Richard Dawkins claims the ‘ignorant public’ voted for Brexit
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Richard Dawkins has vowed to use “every one” of the words deemed non-inclusive by the scientific community. Top academics in the ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB) fields have called for researchers to drop historically accepted terminology. Words on the chopping block include male, female, mother, father, amen, invasive, exotic and race, prompting backlash from key figures, chiefly Professor Dawkins.
The evolutionary biologist told the Daily Telegraph that the “only possible response” to the calls – which included advice against emphasising “heteronormative views” – is “contemptuous ridicule”.
He said that as a “professional user of the English language”, the advice would not stop him from using “every one of the prohibited words”.
He added: “I am not going to be told by some teenage version of Mrs Grundy which words of my native language I may or may not use.”
Others echoed the academic’s protests, suggesting the terminology could confuse scientists, but they are not yet “prohibited” as Professor Dawkins claimed.
Members of the scientific community who make up the newly launched EEB Language Project have suggested replacing select “problematic” words.
The group of Canadian and American researchers aims to “consider how the use of scientific language can harm members of our research community”.
The initiative has outlined 24 “harmful terms”, and suggests viable replacements.
Among entries on the list is a call to replace the Darwinist “survival of the fittest”, as it stands accused of promoting eugenics and ableism.
The term relates to the theories of Charles Darwin on the evolution of species and which genes survive.
The description claims it promotes social Darwinism, a long-discredited scientific approach seen as the basis for atrocities committed in Nazi Germany which is a political distortion of Charles Darwin’s theories and had nothing to do with the scientist.
The project recommends replacing it with the modern term “natural selection” or “survival differences”.
The team of researchers behind the initiative come from diverse scientific backgrounds within the ecology and evolutionary biology community.
A team “statement of positionality” reads: “Members of our team identify with various marginalised communities, and our identities and experiences in EEB inform this work.”
It adds: “We enter into this work to emphasise that language is incredibly powerful and can produce harm.
“We also hold that language can create a sense of inclusion and safety and it is our hope that this article contributes to larger conversations about inclusion in the sciences.”
Their website highlights the need to “learn, understand, and reflect on words that may change meaning over time”.
They deemed that terminology used within the community can “create environments conducive to microaggressions”, reinforce oppressive systems, discriminatory tropes, and offensive terms, and “inadvertently send messages about who belongs and who does not belong in EEB”.
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