Setting the Record Straight

June 7, 2008

What Do You Really Mean?

Myths Are Not Benign,

They Maim The Message

          Repeated myths such as those that often appear in blogs and in widely circulated e-mails by people with an axe to grind do harm to the causes they espouse and provide fodder to their opponents. Misstatements embedded in arguments also do harm to the intended message. And in our efforts to dumb down the language to try to communicate with the most ignorant among us, we also harm the record.

          As an example of the first, many assertions we’ve already seen in the political campaign are so ridiculous, one gets the idea the person behind it must be an absolute fool, and thus his opinion is the opinion of a fool even though it might well be legitimate.

          An example of misstatements that harm an argument is outlined elsewhere on this site—that globally, water can be wasted. As for dumbing down the language, for decades have required trucks to carry signs warning that what they are carrying is “flammable” because we fear the ignorant would misunderstand the correct term, “inflammable.”

          Probably the most egregious error of these types comes from those who accept Darwinism. They have long hurt their cause and given sustenance to “creationists” by misstating the process of evolution.
Science books, science shows and other media that attempt to explain evolution almost universally explain evolution as a selective process, i.e., we adopt features so we can be more suitable for survival under changing conditions. Supposedly, presenting evolution as a selective process makes it easier to understand.
Those misrepresentations are illustrated by claims such as over generations an animal developed features to help it adjust to changes. But evolution is a deselective process, not a selective one, a reality that is much clearer today as we learn more about the genetics of life.
Simply put, our genes mutate as they are passed from one generation to another. If conditions change, the living thing such as a person whose genes have changed to the extent that the living thing is more suitable to its changed environment just happens to be the one who is more suited to the new conditions, survives longer, is healthier and more likely to pass on the more suitable genes to the next generation.
The living thing that has not mutated in the more suitable direction is less suited to the changes, is not as healthy and what offspring it does produce is likely to be less suitable to the new conditions. Thus, its line of generations is likely to die off or move to more suitable conditions when it is able, leaving its home to those best suited to survive in it.
It is the deselective process that constitutes evolution.

          Similarly, the evolution theory is constantly harmed by believers who misstate “survival of the fittest” as the person in the best condition or shape being the one who survives. As stated above, survival in evolutionary terms depends on who is best adapted to the new conditions that confront us.

          None of us will be around to prove or disprove whether global warming (and global cooling, which is occurring at the same time) is real. But if the globe becomes too hot, those closest to the polar ice caps will survive to evolve better than those in the torrid zones. The survivors will be the fittest because the deselection of evolution has omitted the others.




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