Is ‘Darwinism’ Science or Ideology or Both or Neither?

Recently, Neil Rickert wrote to me:

“To me, the technical distinction between “Darwinian” and “Darwinism” is that “Darwinian” is a adjective while “Darwinism” is a noun.

Please start a separate thread to help clear this up.”

Similarly, this post was added recently at UD and has generated some feedback from TSZers who dialogue there:

“Everyone now knows that Darwinism, adn [sic] its parent materialism, are ridiculous, but for some people they are the only possible position. Those people would abandon the follies in an instant if they could just come up with a reliably non-theistic alternative. Meantime, the public face of Darwinism is dominated by anti-religious fanatics and self-condemned trolls. That is a key reason we can dispense with any notion that Darwinism is some kind of a science. A real science offers few attractions for such types.” – Denyse O’Leary

Elisabeth replied asking: “Do you seriously believe that this is true?”

Kantian Naturalist responded saying: “Elizabeth, of course Denyse seriously believes what she wrote in (7)! Everyone here believes that — that is the whole attitude of the ID movement!”

jerry piped in, saying: “The real reason is that Darwinism is not a science is because if fails the scientific process in any form usually considered science.”

Then Elisabeth replied, saying: “The vast majority of people who have a view on “Darwinism” don’t think it “ridiculous”…” adding that “my encounter with Darwinism has mostly been in science text books, lessons, and documentaries.”

So does Elisabeth think ‘Darwinism’ is a science or not? She wrote: “yes, I’m a Darwinist.” … “I don’t consider Darwinism an ideology at all.” … “I am not a Darwinist in any ideological sense of the word.”

Neil Rickert says: “I’m not quite sure what they [IDists] mean by Darwinism. I suspect they mean evolution by entirely natural means.”

Here is what I wrote previously on TSZ, and which prompted N. Rickert to suggest that I write a thread about it:

Darwinian evolution is the ‘natural scientific theory,’ while ‘Darwinism’ is the ideology.

technically, a ‘Darwinist’ refers to a person, not an ideology. A Darwinist is an ideologue for Darwinism, the ideology. Person/ideology.

Neil wrote: “It [As Gregory uses it] is not how I use “Darwinist”, and it is not how most biologists seem to use “Darwinist”.”

Yet I wrote to clarify:

Just as Thomism and Marxism, Malthusianism and Lamarckism, Taylorism and Fordism, Thatcherism and Cameronism are ideologies, so is Darwinism.

Should we give precedence to biologists’ usage of ‘Darwinism’ as the final say, as if Darwin said nothing about humanity, culture, society also? AFAIK, Neil is not a biologist anyway. Let me confess openly that I am not a biologist and do not idolise biology as holding the definitive meaning of ‘Darwinism.’

Walter Kloover wrote:

“I think that within the mainstream scientific community, Darwinism refers to the theory of evolution, colored by Darwin’s focus on natural selection. It can be contrasted to other scientific viewpoints on evolution. In this usage “Darwinism” is scientific, not ideological.”

So, which is it: science or ideology? Or both? Or neither?

I’d like to survey people at TSZ. Is this encouraged?

Survey Question – Is ‘Darwinism’ a ‘scientific theory,’ an ‘ideology’ or something else?

Bill Demsbki calls ‘Darwinism’ a ‘scientific theory’ (2004). What do participants at TSZ say about it?

 

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49 thoughts on “Is ‘Darwinism’ Science or Ideology or Both or Neither?

  1. I think I agree with Gregory (?) that it must be an ideology in the same sense that Marxism is an ideology. Buts its mainly used as a pejorative by IDers and Creationists against people who accept the scientific theory of evolution. To them Darwinism is the rejection of morality and the belief we are all talking collections of atoms.
    I think most people who understand/accept evolution would not think of it as an ideology and so those few who refer to themselves as Darwinists really mean it in the sense of Darwinist = selectionist as opposed to neutralist

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  2. Thanks for posting. The discussion should be useful.

    For me, words do not have meanings. People convey meanings using words, but the meaning does not inhere in the word. How I will communicate an idea, and what words I will use, depend on the audience that I am addressing.

    You are correct, that I am not a biologist. However, my primary experience with the use of the words “Darwinism” and “Darwinian” come from scientific discussions and/or debates with creationists. I’m inclined to say that most scientists use those words as referring to the science. The creationists often seem to use them as epithets, but I am not deeply into how creationists talk to one another.

    For me, “Darwinism” is a descriptive term, but not a scientific theory. I’ll use “evolution” for the scientific theory, rather than “Darwinism.”

    Gregory asks:

    Should we give precedence to biologists’ usage of ‘Darwinism’ as the final say, as if Darwin said nothing about humanity, culture, society also?

    I just do my best to understand what people are trying to say. Language does not work the way you seem to think it does. When Dennett talks of “Darwinism” he is not using it as a strictly biological term. But when biologists use that term, they mostly are using it in a biological sense. Language depends on us being able to make these distinctions between speakers. It is not a matter of giving precedence.

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  3. Common descent is the common thread in Darwinism.

    Darwin himself didn’t seem to consider neutral change, but didn’t reject it. He had no theory of inheritance other than the claim that change is gradual.

    IDists mostly object to two features that all mainstream biologists accept — common descent and non-intentional change.

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  4. It really depends on whether you are trying to understand your opponent’s position or trying to defeat him politically.

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  5. RodW,

    Please know, RodW, that I am neither an IDer/IDist nor a Creationist.

    If ‘Darwinism’ is mainly used as a pejorative by IDers, as you suggest, then it is up to people who call themselves ‘Darwinists’ to clarify the positive meaning. As I wrote already, for me ‘Darwinian evolution’ is positive as a scientific theory, while ‘Darwinism’ technically represents an ideology.

    When you say, “To them [IDers/IDists &/or Creationists] Darwinism is the rejection of morality and the belief we are all talking collections of atoms,” what would you positively prefer it to mean?

    Thanks, this is a helpful contribution: “it must be an ideology in the same sense that Marxism is an ideology.”

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  6. Why are “ists” and “isms” found more in biology than in chemistry and physics?

    How many “Newtonists”, “Einsteinists,” “Machists,” “Schrodingerists,” “Heisenbergists,” “Bohrists,” “Boltzmannists,” “Weinbergists,” “Boyleists,” etc. are there in physics, for example?

    I would suggest that this battle over “ists” and “isms” is socio/political tribal warfare. It has nothing to do with science. But it certainly has much more to do with sectarian wars on secular society and sectarian proselytizing.

    The vast majority of scientists are not engaged in these wars; they are immersed in doing scientific research. These wars take place among laypersons and ideologues pushing political agendas that have nothing to do with science.

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  7. Seems pretty clear to me that it depends on who is using the word. To a creationist, everything is an ideology. For them, appending “ism” to any term clarifies that it is an ideological term. And I agree entirely with RodW that for creationists, “Darwinism” is interchangeable with (their notion of) nihilism, materialism, and other Godless ideologies. Much in the same way that “evolutionism” is associated with the big bang, with deep time, and with any and all implied religious incompatibilities.

