Failure by analogy

October 10, 2013

The attempts by Chibuihem Stanley Amalaha, a postgraduate chemical engineering student at the University of Lagos, to use science to prove that homosexuality is unnatural and wrong are disturbing (The week in higher education, 19 September; “Gravity’s rainbow”, Letters, 26 September).

It is sad that a university student could fail to understand that magnets, atoms, molecules, cells and numbers do not share the emotions and understanding of morals that humans have. The use of a scientific analogy to prove that a specific human behaviour is either moral or immoral is a fool’s errand. Any genuine attempt would soon become mired in contradictions. For example, while at first glance the idea of covalent bonding (sharing electrons between atoms) might support the idea that communism is correct, Markovnikov’s rule would support capitalism. Rather than making a genuine but naive attempt to study the morals of human behaviour, I suspect that Amalaha is cherry-picking examples from science that support his views.

One common form of pseudoscience is when a person chooses the outcome and then designs the “research” to give the answer they desire. Amalaha’s efforts are an example of this class of thinking.

One particularly sad facet of the story is the attempt by Amalaha to use the name of David Aribike, professor of chemical engineering at Lagos, in support of his “thesis”. Aribike has informed me in writing that he has not endorsed Amalaha’s “work”. The idea of an academic’s name being misused in this way is perfectly horrible. I would also like to inform readers that the work on the “science of gay marriage” is in no way supported by Lagos: the university has published a statement explaining this.

Mark R. StJ Foreman
Associate professor
Nuclear chemistry/industrial materials recycling
Chalmers University of Technology

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