Why I Don't Prefix With Titles

Many people in the world hold doctorates, and a large percentage of the folk you see mentioned here and at the Longevity Meme fall into this category. As a general rule, I don't accord these folk their titular prefix when writing about them. Interestingly, no-one has ever asked why this might be so; for a change I'll beat the readership to the punch in answering a question.

These are a few of the reasons why:

1) People assign far too much weight to a "Dr." in front of the name, especially when glancing through an article at speed. I'd much rather readers were forced to spend that additional time to read the context and make up their own minds as to the merits - or that the expertise represented by "Dr." was better explained and characterized.

2) There are any number of different ways one can become a "Dr." Most are entirely irrelevant to whatever the matter at hand might be; even academics are far better defined by their present efforts and recent experience than by a few years of unrelated work for a doctorate awarded a decade or two ago. If you must have some form of shorthand, it's far better to describe someone by their recent history and function: researcher, gerontologist, statistician, advocate, and so forth.

3) A number of people in the broader healthy life extension community have obtained their doctorates in ways that appear traditional but are somewhat dubious on closer inspection. In some cases I'd rather not enhance their reputation, in others I just don't want to be put in the position of judging absent full knowledge. Other folk have obtained their doctorates in ways that are exemplary and reputation-making but non-traditional; I'd rather not get involved in the name-calling that goes on over that sort of thing. People will be people, but again the objective is to present information about the relevant expertise and experience of the person in question rather than their paperwork.

4) It doesn't take anything more than hard work and financial sacrifice to obtain a doctorate in any of the honest ways. The baseline effort required is nothing special - there is no doctoral spark. People who are truly innovative and have performed amazing, breakthrough work wind up with a doctorate that looks exactly the same as those of average workers who slogged their way through the process. The same letters wind up in front of their names; a doctorate is not a helpful way of picking the luminaries from us folk of lesser means.

5) I think the concept of showing respect through the use of a title is flawed. It's akin to giving Hallmark cards - the substitution of a mass-produced and somewhat lifeless set of choices for your own creativity and decision making process. You should be able to decide for yourself whether and how to be respectful. If someone demands respect through the use of a title, then the odds are good that they don't merit it - or that they don't understand what it is they might actually be respected for, which amounts to much the same thing in my eyes.

Finally, if I'm going to drop the title for anyone, I'll drop it for everyone.

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