Accept it: Talk about evolution needs to evolve by Eugenie Scott

So you urge scientists not to say that they “believe” in evolution?!

Right. What your audience hears is more important than what you say.… What [people] hear is that evolution is a belief, it’s an opinion, it’s not well-substantiated science. And that is something that scientists need to avoid communicating.

You believe in God. You believe your sports team is going to win. But you don’t believe in cell division. You don’t believe in thermodynamics. Instead, you might say you “accept evolution.”


She sounds feisty.

(h/t The Sensuous Curmudgeon)

Views: 3

Tags: Eugenie Scott, biology, creationism, evolution, intelligent design, science


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Comment by Mel on July 17, 2009 at 8:19pm
Language isnt fixed, it isn't solid, and if it isn't being useful then it shouldn't be maintained. At this point, I don't think "Believe"="having knowledge" is being USEFULLY applied to the topic of evolution. I'm not being cynical, just pragmatic. We need to use language that is USEFUL
Words pick up strong connotations, often for no particular reason. When was the last time anyone said "retarded" and meant it solely, entirely and completely as a statement that "development is slower than expected". It's what it literally means, and it's a statement of fact, not a value judgment. But somewhere along the way, it was used as a insult once too often and now it doesn't.
Comment by Jason Spicer on July 17, 2009 at 3:44pm
Well, I can't really argue with that, Don. Everybody should be better educated. I just think that given the gnat-like attention spans of most people, you're more likely to make an impression by speaking the language they're already familiar with. So, again, if the audience has the time and inclination, then sure, educate away. It's possible I'm being too cynical, but it's not my sound-bite world, I just live in it.
Comment by Jason Spicer on July 17, 2009 at 12:05pm
Don, I think it's great if you have the time for a long-winded defense of the technical definitions you're using, particularly for those who are ignorant but willing to be educated, but it's still a lot simpler to just say, "Evolution is an explanation that fits the facts." And those who willfully misconstrue the scientific usage of the word "theory" already know about the distinction from the vernacular usage, and reject it. Explaining it to them again isn't going to help. Better to avoid the word that their subterfuge hinges on. A frontal assault on their intransigence is less likely to be successful than a flanking attack on their language.
Comment by Jason Spicer on July 17, 2009 at 11:16am
Don and Catana, it may be our language too, but if it doesn't serve our purposes, or if it's been muddied by the vernacular, we ought to adapt (spoken like a true evolutionist). Tactically, we should give up words like belief and theory. Since they have multiple and contradictory meanings, why should we insist on using them? It just makes us less clear in our communication. "Theory" is especially problematic, since the technical scientific meaning has never been the mainstream meaning. Rather than say "Theory of Evolution", we should say "Explanation of Evolution". It would be quite difficult for people to rail against evolution as "only an explanation". Similarly, if somebody asks whether you believe in evolution, a tactically superior response is to reframe the issue: "I agree with the explanation of evolution," or "Evolution explains the facts far better than any other proposed explanation," or simply, "Definitely. Evolution makes sense." Don, to your first comment above, I agree that belief is compelled by knowledge. Still, I'd prefer to say, "I believe that evolution is the correct explanation for what we see in biology," rather than, "I believe in evolution." The construction "believe in" makes it sound like it's an open question when it really isn't.
Comment by It's just Matt on July 17, 2009 at 9:03am
There is a rather pointless poll on Facebook with 2 choices: Creation or Evolution. I posted, "I do not need to BELIEVE in evolution, it is a fact-same as the atomic structure of the Cosmos and the human involvement with global climate change." The "debate" over evolution is not still going on, much to the dismay of religious zealots, so it is unnecessary and mostly counter-intuitive to have a belief in evolution.

Someone can choose not to believe in gravity, but good luck not falling from your roof.

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