I suspect this happens more often than we generally realize:
- A scientific paper is published that presents equivocal data of marginal statistical significance;
- The results are overinterpreted by the
author of a science-popularizing
book who casts it into support of his provocative thesis; he cites the paper
in a supporting footnote that nobody follows up on, but
- The book is endlessly quoted by magazines and newspaper op-eds, and the dubious thesis becomes Scientific Truth for the masses.
Mark Liberman at Language Log does some impressive detective work in tracking down a (probably) mistaken overgeneralization in the area of cognitive differences between boys and girls, and shows pretty convincingly that it's a specific case of the process above. Any others?
Not that this, or most any, blog is a paragon of spelling virtue, but
headline on a blog
post at a site entitled "ProgressiveU":
If your going to college...READ THIS!!!Moan.
William F. Buckley Jr.
on George W. Bush, Jacob Weisberg, and articulateness.
And say what you will about Al "No
Controlling Legal Authority"
Gore, but he can occasionally be tempted to at least pretend
that he has a sense of self-deprecating humor.
"It's funny because it's true."