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What is the relationship between scientists and naturalists?
Question Date: 2018-11-27
Answer 1:

The word "naturalist" can mean a few things:

1) a student of natural history,
2) a biologist who studies the impact of living species on each other and on the environment (EnvironmentalScience.org), or
3) a person who believes that only natural laws (not supernatural or spiritual laws) govern the world.

This word (naturalist) was used frequently in the past to describe scientists who studied nature (compared to scientists who studied machines such as physicists). In the past, a plant biologist might have been called a naturalist. If we take the three definitions here, then we can see that naturalists can be a subset of scientists according to definitions 1) or 2), or that scientists can be naturalists according to definition 3) but do not have to be.

In other words, if we say that the word "naturalist" describes a person who believes in only natural laws and not supernatural/spiritual phenomena, then some scientists are definitely naturalists because they hold this belief, but not all scientists have to be naturalists because some scientist may also believe that there are supernatural/spiritual phenomena that are not described completely by physics/chemistry/biology and so on. There may be many more definitions of the word "naturalist", but we see that the relationship between "scientists" and "naturalists" is different for different definitions of "naturalist".

Answer 2:

A naturalist is a specific type of scientist who studies the natural universe, i.e. what exists in nature, instead of understanding the principles of nature in the laboratory. Thus, ecologists, evolutionary biologists, geologists, paleontologists, astronomers, and atmospheric scientists are all naturalists.

Physicists, chemists, and microbial geneticists are scientists, but are not naturalists, because they do their work in the lab and not in the field.

I don't know if there is a term for people who use the scientific method but work in the social sciences (such as psychologists, economists, etc.). There are also some scientists, like archaeologists and anthropologists, that blur the line (they work in the field like naturalists, but the things that they study are either human or human-made, and thus arguably not "natural").

Answer #3 Naturalists are a kind of biological scientist, as the word is usually used today: Here's a definition for naturalist: a student of natural history especially : a field biologist There's also an old definition for naturalist: one that advocates or practices naturalism, where 'naturalism' is: 1 : action, inclination, or thought based only on natural desires and instincts 2 : a theory denying that an event or object has a supernatural significance specifically : the doctrine that scientific laws are adequate to account for all phenomena Helen

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