There are days when you just want to slap a few journalists. The latest absurdity comes from the LA Times, in which an ignorant reporter waxes snarky over the fact that the vice president’s wife is addressed as “Dr. Biden”, since she has a doctorate in education, and snootily claims that:
Newspapers, including The Times, generally do not use the honorific “Dr.” unless the person in question has a medical degree.
And then she trots out Bill Walsh of the Post and the vapid little god-bunny, Amy Sullivan, to agree that you only call medical doctors “Dr.”
Yeah, right. How many appendectomies have Dr Kissinger, Dr Condoleezza Rice, and Dr Martin Luther King done, huh?
They claim that this is the convention. Step onto any college campus. Look at the directories and ask around. You’ll find that the formal title for faculty and staff with doctoral degrees is “Dr.” (although you’ll also find that many of us prefer not to be addressed quite so formally). All I can assume is that these lazy journalists are completely unfamiliar with higher education…and I am not surprised.
You can find more reactions from Mike Dunsford and Wesley Elsberry. I anticipate more — this is a fine example of media contempt for intellectuals.
Let’s not forget Dr. Dre and Dr. Hook- they’ve never told me to turn my head and cough.
On the other hand, most academics I know react to being called “Doctor” with a hurried (almost embarrassed?) “call me (firstname), please”. I know I do, but because some days, in comparison to others in my field (titans, in my mind) I feel like an impostor.
Or at least “Professor”, if the interlocutor is a student.
On the other other hand, a Ph.D. is (usually) a mark of hard work deep knowledge within a field, two things you can hardly attribute to the vast majority of journalists. It just makes ’em feel inferior — which explains their resentment of expertise as well as their slobbering over ignorant good ol’ boys (Bush) or ‘superstar personalities’ (Obama).
Alyson Miers says
I called most of my college professors Dr. Lastname, the notable exceptions being the ones who didn’t have doctoral degrees. I don’t think any of them had medical training. One of my great-grandfathers was an Economics professor, and to this day we still refer to him as Dr. Burrows (he died years before my dad was born, so it’s not like we had a personal relationship with him). Another great-grandfather was a Presbyterian minister with a doctorate in Divinity, and we still refer to him as Dr. Miers. (He had the same first name as my brother, dad and grandfather, and I think the title helps to reduce confusion.)
Rev. BigDumbChimp says
My Grandfather had a PhD. and was a professor and everyone (at least professionally) called him Doctor.
He on the other hand never used because he was maybe the most humble man I’ve ever met.
I think media outlets should recognise all honorifics (Dr., Senator, etc.)or none at all. Non-medical doctorates, after all, are legitimate doctorates (although one wonders if NYT and others are trying to avoid giving legitimacy to doctorates earned at degree mills? Anyone know?)
That said, I don’t announce my credentials on my door plaque, business cards, or my college’s web pages. The only place I do insist on it is when I visit doctors’ offices.
Here they not only insist (justifiably) on their honorific, but assume they have the liberty to address one by one’s first name. And usually a diminutive. If it’s honorifics, it’s honorifics all round (even they’re only Mr. or Ms.).
Why, yew must be wunna them un’Merkin eggheads. Real people got real names like “Joe”.
Instead of degrees, I have degrots.
They show not what you know, but what you know not.
OK – so that isn’t Giesel.
That crap really pisses me off. I always find it so amazing how ignorant many people are about what a doctoral degree even is. Even my own family to whom I’ve explained endless times what it is that I do… the ‘can you fix my broken arm’ line never fails. It’s incredible to me that the idea of what a PhD degree is seems so abstract to many people.
I also feel obliged to note that, and no offence to any medical doctors here, I’ve had to put in a lot more years and ‘over time hours’ in pursuing my PhD than my husband did to earn his MD. Both types of degrees earning one the moniker ‘Dr.’ are generally important and a testament to academic strength, but let me tell you, we PhD’s (and PhD’s in training) have worked really damn hard, and damn well deserve the title we’re given.
So, William Dembski is not a “doctor” anymore, either?
Prof. Dr. Myers; please go to Germany and introduce yoursely as “Dr. Myers”, just to see what happens.
As someone who is trying to get both degrees… I agree with you 100%. As we say in med school: “C = MD,” but in grad school, you can’t just coast along with everyone else and expect to get your degree (btw, it’s almost impossible to get lower than a C in med school). As a side note (and this makes complete sense) – once (if) I get the PhD, when I go back to medical school, I can’t ask people to call me Dr.
James F says
In formal correspondence, including being referenced in a newspaper, the correct honorific is “Dr.” for someone with a doctorate and “Prof.” for a professor, period. I hope the reporters cited above are just ignorant, and there really aren’t that many newspapers making up their own style guides as they go along.
Dr P says
And here I was all excited that we had a smart VP-wife. I was ecstatic that there’s a female “doctor” in the executive branch (even if it is in the lowliest of fields – education – oh my *sarcasm*)! It’s about damn time! And these morons are trying to ruin it for me >:(
I have no idea how it came to be, but there IS a style for newspaper writing, and it usually does not include things like “Mr.,” “Dr.,” etc… at least in the States. You’ll notice the repeated use of these if you read news on the BBC, for instance. I always thought it was more about reducing word count/clutter in a story than about snubbing higher education.
Prof. Dr. Myers; go to Germany and introduce yourself as Dr. Myers as you get off the plane, just to see what happens.
They typically due recognize doctoral honorifics; this is just an example of some neophyte reporter brewing a storm in a tea-kettle because to increase her profile, though considering the pettiness of most conservs these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if this line of argument got picked up by others. I mean, imagine a woman being referred to as “Doctor”, and a Democrat’s wife, no less! The Gall!
Notice also how she turns to other media types as “experts” to back up her entirely baseless claim. Ridiculous.
Having said that, it never ceases to amaze me how much disdain barely educated journalists hold real academics in.
Cal Harth says
The media are just the tip of the iceberg among our population in disregarding the status earned by getting an education. It is common in this small MN town I live in to hear nearly anyone disparaging the opinions of educated people.
After all, this is a country that has a percentage that still believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, blacks are inferior, and that this deserves to be a country dominated by christian principles.
People with PhDs are doctors! If they don’t want to be called by that it is their choice, not the choice of those that wallow in ignorance.
From what I have read, the original meaning of the word “doctor” was “master teacher,” and was only extended to physicians as a professional courtesy in the 18th century.
So, if that’s true (and I can’t swear that it is because I can’t remember where I heard that), then the papers have it completely backwards.
merkin j pus-tart says
Some time ago, an acquaintance felt the need to clarify that my wife (who has a Ph.D in rhet/comp) was not a “real” doctor. Still, as her name is Jane, I call her “Dr. J.”
Paul Lamb says
My oldest son is working on his Ph.D. in engineering just so he can make his younger brother (who is getting an M.D.) call him “doctor.”
Nerd of Redhead says
Ah, the old degree/title argument. Can anyone less that a full professor be called “professor”? Ugh. And the pettier the fogger, the worse they are about titles.
I don’t require people to use my title since I think it gets in the way of communication. But I have the PhD. on my business card since my work can be reviewed by other people, and use it on certain official documents for the same reason. It just adds a degree of authority to what I say.
Do you necessarily even have to step into such a scary intellectual, elitist place as a college campus? There were a couple of Drs at my upper school, and one at the middle school as well. The headteacher was renowned for having terrible breath and a PhD in medieval German poetry. Perhaps things are really that different in the UK but I can’t believe it. Or perhaps these journalists could benefit from a shabby education at a typically underfunded, backwater comprehensive school, who can say?
What do you mean, Barry? During the (admittedly short) time I spent there, I found German people to be extremely respectful of academic qualifications. They’ll even call you “Frau Dr Dr Jones” if you happen to have two PhDs.
Associated Press reserves “Doctor” for Medical Doctors and Dental Surgeons. Additionally, most guides in manners state that holders of Doctorates outside of the medical profession should not use the title of Doctor outside of academia, i.e. with students and other professors.
This has nothing to do with lack of respect, it is just the way the title is understood and used by the general public. The idea is to avoid confusion and ambiguity.
The credulous only like people calling themselves, “Doctor” if they are a chiropractor or a theologian, or possibly a medical doctor or academic whom they agree with. Nobody else is qualified to call themselves, “Doctor.” What’s so hard to understand?
I don’t have strong feelings either way on this.
But I do about people who have spent (wasted) about three days and a very very large amount of money on some sort of whacky course, calling them selves a reiki master. Completely infuriating.
This drives me crazy. I think that it’s less reflective of media bias than of the dramatic success that MDs and medical schools have had in redefining what a “doctor” is. An MD friend of mine once suggested to me that PhDs were horning in on the original definition of “doctor”… at which I told her to check the dictionary; it’s the other way around. MDs are trained to think that they know everything, whereas the actual training is more of a memorization of a tremendous number of (very important) facts. When I once drew a distinction between a “research degree” and a “professional degree”, my friend was horrified at the notion that her MD was not a research degree. hell, no. In my view, the medical profession has systematically hornswaggled both MDs themselves and the rest of society to believe that their degree is the most important.
As for #12, it is definitely not a case of a few ignorant reporters. A friend of mine, one of the top epidemiologists in the country, was featured in the Wall Street Journal, where they insisted on calling him “Mr” throughout — only MDs get a “Dr”.
Maddening! Of course a title is overkill in everyday life or even in the classroom, but in a newspaper or other formal writing, omitting it is just a dis.
Dersu Uzala says
When I first read this at mediamatters, my jaw dropped in utter amazement, that how can a so called respectable national newspaper allow such ignorant piece to be printed. The only conclusion I came to was that neither the writer nor the editor must have ever stepped on any university campus anywhere. While in informal settings Ph.D.’s are not addressed as Dr.s, professionally and in formal settings, they almost always are. This faux outrage on part of these media hacks pisses me off to no end.
The Once-ler says
Im sure Dr. Suess would be horrified if his Phd in truffula tree biology wasnt given the respect it deserved!
Richard Wolford says
I have a PhD and a lot of people refer to me as “doctor” because I am a doctor. Not a medical doctor, but doctor none the less. I prefer just being referred to by my first name, but in formal situations when titles are typically used, I’m referred to as “Dr. Wolford”. It’s not a problem, it’s simply an acknowledgment of my accomplishment. I’ve never once “corrected” someone who called me “Mr.” or anything else as there’s not really a point to it, unless again it’s a formal setting and someone is asking for my title. On my business cards I just put my name with a “PhD” at the end. When I get introduced to members of our company’s board, for example, I’m introduced as “doctor”, and several of the members refer to me that way, but like I said, I’d rather be on a first name basis just because it eases any perceived tension. I’m more interested in getting work done than quibbling over titles.
