Andrew K. Groves grovesa at starbase1.caltech.edu
Thu May 4 12:14:38 EST 1995

In article <g4QqvALFBh107h at chambers.ak.planet.co.nz>,
steve at chambers.ak.planet.co.nz (Steve Chambers) wrote:

> Do you really think that it's appropriate for a small group of biologists
> to usurp the common meaning of a term?  Science is about creating clarity,
> not confusion.  I, for one, refuse to perpetuate these lingual inaccuracies.
> If a publication (or post) is meant for general consumption, the onus is
> on the writer to communicate in a clear and unambiguous manner.  The care
> with which, for example, Alberts et al have written Molecular Biology of 
> The Cell (P750-751) illustrates the point:
>   When they talk about cell senescence they call it CELL senescence.
>   When they talk of continued proliferation potential they enclose 
>   "immortal" in quotation marks to indicate its unusual usage.
> Many cell biologists could learn a lesson from this.  Let's put this 
> issue to bed and do our best from now on to maintain the integrity of the 
> language.

There are no 'lingual innaccuracies' about using the word 'immortal' in
this context, as it has been defined precisely by the scientists that use
it. It does not matter one whit whether scientists and non-scientists
think of the word in different ways. Consider the term 'growth'. A lay
person thinks of 'growth' as getting bigger. A cell biologist (since we're
demonising cell biologists at the moment....) thinks of growth as cells
dividing, but (individual) cells not getting bigger....... And Alberts et
al don't put the word 'immortality' in quotation marks in the third
edition of their text, by the way.

What do you think about the 'lingual inaccuracies' of the word "mine"? 


Andy Groves
Division of Biology, 216-76
California Institute of Technology

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