WE HAVE sometimes mentioned that the comparison of free-market economies to controlled economies is analogous to the difference between evolution and intelligent design. We especially like that analogy because Adam Smith, the intellectual godfather of free enterprise, was a product of the Scottish Enlightenment, as (arguably) was Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Another, more commonly used analogy to evolution, is the unplanned growth and variety of human languages. From time to time we search for additional analogies, but good examples aren’t easy to find. Which brings us to a fortuitous discovery in this morning’s news.
In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette we read Word Watch: Leave the new words to Shakespeare, subtitled “Yes, new words crop up all the time. But you gotta be Shakespeare to make them up.” It’s a delightful column written in response to some reader’s suggestion for a new form of unisex pronoun to resolve that reader’s “he” or “she” problems.
As a Curmudgeon, we’ve always been repelled by politically-driven linguistic constructions, and when we encounter such infelicitous contrivances we regard them as a declaration of the author’s idiocy. Our preference is for the traditional usage of “he” to include both genders when context requires it, but such matters are best left to the writer — whatever he prefers, so to speak.
Would you believe it? Wikipedia even has an article on this: Gender-neutral pronoun, e.g., “All men are created equal.”
So what has this to do with the evolution-creationism conflict? We already know that the variety and evolution of human languages is (in some ways) analogous to the evolution of species. But the author of the above-linked article goes one step farther, at least in our experience. He says, with bold added by us:
Language legislation doesn’t mesh well with the natural evolution of language. Our existing pronouns evolved gradually from earlier Anglo-Saxon forms. Esperanto is an example of intelligent design, linguistically speaking, and look at how widely spoken that is.
That’s good! We wish we had thought of it. One more excerpt:
I wish Mr. Meyer [the would-be inventor of unisex pronouns] luck in his quest. His idea would solve the problem, but it would require conscious tinkering, and a living, breathing language doesn’t take kindly to that.
That’s also true for a living, breathing biosphere.