To be filed under: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

My name is not Inigo Montoya. You did not kill my father. And I couldn’t care less if you died or not. But give me a god damn break here people. If you want to ask a question, then ask the question. There is no reason to not ask the question.

What question am I talking about? As Chris and John have pointed out, the Brits ain’t down with evolution. According to the BBC:

“More than half the British population does not accept the theory of evolution, according to a survey.

“Furthermore, more than 40% of those questioned believe that creationism or intelligent design should be taught in school science lessons.”

Find out what I think below the fold . . .

They reached this conclusion by asking people “what best described their view of the origin and development of life.” The available answers were creationism, intelligent design, evolution, and no freakin’ idea. Ignoring the fact that intelligent design is creationism (cheap tuxedo or not), this survey is still a load of crap. As I pointed out in the comments on Chris’s blog, evolution is not a theory on the origin of life; evolution requires an imperfect replicator (ie, heritability). Biological evolution does not mean anything without the biology — or something resembling biology, like self-replicating RNA.

Adding to the utter nonsense is their choice of the word “development”. To a biologist, this word conjurs up images of cells dividing and differentiating. Combining origin with development makes me think of fertilization, cleavage, gastrulation, and suffering through developmental biology my junior year of college. You know what best describes my view of the origin and development of life? Xenopus embryos.

Here is what I think the question should have looked like:

What best describes your understanding/belief regarding the current biodiversity of life on Earth?

  • Evolution
  • Intelligent design
  • Biblical creationism
  • I got no idea, man

I find it much easier to answer that question. It’s still not perfect, because creationism and science aren’t comparable — one is taken on faith, the other on evidence. But I doubt they would ask what I would really like to see them ask:

Where did all of these living things around us come from?

  • Mutation, natural selection, and other natural forces led to the evolution of modern life.
  • Goddidit.


  1. #1 Mark Paris
    January 26, 2006

    The idea that evolution explains how life began is nearly universal. I had to write a letter to the editor of my local paper pointing out that an op-ed writer pushing ID should, perhaps, simply go to a library, pull out Darwin’s book and just look at the damn title to get a better idea of what he was talking about. Morons.

  2. #2 RPM
    January 26, 2006

    I know I’m not the first to (1) be annoyed by the confusion regarding origins and evolution or (2) point it out. It’s just that this is the first time I’ve ever read something in which the author confused the two, and actually seen it to mean something entirely different.

  3. #3 Corkscrew
    January 26, 2006

    Mark said: The idea that evolution explains how life began is nearly universal.

    Technically, evolution only explains how life diversified. Abiogenesis is more a biochemistry thing than an evolutionary biology thing.

  4. #4 razib
    January 26, 2006

    corkscrew, but technically it isn’t technical! it’s pretty straightforward. but, as RPM and mark note, it is also somehow a universal conflation despite the transparency of it all.

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