We thought we knew what “science” meant. Until 2013, that is. Last year, “science” was the word with the greatest increase in lookups in Merriam-Webster.com—a 176% increase over 2012, in fact. And it remained a top lookup throughout 2013. It’s not a new word, so why the sudden interest?
Perhaps it’s because, as Merriam-Webster’s Editor-at-Large, Peter Sokolowski suggests, “A wide variety of discussions centered on science this year, from climate change to educational policy. We saw heated debates about ‘phony’ science, or whether science held all the answers. It’s a topic that has great significance for us. And it fascinates us…”
“Science” is not a word we often see in headlines. It’s a word behind the headlines, as were most of Merriam-Webster.com’s top look-ups. We’re probing for explanations. We disdain “phony” science. Could it be, too, that we’re re-thinking what science itself is?
We’ve seen heated debates about what science is and isn’t. Laboratory-tested or anecdotal? Evolutionary or creationist? Standard western medicine or alternative medicine? Reductionist or holistic?