The Word Scientist Is Already Taken

We need a new word to denote one who believes that for which there is overwhelming evidence and gives credence to that for which there is some evidence and gives no credence to that for which there is no evidence. Scientist might be used as a word to mean a believer in science. However, just as sexist has already been used for another purpose, so can’t be used to indicate one who believes in sex, scientist has already been used to indicate one who actually practices science for a living, so cannot be used to indicate a believer in the tremendous value of scientific evidence.

Atheist is actually a bad word for this because, as Dawkins points out in God Delusion, this defines one by their non-belief. I am an atheist. I am also an athorist and an azeusist and an aodinist and an abaalist, etc. For this reason, I prefer to call myself an antitheist. This works for me because I actually do believe religion is an evil institution and am opposed to all forms of theism. So, for me, this works.

However, we still do not have a good name for one who does not oppose theism, but simply does not believe in it. Skeptic is one word that could accurately describe such a philosophy, but is also overloaded with other meaning both connotations and denotations.

So, the question is, what should we call someone that believes that extraordinary claims, such as an invisible man in the sky, must be backed up by evidence in order to be given credence (other than unelectable for office at any level anywhere in this U.S.)?

13 Responses to The Word Scientist Is Already Taken

  1. rickace says:

    When I was young, “scientist” was a word of respect, and rightfully so. As a consequence of today’s politicians exploiting science and scientists to prosecute their political agendas though, the word has a acquired a sad taint.

  2. A. says:

    I tend to use atheist, bright, naturalist, and rationalist inter-changeably, mostly because I haven’t found a label I’m particularly fond of. Skeptic sounds good, but loaded with historical and emotional baggage. Paul Kurtz makes a case for “neo-humanist” in the latest issue of “Free Inquiry.”

    Great web page!

  3. Misanthropic Scott says:

    I think I like rationalist. Thanks. Atheist, as I mentioned is a definition by a non-belief rather than by a belief. Bright is a tad arrogant and will make other think that the speaker finds them dim or dumb. Both may be true, but no reason to be that arrogant about it. Naturalist to me means a guide pointing out the nature on the trail. Rationalist just might work. I think I like that one. Humanist to me still sounds spiritual, even though there’s no deity involved.

    Thanks A.

  4. BubbaRay says:

    Scott, this is actually way too logical. 🙂

    I agree that organized religion has done more to damage humanity than almost anything else. As a scientist, and all that word implies (hello, Carl Sagan), I find there is one attribute of religion that is actually valuable. Most religious folks I know are active in their church and do a lot of good helping the less fortunate, without trying to convert anyone. They don’t try to convert or preach to me, and I leave their faith and beliefs to them.

    Unfortunately, the deranged few feel they must subjugate all humanity. Ah, the power and glory forever.

    If you can’t tax the church, at least tax their non-religious real estate and other investment income. That would help the less fortunate who actually feel the need to tithe what little they have to the Pope. Can you imagine the IRS revenue from the Catholic church alone?

    Maybe you should start the Misanthropic Church Of The Presumptuous Assumption Of The Blinding Light.

  5. Misanthropic Scott says:


    I like it. I may register that church tomorrow. We’ll have a section on the “Armageddon” of the Nova when our sun engulfs our planet.

    Seriously though, my antitheism stems from the fact that a literal reading of any of the texts of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion WILL AND MUST cause violence. And, that is the source of the religion. That many people can believe in a religion while ignoring large swaths of it, says that most people have decent moral processing centers in their brains. It does not say that religion is good. And, remember, I’m not anti-religious-people. I’m anti-religion.

  6. BubbaRay says:

    Scott, there was one great belief that came from some religions: The Golden Rule. And I’m not talking about “He who hath the gold maketh the rules.”

    Laugh all you want, the old sayings like “honesty is the best policy”, “do unto others…”, “treat thy neighbor as thyself” and the Karma “what goes around…” actually have value to me. Unfortunately, the Universe is an extremely hostile and uncaring place to be, so I’ll just have to make the best of it. It doesn’t help when others make the Universe even more hostile than it has to be, but that’s the way it is — we’re animals.

