Monday, February 06, 2006

The Law of Evolution

I found an excellent Q&A summarizing the scientific consensus on evolution on the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) website. Despite what "intelligent design" (ID) proponents say, there is no dispute over evolution among scientists.

My favorite section: "The theory of biological evolution is more than 'just a theory.' It is as factual an explanation of the universe as the atomic theory of matter or the germ theory of disease. Our understanding of gravity is still a work in progress. But the phenomenon of gravity, like evolution, is an accepted fact."

I've wondered about this for awhile now, maybe the scientific community should take a page from the ID playbook and "re-brand" evolution the way they re-branded creationism as ID. "The theory of evolution" could be re-branded to "the law of evolution", similar to "the law of gravity".

I realize this may sound silly and most scientists may find this type of marketing campaign to be beneath science. This is part of our problem. We do not communicate well with the general public. Most average people haven't studied biology very extensively (if at all) and, in general, they don't understand how iron-clad an idea evolution is. However, when they hear the word 'theory', there is a predisposition to accept the idea that evolution may not be settled science. Science is letting the anti-evolutionists frame the debate (or more accurately, create a debate where no debate exists).

I'm not suggesting we revamp the lexicon or classifications that are used between scientists but rather how we address the public. The average person is not aware of the subtleties used in science, so we need to speak to them clearly. When explaining mitochondria to non-scientists, we don't say they are, "formerly endosymbiotic prokaryotes which synthesize adenosine 5'-triphosphate used to fuel cellular processes", we call them, "the powerhouses of the cell". It's not dumbing-down, it's not disingenuous, it's simplification.

So, I am starting it now. From now on, I will refer to evolution as the "law of evolution". What do you think? Please let me know and spread the idea - let's see if it takes hold.

AAAS Evolution Q&A


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The forum will host scientists, doctors, engineers and academics in order to compare notes and
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