Tuesday, 11 October 2011

'Scientist' - an abusive terminology?

I have long felt that the media often use the term 'scientist' in a slightly disrespectful - even abusive - way.

Shouldn't they be required to specify what type of scientist they mean.  In Newton's time he was not referred to as a scientist but a 'natural philosopher'.  These days science has split into a wide diaspora of different subjects and I feel that they deserve the respect of the correct use of their names.

Judges, magistrates, barristers, solicitors and advocates are rarely referred to by the collective noun 'lawyers', but somehow physicists, chemists, geologists, psychologists and meteorologists are just 'scientists'.

In a 2010 debate with William Dembski, I was pleased to hear Christopher Hitchens making a similar point, and explaining that the term 'scientist' is 'late 19th century coinage we could do without'.

I recommend the rest of the debate which few people deny to have been an outright victory for Hitchens who was on great form that day.  Here is part 1.

Small note:  Have I committed a similar offence by referring to the people in the newspapers, radio and TV just as 'the media'


Kenny Wyland said...

I've been watching all 10 parts of this video over the last 2 days, thank you for sharing it. My first response is: Wow, Dembski is REALLY not a good public speaker. He's got his prepared remarks and that's essentially all he can really talk about.

Plasma Engineer said...

Thanks Kenny. Glad you enjoyed the videos too.