Woke Scientists Want to Ban and Replace Certain Words and Phrases Within The Scientific Community

A group of scientists from the United States and Canada have initiated a motion to replace certain phrases and words they perceive as potentially damaging in scientific discourse.

This proposal was made by members of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) Language Project, who argue that a change would encourage more inclusive language practices.

The EEB Language Project: Aiming for Inclusion

This plan has highlighted 24 terms that they argue contribute to the ongoing marginalization of various societal groups.

They propose alternative language to replace these identified phrases and to foster greater inclusivity within scientific communities. The group’s initiative has been documented in the Trends in Ecology and Evolution journal.

For instance, the words “feminized” and “masculinized” have been criticized for implying that femininity and masculinity are inherent biological traits rather than socially constructed identities. The scientists suggest that specific traits be described instead.

Disability Metaphors and Historical Connotations

The project also challenges using “blind” or “double-blind,” common terms in scientific experimentation, as they are considered disability metaphors.

Similarly, the phrase “survival of the fittest” has been called out for indirectly suggesting eugenics and ableism. As alternatives, the wording “natural selection” or “survival differences” are recommended.

The usage of “master” in contexts such as “master file” or “master equation” is also under scrutiny.

The scientists argue that its usage may inadvertently perpetuate harmful stereotypes related to the historical enslavement of people of color. As replacements, language like “primary” or “main document” are suggested.

Reproduction and Sexuality Terminology

In the realm of reproductive biology, the word “r*pe” is also being questioned for its potential to equate a violent and traumatic act with a reproductive strategy. The replacement phrase recommended is “forced copulation”.

The traditional biological descriptors “male” and “female” are also being reconsidered, as they are seen to reinforce societal ideas of a sex binary, emphasizing cis-normative and hetero-normative views.

The group suggests using “sperm-producing/egg-producing or XY/XX individual” as replacements.

Evolving from Violent Language

In a similar vein, a guide titled “Evolving from Violent Language“ has been developed by Anna Taylor, a communications director at the technology company Phenomenex.

This guide aims to replace idioms perceived as violent with more positive and inclusive language. The collection has sparked discussions on social media, with some users questioning the necessity of such a linguistic shift, while others argue it detracts from addressing genuinely harmful language.

The ‘Woke’ Movement and Science

The term ‘woke’ has increasingly been used in public discourse in recent years. Originally part of African American Vernacular English, ‘woke’ has become popularized to refer to a perceived awareness of social and political injustices.

In this context, the initiatives by the EEB Language Project could be seen as part of this ‘woke’ movement, as they aim to address potential injustices and biases in scientific language. 

The Debate: A Dichotomy of Perspectives

The EEB Language Project and initiatives like the ‘Evolving From Violent Language’ have sparked a compelling public debate regarding the impact of language in society, revealing a dichotomy of perspectives.

On one side, scientists leading these initiatives argue for the necessity of linguistic evolution. They contend that as science continues to progress, the language it employs should reflect an evolving societal consciousness.

By promoting inclusivity and mitigating harm through language, they aim to foster an environment where all members of society can engage with science without feeling marginalized.

However, public reception of these initiatives has been mixed. Critics view the proposed language changes as overly cautious, or even unnecessary, symptomatic of an ‘ultra woke’ culture.

This push for language changes can also be seen in the context of information control. In a tangential but related concept, Robert Proctor, a historian of science from Stanford University, coined the term “agnotology” to describe the deliberate propagation of ignorance, as outlined in a BBC report.

This phenomenon, often exploited by actors with vested interests, illustrates how information can be obscured or manipulated to accomplish specific objectives.

Both these phenomena underscore the intricate relationship between language, information, and power. They raise pertinent questions about who has the authority to define truth and how this power shapes public perception and understanding in society.


This article was produced by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments