One of the major sticking points for me was the language, words and phrases that I’d hear used when describing evolution.
The most problematic one is the use of the word ‘design’. Its used when describing the eye, a bird’s beak and many more anatomical components. Each time I’d hear it I’d fume inside and imagine myself vocally admonishing the presenter of whatever television programme had daring to suggest that a mindless random process like evolution could ever design anything.
Another major bugbear was when the evolution process was described in words that seemed to imply an intelligent guiding process, as though the end result was already known and evolution worked its way making changes required to achieve that result. Again, my angry brain voice would be screaming at the television “evolution is a benign process that’s not even real you twonk!”.
So I would huff and puff my way through nature programmes. It’s a wonder I didn’t give up watching them really.
Then of course there is our very British institution, Sir David Attenborough. No matter what the programme he was fronting, no matter how interesting or relevant the subject matter was, he would always slip in the fact of evolution and the millions of years it took for such and such to evolve or form or whatever. It didn’t seem to matter if the evolutionary process was relevant to the piece in question, it was brought up anyway. Presumably because nature documentary equals “must mention evolution”.
Given my Zambian upbringing, anything nature that involved centralAfricaor any savannah animal that I was familiar with was pretty much mandatory viewing. So it goes without saying that I was exposed to a fair number of such phrases and their automatic affect on my blood pressure.
I’m all cured now
The examples given above are not in any way an exhaustive list of the language and phrases used when describing evolution that can cause, not just frustration, but also confusion.
Thankfully, I’m over that and I can now enjoy nature documentaries with a freedom and freshness that’s genuinely enjoyable.
I do still notice these one offensive phrases and I do often wonder if I was never alone in getting uppity over them. I am sure that if they caused an intellectual problem for me, they did for others too and perhaps editors and science journalists should pay more careful attention to the language used to explain evolution. They’ll never stop upsetting the staunch creationists, but if the language was less emotive and more factual it might help with righting the misunderstandings that cause creationists to react so and might even help them along the road to acceptance. After all, if they are watching the programme, kits because they have an interest in the subject.
Sometimes I try to rephrase them in my head in a way that explains the point better.