evolution: a case of bad marketing?
Could the resistance to accepting evolution as a valid science be little more than a case of not talking about it the right way?
Could the reason why passionate activists aren’t trying to get school boards to teach intelligent falling instead of gravity be just a case of better marketing? According to a marketing guru, in a way, yes. But Seth Godin’s review of why people are more ready to accept gravity than evolution runs into a few factual problems.
Godin says that gravity didn’t change the scientific paradigm of the day. There was a force that made things fall and stick to the Earth and Newton just came along and gave it a better name as well as a better explanation. That’s true. But according to Godin there was no one else trying to explain why things fell which is not true. There was no shortage of theories about why anything fell and experiments trying to define and measure this force were being done for hundreds of years by all sorts of scholars.
When it comes to evolution, Godin makes another great point. It challenged the paradigm that persisted for thousands of years. But when he notes that it’s too slow to be seen, he’s also a bit mistaken. Evolution is a process of change. When key genes in our bodies change the way they work, resulting in new body shapes, sizes and physical traits, that’s evolution in action and we can see how this process works in a lab. We can watch how embryos develop and how all of the subtle changes in Hox genes and genetic toolkits can suddenly become dramatic. We can take the steering wheel and demonstrate how changing genes around changes the resulting living thing and if we really wanted to, demonstrate natural selection in a microcosm.
Overall, Godin does have a very good point when he compares marketing pitches to evolution and gravity. Some things are met with less resistance than others and you need to be aware of the rules by which people will accept something new. But what he’s missing about evolution’s acceptance as a theory is that the resistance to it is active and sees it as a threat to all that is good in this world. Whatever you call the force by which things fall down is fine. When you start messing around with why living things look and act they way they do and start cutting out the accepted explanation of the time, that’s when you encounter opposition. It’s too new and it’s too different to be accepted by some. New enough to be feared and loathed.