Magazine article Insight on the News

In the Uncertain Words of Scientific Certainty

Magazine article Insight on the News

In the Uncertain Words of Scientific Certainty

Article excerpt

For the people is pleased to report David E. Wojick's "weasel words to advance junk science." Wojick, who lives in rural Virginia, has a doctorate in analytic philosophy and a great interest in the history of science. His weasel words are phrases usually found in articles on such topics as global warming and other tendentious subjects that have the sound of certainty and knowledgeability but really are there just to mislead readers into thinking the writer knows whereof he writes.

First comes the phrase as it may appear in the article. What follows is Wojick's translation of what the writer really is saying.

1) "It has long been known" for example, really means "I didn't look up the original reference."

2) "A definite trend is evident" means "These data are practically meaningless."

3) "While it has not been possible to provide definite answers to the questions" should be translated as "An unsuccessful experiment, but I still hope to get it published."

4) "Three of the samples were chosen for detailed study" means "The other results didn't make any sense," so just ignore them.

5) "Typical results are shown" should be read as "This is the prettiest graph. …

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