Reading Levels revisited

| 27 Comments
BarryA Wrote:

Thanks to one of our commenters for pointing out this website that calculates the reading level of blogs. Just for fun I inserted UD and it came back “High School,” which means that the general discussion at this blog is at a high school level. I then inserted Pandas Thumb and it came back “Elementary School.”

Make of this what you will.

So I checked it and indeed, UncommonDescent came back as “High School” but Pandas Thumb came back as “College Post Grad”

postgrad.jpg Make of this what you will indeed

27 Comments

The reading-level rating for the Institute for Creation Research web-site (www.icr.org) is.…. drum-roll.….. GENIUS!

I’m not sure about this, but I guess the reading level calculator bases its results on how many big words you use on your blog. Not how many big ideas you tackle, or how good your science actually is. As any educator will tell you, if you want your science to be understood by as many people as possible, try to avoid the big words, or at least explain them with small ones if you do use them.

So I’d actually be proud of an elementary school rating, becuase it says that the stuff on my science blog can be understood by everyone, including laymen, kids and creationists.

I agree with DM, sort of. The utility probably uses a similar algorithm that Microsoft and other word processors use to determine reading level, which is typically the Flesh-Kincaid Readability Test with the modification for US grade level.

The part I disagree with Dm is that sometimes in science it’s required to use bigger words due to jargon/systemics. But explaining what the “big word” means is the duty of the communicator, and simple algorithms aren’t able to determine context precisely as well as human judges.

But it is entertaining that Behe’s Amazon blog returned a level of Junior High to me when I tested it.

Also, I wonder what they’re sampling methodology is. Is it only one post that is analyzed, the most recent of that week, motnh, year? Or is it all posts with a specific weighted average?

It’s a “bloack box” good for entertainment only.

Lying for Jesus (again), except the ‘for Jesus’ is redundant.

As has been documented elsewhere by people not me, the morons over at UD put in the wrong URL for Panda’s Thumb - pandasthumb.com instead of the correct pandasthumb.org. The .com is being squatted on by some evangelical group last I checked.

So I’d actually be proud of an elementary school rating, becuase it says that the stuff on my science blog can be understood by everyone, including laymen, kids and creationists.

I wouldn’t be proud of a blog that limits itself to material that can be understood by elementary school children and even creationists.

As any educator will tell you, if you want your science to be understood by as many people as possible, try to avoid the big words, or at least explain them with small ones if you do use them.

This is the sort of thing that might be believed by someone who has never had any education beyond elementary school, but it isn’t true either that this is what one should do or that “any educator will tell you” it.

Kevin Vicklund beat me to it, but somewhat appropriately denialism blog owner MarkH notes that UD has broken his irony meter again:

Interesting, when I insert pandasthumb.org I get College/Post Grad. Oh wait, I forgot, the people at UD are morons. They put in Pandasthumb.com, an unregistered domain.

Now granted, this is a really stupid metric, that doesn’t really say much of anything, but you’d think these geniuses could at least criticize the right website. The only lesson here is never take anything the evolution denialists cdesign proponentsists say at face value.

I don’t agree. I think another lesson is that denialists mostly are as incompetent as their predilections suggests.

I agree with DM, sort of.

Really? So you think that every university [school for adults] professor [teacher for adults] (who are among educators [people who teach]) will tell you that every polysyllabic [big] word should be explained in terms of shorter [small] words?

www.overwhelmingevidence.com comes back as elementary school level.

Popper’s Ghost: I think we have a bit of a misunderstanding here. At a university, you can expect that your audience will have a degree of understanding of the subject that is beyond the most basic grasp of said subject. But on a blog that is aimed at trying to reach a wide audience, including those who haven’t the faintest idea of what you are talking about, and whose first introduction to, say, the concepts of evolution might be your blog, you’ll have to explain things in easier terms. Leave the jargon for later, or explain the jargon.

So no, your blog isn’t bad just because it had a grad school rating. Neither is it bad because it has an elementary school rating. That’s all I’m saying. As for the question of at what audience you aim your blog, that’s up to the individual.

Ok, I think or a blog battling ignorance, this level is way to high, because most people will not be able to understand what is written here!

Popper’s Ghost:

I agree with DM, sort of.

Really? So you think that every university [school for adults] professor [teacher for adults] (who are among educators [people who teach]) will tell you that every polysyllabic [big] word should be explained in terms of shorter [small] words?