    So personally, I find the term much too equivocal to use — the meaning changes drastically when used by Elizabeth or by Denise, to the point where there is basically no overlap at all. Beyond that, I don’t think anything in science should be saddled with the “ism” burden, because in the vernacular, “ism” divorces the ideology from evidence or observation. A scientific theory rests on valid, repeatable, predictive explanation. An “ism” rests on belief, a matter of pure faith.

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  8. To be frank, the term Darwinist is silly. Nobody is a Newtonist, Maxwellist or Einsteinist, thought I might consider myself a Feynmanist if pushed. The only ist of relevance is and should be Scientist. Just as Newtons theories have been substantially refined and even shown to be a special case of general relativity, darwins theories have also been substantially refined. What then would a Darwinist be? Someone who holds the texts of Darwin above all and rejects anything since? That would be stupid. If it is one who understands that his work was just the start of a process of refinement and understanding of the development of life on earth throughout the millennia, then that would just be synonymous with Biologist, again a scientist.

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  9. Funny how implying that a thought is religious or philosophical is always pejorative.

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  10. Just because some -isms attached to names are indicative of political or religious influence does not mean that all are by universal extension. Darwinism is not comparable to Marxism or Buddhism.

    “Darwinism” came into usage through Wallace and other contemporaries, relating to Darwin’s view of nature. It was revived as neo-Darwinism following synthesis with Mendel’s genetics. Throughout, it denoted a set of ideas about how modern biological forms came to be, through descent, variation and differential survival, not any kind of credo or philosophical school.

    Some, particularly in America, seem to use it as shorthand for some kind of ideologically-motivated atheist-nihilist. If an individual wishes to use it in that way, they are welcome to do so, just as they can call bent yellow fruit sardines if they like. I think it’s semantically dubious, and blatant demonising, but it’s only words.

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  11. IDers seem to think there is some kind of ideology they call “Darwinism” but it’s not always clear which they mean when they use the word. The context of Denyse’s comment suggested she was referring to the theory.

    But she could have been referring to the ideology. In which case, I agree, it is “ridiculous”.

    I don’t know any Darwinist idealogues.

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  12. I’m implying no such thing. I’m simply saying it is ridiculous and is applied nowhere else in science.

    petrushka:
    Funny how implying that a thought is religious or philosophical is always pejorative.

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  13. “…to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.”

    Captain Ahab, in Moby Dick

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  14. Should we give precedence to biologists’ usage of ‘Darwinism’ as the final say, as if Darwin said nothing about humanity, culture, society also?

    Well, what the man named Darwin actually said about humanity, culture and society would long ago have been forgotten if he had not made the scientific discovery that he did, so I do think it is appropriate to ignore the non-science when deciding what Darwinism is.

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  15. Answer to survey question: There is a scientific theory, essentially that all life on earth is descended from one or a few common ancestors, through a process of descent with modification driven, to a significant extent, by natural selection. Many people call this theory Darwinism. Many people agree that it is the best scientific explanation for the diversity of life on earth.

    Some people who do not believe that the scientific theory known as Darwinism is a good and sufficient scientific explanation for the diversity of life on earth (many of whom seem to congregate at UD) seem to think that those who disagree with them are therefore believers in an ideology they call Darwinism.

    Since no one actually seems to argue for (or believe in) this ideology, it is hard to know what it stands for. But it seems to be anti-religious, based on the quote from O’Leary above.

    So some people use the word to refer to a scientific theory, and some people use it to refer to an ideology. To determine which it “is” we would have to know the details of what you are asking about in the survey question.

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  16. JetBlack:
    To be frank, the term Darwinist is silly. Nobody is a Newtonist, Maxwellist or Einsteinist, thought I might consider myself a Feynmanist if pushed. The only ist of relevance is and should be Scientist. Just as Newtons theories have been substantially refined and even shown to be a special case of general relativity, darwins theories have also been substantially refined. What then would a Darwinist be? Someone who holds the texts of Darwin above all and rejects anything since? That would be stupid. If it is one who understands that his work was just the start of a process of refinement and understanding of the development of life on earth throughout the millennia, then that would just be synonymous with Biologist, again a scientist.

    One thing I do find curious is that many ID “students” of evolution do treat Darwin’s work as scripture rather than as a theory. Meyer does – his new book is almost like a scriptural rather than a theoretical analysis, taking into account contemporary texts and thought etc.

    It’s as though the theory stands or falls by what the Great Man Thought, rather than by what the theory predicts successfully. Thus “Darwin’s Doubt” is terribly important, just because it was a doubt and it was Darwin’s.

    And so often “Darwinists” are accused of treating Darwin as a “bible”.

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  17. Well, yes, they view everything through religiious glasses. Just reading over Denise’s quote in the OP, I marvel at how drastically different the language is – nearly every substantive word she writes has a meaning embedded in religious doctrine and unrelated the the commonly understood definitions.

    The practice of subjecting Darwin’s writing to textual analysis and the techniques of exegesis is as natural to them as it is inappropriate to us. The notion of a true explanation, that accounts for the observations, is falsifiable, makes predictions, etc. is simply not on their radar.

    Darwin’s work is almost invariably positioned as a declaration of faith rather than an explanation of anything, which one either finds compatible or incompatible with the One True Religion. In a way, Matzke misses the point by addressing Meyer’s science, when the book was written in religious terms intended to press religious buttons.

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  18. The ideological Darwinist belongs to the late 19th Century and some of the 20th. Such people took terms from a purely descriptive theory and sought to introduce their own selection. The accuracy of Darwin’s theory was unaffected by Social Darwinism, just as it was unaffected by the manouevres of the Prussian army and the Clean Air act, because the theory of evolution is not restricted to environments uninfluenced by humans.

    In the 21st Century, Social Darwinism is an irrelevance. So to create the “Darwinian ideology” the cdesignproponentists attack metaphysical positions which are irrelevant to the accuracy of the theory of evolution, and then add the word “evolutionary” or “Darwinist”. The give away is that the metaphysical position of, for example, the “evolutionary materialist” is no different to the metaphysical position of the materialist.

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  19. No, Darwinism is not an ideology, and there is no reason to say that it must be an ideology. That’s not how that suffix works. Words ending in “ism” in English are not automatically ideologies. Although the most common examples of the “ism” suffix are indeed partisan schools of thought (capitalism, fascism, Libertarianism, Catholicism, Mormonism, Calvinism,) other English words are quite valid exceptions: heroism, romanticism, and, yes, Darwinism. Darwinism is almost unique in that it is a non-ideological school of thought named after its specific founder – which, as others have noted, is not the usual practice in Western science; we don’t see anyone using Newtonism even in jest and never as a partisan slur.

