Naming Things

We made the chair, and named it ‘chair’, ‘chaise’, etc. That’s fine. But isn’t it rude of us to name things that existed before us? Who the hell are you to name those deoxyribonucleic acid strings ‘chromosomes’? What is ‘deoxyribonucleic acid’ anyway? Who gave you that right? That thing knows about protein synthesis much better than you do, but it doesn’t have a clue about what ‘protein’ is.

It is what makes you the way you are, and it wouldn’t go beyond “Did you eat? Did you mate?” with you, but you search and find the poor thing after millions of years and pick a name for it from one of the languages you’ve just made up. It’s like a six year old child naming his father ‘Gludob’ – impertinence.

God isn’t like DNA though. God says “I made you, I was here before you, and my name is this!” That’s some attitude. Good for God.

The tendency has always been strong to believe that whatever received a name must be an entity or being, having an independent existence of its own. And if no real entity answering to the name could be found, men did not for that reason suppose that none existed, but imagined that it was something peculiarly abstruse and mysterious.

– John Stuart Mill

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