What I’ll never get is how the title “Mister” is actually higher than “Doctor” among UK physicians, that always freaks me out as an American.
I’d like to see some citations for this ‘convention’, at the very least as evidence that journalists remember anything from their brief dip at university at all.
To what extent should I feel obligated to use the titles from systems I disagree with, especially if they are pompous (like “master”)? Should I be expected to actually say “His Serene Highness” Prince Albert II with a straight face? or “His Holiness” Pope Benedict XVI? I suppose Mr. Ratzinger had to do a lot of hard work covering-up child-raping priests to earn his position, but does that really mean he deserves my honorific respect?
Young MedStudent says
@ #27. As a current medical student, with quite a few friends getting their PhDs, I will agree with you that the MD is more of a professional degree rather than a research degree. As far as the “MDs are trained to think that they know everything” goes I will have to disagree greatly. That may have been true years ago but medical education has shifted much towards a teamwork setting. We have had it drilled into us since day one that we will not know everything and that it is essential to consult with fellow physicians and more importantly listen to exactly what the patient is telling you in order to help make a diagnosis and treat, hopefully to make their life easier/alleviate their pain. Just a little pet peeve of mine.
… oh, and that tedious “Peace Be Upon Him” stuff from Islam. That’s more annoying than ad copy that insists on putting a “TM” after every product name.
David Harper says
“Doctor” is simply the Latin word for “teacher”.
In medieval times, it gained the further meaning of someone who is deeply learned in a subject, and therefore qualified to teach it to others.
The Oxford English Dictionary lists 13 principal meanings of “doctor”, the first five of which are variations on teacher or eminently learned person. Medical practitioners only appear at meaning number 6:
And yes, I do have a Ph.D. (in mathematics, as it happens), but I only use my title to put bank managers and bureaucrats in their proper place.
Example: Dr. Smith
How many times did he nearly crash the Jupiter 2, blow up the Robot or get young Will Robinson sold to evil Space Catholics?
Dr. Pepper? Pure evil!
Well, OK, *the* Doctor from Doctor Who is fine.
Hmm? Wait, let’s look at that again:
That looks about right to me.
(Yes, I know, their reporting is generally good, it’s just the editorial page that’s full of ignorant, space-man lunacy, but I couldn’t resist a dig.)
My transmission guy is a Master mechanic. I call him Joe.
they really want us to call dr. who just ‘who’ from now on?
Carl Zimmer says
All my stories for the New York Times have to have “Dr.” in front of the name of any scientist with a Ph.D. As a freelancer, I can’t speak for their house style, but I do notice that nobody is referred to just by their last name. And I mean nobody. Even 80s popstar Sheila E. is “Miss E.”
When I run into this question (usually with MDs) I like to point out the color of the cowls on graduation paraphernalia – MD is green (ugh) and PhD is gold (valuable). That usually ends the discussion.
Ray Ladbury says
You know, having gone through the process of getting a PhD, I can say 2 things
1)Once you’ve started the process, it’s a lot better to finish it so you don’t wind up being an embittered shell of a human being.
2)Attaining a PhD is no reliable indication of intelligence, knowledge or even competence. It does indicate that you have a high capacity to put up with BS and that you can bring a fairly big project to a satisfactory termination.
And my subsequent expereience has been that prematurely gray hair brought me a lot more credibility than my PhD ever did.
Voting Present says
Barry is totally uninformed.
In Germany we had several high school teachers with Ph.D.s. One lady had degrees in both Chemistry and Biology. She was “Frau Doktor Doktor (Name)” to everyone, students and faculty. There was a guy with two Ph.D.s, too. “Herr Doktor Doktor (Name)”. Yes, this was tenth grade.
I don’t put the degree on business cards, and only at the bottom of the resume, because it tends to distract. But in something like a courtroom setting, I would absolutely insist on it.
Authority means exactly nothing. But sometimes the ghost of one authority can be used to dispel another.
You get the degree, you get the title, end of story.
My brother would like to have a word with both of these journalists as he’s going back to school to get his PhD in PoliSci since he doesn’t want both his little sisters to be known as Dr. and he just gets Mr. (MD for me, PhD in psych for my sister).
Also, what is with companies listing my title second to my husbands? It’s Dr. & Mr., not Mr. & Dr.. Just because I’m a girl, doesn’t mean I come second.
Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem.
I address my vet, my dentist, my professors, my ophthamologist, and some of my friends as “Dr.,” because I respect their smarts & hard work. (Of course I will never address my brother the professor as anything more respectful than “hey, you,” because — I mean, well, really.)
What annoys me are guests on the Rachel Maddow show, who, despite being addressed politely with their titles, never respond by addressing the host as Dr. Maddow. It’s always “Rachel.” Just because she’s so friendly. As if she were Jay Leno.
I think friendliness goes hand in hand with respect, but apparently I’m in the minority, Dr. Myers.
Bosch's Poodle says
This is a matter of convention and style. The Times’s style guide states that medical doctors are referred to as “Dr. So-and-so” while non-medical doctors are referred to as Mr./Mrs./Ms. So-and-so unless their stated preference is to be called Dr., as with Drs. Kissinger and Rice.
Their reasoning has nothing to do with the relative status of medical vs. non-medical doctorate degrees or the amount of work put in. The reasoning is strictly limited to limiting reader confusion. That’s sad but makes sense. Most readers interpret “Dr.” as “MD,” and the Times wants to limit confusion…for better or worse.
I have no strong feelings on this one way or the other, although it is a strange subject. I am a lawyer with a juris doctor. My wife is pharmacist with a pharm.D. My brother is an m.d, and I have two close friends with a DDS and a Ph.D., respectively.
Frankly the only ones who have “earned” the title doctor in my eyes are the Ph.D., who did extensive research and defended a thesis, and the M.D., who, with residency, did four more years of schooling than everyone else.
Don’t even get me started on my friend the chiropractor. I wish there was more uniformity in the convention of this title.
Mike Dunford says
Hey, Meyertzyggle – I don’t misspell your name, so lay off on misspelling mine, would ya.
Dr. Karl E. Taylor says
So, I wonder if they can tell us how many medical cases the late “Doctor” Jerry Falwell handled?
Perhaps they have the number of surgeries performed by the late “Doctor” D. James Kennedy.
Oh, wait a minute, “Doctor” Kent Hovind isn’t actually in prison for tax evasion, he’s there as the dentist for the inmates, right?
And before anyone asks, it’s in Divinity and no, I will not take your blood pressure for you. (I know, Divinity degree and an in your face atheist, go figure)
DrFabulousShoes: My father has a friend who’s wife is a pediatrician. Back in the dark ages, he would introduce both his wife and himself as “Dr and Mr. Smith” (yes, they really have the last name of Smith). In the 50’s through the 70s, that was particularly amusing.
Not so much any more.
Evolving Squid says
FFS, they refer to chiroquackers as “doctor”. Surely someone who studied non-woo to the postgraduate levels deserves at least that much.
Hell you should use your title! I worked bloody hard for mine (PhD in developmental biology).
My friend’s parents make me giggle, they refer to themselves as the “Reverend and Mr Xxxxx”, which makes people think that gay marriage has reached the UK clergy at last. (people who forget that women can be ordained as Church of england priests here…)
Lay off the poor journalist. What he says is completely true–most American newspaper style guides don’t use the honorific “Dr.” when referring to anybody but MDs. (This is according to my high school journalism teacher, anyway.) And given that, it’s a little odd to refer to Dr. Biden as Dr. Biden in a news article.
The general use of “Dr.” in newspapers is another issue entirely.
Chuck Morrison says
I’m often asked as a physician if it bothers me that PhD’s are called “doctor” too. The work to me seems equivalent — medical school is 4 years post-graduate, and a PhD takes at least as long, if not more.
What does bother me is people getting fake degrees (ala Mr. Hovind) and using the term “doctor” to falsely gain respect or equal footing with those who have put hard time in to earn it.
Bosch's Poodle says
Yikes. I’m wrong. I guess they do use Dr. for non-MDs. I was going by memory (fairly fresh) of a column by the NYT ombudsman who was responding to reader questions on this topic. Specifically, why Dr. Rice was referred to as Dr. Rice when other poli-sci PhDs are not. Luckily, this is the first time I’ve ever been wrong about something.
the pro from dover says
As a medical doctor I would love to muddy the waters a little bit. I was schooled to always refer to myself as Doctor pro from dover in formal doctor patient relationships (that take place in a medical setting) and to refer to the patient formally as best as I could from Mr., Mrs., Ms., professor, doctor,etc. even when the patient was young (my cutoff is age 16 and older). First names never. Of course when my staff call for a patient from the waiting room they are instructed to use first names only-for privacy reasons (mandated by HIPPA). In corresponence things are different. Never “Dr. PFD” always “PFD M.D.” Therefore if you see a medicaloid looking printed infomercial and it is from Dr. so and so, you can rest assured it’s not a medical school graduate (usually a DC). In both medical and informal settings most of my patients, and many of my friends call me “doc” a wonderful term of endearment, and why some doctors don’t like that I’ll never understand. Many patients call me by my first name which I never correct, but I have a difficult time reciprocating that even when insisted upon by them (I’m pushing mid 60’s and not very flexible anymore-I still wear a tie to work! and never bluejeans even on friday!). In informal settings I try to avoid any formal language, I would prefer first name or “doc”, Sometimes I hope this may lessen the avalanche of advice giving I’m expected to do out of the office when I’d prefer to leave my medical hat behind. One last anecdote: whenever I’m grocery shopping, and I happen to meet a patient of mine or one of their family members, they never hesitate to scrutinize the contents of my cart for any evidence of caloric hypocracy-with gleeful “I knew its!” To LisaJ: It is true an M.D. usually can be earned in 8 years after high school, but this degree then requires another 3 to 8 years to actually be able to use it. (to achieve board-eligibility in some specialty). This is for the USA, some other countries may have different systems.
I think what Barry may be trying to get at is that it’s a crime in Germany (§132a StGB) to use titles you’re not entitled (no pun intended) to.
