Single Molecule Determines Complex Behavior, Say Scientists

In a groundbreaking new study, scientists at Some University have discovered that a single molecule may drive people to perform that complex behavior we’ve all observed. Though other researchers consider the results of the small, poorly structured experiment misleading, a well-written press release ensures that their criticisms will be restricted to brief quotes buried near the bottoms of most news stories on the work, if they’re included at all.

“This is a real game-changer for our understanding of this complex behavior, which has affected so many lives,” said Wannabe Famous, PhD, who directed the study. Dr. Famous describes the results, which were hyped relentlessly to journalists for a week before being published in today’s issue of A Scientific Journal, as “the Holy Grail of a field that has been trying to link this single molecule to a complex behavior for decades.”

Though he cautions that the findings are too preliminary to be a basis for any specific recommendations, Dr. Famous says that drugs targeting the single molecule could some day help treat patients displaying this complex behavior. “It’s a controversial issue, because of course complex behaviors are what make us human, or at least animal, but for people dealing with the broken marriages, inadvisable purchases, and stained kitchen tiles that this behavior can cause, a workable therapy would be a blessing,” said Dr. Famous.

The new results add to a growing body of evidence that all of human nature rests on a handful of chemical reactions. Researchers initially believed that the widely-acknowledged link between testosterone and carpentry was a fluke, but studies connecting dopamine to scuba diving, and oxytocin to the production of cat videos on YouTube, have drawn more attention to the seductive power of oversimplifications. “We’re really standing on the shoulders of giants,” said Famous.

Other scientists agree, at least when quoted selectively. “Famous’s result is just unbelievable,” said one researcher, who asked not to be named after seeing a draft of this article.

Nonetheless, controversy persists in the field, especially among those whose statements are harder to misconstrue. “This single molecule has a bunch of different functions, most of which we probably don’t even know yet, and there are thousands of other signaling molecules circulating in the body at any given time, so claiming that it’s the sole cause of this complex behavior is just absurd,” said Grumpy Skeptic, PhD.

But Famous remains undaunted, and argues that his results will ultimately stand on their own whether other researchers replicate them or not. “Ten years from now, if you ask someone whose science education consists mainly of skimming news stories, I’m sure they’ll confirm that this single molecule causes this complex behavior,” said Famous.

12 thoughts on “Single Molecule Determines Complex Behavior, Say Scientists

  1. marcia stone

    I love this post Alan. It’s particularly relevant in the era of churnalism where much of what’s passed off as science reporting is simply a rewording of a press release. Press releases are just fine, but they’re advertising.

    Problem is that when writers are paid about $11 an article and expected to churn out multiple stories daily after a while exhaustion kicks in and the do what they have to do to survive.

    That’s why so much of what passes for news, especially on the internet, is crap –many if not most of the online news sites don’t factor in payment for content. The audience is guilty as well; most people don’t want to pay for information. So what they get is advertisng and, yes, crap. And until people realize that they get what they pay for that won’t change.

    Thanks Alan.

  2. nooffensebut

    Good job! Usually when I read from this genre of ruminating about the ever-so complex complexity of complex human behaviors and their etiologies, I find the writing to be utterly humorless.

    Here is my generic response.

    I guess we should stop prescribing psychiatric drugs. If only you had posted this sooner…

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  5. silex

    I get daily updates on solar panels from industry and applied science departments on Google News for a few years. I read countless press releases that are templated very similar to this, except they read, “new technique y” exhibits a green/organic solar improvement over technique x and suggests a future with inexpensive, clean, solar energy.” The problem is that they usually involve a really expensive compound in the anode or cathode, like gold, or a rare earth, that would make it uneconomical to manufacture on a large scale. So, there’s always just speculation and no collaborative efforts to open-source the thing for home-based 3D printers to make solar thin-films. Progress is slow.

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