The BBC has long been known for its excellent science & nature programmes. I grew up on them; some thirty years ago David Attenborough himself introduced me to Darwinian evolution through the process of Natural Selection in his seminal series “Life on Earth”. Yes, that was back in 1979 when I was just 12 years old. They have always been the ordinary person’s way into even the most complex science.

Now the BBC’s “South Pacific”, being shown back-to-back with Dr Alice Roberts’ “The Incredible Human Journey”, continue the tradition. Unfortunately in the last decade the rise of right-wing Christian fundamentalism and its insidious invention of “Intelligent Design” has begun to erode all the good work which has sought to enlighten and educate ordinary people. As the Christian right has hijacked the word “design” to suit its own ends, science should increasingly distance itself from the word to avoid any confusion, obfuscation or indeed claims of science justifying “Intelligent Design”.

Thus, I was dismayed to hear the word “design” used by dear Dr Roberts in “The Incredible Human Journey” to describe the evolutionary adaptations made in the physiology of Homo Sapiens; and indeed the narrator on “South Pacific” also used the word “design” in relation to the evolutionary adaptations displayed in the sperm whale. These aren’t isolated incidents, it seems to happen quite regularly; and although it may seem trivial and petty to some, all those engaged in scientific education should be precise and careful in their selection of language. After all, it’s astounding the extent to which science, and intelligent peoples’ adherence to scientific principles, have been under attack in the last decade. We need to be increasingly cautious of all the enemies of enlightened thinking, and offer them as little ammunition or credence as possible. Once simple logical reason breaks down, linguistic precision may be one of the only weapons left in the armoury. There is a war on science, and indeed on free thinking. BBC science & nature editors, in their role as educators, and through the science they present, are at the front line. They should therefore live up to their responsibilities rather better.