A Scientist – by any other name

A very disturbing piece from The Register, about the broad re-definition of who can be called a scientist. It is yet another example of words being hijacked to create an aura of unjustified respectably.

The U.K. advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority, have just dismissed a claim that four employees of Neal’s Yard  (Natural Remedies) Ltd green_scientists had been misrepresented as scientists. Neal’s Yard is the UK’s foremost destination for organic natural health and beauty to quote from their website. Their ruling has redefined, as far as advertising in the U.K. goes, what makes a scientist. In getting the claim dismissed, Neal’s Yard made two arguments

  1. The term scientist has a much broader meaning than it did in the past (somebody that framed and tested hypotheses) and they quoted Carnegie Melon University’s Green Science program as an example. Now Carnegie Melon’s program is focused on pollution control and sustainable chemistry which seems to be a long way to me from organic natural remedies.
  2. Even if the ASA did not buy argument #1 they stood by their employees as being qualified as scientists stating“the women were all well qualified with considerable expertise in their fields. They provided biographies for all four women, which showed that Dr. Dhushyanthan and Dr. Hili had PhDs in traditional scientific disciplines while Ms. Curtis and Ms. Vilinac had undertaken study in Homeopathy and Medical Herbalism respectively.”Now to quote from the Register:

    ”In fact, Doctor Dhushyanthan – according to the catalogue in question (pdf) – holds a PhD in “Natural Preservatives in Toiletries” and Doctor Hili holds a PhD in “Essential Oils” “

    spade with XCall me stupid, but those are not in any way shape or form, traditional scientific disciplines. These four people are not scientists. By pretending to be so, they are acting as snake-oil saleswomen rather than scientists.

    The ASA has lost its way and instead of calling a not-a-spade, a not-a-spade, they have fallen prey to taking the arguments of Neal’s Yard at face value to the detriment of real scientists everywhere.

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