Posted by: Jeremy Fox | June 28, 2011

37 ways choice of words can mislead scientists

In a previous post, I said that Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations is one of the works that most influenced me, because of the attention Wittgenstein pays to the ways in which the very words we use can mislead us. I think this is a particularly important issue in ecology, because the things ecologists study are complex and variable, so that the appropriate descriptions are non-obvious.

The fine Less Wrong blog has made this point far better than I ever could have, by listing 37 ways in which our choice of words can mislead us. Every ecologist should read the whole thing (don’t worry, it’s not nearly as long as it sounds). A terrific example of practical philosophy, and the sort of thing I wish ecologists read more of.

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Responses

  1. [...] as our choice of words can mislead us, so can our choice of math. Once you attach a number or mathematical symbol to something, [...]

  2. [...] scientific errors can arise from using ordinary words to describe technical concepts (e.g., see here, here [especially the comments], and the last item on this list). Here’s a lovely passage on [...]


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