RE: memetic error (?)

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Wed 18 Dec 2002 - 06:05:23 GMT

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    >From: Vincent Campbell <>
    >To: "''" <>
    >Subject: RE: memetic error (?)
    >Date: Tue, 17 Dec 2002 16:28:48 -0000
    > <Let me just add a bit: Legal citation is fundamentally different
    > > scientific citation because of its adversarial nature. Scientists don't
    > > get paid to attack each other's work. They make progress when they can
    > > build on it. As a result they don't need to scrutinize every word as
    > > closely.>
    > >
    > What not even getting the names of papers right?
    Well I don't know if scientists are nonadversarial. If they come across an idea they find mistaken they might think it necessary to point this out or evince evidence for a competing view. Scientists might not "attack" others as much as lawyers but they might assert their views quite vocally if somebody is veering into their area of expertize.

    A good scientist would hopefully have read and understood the articles which they cite, especially if their work is either based on the previous articles or if they seek to topple the hypotheses put forward by the previous article.

    Maybe in a less rigorous review (versus research) article there might be some possibilities for getting a little sloppy here or there.

    In a peer reviewed journal, wouldn't reviewers pick up on the errors before publication and point them out?

    When all's said and done it's always possible that even a rigorously reviewed journal artcle could slip by with an error of fact or citation here or there.
    > Having just marked a gazillion social science essays from first year
    >undergrads where the reference was, well... interesting, I think there's a
    >simple explanation for this. Writing up the bibiliography is the most
    >tedious of all parts of the research process, and therefore engages the
    >least amount of concentration of the researcher. Still, as I tell my
    >students incorrect referencing and pretending to have read something when
    >you'r really getting it from some other person's description/summary is the
    >easy route to misunderstanding at the least and plagiarism at the worst.
    It would be like relying exclusively on _Cliff's Notes_ to get you through a test on a certain book instead of reading through the book yourself. Reading summaries in addition to the original might help clarify certain points if the summaries are well done.

    If the summarizer doesn't have much of a clue of what they're summarizing and others rely exclusively upon that summary for their info on the subject matter of the article or book, I could see lots of problems arising. Then error would get propagated down the line and if somebody summarizes a mistaken summary...oh goodness sake. If nobody actually reads the original article for comparison to the summary that could be problematic.

    There could be a tad of this which occurs with people writing popular books on subjects where they try to condense areas of knowledge that they don't undertand very well and explain it to their audience in a coherent manner. If members of this audience haven't any depth in the subject, they might take the author's mistaken summary at face value and when they start trying to discuss the subject with folks who are more experienced while relying on their summarized knowledge of a mistaken summary, they might open themselves to embarassment.

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