...are the ones that make the biggest difference


The difficulty of speaking evolutionally

This semester I am only taking 2 classes; Anatomy 2 and Microbiology. This is a blessed relief from the 4 classes of last semester, but I've noticed a trend that has carried through - my professors cannot seem to restrict themselves to truly evolution-based language. I, of course, have no idea as to the level or flavor of faith to which my teachers may or may not subscribe, but it is clear from my classes so far that they have do not speak evolutionally. By that I mean they do not speak in the language of random chance or natural selection. They rarely speak of advantageous adaptations or survival of the fittest. There is little discussion as to how our delicately balanced internal systems could have developed such intricate interdependence or how cells developed the ability to control their internal mechanisms with exquisite precision. It seems almost impossible for them to speak of physiology of the body or cells/microorganisms without using words one would, in all other situations, associate with an external conscious agent. Words like "purpose" pop up a lot - "the purpose of the epithelium is to..." - but how can a directionless, unconscious anything have purpose? A function, yes, but purpose? And, of course, "design" is bandied about quite frequently, but almost always with the underlying assumption that either the cells themselves or some amporphous, impersonal "nature" did this work. But how can a cell direct its own evolution? How can a microscopic arrangement of proteins, phospholipids and water plan its own development and growth into something more complex? Of course it can't, but in an academic system dedicated to naturalistic reasoning, how can such talk still exist if evolution is the ultimate truth as to the origin of all life? It seems we should find speaking evolutionally far easier than we do.

But it is not just my teachers, lest anyone assume their own personal faith is shining through. Even my books utilize the language of external agency. Take this quote from my micro book - "The earth initially may seem like a random, chaotic place, but it is actually an incredibly organized, fine-tuned machine." How exactly does random chance produce an 'incredibly organized, fine-tuned machine'? And why is this language so hard to avoid? I'm sure there are those who would argue that our language and culture are themselves barriers to the correct use of evolutionary termingology in everyday speech, but I still find it highly ironic that we find it so difficult to naturally speak "naturally."

1 comment:

emily said...

number one thing: watching my ardently evolutionist Biology professor stumble all over herself when a student calls her on her use of the word "design".

number two thing: an actual conversation with a fellow (non Christian) student, during said Biology class...

L: "So the plant just evolved this highly complex defense mechanism...on it's own."

me: "That's what she's saying."

L: "Why...I mean, how would it know that mice aren't good seed distributors, but birds are, and then develop a deterrant for mice and not birds?"

me: "Well..."

L: "That's one smart plant."

me: "Yeah."