Oliver Knevitt has compiled his Top 5 Most Irritating Terms In Evolution Reporting. Read it, science journalists! They are:
“Survival of the fittest.” Up yours, Herbert Spencer!
“Living fossil.” What does that even mean? Do you really think modern coelacanths look anything like the ones from 100 million years ago?
“Missing link.” It assumes a chain, and implies it’s broken. And worse, it’s always getting used when a scientist discovers a new transitional form!
“More evolved/less evolved.” Darwin himself rejected this view, and it’s also one that makes no sense. A clam is as “evolved” as I am.
“Adaptation.” Ooh, interesting choice. Adaptation is real and important, but journalists do tend to overuse it and apply it inappropriately. There are people who’d call male impotence an adaptation.
I’d add “Darwinism”. We aren’t using Darwin’s model anymore; he had no accurate notion of how inheritance worked, for instance — genes and alleles, the stuff of most modern theory, are not present anywhere in his works.
“Darwinian” is also problematic. It does have a specific, technical meaning, but it’s often applied thoughtlessly to every process in evolution.
Let’s also add the usual yellow journalistic trait of turning everything into a “revolution” or a complete disproof of all that has gone before. Asking the question, “Was Darwin Wrong?” is stupid and misleading. Claiming that evo-devo or epigenetics or genomics or molecular biology will completely “revolutionize” or overturn antiquated notions or throw the entire field of evolutionary biology into complete chaos are also nonsense — so far those sub-disciplines have reinforced and modified appropriately an understanding of evolution that was forged in the 1930s. If something really revolutionary comes up, you’ll know it because the mobs of excited scientists flocking to the new idea and turning it into significant advances in our understanding will make it obvious.