Friday, March 25, 2011

We need a new language for evolution (by Andrew Moore)

I really liked this article by Andrew Moore. It is succinct, and gives a few wonderful examples (which I've copied below) of how evolutionary biologists can work to change the language we use to avoid the perpetuation of misconceptions about evolution. We use words that imply intention and direction, perhaps because they are easy to understand, and perhaps because we don't know better words, but they are incorrect.

Mutations, in and of themselves are purposeless. As I'll paraphrase from Dr. Moore, we can only make statements of purpose after the fact, which only muddies the waters for those trying to understand evolution.

So please take a look at the table below for suggestions on how to correctly refer to evolutionary processes. I know that I am going to start to thinking very carefully about the language I use.

1 comment:

EllenQ said...

This is a great table. Evolutionary biologists can be so sloppy with our word choice - I know I am. And it can be a detriment to our students and anyone who reads our work.