    Stanford Encyclopdia of Philosophy opens its long article on Darwinism thusly:

    Darwinism designates a distinctive form of evolutionary explanation for the history and diversity of life on earth.
    … This entry first formulates ‘Darwin’s Darwinism’ in terms of five philosophically distinctive themes: (i) probability and chance, (ii) the nature, power and scope of selection, (iii) adaptation and teleology, (iv) nominalism vs. essentialism about species and (v) the tempo and mode of evolutionary change. Both Darwin and his critics recognized that his approach to evolution was distinctive on each of these topics, and it remains true that, though Darwinism has developed in many ways unforeseen by Darwin, its proponents and critics continue to differentiate it from other approaches in evolutionary biology by focusing on these themes.

    (bolding mine)

    IDists, like Denyse, who slur scientists by misusing “Darwinism” to imply that we are adherents to a biased ideology should be slapped down every time they do it. They don’t have the right – and I don’t think they have the power – to force their own partisan usage of the “ism” upon the rest of the English-speaking world.

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  20. I say Darwinism/evolution is not a scientific theory.
    It claims to be a theory of biology(other things too).
    Yet its not supported by biological evidence. Its supported by lines of reasoning and other evidences unrelated to biological investigation.
    Its just a hypothesis.

    Darwin meant to explain, like Newton in his stuff, all aspects of man and life as coming from selection on traits. So no direction from God is needed.
    Allo of mans social and cultural and biological results coming from natural mechanism. Natural meaning happanchance.

    Ideology is a strange word to define Darwinism.
    Its simply a wrong series of conclusions based on a wrong acceptance of a mechanism.
    It does attract all the hostiles to God and Christ.
    Indeed it is maintained in the larger society by those who need explanation for the universe and earth and biology’s complexity without a creator or the biblical one.
    Anything better would be gobbled up and leave darwinism to a few true believers.

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  21. It claims to be a theory of biology(other things too).
    Yet its not supported by biological evidence.

    Of course it is supported by biological evidence, Robert. Enormously so. I, and many others, have attempted to acquaint you with the nature of the biological evidence, but you continue to imagine it is all based purely on fossil strata, which cannot preserve a continuum. You are wrong.

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  22. The demonisation game continues to be played out by Sal Cordova over at UD. Of course, he merely uses the title of a book (Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian worldview) as the title of a post, but it is enough to add one more daub to the smear.

    I don’t think I have ever encountered an adherent of Darwinian theories, nor even of eugenics, calling for mass, indiscriminate extermination of an entire ethnic group. It would certainly be a hopeless misunderstanding of Natural Selection if they did. Which would appear to call for, at the very least, better education on the subject. A noble cause behind which UD could throw its weight, in another universe.

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  23. Do I need to label sarcasm? Kind of defeats the purpose.

    I don’t understand the failure to catch this ongoing theme.

    IDists and creationists have for decades tried to impugn evolution by portraying it as religion.

    Why do theists think religion is automatically garbage?

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  24. It’s one thing to say that the creationist abuse of “ism” SHOULD not be what it is, and another thing to say that it IS not what it is. And make no mistake, creationists have tacked on the “ism” very carefully and deliberately, in order to associate a broad scientific theory with a particular prophet and his text.

    When used by Lizzie, Darwinism describes at least part of that broad theory. When used by Denyse, the same term denotes mindless, godless, idiotic materialism suffered by those who deliberately choose not to know better like she does.

    Equivocation in the overloading of meanings onto terms is standard creationist technique. Look at Denyse’s quote and find any important word which has not been ideologically redefined for her purposes. Owning the language is a key tactic in the creationist game.

    I suggest it’s very important to distinguish the scientific “Darwinism” as a theory, from the creationist “Darwinism” as a false religion.

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  25. “Survey Question – Is ‘Darwinism’ a ‘scientific theory,’ an ‘ideology’ or something else?”

    My answer would be “yes” or “all of the above,” because the question seems to rely upon the false premise that there is a unique meaning for “Darwinism”. But no one has a monopoly on the meaning of words. Just ask Humpty Dumpty:

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

    Which is why I disagree with hotshoe’s statement that IDists “don’t have the right – and I don’t think they have the power – to force their own partisan usage of the “ism” upon the rest of the English-speaking world.” Well, perhaps we can quibble over the word “force” – but they certainly have the right to mean what they want by the word.

    As many commenters have pointed out, the vast majority of scientists would probably not use the words Darwinism or Darwinist to describe what they do or what they are, but if they did they’d probably be referring to a scientific theory or a person who studies a scientific theory, respectively.

    In his “Darwinism on Trial”, Philip Johnson writes, “By ‘Darwinism’ I mean fully naturalistic evolution, involving chance mechanisms guided by natural selection.” At first glance, this sounds like a reasonable definition of a scientific theory. But the key term here is “naturalisitic”, which is where the claims of ideology enter the equation. Naturalism is the fly in the ointment. Johnson goes on to write, “Naturalism is not something about which Darwinists can afford to be tentative, because their science is based upon it. … Darwinists know that the mutation-selection mechanism can produce wings, eyes, and brains not because the mechanism can be observed to do anything of the kind, but because their guiding philosophy assures them that no other power is available to do the job.”

    Scientists, and others who aren’t anti-evolutionists, tend to accuse anti-evolutionists of being ideological for adopting an a priori commitment to the belief that “God created things”, and then trying to conform all available evidence to that belief, even if that means embracing all manner of logical absurdities in the process. But, to be as charitable as possible to anti-evolutionists, they seem to truly believe that the same criticism applies to scientists. They see the scientific commitment to search for natural causes of things as an a priori ideological commitment to the absence of God, and hence they view scientists – Darwinists, specifically – as trying to conform all available evidence to that belief, even if that means embracing (what to them seem to be) all manner of logical absurdities in the process. In the infamous Discovery Institute “Wedge Document”, one of their five-year objectives was as follows: “Darwinism Seminaries increasingly recognize & repudiate naturalistic presuppositions.” Two things stand here. First, thought the document doesn’t clarify what a “Darwinism Seminary” is (one could guess it is a university that teaches evolution), it certainly connotes the belief that Darwinism is an ideology or dogma. Second, the way to de-ideologize Darwinism is clearly to repudiate naturalism. Naturalism is the target. So in the mind of an anti-evolutionist Darwinism (as a proxy for naturalism) is clearly an ideology (even if it is arguably an ideology that doesn’t actually exist in the minds of most scientists).

    There is a sense in which anti-evolutionists have a point. Naturalism is in fact an ideology of sorts for scientists, inasmuch as it is an idea that acts as a guiding principle. But the anti-evolutionist accusation of naturalism being an unnecessary and harmful ideological presupposition quickly runs into serious trouble. One major problem is that anti-evolutionists are incapable of effectively proposing an alternative guiding principle for scientific study. This is a constant theme with respect to ID. Everything that has been put forward by ID proponents is effectively a criticism of evolution, not a positive suggestion for how to conduct scientific study differently. It is why there is no discernable ID research program, despite there being people with science PhD’s who are proponents of ID. The question, “If I assume a non-natural cause for X, then what do I do next scientifically to try to understand X?,” is one that no anti-evolutionist has yet come to grips with. And philosophically it is difficult to see how they ever will. So while in principle it might seem reasonable to attack naturalism as an ideology, in practice it is difficult, if not impossible, to offer a workable alternative methodology or to suggest how someone could make scientific progress without it.