Why that would be of any concern to PZ (who very much *is* entitled to introducing himself as Dr. Myers if he so chooses) is beyond me, though.
Dr. Karl E. Taylor
A doctorate in bullshit, and you call it bullshit. This is very interesting, and I’d like to hear more. Were you an atheist before or after you started your degree?
SWceptical Chymist says
When I came to Delaware in 1962 there was a law on the books that only MDs could use the title “Doctor”. This was presumable to prevent snake oil salesmen from calling themselves doctor. The fact that Jill Biden was not arrested suggests that by now it has been rescinded. Since at that time practically every other person in Northern Delaware had a Ph.D. the law was pretty pointless! In the U.K. the title doctor could lead to some confusion: A mailman once knocked at the door of one of my former colleagues and asked his wife if the doctor was in as his back was hurting him something chronic! On being told my friend was not a medical doctor but a doctor of chemistry, he replied, “Oh he’s not a real doctor then!”
You gotta keep things real simple-like for us Americuns. I mean hows the average joe gonna know who to ask about whether they should be taking Lipitor or Crestor if we go round calling EVERYBODY Doctor. Huh?
And, to clarify, I think I agree that PhD’s should get the honorific.
As far as Germany goes, a friend who taught at Cologne University tells me that even during informal basketball sessions one can hear, ‘Herr Doctor Doctor Professor, pass!’
I have one friend whom I have only once heard insist on her title, that was when some functionary at an airport smarmily asked if she prefered ‘Mrs’ or ‘Ms’.
What about Dr. Chopra?
I see what you’re saying, but on the other hand, people who insist on being referred to as “Dr.” (or make a funny face when you don’t) are grade-A assholes for the most part. And most woo artists with any kind of doctorate will do that as we know.
Doctoral degree, married to doctoral degree and son of a doctoral degree here. Don’t use the honorific because we don’t wish to be associated with chiropractors or people with degrees in divinity from unaccredited bible colleges taught out of prefabricated sheds in the Ozarks.
Since academia is supposed to be divorced from petty nationalism we also prefer conformance to the European convention of limiting its use to the medical field.
It is just an aesthetic preference and if Jill Biden wants to be referred to as Doctor Biden I am going to respect that just as I would not demand of Duke Elliot that he show me his coronet and ermine mantle.
Dr Quidam says
I think we need to push back against the medical profession’s grab for exclusive use of the title. Even bloody chiropractors, homeopaths and other quacks insist on the title as well as dentists, vets, optometrists. Lens pushers with high school physics, Doctors? Hah!
As JDs it ought to be Dr. Barack Obama and Drs. Joe and Jill Biden.
It is an example of anti-intellectualism, to sneer at people who use their correct and earned title. It works because we are a little embarrassed at seeming to boast.
We need something like the Out Campaign. Don’t be embarrassed by your Ph.D., JD, D.Sc. Make those ignoramuses who squeaked through journalism school (it it really even a subject?)after 5 attempts, acknowledge your superior achievement.
Medical doctors can be called ‘Physician’ or ‘Medic’, Optometrists and Vets (without a doctorate) can go by Mister. British surgeons who eschew Doctor as a form of inverted snobbery can be called Surgeon.
As for the German law resticting the title – that was introduced by the Nazis in the 1930’s. It’s interesting that it’s being enforced now.
Robyn Slinger says
So would Bugs Bunny be an outlaw in Germany?
I believe that’s only the case for surgeons. All other specialties remain “Doctor”.
Any UKians to confirm?
And how about those characters who call themselves doctors with intent other than benevolence in mind? Sherlock Holmes never underestimated Doctor Moriarity’s resolve in matters that were non medical. And then there is Doctor Detroit as played by Dan Akyroyd, who said to his female criminal adversary: “I’m going to rip off your head and shit down your neck!” A little levity here to ward off snarky remarks to our deserved doctors of science and related fields.
The esteemed Bill Donohue has a Ph.D. in sociology. May I humbly suggest that from now on we drive him crackers by referring to him as “Doctor Bluster.”
If reporters are worried about confusing the general populace, why don’t they just write “Dr. So And So, who has a PhD in Such And Such, commented that…”?
In Germany, PZ would be “Herr Professor”. Big deal.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson was on NPR yesterday (NPR! fer cryin’ out loud) and the reportress interviewing him kept calling him Mr. Tyson, as if he were just some schmuck. The guy’s an ASTROPHYSICIST! Dude does rocket surgery on the back of an envelope! Credit where credit is due, please. Anybody that can work hard enough to get a PhD. has my respect. If they want me to call them by their given name later, that’s all well and good.
The Chemist says
As someone who might a PhD in the future, provided I don’t change my mind and get and MS, I obviously haven’t given it any thought. I do know my grandmother had a doctorate in the Spanish language and was a Professor Emeritus at her university. I of course just called her “Abuelita” (~Granny). Still, I hardly think other people were entitled to call her anything less. She worked hard at being an academic, and was a dedicated specialist in her field with many publications.
I think it’s interesting people call MDs “doctor” as a professional title, but don’t do the same for engineers (in the US). In other countries, “Engineer” is a title. Also in some countries, the honorific is used with the first name in regular speech.
The convention is to avoid confusion with healers, but I’m positively certain that this particular columnist is just being bitter and petty.
I partly blame the concept of honorary degrees given out by universities like so much candy. It’s one thing if you’ve worked hard and spectacularly contributed so much to the field that a university might let you waive some or all of the degree requirements as a special case. However, giving them out for speaking at a commencement ceremony is stupid. Even if everyone understands they don’t mean anything. Richard Feynman refused all of the honorary degrees he was offered citing the one degree he earned.
James F says
Also, note that Dr. Evil spent six years in evil medical school, while Dr. Horrible has a Ph.D. in horribleness.
Sven DiMilo says
must…resist…disparaging crack about…education degrees…
Stratonovich calculus says
New Yorker cartoon maître d’: “Certainly. A party of four in the name of Dr. Jennings. May I ask whether that is an actual medical degree or merely a Ph.D.?”
Bernard Bumner says
It is more complex in the UK, insofar as many medical Doctors don’t hold doctorates – they hold a bachelors degree in medicine. The use of the title Dr is an offical courtesy. The degree of MD is a higher qualification.
Mister is the correct honorific for a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons – someone who has reached the level of Consultant (somewhat equal to Attending Physician).
Still, I don’t know many – any – Ph.D.s who insist on being addressed as Dr. However, the idea of a reporter sneering at the use by someone who legitimately holds the title, does somewhat stink of insecurity.
Dr. SC, FCTE, OM says
He’s an MD.
I’ve heard it two ways….At one uni, everyone was called “Prof. so-and-so,” at another, everyone went by “Dr.” Given that “Doctor of Philosophy/Education/etc” and “Doctor of Medicine” are basically two sides of the same academic honorific coin, it is correct to address someone with a doctorate as Dr. In person, sure, one might not want to be called “Dr.____” over and over, but in an official capacity — especially as the VP’s spouse — I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t refer to her as “Dr. Biden.”
Unless, of course, you’re some idle journalist who can’t think of anything else to write about, probably got the bare minimum of higher education, and has a nice streak of good ol’ American anti-intellectualism.
I have a PhD myself (in anthropology – whoop dee doo), and I believe that it is pretentious as hell for anyone but an MD to insist on being addressed as “Doctor so and so.” In this society, “Dr.” means medical doctor AKA real doctor. If you’re not one, you’re “Professor whatsit” (if you teach at a post-high school level), and if not, you’re Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Miss. Live with it.
Even with MDs, “Doctor” should not be a “title of respect” – What is this, the Middle Ages? – but just a job description like “Officer,” or simply a convenient thing to call him or her if I forget their names.
J.D., M.B.A., PhD., Licensed Bikini Inspector – who gives a crap. Rodney Dangerfield scientists (“I don’t get no respect”) and other people who spent too many years in liberal arts programs, get over yourselves.
Professor Moose (The Simpsons, ‘That 90s Show’): “You’re about to get your Ph.D.: Pound Head Down!”
On Inauguration Day, on his way out the back door, George W. Bush was announced as “The Honorable”. By that standard, Jill Biden can call herself “Glorious Panjandrum Of All The Universes”.
In college, I called my professors “Doctor Lastname”, as I was there to learn from them. I tend to call an MD at least “Doc”, while in his office.
The supervisor of my local school district, with an education degree, insists on being called “Doctor Lastname” by all and sundry, even the newspaper. When he is being casual, he signs himself as “Dr. L.”.
“In bed, Madame, you may call me Monsieur Le President.”
The Chemist says
Oh, I almost forgot, why doesn’t the newspaper hold true to convention and use the correct honorific in these situations:
Dr. Joseph Mengele,
Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri…
Davdi Harper says
Brownian @ #69:
In Britain, senior hospital doctors are known as consultants, and use the title “Mister”, never “Doctor”. It’s only junior hospital doctors and family physicians (“General Practitioners”, or GPs, in British parlance) who style themselves “Doctor”.
There’s a long-standing snobbery in the British medical profession, and it probably dates back to the days when surgery — in the sense of cutting into people with sharp knives — was regarded as barbaric and not a proper way to do medicine.
As recently as the 19th century, procedures such as amputations were carried out by people without formal medical training. The red-and-white barber’s pole is a reminder of the days when, if you needed to have a gangrenous limb or a tumour removed, you didn’t go to a physician, because he would never sully his hands by getting blood on them!
Even today, medical students in Britain receive
two degrees upon completing their training: a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery.
Sven DiMilo says
The word “doctor” is not and should not be a synonym for “physician.” That said, you can call me Al.
Doesn’t the word “doctor” originate from latin “to teach”?
I prefer to be called Dr. by someone at first communication (especially by students), and then prefer a first name basis. I imagine this will fade over time as my excitement about being a doctor fades (still just over 1 year our of my PhD!). I think if I ever get an academic job, I’ll prefer ‘Professor’ versus ‘Doctor’ as the honorific.
Bodach @ 74
Hear, hear! My sentiments exactly.
This happened to me right after I got my PhD. I was setting up a frequent flyer account over the phone (so I could benefit from all those flights to observatories) and the smarmy guy on the phone said “Miss or Mrs?”, not even giving me the option of Ms. I was right proud to pull out “Doctor” at that point.
Now that I’m out of academia, the only person who insists on my title is my husband, although I recently had “PhD” added to my business cards. And I really enjoyed hearing the announcements of “Dr. Biden” and “Mr. Pelosi” during the inauguration!
