I know it’s only a tweet, but it illustrates what we’re up against in the public discussion about evolution. Regarding yesterday’s announcement of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, look at this from the National Center for Science Education:
— National Center for Science Education (@NCSE) October 3, 2018
They’re gloating over a New York Times article about the Prize, that takes a loose approach in employing technical terms, “rational design” versus “directed evolution.” The article leaves the unwary reader with the impression that having failed to achieved the desired goal via “design,” obviously a loaded word, the scientists turned “in desperation” to a superior mechanism, “this wonderful process” (in Frances Arnold’s phrase), namely “evolution.” This is catnip for the Darwin apologists, except that as our scientists, Doug Axe, Matti Leisola, and Ann Gauger, make clear it, it is also highly misleading.
As Dr. Gauger puts it:
Dr. Arnold is to be congratulated. She and her lab have found a way to accomplish what nature cannot, the generation of enzymes with new capabilities or characteristics, by leapfrogging over the combinatorial barriers of time and chance, using a combination of brute force random sampling of sequence space, intelligently designed experiments, ingenuity, and perseverance. This is not evolution. It’s intelligently designed engineering. [Emphasis added.]
“This Is Not Evolution”
The language from the Times should really read, “Three scientists shared this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry for tapping the power of intelligent design.” Imagine how that would have gone over with their subscribers.
Coming from the NCSE or the New York Times, this is typical. You take a word with multiple meanings, whether “evolution,” “creationism,” or now, “design,” and by craft you allow your audience to arrive at a conclusion that is seriously at variance with the truth.
It’s word games. It makes taking these people at their word a very dubious proposition. And yet whenever evolution and education are in the news, mainstream media outlets like the NYT seeking an authoritative comment habitually go to — you guessed it — the NCSE.
And around and around they go. Just saying.
Photo credit: Wokandapix, via Pixabay.