    Another major problem with the accusation of “naturalistic ideology” is the highly selective application of that accusation. By attacking naturalism, anti-evolutionists aren’t just attacking Darwinism or evolution, but science in general. But they don’t object to the search for natural explanations within most areas of science, just in those areas that happen to impinge upon certain theological claims (which is inconvenient for IDists who disclaim any assumptions about the designer). But if you are going to throw out naturalism in searching for an understanding of the historical development of biological organisms, why keep naturalism when trying to understand chemical reactions or electromagnetism?

    The battle for control of terminology cuts both ways. Scientists cringe at the way anti-evolutionists use Darwinism and Darwinist. But IDists likewise cringe at the way scientists’ use “creationist” and “creationism”. Both sides use the respective terminology in ways they feel are justified, in ways the other side feels are not justified, and in ways that are intended to paint the other side negatively by revealing their “true colors”.

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  26. But they don’t object to the search for natural explanations within most areas of science, just in those areas that happen to impinge upon certain theological claims…

    Yep. And the theological domain is shrinking. For some, direct intervention has been abandoned.

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  27. I’ve never understood the objection to “methodological naturalism”. ID proponents often use it to mean what I always understood as “philosophical naturalism”.

    I thought the whole point of specifying “methodological” was that it was that an assumption of naturalism underpinned the method, rather than being necessarily a philosophical stance.

    I do understand that some idists think that methodological naturalism rules out design – but of course it doesn’t. It’s perfectly possible to investigate design using methodological naturalism.

    But not all do, and the majority of ID proponents seem to want to argume that ID is science, not that science should embrace the non-natural.

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  28. The entire ideological “battle” is most clearly understood from the socio/political history of ID/creationism. ID/creationists today are trying to erase that history.

    ID/creationism is and always has been a sectarian war on secular society. These are same demonizing tactics that have been raining down from the pulpits of these sectarian churches for hundreds of years.

    The trigger for ID/creationism came from the national response to Sputnik in 1957. The efforts to update and improve the teaching of science included putting evolution back into the biology textbooks. That resulted in a backlash from fundamentalists and eventually the formation of the Institute for Creation “Research” and “scientific creationism” by Henry Morris and Duane Gish in 1970.

    The morph of scientific creationism into “intelligent design” took place as a result of the US Supreme Court decision on Edwards vs. Aguillard in 1987.

    At no time in this entire history of the ID/creationist movement has it ever been free of sectarian fear and loathing along with their penchant for demonizing those who don’t hold their sectarian views. If anyone has any doubts about this, the Wedge Document and the UD website should be a reminder of the sectarian nature of ID/creationism. There is no science there whatsoever.

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  29. Lizzie,

    Lizzie:
    But not all do, and the majority of ID proponents seem to want to argume that ID is science, not that science should embrace the non-natural.

    In both “Signature in the Cell” and the new “Darwin’s Doubt”, Stephen Meyer goes to great lengths to address (attack) methodological naturalism (and never really mentions philosophical naturalism). His words in both books are delicately chosen and he weasel’s around a bit in what appears, in my opinion, to be an effort to avoid characterizing the “designer” as a supernatural being. But at the same time he very clearly implies that methodological naturalism (which he seems to use interchangeably with materialism) is antithetical to intelligent design — that is, that considering the possibility of an intelligent designer requires abandoning a naturalistic or materialistic approach. So I’m not sure I agree that IDist generally aren’t arguing that science embrace the non-natural.

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  30. I’m a bit late to this party, aren’t I?

    Clearly, “Darwinism” can be used to refer to an empirical theory or an ‘ideology’. It depends on the inferential and rhetorical associations it bears with other concepts.

    In the former sense, it clusters with ‘contemporary evolutionary theory’; in the latter sense, it clusters with ‘materialism’. Materialism is not itself an ideology, of course — it is a metaphysical account. But it can be used as an ideology, if it legitimizes unjust social practices.

    I’m indifferent to the term “Darwinism” — I don’t mind using it to describe myself as having some loose acceptance of the basic tenets of modern evolutionary theory, though I’m much more interested in evo-devo than I am in the modern synthesis. But I’m actively hostile towards “materialism,” because I think it’s false (as a metaphysical account) and because it has functioned as an ideology that has sanctioned an extraordinary degree of environmental destruction.

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  31. Mike Elzinga,

    Echoing Mike’s narrative, I’d like to share a thought borrowed from Philip Kitcher. In his “Living with Darwin” — though I know this from conversation with him — he argues that Darwin and “Darwinism” are singled out for stigmatization because Darwin represents the face of the Enlightenment that is presented in public education. One can go K-12 without learning anything at all about Spinoza, Voltaire, Hume, Locke, or Kant — but not without Darwin. And so Darwin becomes a scape-goat because the sectarian resistance to secular society is a rejection of the Enlightenment.

    Ironically — though Kitcher, politely, doesn’t put it this way — one could argue that the USA is premised upon Enlightenment ideals. So it wouldn’t take much to get creationists to admit their ambivalence (if not hostility) to the Enlightenment and then ask them, “why do you hate America?”

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  32. Kantian Naturalist:
    ,

    Ironically — though Kitcher, politely, doesn’t put it this way —one could argue that the USA is premised upon Enlightenment ideals.So it wouldn’t take much to get creationists to admit their ambivalence (if not hostility) to the Enlightenment and then ask them, “why do you hate America?”

    But a lot of rhetoric from the Christian Right either is, or at least borders on, Christian Nationalism, which attempts to reinterpret history to claim the USA was founded upon Christian ideals, and NOT Enlightenment ideals. Thus they would not accept your premise that rejecting Enlightenment ideals meant rejecting what the USA stands for.

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  33. Hobbes:

    But a lot of rhetoric from the Christian Right either is, or at least borders on, Christian Nationalism, which attempts to reinterpret history to claim the USA was founded upon Christian ideals, and NOT Enlightenment ideals. Thus they would not accept your premise that rejecting Enlightenment ideals meant rejecting what the USA stands for.

    Hence the sectarian markets for pseudo-historians like David Barton; as well as their pantheon of pseudo-philosophers and pseudo-scientists.

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  34. Hobbes: But a lot of rhetoric from the Christian Right either is, or at least borders on, Christian Nationalism, which attempts to reinterpret history to claim the USA was founded upon Christian ideals, and NOT Enlightenment ideals. Thus they would not accept your premise that rejecting Enlightenment ideals meant rejecting what the USA stands for.