Dr. Science is not a real doctor (He has a Masters Degree, in SCIENCE!)
I generally prefer to be called Professor in the formal setting. Although my students usually call me “coach”
(I tell them that as the instructor, I am like their coach – I can show them the things that they need to do to be successful; however, when they get out on the court, they are the ones who have to perform and I can’t do it for them)
Spence-Bob (#18) and others are right – the term Doctor was only conferred to MDs and other professional disciplines in the early 19th century. Wikipedia pegs it as 1807 in the US that the first medico was given the honorific.
This sort of thing really gets my goat – mostly because I’m a word nazi, not because I hold a doctorate.
Frankly, to imbue MDs with special respect because of the term I have always thought absurd. Sure, you’re an idiot to ignore a good MD’s advice, but they are different from a vet, an auto mechanic, or a plumber only as matters of degree. They are technicians, highly skilled of course but still technicians.
Besides, not one of them owns a TARDIS.
–Nathaniel, who really thought he might get one at the end of his physics Ph.D. defence
Tantalus Prime says
I would like to see honorifics dropped all together. Sure, there is a lot of hard work that goes into getting an MD or PhD. A lot goes into being a mechanic too. I don’t like it because it seems to replace an older honorific system (nobility) with a new one and makes me feel like we are setting up two classes of people, separated by education rather than birth.
In the end, a professorship is a job like any other. It just requires a lot more formal schooling to do it.
Robyn Slinger says
When making reservations with German airline companies, they usually ask what my title is – Dr, Mr or Mrs. As I am not an MD, I never dare answering ‘Dr’, for fear someone might feel bad during the flight and the flight attendants ask me to help.
Rock on, Dr Taylor. I wish people ’round here would be a just a *tiny* bit less snide about divinity; it is a legitimate field of study, notwithstanding ORU and that type of numbskull. After all, we can respect our colleagues with a PhD in literature; aren’t divinity studies that much more rooted in human culture, language, and history? Given how deeply religious *belief* — I’m not saying truth — is entwined in human culture (for evidence, consult almost any post of this blog), can you think of a more fascinating field of study? There are a number of prominent div schools (notably Harvard) where an atheist can study without having to pretend otherwise.
Now that I’m done with my health-sciences PhD, I’m taking a few years off, but I definitely think about going back for Div someday. (As soon as the PTSD wears off.)
Chris Phillips says
British surgeons who eschew Doctor as a form of inverted snobbery can be called Surgeon.
It is not snobbery but a traditional hangover from when surgery was carried out by barbers who were not learned men. It is now a status that requires considerable academic and practical skill and I for one do not begrudge them an ounce of their status or affectations. I am just too grateful for their expertise!
My daughter has the same status as a Mr but as a paediatrician enjoys the title Dr and regards surgery still as a form of butchery!
Dawkins has a PhD and a Scientiæ Doctor Oxon. Should he be addressed as Meta Doctor Professor?
“must…resist…disparaging crack about…education degrees…”
When asked why she never bothered to get a PhD in education, my mother responded that she could never save enough box tops.
Just to confuse matters, in the UK when a doctor obtains a specialist surgical qualification they become Mr/Miss/Ms/Mrs again. This is a tradition dating back to when medical doctors (i.e. those that dabbled in potions and leeches) regarded surgeons as mere butchers – probably because most surgeons learned their trade amputating limbs on the battlefield. The reversion of title is now used as an ironic badge of respect.
I no longer hold an academic appointment, but I did not renounce my Ph.D. (Philosophy of Ed.).
I cannot any longer claim the honorific “Professor,” because that is a title which is particular to the academic field.
I do, however, retain “all the rights and privileges thereunto appertaining,” as my degree declares, including the right–should I care to exert it–to be called “Doctor” Woody…
I earned it. But as someone else said, I use it only to intimidate headwaiters and put officious bureaucrats in their places…
Actually, you will very rarely hear scientists (of the particle physics variety at any rate) call each other Doctor, or use the term on anything but the most formal correspondence or presentation. We all just use our names. (Look at author lists on papers – there are never any degrees, and that’s the thing we take most seriously of all.)
Actually, it’s funny. After 7 years of postdoc-ing, I’ve finally landed a tenure-track job, and it takes a serious effort of will to refer to my fellow teachers in the third person as “Doctor this” or “Professor that”. We have to – having students be TOO familiar with us is just as problematic as having them too scared – but dang it’s hard not to say “well, you’d better go talk to Dave” instead of “you’d better go talk to the Chair”.
A professorship is NOT a job like any other. You couldn’t do my job, and you certainly couldn’t get it in the current job market… not without putting in a good fraction of the 17 years of study I’ve devoted to the topic. (4 years undergrad + 6 years grad school + 7 years post-doc) Note that through most of that, I was paid peanuts compared to any doctor, lawyer, or plumber with equivalent education. It takes dedication, and not a little stupidity.
In the UK, members (and Fellows) of the RCS (i.e., surgeons and consultants) traditionally avoid the title “Doctor”; although they are technically entitled to use it, as they hold a doctor’s degree. University lecturers and even some school teachers who hold Ph.D. degrees use the title.
Also, since “r” is the last letter of “Doctor”, there doesn’t need to be a full stop after it (i.e. it’s “Dr Myers”, not “Dr. Myers” — or would be, except that he’s a Professor; and “professor” doesn’t end with an “f”, so it’s “Prof. Myers”.)
From The Associated Press Style Book:
doctor: Use Dr. in first reference as a formal title before the name of an individual who holds a doctor of medicine degree: _Dr. Jonas Salk_. . .
If appropriate in the context, DR. also may be used on first reference before the names of individuals who hold other types of doctoral degrees. However, because the public frequently identifies Dr. only with physicians, care should be taken to assure that the individual’s specialty is stated in first or second reference. . .
Do not continue to use Dr. in subsequent references.
My undergrad college had a policy that asked students to refer to all faculty as “Mr.” or “Ms.”, regardless of degree. My grad school University splits hairs over professor, assistant, associate, lecturer, senior lecturer, Mr., Ms., you name it. And until recently, it chafed everybody that the most recognized member of one department only had a Masters, while everybody under him had Ph. D.s He just never felt the need to go back and get the sheepskin.
Prior to the “professionalization” of medicine–designed by practitioners to limit participation in the ‘profession,’ ‘doctors’ were no better than butchers, bone-setters, barbers and blood-letters.
Evidence that reporters are somehow separate from and thus less likely to be confused as the general populace?
I had an English teacher in high school who had a doctorate in English. She insisted we call her “Doctor”, but then she had a bit of a chip on her shoulder for having to teach high school in a college town.
My rule of thumb in written and spoken communication is that if someone has a PhD or MD, then they are called “Dr. Surname” until they ask me to call them something else.
From the article:
Who the fuck is this moron, and why is she allowed anywhere near a fucking keyboard?! Brownian head asplode!
Serenity now, serenity now, serenity now, serenity now, serenity now, serenity now….
Interestingly, though, someone with a juris doctor is “Counselor”, not “Doctor”. (I shan’t cite D.D., since we Pharyngulites generally don’t respect that “degree”.)
And in the UK, surgeons are “Mister” or “Ms”.
I have to come down on PZ’s side here too. I don’t want to be a hypocrite, given that one of my motivations for wanting to do a PhD is that afterwards, anyone who does that damnable condescending “child-speak” thing at me because I’m disabled — that is, the “And how are we today, Interrobang?!” thing — can get icily told “That’s Doctor Interrobang…”
After all, we can respect our colleagues with a PhD in literature; aren’t divinity studies that much more rooted in human culture, language, and history?
As far as I’m concerned, having a degree and a half in literature (the other half a degree is in rhetoric, don’t ask), divinity is a literature degree. It’s just a really specialised literature degree. Then again, I don’t actually think those religious stories are, you know, true or anything, or at least any more true than any other work of fiction.
My daughter has the same status as a Mr but as a paediatrician enjoys the title Dr and regards surgery still as a form of butchery!
Boy am I ever glad a) I don’t live in the UK, and b) I never had your daughter as a pediatrician, since I needed four surgeries before I ever grew out of being a pediatrics case. As in, stuff that just isn’t (or maybe wasn’t) correctable without it. Are you sure she’s not selling some of her patients short because of her irrational aversion to surgery? (My boyfriend, who had a surgery to correct a tongue-tie, probably agrees with me, and, thanks to the surgery, could articulate his opinions clearly in speech.)
An Austrian of my acquaintance insisted on being addressed as
Herr Dr Dr Friewald
I was addressed as Herr Engineer. No PhD for me, unlike the doubly-accredited Austrian.
And strangely, here in the UK, surgeons insist on being called Mr, not Dr. A form of inverted snobbery?
With all due respect, Prof Dr Myers, in the wrong hands all this can get a bit pompous, you know…
Actually, it’s Dr. Ratzinger as Joe the rat has a PhD in theology.
I’d like to introduce Lord Bertrand Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS B.A. Cambridge and proud graduate of Her Majesty’s Prison, Brixton
Although awarded a Nobel Prize, Lord Russell loathes being called professor having been fired by the best schools on both sides of the pond.
I find the greater the merit associated with the honorific the more absurd the holder feels in using it.
Ryan Meehan says
Not sure what the gripe is here. This is just standard AP Style, applied at every major American newspaper. Has nothing to do with this reporter being ignorant.
Whether the style guide should be amended to recognize PhDs is another argument. Newspapers that adhere to the style guide do not use the Dr. honorifics for Condi Ricer, Henry Kissinger or Jill Biden.
It IS a newspaper convention.
It SHOULDN’T be, but it IS.
The New York Times does it, too.
I was confused to see all my professors referred to as Mr. and Ms. instead of Dr. in articles there before I figured that one out.
Yeah, but it’s the physicians who co-opted the term who are the pompous ones….
Brownian OM, BA, BSc, FCD, WTF, BBQ.
I love ya, PZ, but this style convention has absolutely nothing to do with contempt for intellectuals. It’s all about clarity for readers. When the average person hears the title “doctor,” they think medical doctor. They don’t think academic title, and they further don’t parse that into the specific academic discipline.
Now, there are always media types who ignore or neglect style rules. Others don’t. The organization I work for calls him Martin Luther King Jr., no Dr., no Rev., no Rev. Dr.
