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What science doesn’t need: A universal symbol


In “Science needs a universal symbol” (New Scientist, 06 January 2012), Paul Root Wolpe advises us of the apocalypse facing science:

SCIENCE is under assault. In the US and throughout the world, rhetoric about evolution, stem cells, global warming and other controversial and cutting-edge technologies often transcends legitimate disagreement to challenge the work of scientists.

The solution, he argues, is a universal symbol for science, somewhat like the ancient Christian “fish symbol.”


A single, unified symbol would have many uses. It could be displayed to represent a position: opposition to the politicising of science in government, support for increased research spending, or concern about global warming and species loss. It could be displayed by an astronomer or geologist or sociologist or teacher as a symbol of their allegiance to science. It could be used on car bumpers and web pages, and in public venues.

But that’s just the trouble. It can be displayed by any fraud, windbag, or tenure bore, to impress bureaucrats and their media retinue. And that’s mainly how it would be used.

If a person can legitimately write M.D., DDS, RN, or P. Eng or something similar after their name, what more do they want? A symbol that can be appropriated by any self-important goofmeister?

Incidentally, the traditional Christian fish symbol, the ichthus*, was a secret sign, because Christianity was a persecuted faith. That’s what gave it its power. As a bumper sticker, it is just clutter.

*It’s an acronym – in Greek: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.

Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista

In the UK the NHS tried to start plastering logos over everything, including my practice, which was an independent business contracting work to them. We refused to use their stickers, of course, because we did things the good way, not their way. But at least he NHS is a genuine organisation. Even the scientists can't agree on what science is. Imagine the recriminations when some physicist catches a sociologist or economist using "their" logo. Jon Garvey

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