I’ve been reading Piotr Naskrecki’s glossy new book Relics and was intrigued by this observation:

…the word ‘endemic’ has a somewhat perjorative connotation in the popular culture, as in ‘the corruption there is endemic,’ but to biologists this is an exciting word, indicating organisms that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet.

The thought never once occurred to me that endemic might cause confusion in general use. Perhaps it should be added to the list.

What other words do I regularly use that confuse non-scientists?

5 thoughts on “Endemic”

  1. I still feel uncomfortable with some of the terms on the list, taking them first in the public meaning then putting on my scientist. (Or is it my scientisit meat-helmet, Josh?)

    The words significant and significance used in the statistical sense clearly need explanation, especially when the so-called significance is not bioogically meaningful!

    1. Considering the awesome statistical EPIC FAIL so often seen in pubs, I doubt any meaning is actually implied or inferred by anybody either. But those confidence intervals and correlation coefficients surely do look so nice anyway.

      What more can one expect when one commonly encounters n=1 per day x 30 days magically equals 30 degrees of freedom. Wunderbar !!

  2. The terms “rare” and “uncommon” seem to be problems, even for some ecologists. Many automatically think endangered, threatened, of conservation concern (which may the case) without any understanding of ecological niche and population dynamics of the organism.

    BioBob and Dr. Trager hit the mark with the statistical notes. I want to say: yes, yes, yes, shaking my head, and LOL at the same time.

    Is the key with these terms: what is the biological (or scientific) significance being described or presented?

  3. Henry (Rob) Robison

    I recently bought Relics and thought of you at the time I handed my money over the counter at barnes and Noble! It is an awesome book, but i am still waiting for yours! Keep up your great work!

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