As I’ve argued at this blog many times and in our article at Science, defining evolution in terms of medical progress is probably the best way to translate its’ importance to a wider American public. Back in February, PLOS Biology published a revealing study where the authors strongly agree. In fact, they find that the framing used at scientific journals is likely to have strong implications for public perceptions. Indeed, a simple change in word choice could make an important difference.
Below the abstract, go here for full text:
The increase in resistance of human pathogens to antimicrobial agents is one of the best-documented examples of evolution in action at the present time, and because it has direct life-and-death consequences, it provides the strongest rationale for teaching evolutionary biology as a rigorous science in high school biology curricula, universities, and medical schools. In spite of the importance of antimicrobial resistance, we show that the actual word “evolution” is rarely used in the papers describing this research. Instead, antimicrobial resistance is said to “emerge,” “arise,” or “spread” rather than “evolve.” Moreover, we show that the failure to use the word “evolution” by the scientific community may have a direct impact on the public perception of the importance of evolutionary biology in our everyday lives.