In a famous scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, King Arthur and his knights encounter the menacing figures of The Knights Who Say "Ni" (pronounced "nee"). The word is so unhearable that Arthur and his men fall back in anguish, covering their ears. Ultimately, they are allowed to pass, but only after providing those Knights with what they want, "a shrubbery".
If you thought that the scene was farfetched, think again. At Evolution News and and Science Today their anonymous commentator (Casey Luskin? David Klinghoffer?), in an article about the giraffe genome, complains about an equally unhearable word. After interpreting the evolution of the giraffe as brought about by Design rather than by evolutionary processes, the real complaint comes out:
(quote from EN&ST)
The Bad “Evolutionary” HabitThroughout these articles, one can see the writers inserting the adjective “evolutionary” in front of everything.
Typists could avoid carpal tunnel syndrome by eliminating this unnecessary word in science papers and news stories. It seems that the “evolutionary” biologists, who should just call themselves biologists, want to push a narrative that everything in the living world must pay tribute to Darwin. The repetition of the word hammers it into people’s heads. Everything in nature, they are taught with this propaganda tactic, is part of a fluid phantasmagoric tableau where every creature came from some other creature and is becoming something else.
- “an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Copenhagen” — why not just a geneticist?
- “giraffes are a poster child for evolutionary oddities” — why not just oddities?
- “several phenotypic traits that share evolutionary constraints” — why not just constraints, as in engineering specifications?
- “This [reduction in olfactory sensitivity] may be an evolutionary consequence of enhanced vision” — why not just a consequence, as in a designed trade-off for multiple competing specifications?
- “evolutionary adaptations” — why not just adaptations, or unique traits fit for the giraffe’s ecological niche?
- “evolutionary pleiotropy” — why not just pleiotropy?
- “a suite of traits are changed within a short evolutionary time” — why not a suite of traits that work together?
(end of quote from EN&ST)
And here I had thought that the Discovery Institute was now OK with using the word "evolution". After all, they have often explained, everything changes, and that is all that "evolution" means. It is only when natural selection is invoked that they become unable to acknowledge those changes. And, it turns out, when common descent is inferred. Their love affair with "change" seems to always end there.
So now we seem to be back to an earlier era, when species were assumed to be fixed. Even Young Earth Creationists seemed lately to have invoked extremely rapid evolution so as to turn the limited number of "kinds" that would fit on the Ark into all present-day species in a few hundred years. But now the Discovery Institute announces that, whatever the amount of change, the word "evolution" is unhearable.
Well, I am an evolutionary biologist, because that's what I work on -- the processes of evolution and the history of life that results. And I guarantee you that evolutionary geneticists, evolutionary genomicists, evolutionary anthropologists, evolutionary physiologists, evolutionary developmental biologists, and evolutionary molecular biologists are going to keep using that word, no matter how unhearable it is to the Discovery Institute. We will investigate evolutionary rates, evolutionary correlations, evolutionary tradeoffs, and much more. And there is no "shrubbery" that will change that.