Back when I was in high school (and dinosaurs roamed the Earth), the comedian George Carlin released an album named Class Clown where he taught America about the seven dirty words you can’t say on television. I’m not going to list them here, even though four of them are now regularly heard on cable television, even during the family hour. But now the old list can move aside, at least at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There’s a new grouping of seven dirty words which are not to be used in any of the agency’s publications next year and it’s been handed down by the White House.
Some of these entries may seem like a welcome relief to those who have grown tired of the previous administration’s embrace of the social justice warrior movement and liberal groupthink, but this is no way to set government policy. (Washington Post)
The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.
Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing…
In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of “science-based” or “evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.
Let’s just get right to the full list and then we can kick off the debate over the merits of each and how government language control is always problematic. The words are:
“Vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”
Vulnerable: No clue where this one came from in terms of banning words. People with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable to contracting infectious diseases. This is an ancient and eminently useful word. A pointless and stupid prohibition.
Entitlement: The CDC deals with a lot of medical issues faced by people who rely heavily on entitlement programs. It probably doesn’t pop up very much in clinical medical conditions, but it’s also a completely viable word.
Diversity: Okay… I get it. The Left has turned the previously salutary word “diversity” into some sort of rallying cry being tossed around everywhere you go. Yes, it’s annoying. But it’s also a word which crops up a great deal in actual science, not just “social science.” Diversity of lifeforms in a given ecosystem. The list goes on. Removing this from the medical lexicon is not only pointless but self-defeating.
Transgender: If you were expecting me to get onboard with any of them it was probably this one, right? But no. The word is out there and there’s a heated debate going on which ties in very heavily to debates in the medical science community. Forcing the CDC to stop using it isn’t going to make it go away. We need the traditional scientific method to be applied to confirm or at least define whether gender dysphoria remains a clinical medical condition and how to help those so afflicted. Clarification should begin in the scientific community and be confirmed in the courts where strange new distortions of words such as “gender” find their way into our laws and government policies. It’s not the job of the White House to try to erase the problem by forbidding the use of words.
Fetus: Seriously? A fetus is an unborn baby. It’s a word which has been around since Middle English and was borrowed from Latin. I understand that some in the pro-abortion crowd have annoyed pro-life conservatives with various words and phrases such as “clump of cells” and all the rest, but fetus is simply a medical term which in no way denies that the unborn baby is alive and a human being. It’s just silly to ban it from medical research papers.
Evidence-based and Science-based: Are you really just trying to make the point for liberals who argue that conservatives and Republicans are the “party that doesn’t believe in science” here? I understand that those phrases have previously been used in political circles to insult people who hold positions which may be more faith-based, but the CDC isn’t a religious or philosophical institution. (Or at least it wasn’t supposed to be, though it has bowed at the altar of the Church of Liberalism lately.) You want actual scientific positions to be based on actual evidence and good, solid science. Current scientific consensus doesn’t always turn out to be correct on any subject. (Prior to Copernicus and Kepler, a majority of astronomers thought that Mars did loops in its orbit because they didn’t understand retrograde motion.) But as long as you keep an open mind as new evidence is presented, earnest scientific research at least gives you an evidence-based starting point.
While I have despaired at the abuse our language has suffered in the name of politics, largely (though not entirely) in the interest of liberal causes, this is no solution and the list being handed to the CDC is a joke. Banning language is pretty much on par with burning books. You don’t win an argument by forcing people to stop talking about a particular subject or using certain words. (Well.. you can, but then you’ve pretty much turned into North Korea.) If you want the CDC to deal with the issue of transgender questions seriously, demand that they produce rigorous, scientific research showing how you could identify a person as being transgender without asking them. If the agency is studying problems with “diversity” in income or racial distribution, ask them what the heck they are researching and what it has to do with disease control and prevention. Don’t tell them to stop writing the word where appropriate. And learn what “fetus” actually means before you try to wipe it from the record books.
There was obviously a political motive in issuing a list such as this and it was no doubt intended to please the conservative base. But it’s a horrible approach which proves the point of liberal critics far more than improving the situation in the scientific community.