Friday, July 9, 2021

The stupidity it burns, it freezes

So the famous gypsy moth, one of the few insects that people with no interest in insects has likely heard of, will no longer be called a gypsy moth.  I won't bother saying why.  You know why.  And yet you are powerless to stop the lame, the stupid. 

This is what happens when people who know they've accomplished nothing meaningful in their time on Earth try to plant a flag on their own made up Suribachi.  Sadly, everyone who should stop the dumb is behind it.   Moreover, those same institutions, like the press, will fawn over such bold accomplishments, like this story when I heard it on the news, and only encourage the same type of people to find more such ways to look courageous and important.  


  1. Why are you spelling 'stupidity' with two t's?

  2. In fact the change does next to nothing by itself. I don't know about the ESA, but usually professional scientific organizations do not have any power over scientists as such. That is, if a scientist chooses to call the moth a Gypsy Moth anyway, there's not really anything the ESA can do other than revoke his membership, and in many cases there isn't much benefit to being part of such organizations. Now in reality they are probably doing this in conjunction with various journals and universities, so the name might be forbidden in certain published articles or in some classroom discussion. But that's it.

    My point is that even scientists can use whatever name they like for the most part, and the rest of us certainly can. If a Zoological Society said that we could no longer use the word "cat" to refer to Felis Catus, they would be ignored except by the most hardcore "I F***ing Love Science" crowd.

    But most people view scientists as a supreme authority so on issues like this they will defer, just like how Pluto instantly became "not really" a planet in everyday conversation.

    1. That makes sense. I wouldn't think one group could make the call. I think it's about messaging. It's a chance to say 'yet one more thing to do with our past is evil, and is justly being fixed.' Keep implanting that in our minds, and pretty soon anything and everything to do with the past can go the same direction.

    2. @Rudolph Harrier -- All very true. I'll give two more examples. (1) "Fish" is a very old world that clearly once just meant "any animal that lives in the ocean". Thus we have shellfish, starfish, jellyfish, crayfish, cuttlefish, etc. And hey, now that a certain crowd is saying we have to call birds dinosaurs because their distant ancestors were dinosaurs, we can make an argument that whales must be fish because their distant ancestors were fish. (2) The team that built the New Horizons probe has occasionally called not just Pluto, but also Charon a planet. As well they should: it's not their fault that some others have forgotten that if you want governments to shovel money into your research programs, you have to make the research sound interesting. To the public "planet" sounds more interesting than "not a planet". As a result, some planetary scientists have started calling moons, Kuiper Belt objects, etc. "world", a more inclusive term than "planet" that still makes them sound cool enough that taxpayers should fund research of them.


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