When you read a story about scientists finding the "gene for" something, what you probably read about was a genome-wide association study or GWAS (pronounced "gee-was," but in my mind pronounced as one syllable, "gwas," or better, "gwaaaaaas", like spaaaaace). Gene sequencing is getting cheaper all the time and genetics is a vast and barely explored science. So, if you have an idea for something humans do and you want to know if there are genes "for" that behavior, you could do a GWAS. If, say, you wanted to know if there was a gene that explained why someone likes ranch dressing, you could gather a bunch of ranch-lovers, ranch-haters, and, I don't know, some ranch-agnostics as a control, and see if the ranch lovers had a gene that was more common than in any other groups. Maybe that's the gene for loving ranch. That would be a bad GWAS.
Here's a continuously updated list of bad GWAS studies. There are only five on here at first because I'm made of flesh and have a limited capacity for understanding things. Feel free to email more to me at your leisure:
A GWAS for same-sex sexual behavior
What purpose does this work have? I'm not sure, which is wild because the scientists spent a lot of time justifying their work. Sexual preferences isn't a pathology so...why does this exist? Does anyone go looking for genetic explanations for heterosexuality?
A GWAS for musical rhythm
If someone isn't good at dancing, maybe there's a genetic explanation for that. Or maybe they could just practice dancing.
A GWAS for being smart
Sorry it's actually not for being smart, which is a nebulous concept. It's for "educational achievement," a super rock solid measurement of...something. Probably being well-fed, wealthy, and white?
A GWAS for getting a lot of sleep and having a high IQ
If you see "IQ" anywhere you can just stop reading (not now, please keeping reading this). Having a high IQ doesn't mean anything. The findings from this study is that people who do have high IQs have flexible sleeping schedules. I don't know what that's supposed to mean to me.
A GWAS for being hot
I don't know.
Updated: November 21st, 2019
A GWAS for being rich
Have rich people evolved to be rich? I've heard of inherited wealth but this is ridiculous!
Updated: December 17th, 2019
These aren't new studies but a few I hadn't seen before:
A GWAS for being lonely and also being lonely plus overweight?
I...okay. " We identify 15 genomic loci (P < 5 × 10−8) for loneliness, and demonstrate a likely causal association between adiposity and increased susceptibility to loneliness and depressive symptoms."
A GWAS for being a morning person
Pitch: a GWAS for needing a nap sometime around 2:30PM or so.
Updated: January 6th, 2020
A twin study for having friends
While not a GWAS in the traditional sense, the authors of this twin study assume that the size of people's "friendship networks" can depend on their genes. It's not your fault that you weren't popular in high school, right?