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Equivocation as a Tactic in the Evolution Debate

Photo: Eugenie Scott, by Sgerbic, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

Writing at Evolution News, Casey Luskin points out that a survey, reporting that a majority of Americans now “accept evolution,” didn’t address the real issue. That is because “evolution” is not adequately defined. A co-author of the study, Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education, has been doing this for a long time. 

See the following from Chapter One of my 2006 book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design:

The many meanings of “evolution” are frequently exploited by Darwinists to distract their critics. Eugenie Scott recommends:  “Define evolution as an issue of the history of the planet: as the way we try to understand change through time. The present is different from the past. Evolution happened, there is no debate within science as to whether it happened, and so on… I have used this approach at the college level.”1

Of course, no college student — indeed, no grade-school dropout — doubts that “the present is different from the past.” Once Scott gets them nodding in agreement, she gradually introduces them to “The Big Idea” that all species  — including monkeys and humans — are related through descent from a common ancestor. “Darwin called this ‘descent with modification,’ and it is still the best definition of evolution we can use.”2

This tactic is called “equivocation” — changing the meaning of a term in the middle of an argument.

Note that even Scott’s “best definition” omits the real sticking point, namely that Darwinian “descent with modification” is (according to Darwin) unguided. 

How many Americans accept Darwin’s belief that human beings are the result of an unguided, purposeless process? The survey doesn’t come close to telling us.


  1. Eugenie C. Scott, “Dealing with Anti-Evolutionism,” University of California (Berkeley) Museum of Paleontology web site. Available online (August 2021) here.
  2. Ibid.