Sunday, February 08, 2009

Don't Call It "Darwinism"

 
Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch have written an article for the latest issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach in which they urge everyone to talk about evolutionary biology but Don’t Call it “Darwinism”.
Using “Darwinism” as synonymous with “evolutionary biology” is thus a touch unfair to the men and women who have contributed to the scientific edifice to which Darwin provided the cornerstone, including (to name a few) Wallace, Huxley, Weisman, De Vries, Romanes, Morgan, Weidenreich, Teilhard, von Frisch, Vavilov, Wright, Fisher, Muller, Haldane, Dobzhansky, Rensch, Ford, McClintock, Simpson, Hutchinson, Lorenz, Mayr, Delbrück, Jukes, Stebbins, Tinbergen, Luria, Maynard Smith, Price, Kimura, Ostrom, Wilson, Hamilton, and Gould, to say nothing of even more who are still contributing to evolutionary biology. As Olivia Judson (2008) recently commented, terms like “Darwinism” “suggest a false narrowness to the field of modern evolutionary biology, as though it was the brainchild of a single person 150 years ago, rather than a vast, complex and evolving subject to which many other great figures have contributed.”


12 comments :

  1. The need to read Gould's SET, where it is made clear that theories have essences, and even with expansion, evolutionary theory can still be safely labeled Darwinism.

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  2. I completey agree, and that's why I always refer to my field as "evolutionary biology".

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  3. Not to mention that "Darwinism" simply gives yet another excuse to the fundies to browbeat us

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  4. Didn't I already say that?

    Gould is wrong, because historical processes rarely have essential properties.

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  5. I'm sorry? Are you the same guys that were sneering at creationists for constantly relabeling their ideas? Do you think it's a good idea to start doing the same thing, just because some people deliberately want to misunderstand the term?

    That being said, I agree that darwinism should not be used as a synonym for evolutionary biology, but for a different reason. Darwinism refers, in my mind, to evolution by natural selection, whereas evolutionary biology is a much broader field.

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  6. Corneel: Your second paragraph is another reason to not call evolutionary biology "darwinism". There's more to evolution than natural selection.

    Also, there's a bit of a difference between evolutionists wanting to encourage one name over the other and the Creationists doing this. Evolutionists are doing it because a bunch of deceitful Creationists have hijacked the term. They took it and deliberately and dishonestly polluted its meaning in an unending smear campaign. It's fully reasonable that evolutionists would be wary about deliberately encouraging continued misunderstandings - though ideally they would never have had to make this adjustment in the first place. Creationists on the other hand have changed their name in order to try to side step church-state laws by dishonestly repackaging one thing (Creationism) and pretending it was something radically different (ID).

    The problem isn't so much the issue of name changing. It's the deceit.

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  7. Prof. Scott is absolutely correct. We don't refer to the laws of motion as Newtonism or the Theory of Relativity as Einsteinism or non-relativistic quantum mechanics as Schrodingerism.

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  8. @theframeproblem

    I agree with you, but I doubt that the difference will be obvious to an outsider. Furthermore, I suspect that "evolutionist" will soon befall the same fate as "darwinism", when scientists stop using the latter term, or otherwise creationists will find something else altogether.
    There are some good reasons not to use "darwinism" when you mean "evolutionary biology", but I don't think fear for abuse is one of them.

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  9. Though I do have a great personal interest in science, I am not a part of the scientific community as many of the commenters here seem to be, so I can not argue about the naming conventions in regards to the actual science. I can however say that many of my religious friends equate the word "Darwinism" to my "religion." The use of the "ism" is what hints to the misrepresentation. That and the fact that many of them have difficulty wrapping their heads around the possibilities of someone living without a religion.

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  10. I have always thought that "Darwinism" had a negative connotation, putting Darwin into a position as an idol. Similar to Stalinism or Marxism. Evolutionary Biologists (in general) do not idolize Darwin, we don't have posters on our walls of him staring down at us with a controlling look. Let's not use a word that suggests that we do.

    I say evolutionary biology - Darwin was incredibly insightful, though he was still wrong about a lot. Evolutionary Biology is far more than "Darwinism"

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  11. I think biggest problem is not is term "Darwinism" good or not. The main problem is that the IDeers use DIFFERENT meaning in different times: It might mean evolution theory, something what darwin said, and even "atheism", or skientism. Or then it is worldwiew of peoples who believe in evolution theory. And they MIX with them and that insanity makes it a effective propagandaweapon.

    Rememer: It is not science. It is education. History of evolution criticism had allways been one thing which don't change. (scopes, kangaroo court, Dover...) They want education and school, becouse that is where the kids are, and kids are most best to indoctrinate.

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  12. I can't believe you folks take creationists seriously enough to care what they think about you.

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