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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Don't Make Me Make Up a Word

When I was giving out about our beloved Minister of Science, I avoided using a word that popped up frequently in the newspapers; 'evolutionist'. It's a word that irritates me immensely. I avoided it because it'd send me off on a tangent from which I may never have recovered.

But now that I've safely hit the 'post' button and have had time to calm down, perhaps I can write a more thoughtful screed on the topic.
My problem with the word 'evolutionist' is that it's a word that shouldn't exist. I myself am an evolutionist inasmuch as I believe in evolution by natural selection. By the same token, I'm a mycomputerist because I firmly believe that my computer exists, and I'm a gravitist in that I believe in gravity.

By allowing the word 'evolutionist' into our lexicon, we're suggesting that the topic is debatable, and that there's a case to be made that Darwin was wrong ('Darwinist' is another of those damn words). Debate is always welcome, of course, but every argument against natural selection, from young-Earth creationism to intelligent design, has been proved nonsense long ago. Until there's a logical argument consistent with the evidence that can provide all the answers natural selection can, the case is closed. The overwhelming mountains of evidence from many fields mean that natural selection has won the day.

So what word should one use? What word describes someone such as I who believes absolutely in the scientific method? I'm not a scientist. 'Sciencologist' makes me sound like I want to give all my money to a cult. 'Sciencist' is just silly.

Richard Dawkins has had similar thoughts, but on the subject of atheism. While I sympathise with his dislike for the word, his suggestion of 'Bright' is, frankly, awful. I'll never use it. Besides, while it does encompass that which I'm searching for – I like to think I have a “world view that is free of supernaturalism and mysticism” – its focus on the supernatural is to miss the point somewhat. I don't want a word that says what I'm against; I want one that says what I'm for. And what I'm for, quite simply, is the scientific method.

And before you suggest it, smartarse, I'm not using Scientific Methodist.

How about 'sciencophile'? It's not as horrible as it looks, as long as you give it a hard c. Say it with me. "Sciencophile."

But the word I'm looking for must already exist; I just have no idea what it is. I don't want to start a crusade to get the world using a word I just made up five minutes ago; chances are by the end of the day I'll see its shortcomings, and by next week I'll hate it almost as much as I do 'Bright'. Yes, Dawkins capitalised it.

So you know what to do. Tell me what word I should use to describe me and all my fellow travellers who are adherents of the scientific method, but who aren't especially against anything. This may be your last chance to stop another asshole on the internet trying to convince everyone that his newly-coined word is something we all should use.

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