Tuesday, July 27

Semantics: Evolution


It occurs to me that the word Evolution is often used in contexts that it does not strictly describe. This is because the word Evolution carries with it so many broad connotations.

For instance, in a recent excerpt by Jason Kottke on Altruism in Economics the author of an article in Ode Magazine writes this

The theory is based on the premise that humans evolved in small groups with strong social contracts and plenty of contact with strangers. Cooperation within the tribe was advantageous so long as free riders were punished. It was also the best gambit on encountering strangers. Cooperation, particularly in times of famine, was the only means of survival, so altruism became a favored evolutionary trait.

(emphasis mine)

What strikes me about the use of the word evolutionary in the last statement is how its not exactly untrue, even in a creationist viewpoint. This happens all the time when scientist appeal to evolutionary theory to explain observed behaviors in people. It is entirely possible that a created humanity learned the use of altruism as a necessity in certain situations. That humanity is adaptable isn’t in question. The use of the word evolution here can be seen as descriptive of the situation, but because of the broad connotations, it implies cause that hasn’t been demonstrated.

I have become increasingly more and more frustrated with the act of trying to stretch or make something mean more than it really does, and i recognize that i am probably as guilty as anyone of such offenses. But it would be nice if we were more careful about making assumptions, or trying to make an observation mean more than it does…

oops… that just became a screed. err… sorry.



Comments are closed.