Putting darwin in his place: The need to watch our language

Paul S. Braterman, J. Britt Holbrook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


In this article, we examine the use of language in debating evolution, and suggest careful choice of the terms by which we describe both ourselves and our opponents. Present-day evolution science is solidly based on fact, and is as far advanced from Darwin's original theory as present-day chemistry is from Dalton's atomic theory. For this reason and others, the common practice of referring to our current understanding of evolution as "Darwin's theory" is ill judged, inaccurate, and a public relations blunder. Only partly tongue-in-cheek, we also propose language to describe the opponents of evolution science. We suggest Supernaturalist as a blanket term for all creationists and intelligent design advocates who deny that biology can ever be explained by the ordinary laws of nature. Within these, we distinguish resurgent Paleyists who maintain that biological complexity must be the handiwork of a Designer, Flintstone creationists who believe that humans and dinosaurs coexisted on a young Earth, and Occasional creationists who believe in repeated separate divine creations on multiple occasions for different kinds of organism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-88
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Biology Teacher
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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