William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Winner Announced in What Do You Call A Believer In Scientism Contest

At least they’ll subsidize your cane.

Last week we asked what is the best word or term for a die-hard believer in scientism? The response was overwhelming!

More than 50 people entered some 100 words. I grouped these into three-plus-one categories: Honorable Mentions, Runner Ups, and Top 10. But there can be only one! Winner, that is, who will receive a Kindle copy of Iain Murray’s not-to-be-missed Stealing You Blind.

All complaints or suggestions about the entries, rules, or my judging may be entered at this site.

Special Mention

Thinkologist (davebowne).

Love it, but I was saving this for a special use on certified Experts. So it was not in the running for the contest.

Honorable Mentions

In no particular order:

Evidencist (Francsois). Inscienaty, Narrow-Minder, Rationer, Reasoner, Sciencerapist (Pedro Erik). Science Zombie (JohnK; Davebowne). Bright (Thinkling; Mariner). Supercilioust (HowardW). Scimoron (GaryL). Positivist (Philip Neal). Psysciphilliac (BradH). Sheldonists, Optimists, Triverist (Paul Murphy). Knowlatan, Pedantocrat, Patronisiac (Hamish McCallum). Unscientific Hucksterists, Philistine Scientists, Scientific Excrescence, Vulgar Scientists (Jim Fedako). Scatomancer, Weepees (Bruce Foutch). Scisyphist, Scisyphean (Jonathan S). Scienterrific (An Engineer). Scienzealot (Charles Boncelet), Scientomancer (hmi). Anthropodogmatists (Pangloss). Scinsist (Jeffrey).

Runner Ups

In no particular order:

Scientite (Adrian Hilton). Fatuotist (as in “fatuous”; Bob Mrotek). Scientizer, Scientaster, Scifollogist, Sciphist (Jester). Spockists (Toby Young). Scientician (TheRealAaron). Sciencista (Mike Anderson). Scientocracy (K). Sciphist (John Baglien). Technogogue, Techogogue, Scientologue (Mark Webster). Scientificant, Saintificist, Saintologist, Scientificist (Bob). Aoristicist (Don Jackson). Scienticist (Edmund Kartoffel; David). Scientipher, Scientifie (Mike B). Scientient (Andy). Scientismion, Scientismidel, (Aloysius Hogan, who had 42 generated entries, such as Scientismafuego derived from Cacafuego, a ship all fans of Patrick O’Brian will recognize; only the top are shown).

Top 10

In winning order:

  1. Scientificalist (Ye Olde Statisician)
  2. Obfuscator Scienista (Bruce Foutch)
  3. Scientismist (Adrian Hilton)
  4. Sciphiliac (Rich)
  5. Scientophile (Andy)
  6. Scientiscubus (Aloysius Hogan)
  7. Sighintists (John M)
  8. Scientocrat (K)
  9. Academagogue (Mark Webster)

Winner

Scidolator from Mason Kinney. This portmanteau was the truest and most evocative entry. It tells you what it is without having to explain it; it is memorable, it is short and easy to say. It can be spelled. It captures beautifully the spirit of over-dependence on science. It cannot be improved upon.

Why does 1 + 1 = 2? Science doesn’t know. Why is murder wrong? Science can’t tell us. Why are the fundamental laws of the universe what they are? Science is silent. Why is there something rather than nothing? Science is of no help. Why is killing an unborn child immoral? Science has nothing to say. Why is it that if All F are G and x is an F that x is G? Science is dumbfounded. What is good and what bad? Science says, “You talkin’ to me?” How can free will exist in a deterministic universe? Science hasn’t a clue.

It is not only that Science cannot answer these questions now, but that it never can. All these and many more are forever beyond the reach of empiricism. There is no observation in the universe, nor can there be, nor will there ever be, which proves e^{i\pi} = -1. It is impossible to peer at the Unmoved Mover, yet He must be there or, quite literally, nothing would happen.

A scidolator disagrees, but because of the impossibility of the acts just mentioned, he quickly changes the subject. Scientism is thus a dread and growing disease and a word which identifies its holders and devotees while simultaneously highlighting the malady from which they suffer was badly needed. Scidolator is that word.

Thanks to all for participating!

