I don’t trust science anymore. Especially not when it’s presented by the New York Times.
Here’s an article about The Risks to Babies of Older Fathers, and I instantly thought of my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Ariel Procaccia’s recent post about the need to teach statistics to scientists. See, anyone who has observed the slightest amount of animal husbandry knows that this NYTimes article is bullshit. Stud animals are bred until they can’t get it up anymore; in fact breeders prefer older males so they can avoid propagating animals that develop health problems later on.
I feel like a lot of our misconceptions regarding genetics and the heritability of traits could be totally avoided if more journalists had participated in 4-H.
Anyway, back to this research regarding the Association of Paternal age with Perinatal Outcomes in the United States. It’s published in the BMJ, a reputable British medical journal. The authors are physicians and professors at Stanford, an institution more infallible than the Pope. The study claims a sample size of 40.5 million births — that’s a lot!
Of the 40.5 million births, only 1.2 million (about 3%) had fathers over the age of 45. Out of that 3%, 61% of the babies had mothers over the age of 30. Of the 97% of babies with fathers under the age of 45, only 14.5% had mothers over the age of 30. So this is in fact a relatively small population with a skewed maternal age distribution.
The study claims to adjust for maternal age. The “adjustment” is a stratification of mothers into three groups: <25, 25-34, and >34. The <25 bucket has wide error bars, because there are very few babies born with young mothers and old fathers. The 25-34 and >34 buckets do show an association between adverse births and paternal age, but the buckets themselves are ridiculous. There’s a huge difference between a 25-year-old and a 34-year-old mother, and a massive difference between a 34-year-old and a 54-year-old (the oldest mother used in this study!). Older fathers are more likely to pair with older mates, so by lumping the mothers into such wide groups, the study does the exact opposite of adjusting for maternal age.
In conclusion, The Risk To Babies of Older Fathers is that their mothers tend to be old too. #FakeScience
The thing is, I would love for the NYTimes article to be true. Biological differences are the root cause of so much gender inequality in the workplace, and I honestly think the world would be a better place if men succumbed to the same biological clock as women. Of course by “better place” I mean, A Better Place For Me. Isn’t that what equality is all about?