The sperm count culture war

Boulicault and colleagues could have written a fascinating sociological analysis of how the narrative of declining sperm counts and attendant apocalyptic scenarios is exploited by various activist groups: White nationalists, the men’s movement, environmental advocates, and so on. Instead, they have given us an unfortunate mélange of interesting sociological insights entangled in a woefully inadequate account of the science of fertility.

As Professor Sharpe remarked to me, “It continues to amaze me how gender/PC issues have begun to distort our views on society—I presume it’s the age-old pendulum effect. A neglected area which once dragged into the spotlight then begins to veer towards the ridiculous, of which we have all too many examples at present … Whatever happened to common sense and a balanced perspective?”

Aroused by the culture war that bedevils these questions, many people, scientists included, feel entitled to opine on highly technical subjects with which they are only glancingly familiar. Often, the sole guarantor of such public pronouncements is not any academic or technical expertise or familiarity with the relevant disciplines, but, rather, their self-proclaimed good intentions and enlightened sensibility. Such interventions impede, rather than advance, serious public discussion of a difficult and troubling policy issue with profound implications for the future of society as we know it.