I understand your concerns with the pitiable little arm-waving evident in the columns you mention, but you are guilty of a logical fallacy when you think the style rule is there to show contempt for academics.
PZ, I’m afraid you’re out of your field here. What we’re talking about is Associated Press style, followed by virtually every paper in the U.S. It has nothing to do with contempt for intellectuals (You’d be surprised how many journalists hold Ph.D.s but will not permit anyone to refer to them as Dr.). My father, for example. The point is that most Americans think “medical doctor” when they see Dr. There is nothing more to it than that.
I guess that means Bugs Bunny has to stop saying “What’s up Doc?” to Elmer Fudd.
In Britain, medical practitioners ie ‘doctors’ usually have an MBChB or something similar (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery), but get called “Dr”, which I have found irritates some PhDs, since it is a bachelor’s degree, not a higher one . Dentists have started using the style of “Dr” as well in recent years; similarly, they usually have a BDS ‘Bachelor of Dental Surgery’. The MD has a similar status to a PhD; a hospital doctor will often attempt to earn one to achieve the kudos necessary to get a senior job in a hospital. Historically Bachelor of Medicine allowed you to practice medicine, an MD to teach it.
Surgeons, when they qualify as surgeons (Membership or Fellowship of one of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons) drop the “Dr” and get called ‘Mr’; a bit of reverse snobbery going back to the days when they cut hair. Except for ENT surgeons in Edinburgh, or Opthalmologists in various places according to local custom…
Essentially the ‘Dr ‘/PhD/ MD thing in Britian is complex and not very helpful, and I see you going the same way over there.
Benny the Icepick says
Reminds of the time you were on that Christian radio show debating evolution with that quack who didn’t know about Tiktaalik.
It really incensed me that they consistently referred to him as Dr. So-and-so but called you “PZ.” Not even a MISTER Myers!
Generally in the UK a medical doctor holds the degrees of MB ChB or MB BS and is addressed as “Doctor”.
I have heard of one UK academic (Ph D) who taught his children, when they were young enough to get away with it, to say to anyone introduced as “Doctor” –
“Are you a real doctor, or someone with a first degree in medicine?”
Awesome Robot says
We have to call the Chiropractor my company creates marketing material for “Doctor”, but I make sure to add the air quotes every time I do.
And let’s not forget the Doctors in the political arena…
Dr. Rachel Maddow (has shows on Air America AND MSNBC)
Sen. Dr. Al Franken
I’m sure there are others. The fact that Jill Biden happens to hold a Doctorate isn’t the point here. The point is the media had it in the bag for the McBush camp, which was doctorate free. They are sore losers, and it seems that Jill Biden is getting the brunt of it right now, which is too bad, considering that she’s done nothing wrong, except not being the moronic governor of a state we should give back to whoever we stole it from.
Sven DiMilo says
Once I happened to catch Larry King when his guest was Weird Al Yankovic. A caller asked “How much of your current success do you attribute to your early exposure on the Dr. Demento radio program?” And King had the gall to paraphrase it as “How much to Demento?”
That really pissed me off. Not even the courtesy of “Mr. Demento.”
It has been noted elsewhere (and I wish I could remember where) that doctor, docent, docile, and doctrine all derive from the Latin word docere, which relates to teaching. Hence one might conclude that doctor is best used to refer to teachers rather than physicians. Those darned medicine men nipped our word! They could at least have said “Thank you”!
Bosch’s Poodle: “Their reasoning has nothing to do with the relative status of medical vs. non-medical doctorate degrees or the amount of work put in. The reasoning is strictly limited to limiting reader confusion. That’s sad but makes sense. Most readers interpret “Dr.” as “MD,” and the Times wants to limit confusion…for better or worse.”
I’m sure you’re right. But I can’t help but think that this practice simply reinforces the general population’s ignorance on the matter. The papers should use the honorific routinely. After a few years of readers running into Doctors who *aren’t MDs, it might start to sink in…
Priya Lynn says
A real doctor has attained a level of prestige and honour that people with simple PHDs never can. They’ve committed themselves to a profession that is of considerably greater importance and in my opinion extremely distasteful compared to anything a non-medical PHD holder could ever do. The majority of people have had to depend on the services of a doctor at some point in their lives for the most precious thing there is, their health. Calling your self a Doctor for simply attaining a PHD is to be a pretender. Its no coincidence that to the vast majority of people its a bit of a joke when a non-medical person refers to themselves as a “doctor”.
Priya Lynn says
Regarding those who claim the original meaning of the word doctor was “teacher” – the meaning of words changes over time, get used to it. The meaning most people attach to a word determines its meaning and to most people if you’re not concerned with people’s health you’re not a doctor.
I just wanted to add that many newspapers that are doing this are not doing this to be snobby. We do it because it is very easy for someone to obtain a doctorate degree from an unaccredited university. For example, I’m sure no one wants Kent Hovind being referred to as a doctor in a newspaper article. As a journalist it’s my job just to report that facts and not to determine which Doctorate degrees hold enough merit to refer to someone with the title of Dr. Current Associated Press guidelines say to only refer to medical doctors by that title, and until that changes it is the rules that almost all major newspapers will follow.
“How many appendectomies have Dr Kissinger, Dr Condoleezza Rice, and Dr Martin Luther King done, huh?”
It could be said that the two non-medical doctors, Dr. Kissinger and Dr Condoleezza, have via the polities they enacted in government caused many surgeries of all kinds including appendectomies… at least these two are responsible for their part in the State Sponsored mass murderers of a whopping number of people. Not as many as Saddam but still the USA under their leadership and advice racked up an impressive kill record – including torture and war crimes.
But yes, they are properly called “Dr” even without medical degrees. “Dr” is also appropriate used with “Dr Evil”. ;–)
Dr Martin Luther King, as far as I know, wasn’t involved in murders – individually or on a mass scale with State Sponsored Terrorism as the other two are. In fact it’s likely that he’s saved many from many crimes of skin color discrimination. It’s a good thing too!
I agree that the journalist is being unduly snarky and petty in this instance, although some people with degrees deserve to be taken down a peg. Especially those clowns who insist on saying, “My name is Doctor John Doe.”
Bet it’s not.
Sven DiMilo says
Riiiight. Because it is so simple to simply attain a simple Ph.D.
On the other hand, the quickest way to lose respect for
real doctorsphysicians is to teach a couple of courses to pre-meds.
Haven’t had time to read through the other comments, but I have to say it seems odd to me that some members of the media wouldn’t want to use someone’s proper title. I remember them stumbling over themselves to get everything right during the transition: switching from Senator Obama to President-Elect Obama to President Obama. So why is it so hard to refer to someone who has earned a doctorate degree (in any subject) as ‘Doctor’? Anyone in the media who thinks people with non-medical doctorate degrees aren’t worthy of the same title as medical doctors can kiss my ass.
Silver Fox says
It does seem customary to refer to medical doctors as Dr. while not making similar reference to other doctors. Possibly this grows out of the recognition that a medical doctorate is a professional degree. Dentists and even chiropractors are referred to as doctor. These are seen as professional degrees. Ph.D.s are seen as academic degrees and within academia they are referenced as doctor but they are not referenced so by the public at large.
Dr. Kissinger and Dr. Rice are designations which I think most people would see as a form of self-puffery.
If I am in a professional situation where my title gives needed context (i.e., “hey, this guy is some kinda expert or sumpin'”), then I use it. Period.
I wish those folks who can’t step outside without broadcasting their title would follow this approach. You’re not impressing anyone, guys. Except the easily impressed, and where’s the challenge in that?
As for journalism… Several years back, the head of our lab, holder of a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, was featured in a newspaper article about a surgery he developed (and which has been demonstrated effective where no option previously existed). Use of titles aside, what was most grating/amusing (about 70/30) was this line of breathless prose: “and he’s not even a doctor!”
Well when my wife got her Phd in Education the only times I have to call her doctor is when she’s mad at me.
Several reasons for not using “Dr.” from this longtime copy editor. It’s not for anti-intellectual reasons.
1. We long ago quit using irrelevant honorifics before names. We use “Dr.” only if it’s in a medical story.
2. It avoids confusion. A doctor? What kind of doctor? What specialty?
3. It eliminates a false equivalency and an appeal to an authority that may not merit it (Dr. Laura, anyone?).
From my newspaper’s stylebook:
In many stories, the fact that someone is a physician is no more relevant than the fact that someone is a bricklayer, and, thus, it is unnecessary to use the title “Dr.” before a physician’s name in these instances.
In articles in which the profession is relevant, such as a story about an operation or a malpractice suit, “Dr.” should be used before the name of an allopath (someone with an M.D. degree) or an osteopath (someone with a D.O. degree).
Avoid Dr. as a title before the names of people with degrees in such non-medical fields as history and theology.
Doctors of all types in many stories should be further identified by their specialties, such as psychiatry or gynecology.
In addition … homeopaths can be licensed only if they hold M.D. degrees. Thus, a homeopath should receive the title “Dr.” but also should be referred to in a story as a homeopath.
The title “Dr.” also can be used before the names of other medical professionals, including podiatrists, psychiatrists, dentists and veterinarians.
Silver Fox et al.
It may be customary in everyday settings but I guess that depends on what your milieu is, eh? If I am meeting someone within my professional circle I would be introduced to them as “Dr.” because I have a Ph.D. If I’m introduced to someone in a university setting then I am also “Dr.” Obviously, to my relations and friends I am not “Dr.” but anywhere else, yes. I worked damned hard for my degree at great expense and I think I earned it. Oh yeah, what would these people call Martin Luther King, Jr.? Mister or Doctor? Obviously, I’m not comparing my accomplishments to his, as mine are only slightly more modest, but we both earned our Ph.D.s and so earned the honorific. Does this lot call a priest “Father”? Why? He ain’t your father. Why does an M.D., particularly one that isn’t treating you, get the honorific?
Priya Lynn says
Strider I don’t call a priest “father” and by the same token I don’t call someone, such as yourself, who isn’t a doctor “doctor”.
well, even if the media are not being willfully ignorant, at least we have Priya Lynn to take up their slack!
what a maroon.
Priya Lynn says
Ihateaphids, Strider thinks he deserves to be called “doctor” because he worked hard and spent a lot of money. It doesn’t work that way. My husband worked hard and spent a lot of money to become a mechanic which he also teaches to others. He derserves to be refered to as doctor just as much as people like Strider, which is to say, not at all.
