One of the things that scientists need to be able to do is to figure out what the research that they conduct means without over-interpreting it.  This isn’t as easy as it seems, for example, if a particular pesticide at a particular dose kills mice, then should it also kill humans?  Without testing we really don’t know – though we certainly have suspicions.  If we allow our suspicions to take over and we say that, based on the mouse data, the pesticide necessarily does or doesn’t affect humans then we’re over-interpreting.  Most (dare I say all?) scientists have been guilty of over-interpreting their results – or the results of others — at one time or another in their careers.  It’s a hazard that comes with the job.  Unfortunately it’s a hazard that comes with journalists jobs too — often over-interpreting what scientists say.  Recently I had the opportunity to see an online lecture (a TED lecture) on this very topic and thought it was worth sharing.

3 thoughts on “Over-Interpreting”

  1. Very engaging. I think people often like to oversimplify in order to have a feeling of understanding. I think that brains, people, plants, the soil, our ecosystem are so complex and we would like to believe all we need is a cheese sandich and all our landscape needs is NPK and the right hericides and pesticides.

  2. Too bad this is not on the air between commercials. I appreciate the perspective and explanation as a consumer and as a seeker of truth.

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