There seems to be no lengths to which humorless people will not go to analyze humor. It seems to worry them. - Robert Benchley
My old friend Philippa endured a terribly chaotic life, but she had a fantastic gift for catchy turns of phrase, many of which I use to this day (including my oft-repeated “good fantasy, bad reality”). And whenever she wanted to mock overly-serious people who seemed congenitally unable to get a joke, she would announce that “No fun shall be had!” Unfortunately, in the 15 years since I last saw her, the people who seem to truly believe this have become much more powerful and established “the right not to be offended” over such outmoded notions as “freedom of speech”. Whenever someone makes a joke that one of the tissue-paper-feelings crowd pronounces “offensive”, she and her sisters will begin the titular refrain, usually with the same effect (career-wise) for the joke-teller as a more famous hysterical outburst born of an overdeveloped sense of privilege, namely “Off with his head!”
Many of you probably heard about this absurd manufactured “controversy” in mid-April; apparently women who are strong and intelligent enough to make it through medical school, internship and residency still prefer to present themselves as delicate little flowers who have attacks of the vapors when a respected surgeon closes a Valentine’s Day editorial with a silly medical joke based on the study discussed in the column. These supposedly-rational women reacted by loudly announcing that they were not amused and demanding the professional head of a man who was known for being a “a longtime mentor and advocate of women in surgery”. And some of my readers wonder why I say a woman’s beauty and grace are more fit subjects for compliments than her intelligence.
But since the media is notoriously uninterested in “yesterday’s news”, I think it’s likely that few of you saw this response to the brouhaha from the scientists whose work the good doctor cited in his now-censored editorial:
…Lazar Greenfield, M.D. is no ordinary surgeon. Until last week, he was the president-elect of the American College of Surgeons. The man is the inventor of the Greenfield Filter, a device that has saved countless lives as a means of preventing blood clots during surgery. He’s a professor emeritus of surgery at the University of Michigan. He has written more than 360 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals, 128 book chapters and two textbooks. He has served on the Editorial Board of 15 scientific journals and was also the lead editor of the Surgery News…In the February issue, he penned some thoughts on Valentine’s Day under the heading of “Gut Feelings.” (“But Valentine’s Day is about love, and if you remember a romantic gut feeling when you met your significant other, it might have a physiological basis.”)…He…noted the therapeutic effects of semen, citing research from the Archives of Sexual Behavior which found that female college students practicing unprotected sex were less likely to suffer from depression than those whose partners used condoms (as well as those who remained abstinent). Presumably it was the closing line that caused the controversy: ”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.”
The attempt at…humor apparently didn’t sit well in certain quarters. Dr. Greenfield resigned as editor of the Surgery News and gave up his stewardship of ACS after learning that his article had spurred threats of protests from outside women’s groups. In an interview with the Detroit Free Press last Wednesday, Dr. Greenfield explained: “The editorial was a review of what I thought was some fascinating new findings related to semen, and the way in which nature is trying to promote a stronger bond between men and women. It impressed me. It seemed as though it was a gift from nature. And so that was the reason for my lighthearted comments.”
The story has been big in the scientific community, but…there is one take I thought missing and noteworthy — that of the three psychologists who authored the peer-reviewed article cited by Dr. Greenfield. So I tracked down Steven M. Platek, Rebecca L. Burch, and Gordon G. Gallup, Jr. Speaking for the group, Dr…Platek…offered this analysis:
Frankly, we think people are over reacting to the comments made by Dr. Lazar Greenfield. There is growing evidence that human semen has the potential to produce profound effects on women. We have replicated the effects showing female college students having sex without condoms are less depressed as measured by objective scores on the Beck Depression Inventory. We’ve also examined the data as a function of whether the students were using hormonal contraceptives, whether they were in committed relationships, and how long these relationships have lasted. The anti-depressant properties of semen exposure do not vary as function of any of these conditions. It is not a question of whether females are sexually active, since students having sex with condoms show the same level of depression as those who are not having sex at all. We have also received numerous semen testimonials from other women who attest to the anti-depressant effects of semen exposure and these accounts often include the use of control trials (i.e., comparisons generated by switching from condoms to unprotected sex, or vice a versa). Only 5 percent of the ejaculate is sperm. What’s left is seminal plasma, which is a rich concoction of chemicals, including many that have the potential to produce mood-altering effects derived from hormones, neurotransmitters, and endorphins. There are even female sex hormones in male semen. Within a hour or two after insemination, you can detect heightened levels of many of these seminal chemicals in a woman’s bloodstream…How can someone be asked to resign for citing a peer-reviewed paper? Dr. Greenfield was forced to resign based on politics, not evidence. His resignation is more a reflection of the feminist and anti-scientific attitudes of some self-righteous and indignant members of the American College of Surgeons. Science is based on evidence, not politics. In science knowing is always preferable to not knowing.
Steven M. Platek
Rebecca L. Burch
Gordon G. Gallup, Jr.
Dr. Greenfield was of course subjected to the same process I wrote of in my column of April 26th: the subjugation of scientific fact to a political agenda. And considering that prostitutes are subject to the same persecution for the same “sin” (representing a reality which is abhorrent to neofeminist dogma), I deeply sympathize with him and hope that his experience at least serves to call attention to the pall of intellectual repression which has descended over American academia.