18 Comments

  1. Thanks for the mentions. Great fun and the winning entry is well-deserved. A hearty congratulations to Mason Kinney.

    However, I must give credit where credit is due. Scienista is not mine. I just dropped a letter from the word, sciencista, offered by Mike Anderson (19 November 2013 at 12:52 pm)to tighten it up a bit for ease of pronunciation. All credit should go to Mike.

  2. Yeah, Scidolator is great. Congratulations to Mason Kinney.

    Thanks for mentioning all my suggestions, Briggs.

    By the way, I loved “Why does 1 + 1 = 2?…”. Fantastic.

  3. So then a scidolator worships scidols in acts of scidolatry. He/she scidolizes his/her empiricist heroes. I await displays of scidolatrous behavior on American Scidol, to run the Discovery Channel perhaps.

  4. Briggs

    November 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Gary,

    Your comment reminded me that I want to install a “Like” or “Thumbs up” button for comments. Have to find a good WordPress plugin.

  5. I’m actually a bit suprised that the word hadn’t already been invented by, say, a Southern Baptist preacher.

    Many thanks to Our Esteemed Host!

  6. Am I really the only one who finds this whole exercise distasteful? Hello, is there any one out there?

    When teachers mark assignments should there be a special name for those who make errors (loser?) or should corrections be made and grades assigned? Are there no teachable moments? Are we reduced to name calling?

    “I want to install a “Like” or “Thumbs up” button for comments”. Oh-oh! Should I go for most likes or most dislikes? A difficult choice.

  7. Dang! Reading over the list of submissions, I just flashed on the neologism “SCIENTOID.” Probably not a winner, but now I’ll never know.

  8. Great word. Hope some university doesn’t start a PhD program to spread Scidolator incompetence.

  9. Scientarian

  10. There are those of us who believe, ultimately, the sole test of knowledge is experiment — and those that don’t.

    There are those of use who believe knowledge is a journey — and those who believe knowledge is a destination.

    And then there are name callers. And those that hold name calling contests.

  11. Briggs

    November 27, 2013 at 11:12 am

    George (may I call you George?),

    Hooray for those name-calling contests which find the perfect way to express a concept, such as the adulation and worship of science! Ain’t scidolatry pretty?

  12. You may call me George.

    I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure there are four, and only four, assumptions fundamental to the scientific method. (And science is a process. Theories come and go.) Maybe I misunderstand you but, IMHO, to describe the acceptance of these assumptions as adulation or worship is NOT pretty. Other than in the sense that the assumptions, all save one, are pretty banal.

    The word scientism is already used pejoratively to indicate the improper usage of scientific theory. But I will admit that your criticism seems directed against the limits of the method itself. So perhaps another word is needed.

    The scientific method, however, has withstood about 500 hundred years of criticism so far. (Without doubt partly because it is a self-correcting process.) Being pejorative about it here seems — optimistic.

  13. Briggs

    November 27, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    We’ve posted this link several times, but it hasn’t grown stale.

    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-folly-of-scientism

  14. I promise to look at the long article more closely when I have more time. But let me say that it contains (and criticizes) only two extended quotes, both associated with the physicist Steven Hawking. Why do you find it necessary to criticize his philosophy (or lack thereof) by inventing a pejorative term? His brand of scientism may be wrong, but surely he’s not deserving of disrespect.

    It makes me think you miss the point I was trying to make. Even on issues we feel strongly are both important and clear cut, we need more decorum, not less. People seem to forget we can both be on the “same side” and still disagree. Decorum pays off (to our society at large) in the long run. Name calling should be strongly, but politely if possible, discouraged.

  15. We must pray for Briggs, George.

  16. Iain’s book reminds of a 4-stanza verse I came across in a collection of Dirty Ditties when I was in school titled: Three Prominent Bastards. Each stanza described the exploits of your Banker, your Broker and your Washington Joker. The last stanza featured your ordinary guy who suffered countless losses at the hands of the other three and at the end proclaims: “I’m a self-appointed bastard and I’m gonaa get it back!”

  17. Coming in late here, because of work, but may I offer, as an addition to the truly excellent entries: “Pscientists”?

  18. No one wrote “scidiot”?

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