Worst. Analogy. Ever
I’m all for activism and outreach, but what does this quote mean: “Teaching science without evolution is like teaching sentence structure without the alphabet.”
I was ready to address the flaws from a science literacy framework, but brainlogist is much better (emphasis added):
As a scientist, I’m terribly disappointed in the quote that opens this post. It may seem like it’s clever, highlighting the fundamental importance of evolution by relating it to the “basic” units of the alphabet; unfortunately, the analogy falls apart completely, and in fact a bit self-destructively, once you know a little bit about the science of language.
Sentence structure (syntax) has nothing to do with the alphabet. There is no natural human language whose syntax depends at all on an alphabet. Moreover, there are numerous examples of languages (say, the Chinese languages) that have no alphabet, but whose syntax can still be described.
Alphabets are arbitrary ways of encoding the sounds of language in static, visual form. What’s worse, alphabets are invented by humans as a tool for recording language. It’s a dangerous analogy to make to suggest that evolution is invented by people.
Let me hazard another analogy in the same form as the quote above “Teaching science without teaching evolution is like teaching calculus without Roman numerals.”
Although the intent is noble, and the video is otherwise one of the best I’ve seen for conveying fundamental importance of evolution to science, the rampant misinformation people have about linguistics is always disappointing.
(For the people at home playing “irony bingo”: syntax is an evolved capacity of the human mind, whereas alphabets are intelligently designed…)
Ha! Love the closing.