    Yeah, I know . . . I just thought it would be a cute point to make — and it would at least get their hostility to the Enlightenment out in the open. I bet that the cdesign proponentists wouldn’t be so well-regarded in the popular culture if their hostility to the Enlightenment were better know.

    Oh, how I long for the day when “Discovery Institute” and “Westboro Baptist Church” will be said in the same breath . . . and yes, I know I’ll be waiting for the day for a long, long time . . .

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  35. Allan miller
    I’m very aware of the claims for biological evidence for evolution.
    Yet the MAIN ones are fossils, genetics, morphology, biogeography.
    Sometimes they include the stuff about bacteria of changes within species.
    Then ideas about retroviruses etc.

    Yet its still in the main unrelated to biological scientific investigation.
    I strive to show this by careful logical reasoning.
    Its biological conclusions drawn from lines of reasoning using non biological foundations.
    It could only be this way since its presented as a THEORY of biology. not mere hypothesis.
    So that such a error in science of a THEORY not actually being a theory means it was a sloppy error or difficult optical illusion to overcome.
    Yet i’m sure i’m right and never have had a evolutionist show me I’m wrong.
    In fact I dare them to give their top three biological evidences for evolution as a mechanism that created beyond minor speciation. (if that).
    Then i debunk it.
    I feel ver confident.
    by thevway ID folks bump into these problems too.

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  36. I strive to show this by careful logical reasoning.

    Strive harder, then. Your logic consists mainly in inventing scenarios with no reference to the actual data whatsoever.

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  37. “Thanks for posting. The discussion should be useful.” – Neil Rickert

    You’re welcome. I hope it may still be useful also, and have found the responses interesting so far, though they’ve generated less discussion than I’d expected. I’ve had little time to contribute before this follow-up to the 1st round of comments. And to be honest, I’m just as turned-off by the way the IDM has hyper-labeled ‘Darwinism’ as most of you are.

    Neil wrote: “my primary experience with the use of the words “Darwinism” and “Darwinian” come from scientific discussions and/or debates with creationists. I’m inclined to say that most scientists use those words as referring to the science. The creationists often seem to use them as epithets, but I am not deeply into how creationists talk to one another.”

    Do you not then distinguish, Neil, between ‘Darwinism’ and ‘Darwinian,’ something like what I suggested above? Iow, do you consider them both ‘scientific theories’ or rather one an ideology, while the other a scientific theory? Like you, I’m “not deeply into how creationists talk to one another” and frankly, in so far as they claim ‘creationism’ is a ‘scientific theory,’ don’t really care. As you probably know, I’ve been saying that IDT is properly understood as a topic for science, philosophy, theology/worldview discourse’ for several years. It seems to me that you would agree with this.

    “For me, “Darwinism” is a descriptive term, but not a scientific theory. I’ll use “evolution” for the scientific theory, rather than “Darwinism.”” – Neil Rickert

    What distinguishes a ‘descriptive term’ from a ‘scientific theory’? I’d agree with you that ‘evolution’ constitutes a (concept used in a) ‘scientific theory’ and that ‘Darwinism’ doesn’t, if that’s what you’re saying. Additionally, I’m concerned about when the scientific theory of evolution turns into the ideology of evolutionism, just as I am when Darwin’s theory of evolution turns into Darwinism. Does this help in explaining how I communicate about these things? Does it make sense to you also?

    “I just do my best to understand what people are trying to say.” – Neil Rickert

    Yes, that’s why I’m asking about what people mean by ‘Darwinism’ here and if they consider themselves ‘Darwinists’ or not. So far, there have been only a few direct answers to the latter issue.

    “When Dennett talks of “Darwinism” he is not using it as a strictly biological term. But when biologists use that term, they mostly are using it in a biological sense.” – Neil Rickert

    Is this to say that philosophers such as Dennett are misusing the term ‘Darwinism’ or that they are (perhaps unwisely) trying to extend it to have meaning in an ideological or worldview sense?

    “Why are “ists” and “isms” found more in biology than in chemistry and physics?” – Mike Elzinga

    I’d suggest this is because biology is higher up the ladder of complexity than chemistry or physics. The same is true of anthropology, cultural studies or aesthetics; much higher up the ladder of complexity than biology. Thus, ideology is easier to insert and intertwine in biology than in the ‘harder’ or ‘purer’ of ‘sciences’ like chemistry and physics.
    (cont’d)

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  38. “I would suggest that this battle over “ists” and “isms” is socio/political tribal warfare. It has nothing to do with science.” – Mike Elzinga

    Yes, you may be right about the ‘tribal warfare’ thing, even if linguistics, culture and religion are also often involved. But I’d suggest, as a sociologist of science, that ideology and ideologues, -ists and –isms surely do have to do with science in the sense that science is done by people and never by no one in a vacuum of cultural irrelevance. For anyone who has closely or even loosely studied it, ‘Darwinism’ *is* highly culturally relative; it was born/invented in Victorian England and uses the ideas of H. Spencer’s evolutionism and T. Huxley’s agnosticism just as much as it does Darwin’s and Wallace’s (more easily ‘neutral,’ but still not entirely ‘neutral’ or ‘objective’) ‘natural selection.’ It is therefore far from the truth when people suggest that ‘Darwinism’ is a strictly scientific theory, when that is clearly not the case given that the term is used to denote ideology mixed with natural (and sometimes social or cultural) sciences.

    “The vast majority of scientists are not engaged in these wars; they are immersed in doing scientific research. These wars take place among laypersons and ideologues pushing political agendas that have nothing to do with science.” – Mike Elzinga

    This is the ‘myth of neutrality’ (scientists as inhuman robots, strictly rational, detached, objective, un-invested, full of justice, etc. – read R. Merton’s sociology of science, e.g. CUDOS, to reveal a deeper truth about the humanity within natural science – for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the ‘S’ stands for ‘Skepticism’) which ironically, IDists are now using (and quite effectively, to be honest as a non-IDist) against skeptics and other anti-religious perspectives, for the championing of science, which oftentimes quickly turns into the ideology of scientism.

    “I think I agree with Gregory (?) that it [Darwinism] must be an ideology in the same sense that Marxism is an ideology.” – RodW

    Not sure why (?) is behind my name, but thanks for the agreement.

    Is Marxism a scientific theory? If not, then why do people believe that Darwinism is a scientific theory? (Popper’s critiques of both Marxism & Darwinism can be taken under advisement, though we’ve moved on since then.) Much has been made of the ‘fact vs. value’ divide between natural-physical and human-social sciences. But what is most problematic about ‘Darwinism’ is how it openly and unashamedly (for a naturalist like Darwin) involves humanity and not just pre-human natural history.

