Thursday, January 3, 2013

Weasel words and science

On Wikipedia we are advised to avoid weasel words.
Like the following

should
might
possibly
could
may
or
potentially

This is so articles can be fact based, or at least published credible information based, and not full of possible or maybe information.  The irony, and this is opinion, not evidence based science, is that in some scientific fields, weasel words are used all the time.  And defended, by saying science is full of uncertainty, and things need to be qualified.

Of course I can't find a peer reviewed published article to back any of that up.  This doesn't mean there isn't one of course.

More to come.

Or maybe not.



1 comment:

thetada said...

I agree. Science at the cutting edge is about possibilities. The term weasel word came to my attention via one of my students, who learned it from another teacher who was teaching epistemology. I was surprised; in lessons concerning the study of how it's impossible to truly know if you really know anything, the student was being advised not to properly qualify statements. It's clearly a fad to rave about weasel words right now, but I think there's an important distinction in phrasing eg marketing copy to make cosmetics seem like they do more than their cheaper rivals and indicating an appropriate degree of certainty about science yet to be satisfactorily proved. In fact I think the whole charge against weasel words reflects a misguided tendency for people to make and expect definite statements when the actual position is uncertain.