Men May Be #Woking, But We Are Not Evolving

Journalists, please stop saying “evolve” when you mean “change,” “improve,” or “progress.” As anyone who studies evolution knows, the scientific meaning of evolve is not synonymous with progress. However, the continued use of the terms synonymous confuses people who do not study evolution and contribute to continued misunderstanding of processes that are already confusing enough.

My rant is precipitated by several well-meaning news podcasts I listen to discussing men who are #woke re the #metoo movement (I think it was the Daily Zeitgeist or maybe The Nod) and, most recently, The Monocle Daily discussing the introspection of National Geographic and New York Times in redressing obituaries of famous black women who were allowed to pass without comment or use of racist terminology in characterizing people in the recent past. As these movements and reflections take as their modus operandi, words matter. Meaning matters. Thus, I don’t think they are aware they are reifying scientific confusion about evolution science.

One of the problems with this is it is so difficult to get students to take classes that will ever address these misunderstandings (see article by Rissler et al. or chapter by Schrein for deets on this problem). It is the same problem we have with the unfortunate linear representation of evolution so often depicted by evolutionists themselves, which, taken at face value, suggests we are evolved directly from what appear to be living apes (see great article by Bruce MacFadden about how this misconception is reified in museum exhibits). By the time students get to college, to be like me who make it their daily bread to correct misconceptions and provide students the tools to be constructive cultural critics of the media and popularizations of science, students can already decide whether or not to take a class with someone like me. It’s an elective, one people avoid if they are already biased against it. And that’s just the people who go to college.

So, journalists, you have a lot of power. People repeat the erudite words you use. If you use them incorrectly, they are repeated incorrectly. People become confused about the meaning, or meanings become more broad. Sure, in the vernacular, “evolve” is broad. But that broad definition has negative consequences for science literacy.

#evolutionsciencerant #wokeevolutionist #improvenotevolve

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Christopher Lynn

About Christopher Lynn

Christopher Dana Lynn is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama, where he directs the Evolutionary Studies program.  Chris teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in biological anthropology, human sexuality, evolution, biocultural medical anthropology, and neuroanthropology.  He received his Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology in 2009 from the University at Albany, SUNY, where his doctoral focus was on the influence of speaking in tongues on stress response among Pentecostals.  Chris runs a human behavioral ecology research group where the objectives include studying fun gimmicky things like trance, religious behavior, tattooing, and sex as a way of introducing students to the rigors of evolutionary science.  In all his “free” time, he breaks up fights among his triplet sons, enjoys marriage to the other Loretta Lynn, strokes his mustache, and has learned to be passionate about Alabama football (Roll Tide!).  Follow Chris on Twitter: @Chris_Ly
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