    “To them [Idists and Creationists] Darwinism is the rejection of morality and the belief we [human beings] are all talking collections of atoms.” – RodW

    “I agree entirely with RodW that for creationists, “Darwinism” is interchangeable with (their notion of) nihilism, materialism, and other Godless ideologies.” – Flint

    Would you then accept taking the label ‘humanist’ instead of ‘Darwinist,’ that is, if you personally do not accept “(their notion of) nihilism, materialism, and other Godless ideologies”? At least I believe we [human beings] are much more than “talking collections of atoms,” don’t you?

    “So personally, I find the term [Darwinism] much too equivocal to use” – Flint

    Can I ask you then please, Flint, do you consider yourself a ‘Darwinist’? I’m just looking for a yes or no here, if you don’t mind.

    “I don’t think anything in science should be saddled with the “ism” burden, because in the vernacular, “ism” divorces the ideology from evidence or observation.” – Flint

    So are you suggesting ‘Darwinian evolutionary theory’ shouldn’t be “saddled with the ‘ism’ burden” at all? Strike ‘Darwinism’ from the scientific record, so to speak?

    As I’ve said here clearly and unequivocally already, I do *not* consider myself a ‘Darwinist’ or accept ‘Darwinism,’ even while also rejecting the labels ‘creationist’ and/or ‘IDist.’ Hopefully that admission will lead others to say clearly whether they do or do not consider themselves a ‘Darwinist.’ Elisabeth changed her mind already such that she wouldn’t call herself a ‘Darwinist’ if ideological connotation is implied, which I believe it almost always is (knowing that a small number of natural-physical scientist puritans disagree with me).

    Iow, only if ‘Darwinism’ denotes a ‘scientific theory’ would she call herself a ‘Darwinist.’ What I am suggesting here is that the *proper* meaning of ‘Darwinism’ is as an ideology. The remaining question then is why some natural scientists, a vast majority of whom have never studied philosophy of science, continue to ignore the *proper* meaning of ‘Darwinism’ which clearly implies ideology and not just ‘pure science’ or ‘biological science-only.’ Can people here please help me to understand this apparently stubborn refusal to clear communication by distinguishing science from ideology in the case of ‘Darwinism? Is it due to general abhorence of philosophy (of science) in the Anglo-American schools?
    (cont’d)

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  39. JetBlack wrote: “the term Darwinist is silly.” Does that mean that JetBlack does not consider him/herself a ‘Darwinist’?

    Allan Miller wrote: “it [Darwinism] denoted a set of ideas about how modern biological forms came to be, through descent, variation and differential survival, not any kind of credo or philosophical school.”

    The past tense confuses me; is Allan Miller suggesting ‘Darwinism’ is now no longer a current ‘set of ideas’? He does note ‘neo-Darwinism’ as well, but then again, perhaps to him that also has been surpassed and is now outdated.

    As for ‘Darwinism’ not being “any kind of credo or philosophical school,” it is unclear what Allan Miller gives as an explanation. Doubtfully he is applying any history or philosophy of science, since ‘philosophical schools’ do form around individual scientists/scholars throughout history and take their founder’s name. And as I show below, ‘Darwinism’ is a kind of credo for some people, particularly those associated with the ‘brights’ or with ‘new atheism.’ I’m not sure if Allan Miller self-identifies with either of those terms, but I certainly do not.

    “I don’t know any Darwinist idealogues.” – Elisabeth

    Let me first offer a grammar correction to Elisabeth: ‘ideologue,’ not ‘idealogue.’ It’s been a repeated error. Regardless, are you unfamiliar with ‘universal Darwinism,’ Elisabeth? There quite a few self-labelled ‘practitioners’ of this ideology, mainly among skeptics and agnostics/atheists, but few and far between among their theistic opponents.

    “often “Darwinists” are accused of treating Darwin as a “bible”.” – Elisabeth

    Do you not know of anyone who ‘worships’ Darwin almost like a religious prophet, Elisabeth? I had a professor of philosophy in university who announced to the class on the first day that he kept “Origin of Species” beside his bed just like an Abrahamic believer would their Koran, Bible, or Torah. One case of course doesn’t verify your term ‘often,’ but I think you’d be naïve to say that it doesn’t happen, especially in an oftentimes scientistic era.
    Surely you are not unaware of Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, Harris (the so-called ‘four horseman’) and others like J. Coyne, PZ Meyers, S. Blackmore, et al. These are the types of ‘thinker/scientist’ that IDists think they are engaged with in a ‘culture war.’ As for me, I don’t waste my time on most of these obvious Darwinist ideologues or their IDist dancing partners. Are you trying to dance with them, at least with the IDists at UD, if not the Darwinists elsewhere (than here)?

    Again, Elisabeth, I think it is important to establish if TSZ is generally a haven for self-labelled ‘Darwinists’ or if most posters here openly reject the label, based on their own definition. Will you help to know more about this at TSZ? It’s not about forcing people to self-disclose, but about finding ways to improve the landscape of the conversation by speaking as clearly as possible.

    Walter Kloover wrote: “I do think it is appropriate to ignore the non-science when deciding what Darwinism is.”

    I take this to mean that there can be no ‘science’ of humanity, culture and society. I guess that means all of the things Darwin wrote about humanity, culture and society should be openly and forthrightly distinguished and rejected from his natural scientific contribution. If the second sentence is what you’re saying, then I certainly agree. Unfortunately, I don’t see this happening by many people who consider themselves ‘Darwinists.’ Indeed, Robert Young notes in a powerful article that “Darwinism IS Social.” http://human-nature.com/rmyoung/papers/paper60h.html

    Walter also answered the survey directly, saying: “There is a scientific theory, essentially that all life on earth is descended from one or a few common ancestors, through a process of descent with modification driven, to a significant extent, by natural selection. Many people call this theory Darwinism.”

    What I don’t see in Walter’s answer is acknowledgement of *any* ideology influencing science or of science *ever* becoming intertwined with ideology. Such a view is highly problematic because many cases in the history of science reveal otherwise.

    “no one actually seems to argue for (or believe in) this ideology, it is hard to know what it stands for.” – Walter

    See the reference to Dawkins’ ‘universal Darwinism’ above.

    “So some people use the word to refer to a scientific theory, and some people use it to refer to an ideology.” – Walter

    Thank you for this frank appraisal. Do you think, with the help of philosophy of science, i.e. the particular academic field which studies ideology and science most closely, we could ever hope to solve this contradiction in peoples’ uses of ‘Darwinism’ by appealing to the best explanation for communicative purposes? Iow, could PoS ever be used to educate natural scientists to properly stop referring to ‘Darwinism’ as merely a neutral scientific theory, but rather as an ideology?

    Perhaps it is just me, but having studied ideology and science in the Soviet Union quite closely at the Russian Academy of Sciences, including the impact of Dia-Mat on the sciences, the phenomenon of Lysenkoism, what worldview one had to swear by to become a member of scientific societies, and other views of ‘scientific atheism,’ I find it is an entirely reasonable conclusion that natural-physical scientists themselves are often *not* the best judges of when science gets exaggerated or infiltrated to become more ideology than science. For those who may be skeptical of this, mere skepticism isn’t enough to convince me otherwise.

