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Poetry of reality
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STEM (or STEAM, or SMET, because standardisation is for losers) stands for science, technology[note 1], engineering and mathematics. In education and employment, it's used as short-hand way of referring to the related group of 'geeky' subjects. Qualifications in these subjects are considered to lead to better job prospects[note 2]. This may be driven by the widespread belief that there is a shortage of qualified candidates for those positions, although it is not clear that such a shortage actually exists currently.[1]

In education and employment[edit]

Metrics show that certain groups are under-represented in particular STEM jobs and fields. The gender imbalance[2] is perhaps the best known example, but it is far from alone.[3] This is a cause for concern because it demonstrates that barriers exist that prevent those groups from participating fully. This has drawn particular concern in academia, for women,[4] BAME individuals[5] and those with mental illnesses.[6]

STEM careers are frequently considered more prestigious than others, perhaps because they are thought to be 'useful' or 'in demand' subjects. The fetishisation of those fields to the exclusion of others has definitely not caused any problems for society as a whole.Do You Believe That? The term STEM came about to describe a subset of jobs that was thought to be experiencing a shortfall of qualified candidates specifically in the United States.[7] It was not coined because there was any validity to the notion that STEM subjects were inherently superior or that students with an interest in pursuing STEM were inherently more intelligent.

In stupidity and woo[edit]

Unfortunately, the last point above is lost on some people. Such people think that STEM subjects are the only true academic subjects, and that anything the least bit 'soft' – particularly humanities subjects – is unworthy of serious consideration. Further, they believe that their interpretation of anything in the sphere of the humanities and arts is obviously more logical and more sciencey than someone with expertise in either of those fields, because science. Social science, in particular, is often dismissed wholesale, and definitely not because some of its conclusions contradict opinions that these people hold dear.

A related failure of logic is to consider STEM subjects to be interchangeable. Thus, otherwise reliable sources end up pontificating on issues outside their realm of expertise, attempting to capitalise on the appeal to authority. Because they are proficient in a STEM subject, they believe they are perfectly equipped to answer any science question, hard or soft, at least as well as an actual expert. One rich seam of this sort of idiocy is the denialist portion of pseudoskepticism. It can also be seen in some parts of movement skepticism and less reputable groups when attempts are made to dismiss gender and other social issues as unimportant. This can include laundering far right talking points into supposedly scientific discourse.


'STEMlord' is a portmanteau of STEM and the internet slang "shitlord". The term is a snarl word applied to people qualified in STEM subjects who preach the supremacy of STEM and/or pontificate on subjects well outside their expertise. STEMlord is usually applied to people who are exceptionally obnoxious and arrogant, even for the internet. Thunderf00t and Elon Musk are prime examples, although in the latter case it's debatable that there's any core of STEM expertise at all.

In short, STEMlords are scientific method cargo cultists who summon Messrs Dunning and Kruger every time they enter a conversation.

As it is a snarl word, calling someone a STEMlord is an ad hominem attack when used as a reason to dismiss someone's arguments rather than as a summary as to how their arguments are fallacious.

The golden age of the STEMlord seems to have passed - it's more common these days to go straight from 'formerly respectable expert spouting nonsense' to 'mask off alt-right provocateur'.

See also[edit]


  1. i.e. computing.
  2. Although people with degrees in M might dissolve into bitter laughter at the very idea.