    I don’t like to see the food chain active amongst the (arguably) highest form of life on the planet.

    Please post some more pictures so that I may enjoy them.

  7. Misanthropic Scott says:


    Of course morals have values. However, given that the golden rule is in just about every religion, is it not possible that it predates all extant religions and is merely a product of the moral centers of our brains? Can we ignore the great degree to which religion has, despite the golden rule, flatly ignored said rule and tortured and murdered countless people throughout the ages? Don’t forget, we’re not even the only species on the planet that has morals. Morals run strong in the primate world. I’m not sure whether they’ve been shown to exist in cetaceans, but given that wild dolphins have, on numerous accounts, saved human divers from sharks, I’m betting that they have them. Given all the cruelty that humanity has caused, both with and without religion, I think perhaps we also earn the title of lowest form of life on the planet.

    I’ll try to find some time to fire up the scanner again this weekend.

  8. boviggs says:

    M. Scott,
    I agree with your take on the Bible, that since one cannot cherry pick the “good” parts, then one presumably must reject the work in its entirety. Like BubbaRay, however, I think that if people can find redemption and do good works via religion, than it is a good thing for them regardless of whether or not the justification of their religion makes sense to us. Of course, the religious miscreants, hypocrits, and related ilk should burn in Hell (if there was such a thing). Now, I consider myself more agnostic than atheist (or antitheist), as I believe that it is as much of a leap of Faith to adamently believe that no “higher being” or spiritual realm can possibly exist, as it is to believe in the Bible or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Agnosticism, to me, opens up the possiblity that there is more out there, then our science currently knows.

    Thanks, by the way, for your rigorously stimulating posts on my blog,

    Bo V.

  9. Misanthropic Scott says:

    Bo V.

    I agree with most of your post. There’s one minor point I’d correct though. Atheism is not so much of an adamant belief that no higher being exists. Rather, it is an assertion that those who would claim that one does are the ones who bear the burden of proof. As there is no evidence of the tooth fairy, the flying spaghetti monster, flying fire breathing dragons, unicorns, the great pumpkin, and many many others, I believe none of these exist. As there is no evidence of any higher being, I believe none exists. A single shred of evidence would easily convert me to agnosticism.

    I’m agnostic about string theory, which I actually prefer to think of as string hypothesis, since it does not have nearly the level of evidence of theories like evolution, natural selection, relativity, and quantum mechanics. So, when a believer in the god hypothesis successfully puts forth a bit of evidence, I may change my opinion. I’m certainly not adamant about the belief that there is no god. I am, however, adamant about my requirement for evidence.

  10. bobbo says:

    I like the still emerging field of “Darinian Analysis” as it might apply to all social/individual behavior? ((As in–where did this “thing” come from?)). So DA has a very reasonable explanation of the Golden Rule–all herd animals have it. Groups can’t exist without it. Pure evolution and thats why all religions have it, ie, nothing to do with religion.

    Also, did I read somewhere you called yourself (as I call myself) an anti-diest? Lets be truthful and take atheism one step further. EVEN IF god did exist as variously described==he can fuck off. I’ll use whatever my “self evident” rights are and mark my claim independently from the lord. Arguing about the source of morality, or whether he exists, or his nature becomes a footnote to what actually matters and is not discussed.

  11. Misanthropic Scott says:


    I couldn’t agree with you more about the golden rule. It certainly predates humanity. Bonobos take it so far that intra-species lethal violence has never been observed in bonobos. They make love not war.

    I call myself an antitheist. I oppose all forms of theism. Atheism is a definition by non-belief. It is true that I do not believe in god. However, antitheism defines me by my active believe that theism is a strong negative force in the world. It has had an horrifically deleterious effect on humanity, as evidenced by its huge number of deleted humans.

  12. JK says:

    Re: God –
    See Aristotle’s physics if you wish to face facts.

  13. Misanthropic Scott says:


    I have no idea what you are attempting to say.

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