Just some thoughts that have been festering since the Hurlbert and Ling paper in Current Biology, the one that showed that women preferred pink hues when compared with men. I wrote about it, Ben Goldacre wrote about it, and I think more or less everyone with an internet connection wrote something about it somewhere.
The general gist of opinion on the article seemed to be that it was an example of bad science, because of the author's speculation that their results had some sort of evolutionary psychology explanation, perhaps that women needed to pick out red berries against a green background in the days when the men were out killing stuff and hauling it back to the cave. I would agree that the data presented in the paper don't support that interpretation. On the other hand, the authors clearly identified that hypothesis as speculative. I think it's worth asking whether speculation can have a place in scientific literature.
In my view, the answer is yes. In the case of the Hurlbert and Ling paper, data was presented showing that women prefer pink hues. The authors indulged in some speculation as to why this might be the case. It should now be the task of scientists to try and devise studies that could refute that speculation. It follows the pattern make observations, formulate hypothesis to explain observations, make more observations to test hypothesis. So I think the speculation in the paper is scientifically defensible. In this context, Kaj Sand-Jensen's famous paper on "How to write consistently boring scientific literature" is always worth a look, especially the section headed "remove most implications and every speculation". Scientific caution is generally sensible, but if taken too far it can mean that possible leads are not followed up.
The problem with that approach is the way such studies get reported in the media. As we've seen, most of the stories on the paper suggested that the authors had confirmed an evolutionary psychological explanation for gender-based differences in colour preference. In fact, they had simply showed that gender-based differences in colour preference exist. With scientists getting brownie points for media engagement, it is inevitable that the differences between results and speculation get lost.