Friday, October 28, 2016

Grammar police post of the day

I am always reading "X does Y" in science articles, but the grammar implies that X is a sentinent being that deliberately does Y.

Latest Example is from PhysOrg:

Underfed worms program their babies to cope with famine

the actually they don't.

what happens is that babies in utero who are exposed to hormones by their mother's starvation have genes to cope with starvation turned on in utero, so the genes are already turned on and help them cope better after birth.

usually this is carelessness by science reporters, using the active voice in the headlines instead of the more correct passive voice.

But one even finds such shortcuts in popular science done by scientists. From Astronomy cast: turns out that nature figured out how to use electricity long before humans did. Lightning storms are common across the Earth, and even the Solar System...

no, "Nature" did no such thing. Nature has no ability to think or plan, let alone "figure out" how to use something. Unless, of course, you think that Zeus showed Gaia how to use his lightning bolt.

One of the reasons that science flourished in the West was because the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions denied the reality of all those gods and angels who used to run the place. They insisted God made the plan and the laws, and that when men explore the laws and facts of nature, they are learning about reality and about God.

So Venus is no longer a goddess, and the planets are no longer pushed around by angels: it's the gravity stupid.

Of course, I still believe that God is behind the coincidences (or as Einstein quipped: God does not play dice), but it's sort of nice knowing that we don't have to worry that mother Gaia will wake up and destroy mankind as she tries to do in the climax of the Percy Jackson series.

of course, we might destroy nature ourselves with our minivans and airconditioners, but hey, that's another argument for another rant

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