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10 Scientific Ideas That Scientists Wish You Would Stop Misusing


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I think these are good examples of misused words and concepts for the most part, for reasons explained within the article, the subject of this thread.



Additional explanations and opinions follow.


1) Proof


Most people do not realize that all theories are unproven. Theories may have mountains of evidence supporting them like the theory of natural selection, but If they are ever proved by undeniable evidence, like the-Earth-is-round theory, then they become fact and no longer theory.


2) Theory


Most scientists do not accept the word "theory" in place of the word hypothesis to explain part of reality unless all aspects of it and related observations can all be explained by an all encompassing concept. Many do not consider alternative competing hypothesis to be theory unless it is generally well-known.


3) Quantum Uncertainty and Quantum Weirdness


Much pseudo-science has been proposed concerning quantum theory by those not understanding its numerous versions. Theories related to quantum mechanics can also contain subset hypothesis that other theorists consider pseudo-science. There may be no other part of physics that has more theoretical contention and disagreement than Quantum Theory.


4) Learned vs. Innate


It is well understood that human behavior involves aspects of both. There is still much debate concerning the related influences of both on human behavior.


5) Natural


"Natural" simply means produced by nature. There can be no value judgement concerning what nature produces. For instance nature has produced human, animal, and plant diseases also, which all try to cope with by immune responses and other strategies. Those misusing this word as something more valuable often don't realize that humans are also part of nature.


6) Gene


Genes are a contiguous section of DNA. It is a system of classification developed by man. What certain genes do or how they function is often unknown concerning much of its value to an organism, its over-all function or use.


7) Statistically Significant


"Statistically significant" is not a layman's term nor can it be very well understood or explained to laymen. It relates to calculated probabilities of occurrences based upon the "normal curve" of probability and generally nothing else. This statistical system is also often misunderstood and misused by practitioners.


8) Survival of the Fittest


The comments in this are appropriate in that the fittest simply means both survival and proliferation by whatever means, regarding a particular environment, conditions, and circumstances.


9) Geologic Timescales


Only those who have studied geology will have a good understanding of the words Geologic Timescales and the progression of life on Earth for about the last 3 1/2 billion years.


10) Organic


The word organic is often misused and misunderstood. Everything living is organic. Organic fruits and vegetables generally means no man-made chemical pesticides have been used for its production but purchasers often think it includes other meanings concerning safety. Occasionally non-organic foods are safer for human consumption than organic ones for reasons explained in the article.

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Good list! I love science but admit I'm no scientist. Not yet, anyway. Human tendancy is to jump to conclusions about what scientists mean when they say X. We are also prone to oversimplifying scientific concepts. These tendencies lead to all sorts of incorrect assumptions and bad arguments.

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I read this article on NPR about trying to get the word "natural" banned from food products because it is completely undefined and misleading. They lump the word "organic" in there too but don't attack it much because it actually has an adopted definition by the USDA.



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