Category Three: The Appeal of Wiggle Room
While general and/or vague terms work wonders in astrological forecasts, they are a serious pitfall in science. If you want people to understand exactly what you mean, use more exact words. Science lacking concern for precision is not science. Okay, in terms of advertising and promoting science, some shortcuts are necessary and even desirable. But don’t throw the precise baby out with the overly-technical bathwater. One needn’t transform science findings into a verbal inkblot to make them provocative.
Sloppy Grandé - Is Love at First Sight Really Love?
Early one morning news of research into love got me in the mood. For science. But once again, while the title successfully seduced me, the body of the piece let me down. How’s this for an opening line: Is Love At First Sight Real? Geneticists Offer Tantalizing Clues. Wow. Love at first sight encoded in our genes? The article began with the statement that the compatibility males and females find can be attributed to genetic endowment. Intriguing, eh? How did the scientists make the above determination? By studying fruit flies.
Em… Is it just me, or have the researchers and writers taken liberties with the word “love”?
Do fruit flies love? If so, do they love in the same senses humans do? I tend to doubt it. Sure, there may be some gross behavioral similarities. But when was the last time a fruit fly splashed on cologne and treated the object of his longing to a nice meal? (Pheromones and food offerings . . . hmm . . . maybe we aren’t that different.)
Sloppy Extra Grandé – The Therapeutic Benefits of Tree-Hugging
When I read this headline, Science Suggests Access To Nature Is Essential To Human Health my immediate thought was, Sure, air and water and plant-based foodstuffs are all essential to our health. But then I began to wonder about the variables expressed in the title. Nature—that’s one huge variable. Human health—broad also. And the alleged relation between them—essential. What constitutes essential?
Would the article body clarify and convince me? Sadly not. Rather, it caused my doubt-meter to have a grand mal seizure. What I found was a hodge-podge of allegations backed by mere surveys and statistical seek-and-finds. Do any of the following claims cause your doubt-meter to twitch?
a) Elderly adults tend to live longer if their homes are near a park or other green space, regardless of their social or economic status. No data provided. b) Children with ADHD have fewer symptoms after outdoor activities in lush environments. c) Residents of public housing complexes report better family interactions when they live near trees. d) Considerable research has found that violence and aggression are highest in urban settings devoid of trees and grass. e) Roughly 7 percent of the variation in crime that can’t be accounted for by other factors can be accounted for by the amount of trees.
While I am a true environmentalist in my values, and I greatly enjoy walking among trees and watching for birds and other wildlife, I don’t believe trees have magical powers. Yes, they filter rainwater and help purify the air. They do real things in the real world. A more scientific attitude would, in the least, point to how the trees are essential to health.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go hug a tree. It’s probably good for my love life, too.
Coming next: Part 4 – Have I Got a Deal for You