Mr. Data, I presume

So is data singular or plural?

The only people who get really upset about this question are those who insist it is plural — ‘the data are clear’ rather than ‘the data is equivocal’. Their argument is that data, in Latin, is plural, and datum is singular, like media and medium, stadia and stadium, currilcula and curriculum, etc. This is true, but we don’t speak Latin. When was the last time you heard anyone pluralize stadium by talking about stadia rather than stadiums? No one talks about a datum; they may refer to a datapoint, but they are more likely to talk about a piece of data, just as they would refer to a member of a team, therefor I argue that data, like team, is a collective singular.

So who is right? Which is correct? Ask me again in 50 years when usage will have settled the issue. Meanwhile, use the version you like, and cast your own vote in the usage contest, unless of course the person telling you to do it the other way is a teacher who can flunk you, or a boss who can fire you. This is not the hill you want to die on.

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Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away

I started this blog and never got back to it. There were complications, but there always are. At any rate, I’m back and ready to complain about bad language, and by bad language I don’t mean the four letter variety. That is unimaginative, juvenile, and usually pathetic, but it isn’t bad. The language I’m complaining about strains understanding.

As did a couple of commenters on a science related blog who referred to science and religion as mutually exclusive, when what they were trying to say is that they are completely separate spheres and do not deal with the same thing.

The problem is that there are a number of atheist writers who do consider science and religion to be mutually exclusive, that is, if one is true the other must be false. They make the claim that the study of science will inevitably lead to the rejection of all forms of religion, and in their more vitriolic moments, that anyone who believes in religion of any kind is either ignorant, stupid, or insane. They are a minority among atheists, but a vocal one, and there are many things wrong with this position. Chiefly, it is a false dichotomy. Whether it is invoked by a fundie pastor convincing parents to send their kids to an unaccredited Bible college so they won’t “lose their faith,” or well-respected and well-read authors and professors to ridicule people who disagree with them, it is faulty logic. You do not have to reject religion to accept that the evidence for evolution is overwhelming, and having religious beliefs does not require you to check your brain at the door.

But I’m not going to dissect this position in detail, since my point was the language of the two posters. They (one atheist and one believer) were not taking this position, and were in fact disagreeing with it, but the use of “mutually exclusive” made it possible that a quick read would make it seem they were saying exactly the opposite of what they intended.