Bad Science

Another startling article in The Guardian by Nicholas Lezard, laughing at Bad Science. Really, it should be investigated by The Guardian’s own Bad Science guru, Ben Goldacre.

Lezard’s entire article is premised on his usage of the word “presumably” in the first paragraph. He displays his “fond[ness for] … science” in the capacity of “non-scientist” (/literary critic) by not bothering with the empirical effort of reading the (abstract of the) scientific article in question, preferring to use his “human intuition” to speculate (entirely wrongly) about its contents.

What the scientific article actually claims is that the rate of introduction of new words into a text (N) decreases with the length of the text (M); and comments that this rate of decrease is different for different authors, “presumably” dependent on their social status, education, the amount of time they spend poring over dictionaries. (Obviously it doesn’t just claim this, otherwise this wouldn’t be much point in it – but I got bored when I saw all that calculus).

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