Because the treatment of scientific subjects is so uniformamong textbooks, specific errors and misrepresentations are common to most publishing houses. These have been picked up by other media, and many of them are of longstanding. In the following suggestions I try to point out why certain conventions in science texts and popular publications are either incorrect or technically correct but could be presented better, and to suggest alternative treatments. I hope it will become clear that much of the engendered confusion is due to us scientists, who have not been as precise with their diction as we should be. Even though we often agree among each other that we know what we mean, this does not help textbook writers, reporters, teachers, or students.
He usefully identifies a number of common problems. But, seriously, one group that lack of precision does help is Padian’s Darwin lobby. The endless slip sliding of terminology frustrates informed critiques; no surprise there. And he knows perfectly well that nothing is going to change. More:
Avoid giving the impression that evolution is atheistic, or that evolutionists must be atheists. All science is non-theistic, by which is meant that it does not entail or require any concept of a god or other supernatural being or force. In fact, science is completely independent of any ideas about gods or other supernatural beliefs. But science is not anti-theistic: it does not deny such beings or forces, any more than it accepts them (or leprechauns or unicorns), because these things are not within the purview of science. There are many meanings of ‘atheism’ (literally, ‘without god’). We too often lump together various permutations of non-belief, and in so doing we allow religious fundamentalists (anti-anti-theists, so to speak) to treat scientists and others, who simply operate without reference to any particular deity, as if they were anti-religion (Figure 8; Onfray 2011).
Padian perhaps thinks it is just an accident that 78% of evolutionary biologists are pure naturalist atheists and that that fact has no influence on the judgements they make in the course of their work. As if.
On the whole, despite the anti-theism, he provides a good summary of problems. But decades too late, given that all this stuff has been tolerated and even defended by Padian’s camp for decades, and probably still is by most Darwin activists today. And they won’t really let it change, you may be sure.
Come to think of it, years ago, when journalist Suzan Mazur phoned Padian to discuss the growing ferment around Darwinism, he hung up on her. Wonder if he will start taking her calls any time soon … Nah.
Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista