When bad metaphors lead to lies

When bad metaphors lead to lies
Good news. The test results show it’s a metaphor.

"Writing about science poses a fundamental problem right at the outset: You have to lie.

I don’t mean lie in the sense of intentionally misleading people. I mean that because math is the language of science, scientists who want to translate their work into popular parlance have to use verbal or pictorial metaphors that are necessarily inexact.

Here is where the art of science writing for the public truly lies. Choosing the proper metaphor can make all the difference between distorting science and providing an appropriate context from which nonscientists can appreciate new scientific findings and put them in perspective."

From a short article called The Lies Of Science Writing by physicist Lawrence Krauss.


Mr. Krauss is being provocative when he says that metaphors are lies. When we use metaphors, we are trying to communicate that there’s a similarity between one thing and another. Take the common metaphor that "the brain is a computer." The problem is that the brain is not a computer, and in many ways it’s not even similar to a computer. Mr. Krauss worries that certain metaphors used in writing about science can distort people into believing science that is simply not true. What he’s trying to say, I think, is that bad metaphors can be used to create lies.

The Lies Of Science Writing, The Wall Street Journal>>

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