"Evolution's Misleading Language" Rebuked
It’s not just creationists who are fed up with evolutionists’ propensity to personify evolution, contrary to their own beliefs.
In a letter to Science on Nov. 9, Alfred Nigel Burdett rebuked “Evolution’s Misleading Language.” He didn’t have farther to look than Science Magazine itself for an example:
In the News of the Week story “All that glitters” (14 September, p. 1277), Beverley Glover of the University of Cambridge describes the iridescent fruit of the African perennial herb Pollia condensata by saying, “The fruit’s dazzling display may have evolved to capitalize on birds’ attraction to sparkly objects, or to trick them into eating something that looks like a blueberry without going to the trouble of actually making juicy flesh.” At a time when remarkably few people seem to understand the basic mechanism of evolution, it seems inappropriate for Science to publish such comments without clarifying them to ensure that no one is misled.
This type of deceptive language, which “combines teleology with anthropomorphism,” is inappropriate because Darwinism does not allow for final causes or purposes in nature; an organism cannot “evolve to” do something. Yet instances in evolutionary articles and papers are rampant, Burdett indicated. Both the Science news story and the PNAS article it referenced were guilty, he said, “indicative of how widely and unfortunately such inaccurate and misleading language is now used in the scientific literature.”
Just thought you’d like to know that it’s not just CEH that hammers on this personification fallacy. Darwinian theory, with its aimless, purposeless, blind processes, was supposed to dispense with all teleology and anthropomorphism, but we report frequent violations in these pages. The staunch evolutionist George Williams used to chafe on that, too (5/31/2004). Burdett’s reference to the “remarkably few people [who] seem to understand the basic mechanism of evolution” includes a non-trivial number of readers and contributors to Science, including its Editors, otherwise this besetting sin would undoubtedly be chastised more often.