I have always called my physician “Doc”, and he has no trouble with the informality…but then he has been my doctor for almost 20 years.
Years ago, during my pool playing days, a number of people addressed me as “Doc”. They were aware that my field of study was computer science, but there were quite a few who assumed that I was an MD, so I got a lot of that “I have this pain right here…” inquiries. When I told them that I was a CS guy, the questions morphed into “My hard drive is making this funny noise”. Oh, well.
“Never play cards with a guy named “Doc”, never have lunch at a place called “Eats”, and if someone walks up to you and offers to bet you $100 that he can make the Queen of Spades jump out of the deck and spit apple cider in your ear…well, my friend, don’t take the bet. For as sure as I am standing here, you are going to get an earful of cider.”
Silver Fox says
“I worked damned hard for my degree at great expense and I think I earned it.”
Did you work damned hard for your degree to be flattered or to learn something that would help you make a contribution to society? If the latter, then forget the puffery and get on with doing something.
On this site I have been called many things; idiot, stupid, moron, asshat, etc. Do you think I care? No. Its my purpose to teach these Godknockers good manners and that is what I do, pejoratives notwithstanding.
I was always under the impression that the medical profession adopted the honorific “Doctor” from academia, and not the other way around.
I’m pretty sure I’m right…
“Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits…”
“Nya, what’s up, Doc?”
I can’t believe nobody else tried that!
The funny thing is that here in Britain most medical doctors don’t actually hold doctorates; our basic medical degree is not called an MD, but a BM BCh (Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery; the abbreviation varies). We do, nevertheless, refer to them with the honorific “Dr.”; but I have to say, most of the people I’ve ever known who were called “Dr.” were Ph.D holders, not medical doctors. I had a couple of teachers at school who held doctorates and used the title Dr, and most academics who hold Ph.Ds but aren’t professors (“professor” is a much more sparingly-conferred title in the UK than in the US, and is only given to the most senior and prestigious academics) are also referred to as Dr.
Dark Matter says
Speaking as a copy editor at a student newspaper, we don’t use the honorific because it confuses readers. We pretty much have to assume they’re idiots, honestly, and a lot of them assume that Dr. = MD. I wish we didn’t have to play to them – especially since I’m planning on pursuing a doctorate, and not a medical degree – but that’s the way it is. We do our damnedest to be consistent about it, though. I strike honorifics for priests and so forth too. Basically, we use the honorific if it contributes substantially to the readers’ grasp of the individual’s role in society, and at a university ones hopes that all one’s professors have doctorates.
Admittedly it is a bit rude, though.
I have a question, by the way. What is the difference between doctoral and graduate students, and is it substantial enough that it should be noted in print?
If i’m a godknocker you’re a godsucker.
And you’re not teaching anyone anything.
Grad students can either be for an M.S. or a Ph.D. but only the Ph.D. is a doctoral student. BTW, those are distinctions and honorific bestowed by universities across the country and not made up by me, PeeZed or anyone else. That’s the way it is. But then, to Silver Fox et al. it doesn’t matter so just forget about it.
“Doctors are doctors. People with doctorates are people with doctorates.” – not actually true.
Doesn’t the actual definition of the word mean something?
I’m from the UK. Full disclosure, I have a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Durham. Back home if you’ve earned a doctorate you earned the right to be called a doctor, per the definition. Medical doctors don’t have a doctorate, they have a Bachelor’s degree in medicine, admittedly not true in the US, but are called doctors because to be ” a person skilled or specializing in healing arts” is also another, equally valid, definition of doctor.
If I choose to go by “Dr.” that’s my business, to tell me I can’t, or shouldn’t or that you are going to play fast and loose with the definition of a word to suit your beliefs is, frankly, insulting.
Dr. Quidam says
Some random comments on this.
1) The importance some people attach to this issue of honorifics has always amazed me. I can see it as a tool for maintaining authority in some situations – like teaching large classes. But the idea that calling someone by their first name or the wrong title is somehow disrespectful has always seemed alien.
2) The University of Chicago has (or at least had when I was there) a policy of referring to holders of academic degrees as Mr or Ms rather than Dr. Not sure what the history behind that was.
3) In grad school there was a habitat of jokingly referring to one another as Dr. (insert last name). This stopped as soon as we started getting PhDs.
Voting Present says
I see there are a lot of silly authority games on this thread, from Barry to Priya Lynn to AP style guides. We’re supposed to pander to people who think that the Ph.D. degree isn’t “real” in order to fluff the M.D. degree?
They’re wrong, and I am not going to pander to them.
And they can take that on authority, if they like. There you go. Use the ghost of one authority to dispel another.
very interesting to see the response to this subject…
at the science mag where i work, we don’t include degrees or titles–mostly for space, as i understand it, although probably also because it would quickly become repetitive: almost everyone we interview is a phd or an md.
we do describe scientists’ and physicians’ specialty fields and institutions (e.g., “a molecular biologist at harvard,” or “an oncologist at georgetown university hospital”). after sources have been introduced in the text, they are typically referred to by last name only (“smith has discovered…”).
no fuss, no muss.
People should remember that the issue really isn’t one of lack of respect. That’s what PZ saw it as, but that’s a logical fallacy. He’s taking a journalistic style rule, assuming a reason for its existence, and then getting upset at that assumption.
As clearly demonstrated by many posters with experience in or knowledge of journalism, the style is there to help provide the clearest message to readers. When appropriate and necessary, an academic or professional title is used. There is no regard for whether you’ve “earned it” or how you choose to be addressed. The point is to make the story clear for readers.
Now, it’s not to say that the original columns PZ is putting to aren’t stupid or being needlessly picky. And THOSE writers may also be ascribing some glorious value to the title “Dr.” that isn’t really fair to bring up in this context.
It’s not an attack on academics, it has nothing to do with your own feelings of self worth or how much you’ve accomplished, and it also has nothing to do with the derivations of the words. It’s a rule designed to make stories easier to understand for the majority of newspaper readers.
Like any rule, it sometimes get broken or abused.
Its important that the crowds don’t really trust the smart ones.
Naked Bunny with a Whip says
I only have a B.A., which might mean “Bachelor of Arts” or “Bare Ass”. Or both.
Peter Ashby says
Over here in the UK not even all medics are called Dr, the surgeons like to be called Mr, go figure. i was advised by medically qualified lecturer during my PhD not to list myself as Dr in the phone book. He never locked his car when it was parked at his house. That way the druggies didn’t do any damage when they searched it for drugs.
I use my title advisedly, though here in status obsessed UK it can be useful. When trying to book a restaurant table in London for eg. Somehow, I didn’t tell them, I am down as Dr when I give blood and every time I’m asked if I’m a medic. They get twitchy around medics, thinking they are judging their technique.
John M. says
My analytical chemistry lecturer many years ago saw no point in degrees lower than D.Sc. and equated them as follows B.Sc. (y’all know that one already) M.Sc. = More Shit, Ph.D. = piled higher and deeper).
He’s now a Professor Emeritus and has that D.Sc. In UK this degree is only awarded following the submission of several shed loads of professional papers published over many years.
Bouncing Bosons says
Priya Lynn – 3/10
Your trolling is bland and uncreative, though mildly successful. I know you can do better than this.
I agree that insisting on the title is a bit pompus, but it lies within the “rights and privileges” that one gets when awarded a PhD. I see nothing wrong with choosing to use it in professional or formal settings.
On the subject of “real” doctors, as noted above, the PhD is a research degree, while the MD is a professional degree. Generally professional degrees are considered lower Doctorates than research degrees, since one must make a substantial original contribution to the body of knowledge in one’s field to attain a research degree. Despite it being a “simple” PhD. *eyeroll*
I understand the desire to eliminate confusion, but the idea that “Dr.” is synonymous with “MD holding Physician” is mistaken and should not be reinforced for the sake of clarity. Clarity is essential in a newspaper, but correctness is above all.
Captain Cook says
I am under the impression that in general a PhD is a much tougher qualification to achieve than an MD.
Is this not the case?
In my journalism classes, we learned to state the person’s degree on first reference (John Smith, Ph.D., or John Smith, M.D.) and then use Dr. Smith on subsequent references, like you would use Mr. Smith or Ms. Smith for a person without a degree.
The Times’ policy seems silly.
Master 'Tis Himself says
I have an MA. You may all address me as Master.
Voting Present says
Kirk, what people are objecting to is that such “journalistic style rules” (apart from being UNCLEAR because they are incorrect) are serving a specific purpose by fluffing the M.D. and denigrating the Ph.D. This is a business of CREATING status and authority phantoms. The “rule” does not exist only to pander to an uninformed rabble’s ignorance, but specifically to CREATE that uninformed ignorance by explicit misinformation. People think the Ph.D. is “not real” BECAUSE YOU TOLD THEM THAT.
It continuous to amaze me how journalists can think their actions have no influence on the real world, e.g., the Iraq War.
Matt Heath says
I always thought the rule for pretentiousness was whether it is strictly relevant to what you are doing. If a stranger is emailing me about academic work (or if undergrads need to talk to me but I’m post-doc so I’m invisible to undergrads) I’m “Dr”. Otherwise whatever.
Equally, I think a physician is a pretentious dickhead if she insists on being “Dr.” outside the consulting room (or medical conferences or wherever else her job is the point). Worst of all are the ones who insist on it when they are referred to in the context of a second, non-medical career, like Liam Fox or Ron Paul. At least PhD politicians who insist on using the title often have PhD in things directly relevant to politics
It’s a difficult comparison. A physician’s training is more grueling in that they are attempting to take in a vast amount of information (much of it created by Ph.D.s) in a relatively short time. The hours suck and there are such nasty mind games and so much puffing and preening to deal with that it can physically wear them down.
But for the medical student there is, from the first day to the last day, complete certainty. Everything that is to be learned has been meticulously mapped out. It is like drinking from a firehose, but it is all intake (and some internal synthesis), and therefore (IMO) not nearly the intellectual achievement that is required to earn a Ph.D., which requires a “substantial and original contribution to human knowledge,” usually in the form of a reviewed dissertation (which in my experience felt like giving birth to a cinderblock). But for the most part, I made my own hours.
(My field of study had me on occasion learning with medical students. I was in general much less impressed with their intellectual abilities than I was with my fellow graduate students.)
All throughout the Ph.D. process there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty that you will be able to accomplish what you set out to do, most especially in the sciences. (As a sciency type I hold the belief that these are more rigorous programs, but I will back this up with the purely anecdotal observation that the artsy doctoral students I knew were, to a person, much less stressed about the academic portion of their lives.)