    “The ideological Darwinist belongs to the late 19th Century and some of the 20th.” – davehooke

    So, are you suggesting there are *NO* ‘Darwinists’ alive today?! The same question ‘Do you consider yourself a ‘Darwinist’ or not, davehooke?

    “In the 21st Century, Social Darwinism is an irrelevance.” – davehooke

    Just wait until neo-eugenics kicks in more visibly with bio-tech, bioprospecting and bioliberalism! That will show you that the ideas behind it are quite obviously still relevant today.
    (cont’d)

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  40. Allan Miller wrote: “it [Darwinism] denoted a set of ideas about how modern biological forms came to be, through descent, variation and differential survival, not any kind of credo or philosophical school.”

    The past tense confuses me; is Allan Miller suggesting ‘Darwinism’ is now no longer a current ‘set of ideas’? He does note ‘neo-Darwinism’ as well, but then again, perhaps to him that also has been surpassed and is now outdated.

    As for ‘Darwinism’ not being “any kind of credo or philosophical school,” it is unclear what Allan Miller gives as an explanation. Doubtfully he is applying any history or philosophy of science, since ‘philosophical schools’ do form around individual scientists/scholars throughout history and take their founder’s name. And as I show below, ‘Darwinism’ is a kind of credo for some people, particularly those associated with the ‘brights’ or with ‘new atheism.’ I’m not sure if Allan Miller self-identifies with either of those terms, but I certainly do not.

    Gregory,

    I was perhaps unclear, but “Darwinism” was actually the title of a book by Wallace. It was not in any way a discussion of political or ideological views, and nor do I consider the usage by his contemporaries to have been anything other than a reference to a particular explanatory framework for evolution. The same goes for ‘neo-Darwinism’.

    Usage changes, of course; what they meant need not be what we mean. Hence my use of the past tense.

    I know it sounds like an ideology, but when biologists talk of D or neo-D, they are talking of nothing other than science. It is shorthand. I don’t call myself a Darwinist, precisely because of the vagueness of the label. To an IDite, I am, to a biologist, I wouldn’t be, but I do admire his work.

    As to your other labels – ‘new atheist’ … there seems to me to be only one kind of atheism, so I am an atheist, but not a new one. ‘Bright’? Hardly! 🙂

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  41. Do you not then distinguish, Neil, between ‘Darwinism’ and ‘Darwinian,’ something like what I suggested above? Iow, do you consider them both ‘scientific theories’ or rather one an ideology, while the other a scientific theory?

    One of those is a noun, and the other is an adjective. It is hard to make sense of your question.

    To me “Darwinism” is a somewhat loose term for a scientific theory. By “somewhat loose”, I mean that it could refer to Darwin’s original theory but it is more likely to be referring to neo-Darwinism (or the neo-Darwinian synthesis).

    “Darwinian” is a term I might use for a process which is similar to or analogous to what Darwin proposed as his explanation.

    I mostly only use “Darwinism” with reference to biology, but I might use “Darwinian” more broadly.

    As you probably know, I’ve been saying that IDT is properly understood as a topic for science, philosophy, theology/worldview discourse’ for several years. It seems to me that you would agree with this.

    I’m not sure what is “IDT”. I’ll assume that it is a reference to ID – perhaps “ID theory”.

    ID, in the sense of finding ways of detecting intelligent design, could be the basis for scientific study. I don’t have a problem with that. However, ID proponents are mostly doing rhetoric and not much science. Axe does seem to be doing some science, and there are a few others. But the science being done does not support the rhetoric being used in by most ID proponents.

    “For me, “Darwinism” is a descriptive term, but not a scientific theory. I’ll use “evolution” for the scientific theory, rather than “Darwinism.”” – Neil Rickert

    What distinguishes a ‘descriptive term’ from a ‘scientific theory’?

    A scientific theory is precise. I take “Darwinism” as a loose reference to a scientific theory. But people who take the trouble to give a reasonably good presentation of the scientific theory usually call it “The theory of evolution”. They don’t normally call it “Darwinism”.

    I’d agree with you that ‘evolution’ constitutes a (concept used in a) ‘scientific theory’ and that ‘Darwinism’ doesn’t, if that’s what you’re saying. Additionally, I’m concerned about when the scientific theory of evolution turns into the ideology of evolutionism, just as I am when Darwin’s theory of evolution turns into Darwinism. Does this help in explaining how I communicate about these things? Does it make sense to you also?

    No, that is not agreeing with me. I also consider “evolution” a rather loose term. Strictly speaking, it only means change over time. If not clear from the context, I would prefer to use “biological evolution” to at least narrow it down a bit. Creationists seem confused between the use of the word “evolution” in “stellar evolution” and “biological evolution”. They don’t seem to understand that those are completely separate.

    Yes, that’s why I’m asking about what people mean by ‘Darwinism’ here and if they consider themselves ‘Darwinists’ or not. So far, there have been only a few direct answers to the latter issue.

    Well, no, I am not a Darwinist. However, people misunderstand that. When I say that I am not a Darwinist, I am not denying evolution. I am disagreeing with the Darwinian emphasis on natural selection. I am disagreeing with the often expressed view that evolution works by virtue of the way that natural selection optimizes fitness. I find Larry Moran’s view of evolution more to my liking than the view of Jerry Coyne or Richard Dawkins.

    Is this to say that philosophers such as Dennett are misusing the term ‘Darwinism’ or that they are (perhaps unwisely) trying to extend it to have meaning in an ideological or worldview sense?

    Yes, I see Dennett as misusing the term “Darwinism”.

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  42. I have to say, I just find this discussion a bit silly. A bit like the current discussion about certainty at UD.

    The answer depends on what you mean. I’m not especially interested in how the word is used (but I can see that a sociologist might be). I’m more interested in what a person means when they use it.

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  43. (Thread summary cont’d)

    hotshoe made an important contribution, saying: “Words ending in “ism” in English are not automatically ideologies. Although the most common examples of the “ism” suffix are indeed partisan schools of thought…other English words are quite valid exceptions: heroism, romanticism, and, yes, Darwinism. Darwinism is almost unique in that it is a non-ideological school of thought named after its specific founder.”

    Well, I would argue that heroism, romanticism, and, yes, Darwinism *are* ideologies. Indeed, the Stanford dictionary’s definition of ‘Darwinism’ proves this by its absence. Nowhere does James Lennox even discuss ‘ideology’ in his entry, though it quite obviously deserves a mention, even if only to deny it. I had read this low-brow American philosophy entry at Stanford already. But that’s showing my higher-brow non-American philosophy of science colours already in the assessment. I just don’t find Lennox’s explanation credible nor containing much depth at all on the larger questions, which this thread is asking.

