Monday, June 23, 2014

Bad Science Talk

Part of the reason repugs and freakazoids get away with denying and misrepresenting scientific facts is that so many of us misunderstand and misuse basic scientific terms.

Now scientists have come up with the 10 most egregious, with simple explanations of how to use them properly.

Via PZ Myers.

Read them all, but this is my favorite:

8. Survival of the Fittest

Paleoecologist Jacquelyn Gill says that people misunderstand some of the basic tenets of evolutionary theory:
Topping my list would be "survival of the fittest." First, these are not actually Darwin's own words, and secondly, people have a misconception about what "fittest" means. Relatedly, there's major confusion about evolution in general, including the persistent idea that evolution is progressive and directional (or even deliberate on the part of organisms; people don't get the idea of natural selection), or that all traits must be adaptive (sexual selection is a thing! And so are random mutations!).
Fittest does not mean strongest, or smartest. It simply means an organism that fits best into its environment, which could mean anything from "smallest" or "squishiest" to "most poisonous" or "best able to live without water for weeks at a time." Plus, creatures don't always evolve in a way that we can explain as adaptations. Their evolutionary path may have more to do with random mutations, or traits that other members of their species find attractive.

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