Sunday, 17 July 2011

Pseudoscience 2

Hung out to dry
  One of the things that I do is save interesting items in my miscellaneous boxs for future reference if something along  the same topic happens to appear. The map above is a comparison of penis size (PS) for various countries from a Chinese newspaper which was only distributed locally and I happened to notice a couple of months ago. The writer of the article whose name I forgot tried to make the argument that PS is negatively correlate with economic growth. I dismissed the analysis at the time because the median length of a penis is genetically determined so you could have used the same map forty years ago when the Chinese cultural revolution was in flower as well as India mired in poverty and reached the opposite conclusion that PS had a positive correlation with GDP growth; however, you can't keep a good supposition down so I kept the map for future reference.

  Imagine my amazement today when I discovered a paper from of all places Finland that had the title," Male Organ and Economic Growth: Does Size Matter?" by Tatu Westling of the University of Helsinki.


This paper explores the link between economic development and penile length between
1960 and 1985. It estimates an augmented Solow model utilizing the Mankiw-Romer-Weil
121 country dataset. The size of male organ is found to have an inverse U-shaped
relationship with the level of GDP in 1985. It can alone explain over 15% of the variation in
GDP. The GDP maximizing size is around 13.5 centimetres, and a collapse in economic
development is identified as the size of male organ exceeds 16 centimetres. Economic
growth between 1960 and 1985 is negatively associated with the size of male organ, and it
alone explains 20% of the variation in GDP growth. With due reservations it is also found
to be more important determinant of GDP growth than country's political regime type.
Controlling for male organ slows convergence and mitigates the negative effect of
population growth on economic development slightly. Although all evidence is suggestive
at this stage, the `male organ hypothesis' put forward here is robust to exhaustive set of
controls and rests on surprisingly strong correlations.

 I have to mention that there is no connection between the Chinese article and the Finnish paper of which I'm aware so two analysts working on opposite sides of  the world have independently arrived at the same conclusion with the addition that the paper also includes temporal data. First I was having some amusing thoughts about how the author of the paper controlled for the male organ - a procrustean bed perhaps?  Secondly both writers eliminated half of the population i.e female as having any effect on GDP. This is pretty sexist. Thirdly as I pointed out in my initial pseudo science post a correlation is not causality.

Getting down to particulars, the paper specifies that the PS was specifically the erect length and I wonder how this was achieved since the paper doesn't go into details and says "taken at face value, the findings suggest that the 'male organ hypothesis' put forward here is quite pentrating an argument. Yet for the best of the author's knowledge, the male organ has not been touched before in the growth literature before." Ok. I know what you're thinking. I'm just quoting verbatim here.

Then we get lots of fancy math, equations and graphs. Regression analysis, augmented Solow model using the Mankiw-Romer-Weil dataset etc. I can do this stuff on any data set and it doesn't add any validity to the fundamental set of assumptions and conclusions. My final conclusion - Pseudo science with a capital P.

1 comment: