A few days ago, Rory O'Connor was on the Greater Boston show on public television, being interviewed by Emily Rooney. Rory is one of three authors of the book NukeSpeak, a 30 year old book which has just been reissued in a 30th anniversary edition. The authors are strongly anti-nuclear power and devote the book to decrying the euphemistic language with which nuclear power was marketed to the public.
I'm a cautious supporter of nuclear power. I think it can be deployed at reasonably safe and economical levels, but it must be done with great care. What struck me about this book is the use of language to convey scientific ideas and technological capabilities. The concept is not new to me. At IBM, we worked hard with our communications team to find the right words to convey the messages we wanted to get across.
In the course of doing science, we habitually select language that may be technically accurate but slanted to portray the nuance we want to communicate. That's not wrong. But awareness of the language we use is critical. In the often rancorous debated on science and faith, much can be discerned from the adjectives chosen to describe key players and ideas. One of our goals, hard though it may be too achieve, must be to pay attention to seeking words that are fair and accurate not just in technical meaning but in the nuanced implications.