there's this short review of the new movie on the author of The Kinsey Report. Coincidentally, the author's name is also Kinsey. He's a scientist who studies sexual behaviour. 50 years ago, he and his team wrote Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, and later, this, that make up the Report. When you do this sort of thing in the 1940s, really bad things happen to you.
Many saw Kinsey's work as a threat, and the response to it and to him was vicious and devastating. In Kinsey, [director-writer] Condon runs through the scientist's litany of misery: a loss of funding, ongoing ridicule, personal attacks, death threats and, most of all, the health effects of living under severe stress. Kinsey died, at 62, of a heart attack.
According to director Condon, "Having spent twenty years collecting over a million gall wasps, Kinsey discovered that not one of these tiny creatures was identical to each other. He took the biological concept of individual variation and applied it to human sexuality. It was Kinsey who first said that each person's sexual makeup is unique, and the term 'normal' isn't relevant when dealing with human sexuality. There's only 'common' or 'rare'. It's still a radical notion today." I really admire people like him. Warts and all, they are the ones who bring us closer to the truth, whether we like it or not. But more than that, knowledge like this erases prejudice, one step at a time. It may not be a totally good thing, but I think it's a darn good start...
But Kinsey's life was a complex one, and Kinsey on the whole paints a revealing portrait of it. Kinsey's story reminds us of the liberating power of knowledge, and that sexual equality, like gender or racial equality, is a right that 20th-century heroes fought and suffered for. Anyone working in origins science, stem-cell research or global warming might find Kinsey especially timely -- it's a reminder that good science can set us free. --Wired News

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