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Science, Sulloway, and Birth Order: An Ordeal and an Assessment

Gary R. Johnson, Editor. Reading for week of July 27, 2004

This issue of Politics and the Life Sciences includes an article, ten commentaries, and three responses on the subject of birth order and rebelliousness, focusing in particular on Frank Sulloway's Born to Rebel (1996, 1997). Extraordinary events have surrounded the publication of this roundtable, including threats of legal action, accusations of misconduct, letters to university officials, termination of the journal's publishing contract, and an almost five-year delay in publication. This editorial reviews these events and goes on to assess Frank Sulloway's responses (published in this issue), as well as parts of Born to Rebel.It also reports the results of a replication of Sulloway's study of Reformation martyrs.The replication generated markedly different data than those reported by Sulloway.Data from an expanded sample were also inconsistent with the relationship that Sulloway reported finding between birth order and religious commitment among Reformation martyrs.The editorial supports the suggestion by Frederic Townsend that an independent review of Born to Rebel would be appropriate.It concludes with a call for establishment of a multidisciplinary legal defense fund that would reduce the likelihood that legal threats can succeed in stifling research and publication in the natural and social sciences.

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