A physics professor (to myself whom I call idiot-boy), suggested that we simplify scientific language and replace words like theory, hypothesis and law with the word model. Words that have very specific and different meanings he wants to replace with one word, model. A word ambiguous in itself. Here is the original article. Here is and article by Scientific American that succinctly disagrees and goes on to define some typically misinterpreted scientific terms.
I am angered that one of my own, a physicist, a professor, an educator, should have the nerve to suggest we simplify the science language allowing both laziness and further ambiguity to insert itself into science and scientific communication. There is nothing wrong with having specific words.
If people don’t understand the exact meanings, that just shows us we need to do better as educators at explaining them, not remove them!
My significant other hearing me rant on this subject brought up the horrifying parallel with George Orwell’s 1984. So here, I illustrate the insidious nature of wanting to simplify scientific language by the removal of certain terms.
First read this, taken from George Orwell’s novel 1984:
“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. Of course the great wastage is in the verbs and adjectives, but there are hundreds of nouns that can be got rid of as well. It isn’t only the synonyms; there are also the antonyms. After all, what justification is there for a word which is simply the opposite of some other word? A word contains its opposite in itself. Take “good”, for instance. If you have a word like “good”, what need is there for a word like “bad”? “Ungood” will do just as well — better, because it’s an exact opposite, which the other is not. Or again, if you want a stronger version of “good”, what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like “excellent” and “splendid” and all the rest of them? “Plusgood” covers the meaning, or “doubleplusgood” if you want something stronger still. Of course we use those forms already. but in the final version of Newspeak there’ll be nothing else. In the end the whole notion of goodness and badness will be covered by only six words — in reality, only one word. Don’t you see the beauty of that, Winston?”
Now read this, taken from Three Science Words We Should Stop Using:
“Take out all three of these “science” words from introductory texts. They do more harm than good. The problem is that people have firm beliefs that they mean something other than what they are supposed to mean. I don’t think we can save these words.
So, how does a model replace the three words I don’t like? Well, if we say science is all about making models, you don’t have to use the word hypothesis. Instead you can talk about predictions a model makes (testable predictions). A theory is a model, so that would be a one to one replacement. What about Laws? I don’t think it would be terrible to also replace Laws with the word “model”.”
Scary to hear an educator talk like that, isn’t it?