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Author Topic:   When Peer Review Fails: Bad Science Papers of the Week
Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 1323 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 5 of 27 (779445)
03-04-2016 11:31 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by Coyote
03-04-2016 8:52 AM


Re: Translation error
I became curious when I saw your comment about a Chinese translation error, because my first thought was "I don't know any Chinese words that could be mistranslated that way."

I've never heard the word "zao hua" ( 造化 ) before, but I can tell what it means by context. "Zao" (pronounced "dzao") means "make" or "create: it's the second character in the word "chuang zao" ( 创造 ), which means "create," and is the word used for "Creation" in the biblical sense. "Hua" (pronounced "hwah") is a character that means "change," but I always understood it as being kind of like the English suffix "-ization."

So, I might have understood it as "create-ization" or "the process of being made" or something like that. My Chinese isn't top-of-the-line anymore, but I'd give the authors the benefit of doubt and assume it was intended to mean some evolutionary process.

Still, it seems like an awfully bizarre translation error to make if it was completely innocent. I guess it's possible that a naive graduate student thought "by the Creator" was just a flowery English phrase, but the addition of "proper design" and such makes it hard to write off as an honest mistake. Does anybody know who did the translation?


-Blue Jay, Ph.D.*

*Yeah, it's real

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 4 by Coyote, posted 03-04-2016 8:52 AM Coyote has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 7 by Percy, posted 03-04-2016 1:29 PM Blue Jay has responded

  
Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 1323 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 11 of 27 (779464)
03-04-2016 1:48 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Percy
03-04-2016 1:29 PM


Re: Translation error
Hi, Percy.

Percy writes:

It's hard to imagine a technical translator who can accurately render words like tendinous, biomechanical and kinematic from the Chinese, but somehow mistranslates the Chinese phrase "zao hua" into "Creator,"

It's not all that hard for me to imagine. Most authors don't use translators, so the only "translation service" they would get is from a peer-reviewer or journal typesetter who's willing to spend time on it (which is not very common). I know a fair number of foreigners who are extremely conversant in English with their specific topics of expertise, but struggle with everyday English. As a parallel, when I was a missionary in Taiwan, I could take fluently about anything related to the gospel, but frequently made mistakes and misunderstood conversations about sports or cooking or other things like that.

Percy writes:

...making sure to capitalize it, plus the word fits smoothly into those sentences. It isn't forced or illogical at all, and what other concept could be meant if not "Creator."

I agree with this: it seems like a very specific reference to a very specific cultural concept that would be hard to innocently mistake for something else. I'm still willing to give them the benefit of the doubt --- after all, I'm not sure what kind of filters are between the average Chinese scientist and the concepts of Western religious traditions --- but it still feels really odd.


-Blue Jay, Ph.D.*

*Yeah, it's real

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by Percy, posted 03-04-2016 1:29 PM Percy has acknowledged this reply

  
Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 1323 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 18 of 27 (779478)
03-04-2016 3:40 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by mike the wiz
03-04-2016 2:01 PM


Hi, Mike.

mike the wiz writes:

So you think that nature inventing something would make no sense to say? But I have read that many times in scientific literature, they often say things like the, "genius of evolution" or "evolutionary genius". Or, "nature's cleverness". These are all superb oxymorons, akin to saying, "fugacious pine trees".

Can you give examples? In my experience, this kind of expressive language is exactly the kind of thing that's discouraged in the technical literature. Science journals often publish opinion papers, editorials, special features and even some concept papers that might use this kind of language; but it's highly atypical for idioms and metaphorical language like that to appear in an experimental manuscript.

That said, lapses and weird things do happen. I once reviewed a certain paper written by foreign authors, which had good English grammar throughout; but they kept using the phrase "to the tune of" whenever they mentioned a sum of money (they were comparing the profit margins of insecticidal products, or something like that).

But, even taking that into account, this "design/mystery of the Creator" incident seems like quite a conspicuous outlier.

Edited by Blue Jay, : No reason given.


-Blue Jay, Ph.D.*

*Yeah, it's real

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 13 by mike the wiz, posted 03-04-2016 2:01 PM mike the wiz has not yet responded

  
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