Lazar Greenfield, new president of the American College of Surgeons, wrote a Valentine's Day editorial in Surgery News and referenced a study a few years ago that claimed hormones in semen act as an antidepressant in women. He's no stranger to publishing, he was lead editor of Science News, a surgeon, and a retired professor at the University of Michigan. Now he is gone. which means the American College of Surgeons has no new president and Surgery News, the official publication of the American College of Surgeons, has no chief editor.
What did he write? I can't link to it, because it no longer exists, but it went like this for a Valentines Day editorial on mating in various species that included the Archives of Sexual Behavior study - "So there's a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have suspected, and now we know there's a better gift for that day than chocolates."
He was being clever in saying that semen is a better gift for a loved one than chocolate. Fine, your belief in the cleverness of that may vary, but is it a termination offense? Apparently so. Despite his years of contributions to that community, and even though he apologized, they labeled him sexist and he resigned as editor of Surgery News. But that was not enough and the controversy continued and so he resigned as president of the American College of Surgeons.
Reasonable? In a militantly progressive culture, it seems to be. I think most scientists want to ask, does the evidence support it? It's a piece by evolutionary psychologists in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, all of which combined would ordinarily hit about 8.6 on my Bullshit Richter Scale. I'm not going to suddenly endorse a publication and a discipline I have made fun of plenty because some hyper-militant sexually political fetishists are launching another salvo in their culture war but Jennifer Abbasi at Popular Science went over the methodology (surveys - bah) and contacted the lead author to discuss the merits of that, but you don't need me to rehash it, go read her article and you can tell me what you think.
But the lead author of that study, Gordon Gallup, Jr., said to Abbasi about the controversy, "I think it's a tragic overreaction. The point at which we begin to let a political agenda dictate what science is all about is the point when science ceases to be a viable enterprise."
While I listened in Lincoln Center during the 2009 World Science Festival, Nobel laureate James Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, while speaking at the 80th birthday of his friend Edward O. Wilson, said that he wished for Wilson's birthday what he wished for all scientists - that he keep talking about "uncomfortable truths" even if it arouses the ire of "unpleasant leftists."
Many in the younger generation of scientists have no problem accusing Watson of being racist, misogynist, you name it. But the 'chilling effect' on research has to be a concern when science and medical communities have become so unbalanced it stifles any chance at research if it might shed light on 'uncomfortable truths'.
What is more alarming is how vigorously Greenfield is being attacked, and the publication also, with claims that perhaps the content is even more rubbish than the editorial, etc. When I was young, progressives were against censorship and for freedom. The ACLU isn't getting any money out of this modern day kind in academia, that's for sure, they seem to love suppression, but I have to chuckle that the new generation makes me miss the leftwing people of the 1970s, who at least seemed to stand for something without looking around to see what the position of everyone else is first.
Note: RetractionWatch has published the editorial in its entirety - how they rationalize violating the copyright of Elsevier or the the American College of Surgeons is a mystery but it's there. Is it good science or even a good editorial? That is for you to decide, you can guess what I think about that particular study based on my comments above. The operative question remains, is it sexist and did he deserve to be removed from both positions for discussing that study? Or is this yet another way for Europeans to note that American progressives are actually rather rightwing in their Puritanism?