Do we have lots of DNA junk or not? Many scientists believe that up to 90% of the DNA in our genome has no biological function and is therefore not vital to life. Recent research by the Encode project has challenged this. And now a dispute has broken out.
Were the people who carried out the research ‘scientists‘? Or were they ‘badly trained technicians‘, as claimed by a critical paper published in the Genome Biology and Evolution journal.
Naming is a powerful thing … and there’s a linguistic attack on three levels here …
1. the denotation (dictionary meaning)
SCIENTIST: a person who studies or practises any science
TECHNICIAN: a person skilled in a practical or mechanical art; a person who does the practical work in a laboratory
2. the connotations (associations)
SCIENTIST: associated with intelligence, logic, and the capacity for original thought
TECHNICIAN: practical and skilled, but not necessarily associated with academic learning or breaking new ground with life-changing discoveries
3. the confrontational pre-modification (badly trained)
the past participle trained functions as an adjective pre-modified by the negative adverb of manner badly
We are meant to respond to scientists as a positive label, and to badly trained technicians as a negative label. The names are designed to undermine the new findings and to reinforce the prestige of previous research.