It’s good to see popular abuse of scientific concepts called out in this article, 10 Scientific Ideas That Scientists Wish You Would Stop Misusing, but sometimes I’m more concerned about scientists who perpetuate the abuse. The one on statistical significance, for instance…the whole idea of setting up “p<0.05″ as some kind of Holy Grail for publication has led to a lot of bad science.
I also very much liked Marlene Zuk’s comment on learned vs. innate:
One of my favorite [misuses] is the idea of behavior being "learned vs. innate" or any of the other nature-nurture versions of this. The first question I often get when I talk about a behavior is whether it’s "genetic" or not, which is a misunderstanding because ALL traits, all the time, are the result of input from the genes and input from the environment. Only a difference between traits, and not the trait itself, can be genetic or learned — like if you have identical twins reared in different environments and they do something different (like speak different languages), then that difference is learned. But speaking French or Italian or whatever isn’t totally learned in and of itself, because obviously one has to have a certain genetic background to be able to speak at all.