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August 12th, 2017 (Permalink)

What's New?

I've added a new contextomy to the Familiar Contextomies page. Well, it's not a new contextomy―in fact, it's a fairly old one―but it is new to the page. Also, despite its age and the fact that it's been previously debunked, it keeps rearing its ugly head. It's dead but it won't lie down! Check it out.

Contextomy: Al Gore, Familiar Contextomies


Weird Science-Fantasy
August 7th, 2017 (Permalink)

"Emerging Data"

Like "emerging science"1 and "emerging research"2, "emerging data" is data that's not quite there yet. Much of medical journalism consists of reports of preliminary results that are often weak and haven't been replicated. As I discussed in an earlier entry 3, words such as "possible" and "suggest" are often used to report results when the evidence is weak. "Emerging"―whether applied to research, science, or data―is another word to add to that list.

"Emerging", "may", "suggest", and "help" are all hedging terms4, which are words used to weaken a claim. As Robert Fogelin explained:

If we weaken a claim sufficiently, we make it completely immune to criticism. … On the other hand, if we weaken our premises in this way to avoid criticism, we must pay a price. The premise no longer gives strong support to our conclusion.5

And this is just the problem with "emerging" data, namely, that it gives weak support to the claims made in the research. For example, a relevant passage appears near the beginning of a recent report on a meta-analysis of research on artificial sweeteners:

Consumption of artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose and stevia, is widespread and increasing. Emerging data indicate that artificial, or nonnutritive, sweeteners may have negative effects on metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite, although the evidence is conflicting.6

I suppose that the data is only "emerging" because "the evidence is conflicting". However, as with conflicting research or science, conflicting data may emerge in the opposite direction. Perhaps when fully emerged the data will support the conclusion that there are no negative effects of artificial sweeteners.

I don't use artificial sweeteners, but not because of this unemerged data. I just don't like the taste of them. If you do, I would suggest waiting until the data has emerged before you decide to stop.

Notes:

  1. "Emerging" Science, 3/26/2006
  2. "Emerging Research", 6/18/2009
  3. Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffery, 6/11/2017
  4. Robert J. Fogelin, Understanding Arguments: An Introduction to Informal Logic, 2nd edition (1982), pp. 46-47. The third edition of 1987 substitutes the word "guarding" for "hedging", for some reason; see pp. 40-41.
  5. Fogelin, 2nd edition, p. 41.
  6. "Artificial sweeteners linked to risk of weight gain, heart disease and other health issues", Medical Xpress, 7/17/2017

Acknowledgment: The illustration is the altered title of an old EC comic book.

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