With all the discussion of “name calling” of late, I offer a defense of one of the functions of “name” calling in discourse. Obviously, directly insulting one’s interlocutor, or target, merely for the sake of insult, is unnecessary and often immoral. However, a major part of politics is the use of what Captain Picard, in the scene I quoted a few days ago, calls “comfortable euphemisms.”
“Slavery” becomes “property.”
“Abortion” becomes “choice.”
Euphemisms are used all the times by politicians of all stripes to, as they put it on The X-Files, “deceive, obfuscate and lie.”
One of the words used in debates over medical ethics that, not while exactly a euphemism, has the same function, is “scientist.” Barack Obama has made it clear that he thinks that the “integrity” of science (whatever that means–I thought integrity meant sticking to one’s principles, no matter what) depends upon freedom from moral considerations.
While it is true that those who engage in embryonic stem cell research are “scientists”, the term “scientist” connotes a certain respectability, like, “philosopher” or “scholar.” Normally, I prefer the term “researcher.”
As a philosopher, I seek out exactitude in meaning. I try to seek out a certain definition for terms, and then use that definitoin consistently myself, even if others use it inconsistently.
As a writer and a writing instructor, I try to teach my students the importance of word choice: connotation and denotation.
So, normally, I would prefer the term “researcher” in regard to ESCR and any other subject of *research*. While “scientist” could technically be a thesaurus synonym for “researcher,” the term “scientist” carries a connotation of respect and authority.
Indeed, in our society, “scientist” is coming to trump “philosopher” or “theologian” as a term of respect and authority. Look at Professional Atheists like Richard Dawkins: they can make declarations on matters of metaphysics and theology merely by declaring themselves “scientists.”
When Americans hear “scientist”, it says something to them.
Thus, writing my previous post, I could not bring myself to use the term “scientist,” as the article I was commenting on had done, because scientist did not carry the connotation I wanted, especially as I was criticizing the article for being too inaccurate.
Now, I could have chosen “researcher,” but was admittedly too emotional to come up with the term. Also, I wanted specifically to wanted to counteract the euphemistic use of “scientist,” so I opted for a more pejorative term which analogized the moral equivalency of their actions rather than directly describing them.