A True Scientist is supposed to be aloof, objective, dispassionate, and unemotional. This isn’t just a stereotype, it’s part of a set of social mores that are imposed on individuals who belong to this community of scientists.
And yet, at the same time, we’re part of a larger society that sometimes has serious problems that scientists are among the first to see. Should climate scientists be dispassionate about global climate change? Should medical doctors be unemotional about dishonest tobacco advertisements? The best scientists I’ve known have also had causes: for instance, George Streisinger, the fellow who started this whole business of zebrafish as a model system, was also a peace activist who was very concerned about nuclear war.
So when Shiv writes about the use of the word “activist” to demean scientists, I know exactly where that’s coming from. I’ve seen it way too many times.
Being an activist means you are aware and working to change the world. There’s nothing in that that implies you are cavalier with the evidence — often, it means you are acutely conscious of the facts, and passionate about the truth.