To extend the qualifying apposition “sort of”, I would replace DM’s “educator” with “public communicator”. If your intent is to communicate to a broad audience, you would use more concise language that would flow easily to a laymen versus the involved precision necessary for an academic journal. The key is obviously not to dumb down the science but the verbosity with added colloquialisms if pertinent and substantiating.

But if you intend to focus on those members who are more familiar with the particulars and wouldn’t get lost in the necessary level of precision required in scientific writing, then by all means insert as many relevant polysyllabic words necessary.

I’m of the opinion that the majority of browsing blog readers have at least a high school education (or are currently pursuing such). So, for those interested in communicating science to the broadened audience and not the focused one, a high school level ranking isn’t “that bad”.

Enter PT. I think PT does a good job balancing the science and the communication. The more technical postings have only trace scientese (which is only necessary to correct obfuscations and errs by ID Creationists). PT gets a “College Undergrad” (last I checked) ranking overall due to this, but the contributors do a good job either explaining the science or they point to a good source that explains the science they are communicating.

So, yes. I agree with DM, sort of. It’s all about the context of the article being evaluated, which is why algorithms that have a relationship between word count, paragraph size, and syllable count are not as precise as actual readers. Just my two cents.

talkorigins.org clocks in at genius level with a picture of brain to boot.

And Pharyngula is Junior High School…

Pandasthumb.com is a creationist site UNBELIEVEABLE! check it out!

I think that what Shawn Wilkinson is saying is that if you’re exclusively interested in PR, UD does all right with its sophomoric chatter. If science is going to be discussed, you’re going to have to get beyond the high school level, but with some dumbing down as well.

I think this both describes and explains the differences between UD and PT rather well.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

And I bet that Talkorigins, which I do appreciate, comes in at a rather higher level of reading comprehension needed than is optimal for reaching the public–which is closer to being its role than to being PT’s role.

The linked site gives it a “Genius” reading level, indeed, however I’m not going to accept that as the final word. Nevertheless, I do wish that Talkorigins was at least closer to “high school” levels, because reaching the relatively uneducated and not overly bright is its goal (thank you to those responsible for it, yet the hard part remains, turning it into a site more accessible to laypeople).

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

High reading levels in materials don’t necessarily mean that anything is being explained well or accurately.

One of the most common tactics of the ID/Creationists (including those who show up as trolls on PT) is to engage in a pretentious form of erudition to make themselves appear smart and in command of vast amounts of learning. By tossing around large numbers of technical terms, they try to create the illusion that they are working scientists fresh from the laboratory. This is a conscious tactic on their part. They realized when they created ID that they had to appear “more academic” and move away from the hick image of the creationists. Hence their writings almost go overboard in order to give the appearance of careful scholarship. Quote mining with “citations” is one of the many tricks.

On the other hand, good explainers of scientific concepts, or other subtle information, often find relatively simple words to do it, and they don’t try to focus all the attention on their “genius”. Good scientific teaching explains concepts and ideas first and then attaches the big words later.

BarryA is definitely one of the more entertaining posters on that site. Time and again he posts silliness that is often shot down in flames by his own cohorts at UD, a place where dissent is rarely allowed.

One wonders why he was given the ability to post in the first place… until you read some of the stuff posted by others like the unreadable O’Leary and Dave “I hate scientists” Scott Springer, then you realize that he fits right in.

Apparently Panda’s Thumb has just lost 4 years’ worth of erudition in little more than a day; it now comes back “College (Undergrad)”. Maybe even lower after this post.

Apparently, you need to be a genius to understand Google, so the testing website seems flawed to begin with.

TimeCube checks in at high school level, the same as UD, so they really should not be bragging about their level of erudition.

Of course, I don’t really believe these web-based analyses anyway, except for this one, which pegs me as a ninja: http://www.okcupid.com/tests/take?t[…]259611283941

I think we have a bit of a misunderstanding here.

A common ad hominem from people who have trouble admitting error.

I think that what Shawn Wilkinson is saying is that if you’re exclusively interested in PR, UD does all right with its sophomoric chatter. If science is going to be discussed, you’re going to have to get beyond the high school level, but with some dumbing down as well.

I’m fine with that. What I’m not fine with bozos who just make stuff up like “As any educator will tell you” to try to add authority to their simplistic nonsense about “try to avoid the big words, or at least explain them with small ones if you do use them”. Effective communication is not just a matter of reducing the number of polysyllabic words.

FWIW, IIRC the New York Times is written on a level of either fifth or eighth grade. Good science writing on this level is extremely valuable!!

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on November 12, 2007 11:37 PM.

An Open Letter to Dr. Michael Behe (Part 3) was the previous entry in this blog.

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