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Science as religion: you often hear people leave a room and say something like, “The testosterone in there was off the scale,” and people, often women, will claim to be “OCD” or “autistic”. Really, you could as well say “the spirit of Odin was potent in the room” or “I have been possessed by Athena”. Both make as much sense, given the actual complexity as regards what causes events to take place—that is to say, most of the time we have no idea why the atmosphere in the room was so voluble whereas on other days it is subdued.

When you say “the testosterone in that room was off the scale” that is not a scientific statement—you have no evidence the behaviour in that room was caused by testosterone. It is just that testosterone is a synecdoche for “aggressive behaviour”, given its demonstrated association with aggression—and so if there’s a lot of masculinity in the place people just say “oh, the testosterone”. It’s a testament to how far people worship science—everything is explained in those terms; and, in fact, it can have an actual consequence because people begin to self-diagnose in a serious way—“I’m OCD”, you mean “I’m anxious” (but you’re on drugs for it now); and you can convince a doctor that is so quite easily, just like you can convince him you have “body dysmorphia”.

It has to be pathologised or medicalised to be legitimate—it’s not legitimate to talk about “the influence of Saturn on the room” or “strong Athena energy”. Those “aren’t real”, whereas testosterone has been demonstrated to exist in an empirical way and we only explain our actions with reference to what has been verified empirically—even if those actions are not reducible to a single hormone, or even hormones at all. There are some people who talk about “goddess energy”, but it’s given derisive treatment and seen as very insipid. Yet the “hormone approach” impoverishes our lives, makes everything completely dead.


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