Obscure April Fools award of the century

Who tries to fool people with birth sex ratios in the Central African Republic? The British Journal Biology Letters and the British press, apparently.

I became interested in the CAR after reading this fascinating and bone crushingly sad article in the Independent last year, titled “France’s Secret War in Africa: My journeys through the Central African Republic.”

So my interest was piqued when I saw an article today claiming that:
Dr Kristen J. Navara found countries closer to the equator produced significantly fewer boys annually than those at temperate and subarctic latitudes – 51.1% and 51.3%, respectively. “The only country in the world which produces more females than males is the Central African Republic,” she told the BBC‘s Network Africa. Hot Climate Produces Baby Girls. BBC News. 1 April 2009.

Of course, this is contrary to everything known in demography. Slightly more male than female humans are born everywhere. Men are stupid and tend not to survive adolescence at the same rate, so it all works out.

I read the article, made available from the journal Biology Notes (only online and not in their April 23 issue): odd.

Taking data from the CIA world factbook? odder. No mention of the CAR or any explicit data listed in the article itself? very odd.

That Kristen Navarra is listed as an Assistant Professor of Endocrinology. Department of Poultry Science. The University of Georgia. and apparently works from “203 Poultry Science Building”

I envision chickens in smocks with test tubes and Bunsen burners conducting “science”: I want to visit!

Finally, if you look at the birth sex ratios for the CAR, they’re 1.03 male(s)/female according to the CIA (2009) and Wikipedia, and 1.03 according to the UNDP.

Which makes me think, why pick on the CAR? It’s so out of our consciousness that it’s the modern western equivalent of the white spaces on the map. “There be monsters” and all that: they might have three heads in the CAR? What do we know?

Except that Western companies have lucrative mining contracts there, and our governments prop up brutal dictators that keep the place in a constant state of political crisis (conveniently keeping the raw material exports going).

For Demographics, try this one: 100,000 to 400,000 people are living with HIV in the CAR, 1600 of them receiving retroviral therapy. Life expectancy at birth is 42 years, and there’s USD$10 spent on health care per capita in the CAR. Not to be “that guy”, but the focus might have been on the people of the CAR for better reasons. “Oh, so you got a laugh out of our demographic data. How nice for you. Could you please stop arming murderous militias and government death squads in our country when you’re done?”

The photo above is from a wonderful Flickr set taken in the CAR in 2005.

So you got something out of this. Unless you live in the Central African Republic.

UPDATE: Not a joke at all.  Just an amazingly bad article.   Apparently you can get a three page statistical analysis of World Factbook Data  (without any investigation of its origins) published in The British Journal Biology Letters.  So you might take other articles you find in this publication with a bit of care.

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