Scientists’ claim that a researcher’s sex can affect the outcome of experiments has been cited as corroboration of biblical teaching on gender.
According to a Jan. 10 article in the journal Science Advances, volunteers for experiments as diverse as intelligence tests and pain sensitivity studies have been found to respond differently when they are dealing with a researcher of the opposite gender. At times, those gender-based differences have skewed the outcome of experiments, wrote a team of neuroscientists led by Colin Chapman.
Colin Smothers, executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, told Baptist Press, “While the world may be surprised that ‘a scientist’s gender can skew research results,’ Christians shouldn’t be.”
“The Bible clearly teaches that God’s design for humanity includes creating us male or female (Gen 1:27). Our gender – which in the biblical worldview cannot be separated from our biological sex – is not accidental, as if it is merely how we are,” Smothers said in written comments. “Instead, the Bible teaches that our gender is essential to who we are as divine image bearers.
“We are not unsexed souls trapped in sexed bodies – an ancient gnostic heresy. But instead Christian doctrine affirms that God creates us as a psychosomatic unity; we are both body and soul. And who we are as male and female has implications for how we are in the world – whether we are aware of it or not, as [Chapman’s research] so aptly demonstrates.”
Chapman told National Public Radio his own testing of a nasal spray to help curb appetite may have been affected by gender when airborne hormones produced by researchers and subjects interacted.
IQ tests also have been affected by gender, Chapmen said, noting, “If you have a female experimenter with a male student, for instance, you’re going to see higher IQ scores.” And in pain research, a heterosexual man generally reports more pain to a male researcher than to a female researcher, he said.
Speculating on the cause of this phenomenon, Chapman and his coauthors wrote in Science Advances that a person of the opposite gender provides valuable “feedback” on social and sexual attractiveness, which “generally cannot be obtained from same-gender interactions.” Even when no romantic relationship is being sought, the desire for and response to positive opposite-gender feedback affects research subjects’ minds, bodies and behaviors, the researchers theorized.
The journal article advocates “reporting and controlling for experimenter gender in future research.”
Smothers said scientists shouldn’t be surprised that gender affects social interaction because the New Testament drew the same conclusion 2,000 years ago.
“These gender-specific implications are one reason why, for instance, we find Paul giving gender-specific instructions to the church in 1 Timothy 2 and Titus 2,” Smothers said.
“While some of Paul’s instruction to men and women certainly overlaps – a reality that points to the fundamental equality and similarity of the sexes … – the fact that Paul instructs men and women differently reveals that he recognized fundamental differences as well, differences that affect how men and women live in the world,” Smothers said.
“Insofar as we continue to downplay or try to erase these differences in society and in the church,” Smothers said, “we are chafing against God’s design as revealed in nature and in scripture.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)