March 1, 2007

A well-established scientific theory by any other name...

Evil Darwin I was surprised at Amy Radil's choice of words in her NPR piece on All Things Considered yesterday. In a story on a Somali immigrant-turned-ambassador, she described the Seattle-based Discovery Institute as "promoting 'intelligent design' as an alternative to Darwinism."

I was surprised, because the term "Darwinism" is commonly applied to the theory of evolution by creationists and ID proponents, but not by the scientific literature, the educational curriculum, or the media. Compare and contrast the pages in Wikipedia for the two terms (Evolution, Darwinism), or the Clusty search engine results for them (evolution, Darwinism).

As others have pointed out, calling the theory of evolution "Darwinism" is as absurd as calling the theory of gravity "Newtonism," or the theory of relativity "Einsteinism." The term "Darwinism" is used intentionally by creationists because

  1. it isn't a well-defined, scientific term, like "evolution,"
  2. it has an association with "atheism," and,
  3. it implies that people who accept evolution as fact are motivated by an ominous cult of personality around an old, dead guy who looked like a depressed Santa Claus.

Why is NPR using the term? I have no idea. I hope it was just a goof

Posted March 1, 2007 9:37 PM

Dave, Just checking out your site as part of my "homework" (google analytics et al).
Comment on Darwinism:
This term goes way back to my childhood (57 years ago) in public school and I expect far longer than that. I've always thought, and this was corroborated by the vast majority of Wikipedia on Darwinism, that the suffix "ism" applies to a "school of thought." For example, in the arts, the terms "romanticism," "impressionism," "cubism" and so forth are not disparraging terms at all. The Wikipedia writeup says exactly what I think. There are other "schools of thought" pertaining to evolution. They may or may not be competing, or "rivals" in any way, shape of form. They are simply different approaches, with proponents and opponents. I'll be the first one to apologize for the harsh rhetoric of many of my fellow Christian Creationists. Granted. other minorities can be inflamatory also, but people expect more of Christians. After all, we believe in God, so that makes us God, right? Not! But please cut us some slack. Just as it is unreasonable for you to believe that "in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth," it is likewise impossible for us to believe in evolution. Can we agree to disagree? Can we have lively, animated discussions or must we be offensive and offended? Well, gotta get back to class.

Posted by: David Hjembo at April 3, 2007 10:18 PM

Thanks for commenting, David. I agree that we should keep the debate civil, and I think that we generally ought to use our opponent's chosen label when referring to his/her viewpoint.

You said it's "impossible" for you to believe in evolution, which makes me wonder if you dismiss the theory entirely, or if you're referring specifically to just the idea of common descent. Evolution explains how bacteria become drug-resistant, for example, which isn't as controversial as the idea that we share common ancestry with the other mammals on Earth.

Posted by: Dave Lemen at April 14, 2007 12:04 PM
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