I don't see it as a dichotomy. There are applications, and engineers, where a perfectly linear device may be the instrument of choice. Others, where the device (microphone) is more adapted to specific recording situations. An early example is the U67, of 1960, which was specifically developed with near-field (proximity effect) use and elevated SPLs in mind, to better cope with the closer-miking techniques then becoming more common.
As a side note, we made also measurement microphones in the 1950 and 1960s, but nobody used them for recording, then. The "ultra-linear", naturalistic approach became "à la mode" more in the 80s/90s, I'd say. Just like the tube/valve revival, going in the opposite direction.
So, there are different tastes, and we try to offer a broad range of microphones so there's one for almost every application.
Best regards, Martin Schneider / Neumann Mic. Development