Then there is also the knowledge that even if you do manage to complete your research and pass your defense, your future is still pretty dodgy looking, as finding a good job is much like playing a spirited round of musical chairs. (Post-docs are the migrant labor of the new millennium.)
As a freshly minted Ph.D., at least I didn’t have a couple hundred thousand dollars of loans to pay off, compared to the average medical student. I had decent support for much of my degree-seeking time, as a research assistant.
Dr. Karl E. Taylor says
After. I grew up a fundy, groomed and educated for the ministry, trained to be a preacher and public speaker.
During those years, I found myself with a lot more questions than answers. But it wasn’t until years later, and finding my niche with computers, that I came to terms with living a lie. I think it was the 8 years I spent in the Coast Guard that really pushed me over the edge.
When you’re in a small boat, riding into a storm just under hurricane force, because someone is going to die if you don’t get there, and no deity helps you; you learn pretty quick, you’re on your own in this world.
I know this will be popular, but here goes. I agree that limiting the honorific “Dr” to MD is snobbery. But let’s get real, people…some animals are more equal than others…education degrees are junk degrees, not to be mistaken for “real” ones (in this case physics and history).
Cath the Canberra Cook says
I’m rather surprised at that style guide. Here, I’d expect “Dr” to be used in exactly the same way as “Mr” or “Ms”. Use it or not, meh, whatever, I don’t care. But if you do use a title, use the right one. It seems very rude to insist on *changing* someone’s title.
And yeah, I’m am Aussie so mostly we actually call people with PhDs Kev, Kim, Bazza, Jools, ya mongrel, etc.
Naked Bunny with a Whip says
I’m a knight, and that’s why the supermarket cashiers call me “sir”.*
* This may not be true.
Doc Bill says
Hi, I’m Doc Bill.
Turn your head and cough.
David Marjanović, OM says
That’s a mostly American phenomenon.
No wonder. Over here, “professor” is higher than “doctor”, because to become a professor, you have to write an extra-large thesis (called habilitation)! It’s not simply a job description like it appears to be in the USA. In the end, everyone who teaches at a university gets by default called “professor” by ordinary students, and every physician gets called “doctor”.
In Germany he’d probably end up being called Mr. Myers in public, especially on TV. Austria is different, though; they’d call you Dr. and maybe even apologize once they find out you’re a professor. Lots of Austrian politicians are doctors* of law, and all of these are called Dr..
* Though, actually, they don’t do any graduate studies for that. Other people become “Master” at the end of their undergrad studies, students of law become “Doctor”.
Certainly not, because Prof. comes first: Herr Professor Doktor Doktor.
To be fair, the OED is a historical dictionary, and as such it lists the senses of each word in historical order; the one that is attested first is listed first, even if it’s now extinct.
In Austria, all middle-school teachers are called “professor”, even the ones with two doctorates (I had one), and even though most have no doctorate at all. Must have some kind of weird historical reason. Technically, they only acquire the title (automatically!!!) after a couple of years, but that’s ignored.
What do the real professors do to make clear they’re real professors? They write their names with Univ.-Prof. Dr. in front: the first part is short for Universitätsprofessor, and the second is always mentioned even though it’s a prerequisite for becoming a university professor and even though the Master’s degree (which all middle-school teachers share) is never mentioned.
There used to be a professor of economics who was a politician. In the TV news he was always written “Univ.-Prof. Dr. A. Van der Bellen”, because the long surname and the even longer title left no space to ever spell out Alexander.
WTF? That’s not a European convention. To the contrary!
Quite so. My grandfather is Dipl.-Ing. = Diplomingenieur.
That won’t happen with a German airline company. Or in fact, I think, any from a non-English-speaking country.
Because, as mentioned above, Ingenieur is a separate title over here.
No, no, no. Calling yourself a doctor when you haven’t done a doctorate — when you haven’t done research and written a thesis about it — is to be a pretender.
It doesn’t look like clinteas, Pharyngula’s very own MD*, has shown up to give his opinion on this yet. Hopefully he’ll appear before too long and let us know what it’s like from the sawbones’ side of the fence.
Naked Bunny with a Whip says
Are you a real doctor? I mean, I’ll do as you say regardless. I’m just making conversation.
Priya Lynn, the minute your husband earns his ‘doctor of machinery’ degree, I will call him Doctor. It has nothing to do with how hard you work, but simply by definition someone who finishes a doctorate is a doctor. I have sacrificed 11 years plus, thus far, in advanced education, with little recognition or compensation so that I can become an expert in a specific field so that I can apply that knowledge to help heal the environment and society, rather than individual people. I therefore have earned the right to my title. That said, I usually don’t ask people to refer to me as doctor, but when I come across people like you, I insist.
You will henceforth refer to me as doctorihateaphids.
the rest of you can call me Jeff.
Marc Abian says
I’m sad now.
Interestingly, though, someone with a juris doctor is “Counselor”, not “Doctor”.
I suspect that’s due to a certain level of embarrassment, as us lawyerly types award the doctor degree (JD) first, then call the advanced version a masters (LLM). Not that anyone has ever called me Master, either.
I’ve worked in lots of countries around the world, and with lots of differrnt people:
Germans & Austrians (in particular) are sticklers for correct titles. The most junior guy on one project was “Herr Doktor …” – no-one else happened to have a doctorate, but no-one would ever ignore his title. It was a culture shock when the team came stateside for a month of meetings – and suddenly “Herr Doktor ” was simply “Franz”.
I remember my headmaster in High School in Scotland was Dr. McPartland, My Physics teacher was Dr. McGregor, etc. None of them were Medical doctors – they were academics with doctorates.
It’s also a sign of respect (My Columbian Spanish tutor referred to me as “Doctor” when I was being particularly impressive!)
I fear that we english speakers have been corrupted by the American “jest folks” mentality. I’m OK sometimes with the informality. But often I’d enjoy a little embedded hierarchy based on attainment!
just sayin’ ;)
Marc Abian says
So stricken by grief that I’m unable to blockquote apparently…
No, people are getting upset at the perception that the style rule is setting one class of people above another. That’s your perception, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the actual truth of the matter.
It is a generalized rule to give the reader some clarity. And, as stated many, many times in this increasingly scattered comment thread, when appropriate for a story, anyone’s title and, even better, qualifications are detailed.
You may think that the worth of a person who has earned a Ph.D is tied up in having the title “Dr.” in front of their name, but in the context of a story quoting that person, their value to the reader is in their degree, specialty — whatever is pertinent to them being quoted. So, I might quote P.Z. Meyers, biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota-Morris. That’s far more relevant to the reader, even though calling him “Dr.” throughout may soothe his ego.
I tend to not even use “Dr.” in medical stories, simply because we’re usually quoting a variety of medical professionals, including nurses and maybe physical therapists. It’s far more pertinent to the reader to know the actual specialties and roles, rather than giving someone a title.
But at any rate, it’s obvious that no one in this thread is going to be convinced either way. There are people who feel that they must be honored at every mention of their name with a title, and if they’re not, it’s a slap in the face to everything they’ve earned. There are others who realize that newspaper stories are about trying to communicate facts and ideas, and they have a set of style rules to allow for the consistency required to better communicate.
While this is generally a site where reason prevails, we all have our little hangups, don’t we?
There are a few things to clear up. If a newspaper doesn’t use honorifics at all then that’s fine in my opinion. But to use Mr or Mrs or Ms instead of Dr for a PhD is the issue. So in essence I agree with Cath:
BTW, my former roommate is from Melbourne, but was born and raised in Tasmania, so we don’t call her anything as much as wonder aloud how many of her ancestors were cousins, as the jokes about Tassies go. But having met her in a graduate class and known how hard she’s worked, I’m going to be very proud to call her ‘Doctor’ once she defends her thesis in April or June or–yeah, it’s been that way.
As for ‘Professor’, I believe around these parts that it’s reserved for tenure track professors. I think this only because I had an instructor with a PhD chide me for calling him ‘Professor’ as he was a sessional and hadn’t earned a professorship, and probably wasn’t going to. Of course, generally he preferred to be called Mike.
At Dr. Karl E. Taylor:
No deity saved any of those folks; it was you and your shipmates who did it. So, no: we’re not alone.
Despite my stance against anyone other than MDs calling themselves Dr. (#82), thanks to the comments on this thread I now see an obvious benefit of the practice: it pisses off MDs. Oh, boo hoo, are you upset about your precious title being diluted by ditzy English majors and science nerds? Get used to it, stethoscope monkey.
I’ve changed my mind. I say we give everyone with a high school degree or equivalent the title “Doctor.”
Fuck, but there’s nothing worse than a doofus like this falling all over herself when she meets a sawbones. It’s poo-flinging monkeys like her thinking that every MD is a silverback that makes so many of them convinced of their infallibility in matters unrelated to medicine. As Sven put it, the quickest cure for that would to spend time with pre-meds (not recommended, from personal experience).
Priya probably curses lawyers behind their backs but kisses their asses in person due to their “prestige and honour.”
To Colugo: why y’all hatin’ on the anthro? It’s first and only social science out there–everything else is just a sub-field.
I don’t know about the USA but in Australia there are many religious ministers who are referred to as Rev. Dr.
I’ve always likened it a bit to those dodgy degrees you can get over the internet from fantasy universities, with the difference that one is a degree from a non existent entity and the other being a degree In non existent entities. Just how do you get a degree in something that doesn’t exist?
I would guess that someone having the title of doctor once held some practical value if there were some sort of emergency that required medical expertise. This is just speculation, because other than that I see no value in someone being called “Dr.” as opposed to “Mr.” “Miss” or “Mrs.”
By my observation, being a PhD is more an acheivement of longevity/persistence than of intelligence. PhD’s tend to know all the theories, but fall short on application, otherwise known as reality. Medical doctors at least have some experience with real world applications of their knowlegde through interships, etc. on their way to becoming doctors. Academic PhD’s often have little or no real world experience beyond very controlled experiments that do not lend themselves well to real world application.
It’s an honorific. Simply vanity. I think all honorifics are stupid. I think Rev. (reverend) and Hon. (honorable) are stupid. I especially hate all variety of religious titles – such as vicar, father, and reverend. I dislike pretentious puffery such as lord and duke and “your majesty” and a host of other remnants from the social-class structure of the middle ages. I also don’t like Mr. (mister) or Mrs. (missus) or Ms. (miz) or “miss” or “ma’am” or a host of other dumb labels. I don’t mind “doctor” and “professor” as job descriptions but that’s about it. It’s really not my job to flatter others with vain titles.
