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Don’t Do the ‘Evolution,’ Baby

congvo / Flickr.com
congvo / Flickr.com

One of my first posts here at TAC was a complaint about the fashionable abuse of the term “evolution,” cropping up as it had so frequently at the time of President Obama’s conversion on same-sex marriage. Allow me to quote myself:

After hedging on the issue for some while, Obama announced he was in favor of legally recognizing the unions of gay couples. Not only had the president’s view on this issue “evolved”; we’re also to understand that this evolution is in some sense “complete.”

This is an abuse of the term “evolution.”

Evolution is not, or should not be, a synonym for progress—however one defines progress. Evolution does not have a linear endpoint. By its very nature, it can never be “complete.”

Now Howard Kurtz is on the case. He writes that instead of “flip-flopping,” politicians are “evolving.” Because, “who could be against that?”

These days, just about everyone in public life is using the E-word.

Sean Hannity said right after the election that he had “evolved” on dealing with illegal immigration. Watching the Republicans get clobbered among Hispanic voters apparently hastened the process. …

Bill Clinton, who signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, is now singing another tune. In a Washington Post op-ed, he said “it was a very different time” when he signed a law decreeing that marriage was between a man and a woman. Now, “I have come to believe that DOMA is contrary to those principles and, in fact, incompatible with our Constitution.” …

Forgive me if I sound a note of skepticism. Does anyone believe the 42nd president, who was burned by trying to allow gays to serve openly in the military, was trying to ensure anything other than his reelection when he signed DOMA (and is now attempting to remove the stigma)? Does anyone really believe that Obama and Hillary didn’t privately favor gay marriage in 2008, but that the politics of the moment required them to fudge?

Kurtz’s skepticism is more than warranted. But politicians with their fingers to the wind is not my primary beef. It’s the terminology, stupid.

For one last time: Individuals don’t evolve. Populations do. Furthermore, the genetic mutations that may beneficially affect the survival chances of a species occur at the embryonic level. Hence, fully-grown mammals like Barack Obama and Sean Hannity do not “evolve.” They can turn tail and run, hide in bushes and trees, or surrender meekly to predators or, um, change their minds. But they cannot evolve. They are going to die someday, and when they do, they will be the exact same kind of critter they were when they were born.

Thank you for letting me vent.

about the author

Scott Galupo is a freelance writer living in Arlington, Va. In addition to contributing to The American Conservative, he writes for TheWeek.com and reviews live music for The Washington Post. He was formerly a staff writer for The Washington Times and worked on Capitol Hill. He lives with his wife and two children and writes about politics to support his guitar habit.

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