Monday, June 24, 2013

Are You an Evolutionist?

Dan Graur has written a post on The Evolution of "Evolutionist". He points out that the term "evolutionist" and "evolutionism" used to refer to those who accept the fact of evolution and support evolutionary theory.

However, he also notes that ...
Since 2000, it is impossible to find the terms “"evolutionist" and "evolutionism" used by anyone except by creation apologists.... I would greatly like to know when exactly was the evolution of "evolutionist" completed and the term acquired its present negative connotation.
I prefer the term "evolutionary biologist" to describe scientists who are experts on evolution. For those non-experts who accept the basic principles of biology, chemistry, physics, geology etc. we don't need a term other than "rational." It's silly to describe them as "gravitationists" or "plate tectonicists" or "thermodynamicists."

Do you ever refer to yourself as an evolutionist?


16 comments :

  1. I prefer to think of myself as one who appreciates facts of science and understands how science, and evolution, works.

    Can't claim to be a professional biologist any more.

    Politely, I suppose I prefer to think of my self as "well-studied and well-read." When I'm not so concerned with manners, I say "not a stunningly stupid denier of reality."

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  2. Never. But it's still better (or less bad) than "Darwinist".

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  3. The term has historical significance. Thus in 1820, you could find evolutionists and fixists, just as at that same date you could find atomists and chemists who were unconvinced that atoms were real.

    Of course, creationists want to pretend that the evolutionist/fixist dispute is still in progress, which is why they continue to use the term.

    As for "Darwinist", that's a shabby attempr to pretend (a) that we know no more than we did in 1859 and (b) that you Larry, Stephen J Gould, and anyone else who has distinguished their own position for Darwininan adaptational gradualism in the srictest sense, can be cited as an ally of their lunacy.

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    1. Thus in 1820, you could find evolutionists and fixists

      But in 1820, did "evolutionists" believe in universal common descent? A lot of people were "environmentalists", e.g. they believed that hot weather turned tropical people black, by direct action. That's obviously not natural selection, and it's certainly not the belief that we're descended from apes, apes descended from insectivores, etc.

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  4. I think they like the word "evolutionism" because it makes it sound like a philosophy and therefore implies dogmatism. It's the same reason people say "Islamist" to mean a radical follower of Islam. You wouldn't call the average peaceful Muslim an Islamist. It's just a rhetorical tactic that allows critics to sneak in a negative connotation and subtly bias the debate.

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  5. Niles Eldredge calls himself an evolutionist. It's featured prominently at the top of his website.

    http://www.nileseldredge.com/

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  6. Anything, absolutely ANYTHING... is better than 'creationist'. I have no problem calling myself an evolutionist, but I make it clear to all and sundry that I do not 'BELIEVE' in evolution, rather, I accept the scientific evidence for it. The phrase 'believe in evolution' is a term I would sooner get rid of, long before 'evolutionist'.

    Dave Bailey

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  7. Evolutionist, like liberal, has a progressively negative connotation.
    It smacks of the rejection of God and religion more then just a stance on origins of biology.
    Its seen, it seems to me ,as a aggressive term opposed to a list of common beliefs. Its a term of someon on the attack. Many peoople would not like the word and connotation who have no problem or interest in evolution.

    I like the word because one needs words to identity. Its easier and quicker for typing.
    Its just a neutral word to define someone believing or really active intellectually, possibly professionally, in the conclusions of biological life being from a mechanism of natural selection on mutation plus time.
    Longer words hurt people like me who need to use it a zillion times.

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    1. Evolutionist, like liberal, has a progressively negative connotation.

      To whom? Adolf Hitler?

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  8. I consider 'evolutionist' a term of abuse only used by creationists.

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  9. In my memory the term 'evolutionist' is recent, not more than 15 or so years. Evolutionary biologist as a term might not be older than 30 years. Before that, one was a biologist, population geneticist, systematist, paleontologist or anything, specifying one's direct field.

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  10. evolution.binghamton.edu/dswilson/ starts out by saying: "I am an evolutionist".

    The problem with "evolutionary biology" is that it confines evolution to biology - whereas, in fact, many complex adaptive systems exhibit the copying, variation and selection that are the hallmarks of evolution.

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  11. Dawkins uses it, so at least I'm in good company. Admittedly, I would be more prone to use it in an 'in your face!' scenario with a creationist or IDiot. Mostly because I don't really care what they think about me, if I don't believe their religious explanations then they've already got me labelled as a hell-bound sinner who is responsible for all the evil in the world.

    Dave Bailey

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  12. I don't, for the same reason I don't describe myself as a gravitationist. It just sounds silly, and gives the potentially misleading assumption that it's an ideology (when used in context with creationist).

    It's hard to come up with good words to describe one's scientifically-derived positions when they are used in a context of one's non-scientific beliefs. It leads to equivocation, and thus is more trouble than it's worth.

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  13. I object to "evolutionism" for the same reason I object to "creationary" -- it creates a completely false impression of equivalence. Last-Thursdayism is an "ism", evolutionary biology is not.

    For similar reasons I also object to "Darwinism", but with the additional problem that its use (at least in a modern context) (i) fails to acknowledge the contributions of evolutionary biologists since Darwin, & (ii) creates the false impression that Evolutionary Biology is exactly at the state it was when Darwin published On the Origin of Species.

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