It’s a stupid article but, speaking as a journalist, the truth is that some media outlets have their own “style guidelines,” which often carry specific requirements on how and when to use doctor as a title. That is the only explanation I have for this kind of drivel.
However, that doesn’t give reporters license to live inside a little box and ignore how the rest of the world addresses folks with phds… sigh..
Scandinavians wouldn’t be embarrassed, they’d just laugh. Or ask “who?”
Let’s not forget Doctor Alan Keyes! HAHAHAHAhAHAHAHAA.
In England, for a long time, surgeons were addressed as MISTER, not Doctor, because they were professionally descended from barbers (the ones with blades, who did things like bleeding patients as well as cutting hair. The traditional red-striped barber’s pole was originally a post where the barber would hang the bloody rags to dry after bleeding someone.) Sometime in the 1950s or 1960s (I think) they decided to change this, since the surgeons had MDs and made ten times more money. Some of the surgeons objected, preferring to be called Mister.
Once again, some people are missing a crucial fact:
The medical profession diluted the honorific “Doctor” by co-opting it from academia. It wasn’t the other way around.
Philosophers were “doctors” when most medical practitioners offered haircuts with their amputations.
By the way, in Australia, New Zealand , Britain and Ireland, surgeons are offended when referrred to as “Doctor”. It’s always “Mr”, “Ms”, Mrs” or “Miss” as far as they’re concerned.
Reminds me of the remark made by (professor Doctor)Amy Gutman, President of Penn, when she noted that suspicion of (Ivy League) professors is a “recurring undercurrent” in American politics: “The story I remember is from 1976, when the New York senator James Buckley referred to Daniel Patrick Moynihan as ‘Professor Moynihan’, and Moynihan replied ‘The mudslinging has begun.’
it’s not so much respect, as visceral fear of being chewed out in very angry German for not using the appropriate title ;-)
my mom as well. and she fought viciously to have it officially acknowledged because she got it at a Polish university, and not in the field in which she later worked. but she knew quite well that being both a female in a male field, and Polish, a degree in front of her name was the only way to have the bureaucrats (Beamten) take her seriously (which was the only way to make sure no one would get their head ripped off :-p )
Rock on, Dr Taylor. I wish people ’round here would be a just a *tiny* bit less snide about divinity; it is a legitimate field of study
gribley, I couldn’t agree with you more, as a “militant atheist” with his degree in religious studies.
I must ask though, the way you talk about you divinity degree is as if it’s like a religious studies degree, i.e. an academic study of religions. In my experience in the religious studies field, every experience I’ve always been under the academic impression that divinity degrees are for those who believe and want to learn theology so they can work in a religious field. I have met many fellow religious studies academics who are atheist, but never a divinity academic who is religious. From what I’ve always seen, that’s been the division between the two fields. Where did you get your degree? I’m surprised it wasn’t labeled as mine: “religious studies”.
Dr Mom says
Both my husband and I received our Doctors of Philosophy from a snooty university in the northeast. At graduation, the PhDs are awarded at the end of the ceremony AFTER the medical degrees have been conferred. The president of the university announces that he will now award the HIGHEST degree that the university has to offer, switches to Latin, and confers the PhDs. So, if my alma snooty mater considers my Doctor of Philosophy to be more prestigious than an MD, I feel entitled to use the title Dr on occasion.
PS My pediatrician calls my husband Dr, but refers to me as “Mother.”
A doctorate in education is (usually?) an Ed.D. anyway. But a doctorate is a doctorate and deserves the title. I appreciate the reminders about the roots of the term. More hope for valuing teachers, educators, and professors in the long run.
PS Thanks for letting me pop my post cherry.
Priya Lynn wrote:
You know, this never would have occurred to me if it wasn’t in the context of this blog, but the REASON that doofuses like Priya (and s/he is a tremendous idiot) fall all over themselves at MDs is probably because they profess to know truth – much like priests.
It’s perfectly understandable, of course, both as a matter of training and as a matter of bedside manner. A good physician reassures patients by asserting that they understand what is going on and can treat them. Of course, anyone who has had a bad time medically can attest that this is not universally the case. But MDs NEED to be obeyed – they can’t possibly explain the details of ‘why’ about every treatment they prescribe or perform. Heck, some treatments work even though we don’t know why. So they attempt to project an aura of competent infallibility.
My problem is when they call themselves scientists. Some are, and many participate in scientific studies, but this behavior is antithetical to that of science. Scientists say “I don’t know” a lot (and bug funding agencies to give them money to find out). MDs say “I know” (and bug insurance companies to give them money).
This stupid hero-worship is because they need social power. And most of us are happy to give it to them in some measure, since they need it to do their jobs. But the fallout is annoying.
My graduate advisor used to say that there were two kinds of doctors: the thinking kind and the cutting kind.
Sadly, he was clueless about most things but I thought that statement had merit.
Sven DiMilo says
If I may ask: the fuck are you talking about?
Troll Priya Lynn= destroyed
#18 is correct. If you look at the Latin it’s derived from; doctor literally means doc (teach) and tor (one who), basically “one who teaches” Considering physician were nothing more than glorified philosophy students who knew some anatomy until a few hundred years ago, they got the title much later than someone like, say, Socrates, who was just a philosopher who would have been called doctor.
Strange this. Regardless of the person’s accomplishments, in Sweden you refer to him or her by name. Except for the royal family, of course, who are often referred to by their titles, a habit which many Swedes (including me) think is ridiculous.
Dr. Gary Hurd says
When I taught in medical schools I preferred to be called “Professor” Hurd by students and staff if we were in a formal situation- with a patient, or in a meeting. “Doctor” in that situation holds a particular clinical role, and only when I was grudgingly forced to have clinical responsibilities did I refer to myself as Dr. Hurd, or allow others to do so.*
In the Evo/Creato fight, creationists with BS (as in bull shit) degrees claim doctorates in such things as “Christian Education” from phony “Universities” that are little more than a mail drop. They do this to gain an advantage, and we are fools to let them have this uncontested. So, I reject the false modesty of those who think that an earned doctorate from a good school in a relevant area is a trivial thing. There are very few of us.
Journalists, and failed comedians might disagree.
* I used to introduce myself to the freshmen thus, “Welcome to _____ Medical College. I am Professor Hurd. I have a real Doctorate, a PhD. You will receive an MD, or properly known as a “Masters in Disease.” However, you will ordinarily be called “Doctor.” The students would laugh, boo, or hiss depending on their intelligence and sense of humor. The stupid ones hissed.
KevinD (#153) wrote:
Indeed you are correct. You can find some more information in this story, which dug a quote out of the first issue of the U. Chicago newspaper from 1891, explaining the origin of the practice:
Of course, this practice is itself a form of snobbery; it is understood that everyone has a doctorate, so no special fuss need be made about it.
In my personal experience, many students seem to ignore this practice, so it may eventually disappear.
Yeah, then lawyers are technically doctors, too. I speak English, and in English, as she is spoken, “Doctor” means medical doctor. All others who insist on bucking the convention, are pompous asses, in including the “Dr.” Pastor Deacon Henry Kissinger. I will always answer their pretensions with contempt. They are not anybody’s “doctor” outside of their inverted playgroup.
Yeah, then lawyers are technically doctors, too. I speak English, and in English, as she is spoken, “Doctor” means medical doctor. All others who insist on bucking the convention, are pompous asses, in including the “Dr.” Pastor Deacon Henry Kissinger. I will always answer their pretensions with contempt. They are not anybody’s “doctor” outside of their inverted playgroup.
Stephen Wells says
@ivodo: learn more English.
Jim Lippard says
Jill Biden’s doctorate degree is an Ed.D., not a Ph.D.
Some have argued that Ed.D. degrees are granted in a field of study that has little legitimate subject matter, certainly little with any scientific evidential support–kind of like clinical psychology as contrasted with cognitive psychology (cf. Robyn Dawes, _House of Cards_). The GRE scores of those planning to enter Ed.D. programs are notably low; the GRE scores of those planning to enter primary and secondary education are significantly higher.
Those who can, do; those who cannot, teach; those who cannot teach, become administrators; those who cannot become administrators teach the teachers?
When I was in High School the head of our school district held an E.D.D., and insisted on being addressed as “doctor”. This generated a bit of a fuss when two parents of friends of some classmates of mine, a lawyer and a phd, became school board members.
I have always been under the impression that outside academia, medical doctors are the only doctors, while within academia PHD’s are to be accorded the title based on the completion of their dissertation.
Therefore those who possess an E.D.d. and don’t do a dissertation are not to be accorded the title of an academic “doctor.” The E.D.d. is a glorified masters degree.
Mrs. Biden’s degree is should not confer a research title.
But I could be wrong.
David Marjanović, OM says
In Austria, medicine students used to end their studies the same way as law students (see above): they did a watered-down Master’s, and it was simply called a doctorate.
A few years ago, however, this changed. Master’s degrees in medicine are now called Master’s, and if one such Master of Medicine wants the title of Doctor, they have to do some science, write a thesis, and defend it — they have to do a real doctorate now. Eat that, Priya.
I always understood that the reason surgeons in UK, NZ, etc., are called Mr/Ms rather than Dr. is that way back when, most surgeons were lieutenants in the Navy, and there were few (or no) civilian surgeons. And lieutenants were always referred to as Mr. It stuck and expanded to include surgeons in general rather than just surgeons who were lieutenants.
In Germany, to practice medicine you do not have to have a doctorate, so there are quite a number of “Doctors” who are in fact just “Arzt” (and it says so on their door). But that´s fine because the real qualification is the “Staatsexamen”. The “Doctor” is just an extra and many students of medicine perform some kind of alibi-work, perhaps 3 months analyzing a questionnaire or so just to get the title.
I can tell you, we science students were mightily p***** o** that we had to toil 3 years+ for the same title.
Dr. King Deserves Better in Charlotte, NC!
James Orpin says
I know the thread’s old but wanted to clarify.
Davdi Harper @ #85:
Consultants are called ‘Doctor’ too not ‘Mister’. It is ONLY surgeons, once they have achieve membership of the Royal College of Surgeons, that take the title ‘Mister’.