    “IDists, like Denyse, who slur scientists by misusing “Darwinism” to imply that we are adherents to a biased ideology should be slapped down every time they do it. They don’t have the right – and I don’t think they have the power – to force their own partisan usage of the “ism” upon the rest of the English-speaking world.” – hotshoe

    By the use of the word ‘we,’ I assume that hotshoe calls him/herself a ‘Darwinist.’ Can that be confirmed or not?

    As for me, I do not ‘slur scientists,’ but work closely together with natural scientists, social scientists, and many other scholars. However, the people ‘misusing’ Darwinism, imo, are mainly those who claim it is simply a natural scientific theory, when it is quite clearly used ideologically as a worldview, e.g. in the case of ‘universal Darwinism.’ Readers will realise that I am not implying ‘partisan usage’ to defend IDists/creationists (and certainly not elevating Denyse’s generally anti-intellectual stance), but rather exploring here the possibility that there *is* an unavoidably ideological feature of ‘Darwinism’ displayed by the way self-professed Darwinists (like hotshoe) use it (which I agree with Elisabeth *is* important).

    Flint wrote: “When used by Lizzie, Darwinism describes at least part of that broad [scientific] theory. When used by Denyse, the same term denotes mindless, godless, idiotic materialism suffered by those who deliberately choose not to know better like she does. … I suggest it’s very important to distinguish the scientific “Darwinism” as a theory, from the creationist “Darwinism” as a false religion.”

    Yes, I agree that it is “very important to distinguish.” But please note that there is due reason, even for non-creationists such as myself, to connect ‘Darwinism’ with ideology and worldview, as Dawkins and others use it. Indeed, I have said here specifically what I think is the best way to distinguish ‘Darwinian evolutionary theory’ from ‘Darwinism,’ for those who are open to thoughtful massages.

    What I haven’t seen at TSZ is a clear and refreshing move by a group of dissenters to openly and purposefully distance themselves from the ‘universal Darwinism’ mentioned above, though there have been some dissenters from Dawkins and Dennett. Doing so by others would help to show recognition that ideology intertwined with science is oftentimes not good for science. And it would acknowledge that Darwinism actually is abused by many people in the natural sciences, even when they (claim they) mean it without any ideology (for a variety of reasons) at all.

    Right now, I still don’t know roughly what percentage of TSZ regulars would openly *refuse* to call themselves ‘Darwinists.’ Hopefully this thread will help to clarify things. But to discover this, folks at TSZ need to speak up: Yes or No – Do you self-identify as a ‘Darwinist’?

    My guess is that many of you, perhaps most of you, would self-identify as a ‘Darwinist’ according to your own private definition and reject the label according to IDist/creationist definitions of ‘Darwinist’. Is that an accurate guess?
    Hobbes notes that “the vast majority of scientists would probably not use the words Darwinism or Darwinist to describe what they do or what they are, but if they did they’d probably be referring to a scientific theory or a person who studies a scientific theory, respectively.”

    As I’ve said above, then I would prefer them to speak of ‘Darwinian evolutionary theory’ or ‘evolutionary biologist’ as the appropriate replacements. From what I’ve seen, ‘evolutionary biologists’ actually *are* distancing themselves from being called ‘Darwinists.’ L. Margulis was a classic example (though of course, it would be naive to suggest that she rejects ‘evolution,’ instead of just neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory).

    I would like to address Hobbes more in detail, if there were more time. His/her post was long and ranging. In particular, however, I would debate this: “while in principle it might seem reasonable to attack naturalism as an ideology, in practice it is difficult, if not impossible, to offer a workable alternative methodology or to suggest how someone could make scientific progress without it.”

    In practice, it is actually not difficult at all once one accepts and includes into the conversation ‘sciences’ that do not only study ‘nature.’ Once one allows studies of non-natural or extra-natural fields to express themselves ‘scientifically’ or ‘philosophically’, then a whole new realm of conversation opens up. Unfortunately, much of the English literature that I’ve read in PoS is actually philosophy about natural sciences (PoNS), which is partly what makes it inferior to various non-English PoS approaches that hold a broader view of ‘science’.

    “By attacking naturalism, anti-evolutionists aren’t just attacking Darwinism or evolution, but science in general.” – Hobbes

    Yes, I agree, with the clarification that they are attacking “natural science in general,” based on the above clarification. It is a basic conclusion, actually enabled by a religious ethicist at Wheaton College, that by definition *all* natural scientists are ‘naturalists’ (or as Elisabeth says: “an assumption of naturalism underpinned the method”), by which he meant “scientists that study ‘nature-only’.” But that’s bedtime conversation for some people and need not be a diversion to this thread, even though Lizzie expressed her impatience about it again. The anti-evolutionists that are actually pro-evolution, but anti-evolutionism, are in my view making an important contribution to challenging ideology as it infiltrates science, just as are the anti-Darwinists who are pro-Darwinian evolution (which of course includes very few IDists or creationists), as far as Darwin got things right and his errors are openly celebrated.
    (cont’d)

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  44. (final cont’d)
    Kantian Naturalist/Emergentist wrote much like Walter above: “Clearly, “Darwinism” can be used to refer to an empirical theory or an ‘ideology’.”

    He seems to be limiting ‘ideology’ to political ideology, rather than taking a philosophy of science perspective. That’s his prerogative. I find it too limited. But at least he verifies the ideological usage of ‘Darwinism,’ which many natural scientists disallow is even possible.

    “I’m indifferent to the term “Darwinism” — I don’t mind using it to describe myself” – KN/E

    Goodness, friend, you are apparently the most willing to accept ideological labels of anyone on TSZ or UD. You openly call yourself a naturalist, an emergentist (though many questions to you remain on the thread you started recently about it) and now a Darwinist.

    But not a materialist, because materialism “has functioned as an ideology that has sanctioned an extraordinary degree of environmental destruction.” I take it that also means you would also count yourself as an environmentalist (and LGBTist)? 😉

    In any case, folks, I’d be glad to read your thoughts on my general summary of the thread. And I ask you to respond, even in just a word, as to whether or not you personally, on your own definition, accept the label of being a ‘Darwinist.’ Lizzie might find it silly, but general participation in this thread, providing an answer to question “Do you consider yourself a ‘Darwinist’?” would actually provide some data to go by wrt what people at TSZ mean by ‘Darwinism’ *and* how they use it. A survey now and then at TSZ can’t hurt.

    Thanks in advance for your participation.
    Gregory

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  45. Gregory, I am having trouble understanding the point you are trying to make.

    Is it your opinion that definitions of labels are important in deciding whether evolution describes historical reality?

    “Darwinism” is not a law of nature. It is not quantified. It has no equations. It is an umbrella term applied to change over time. It is widely used and misused.

    so what?

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  46. Hopefully this thread will help to clarify things. But to discover this, folks at TSZ need to speak up: Yes or No – Do you self-identify as a ‘Darwinist’?

    I don’t see that it makes a difference one way or another. I accept the Theory of Evolution because has has practical predictive accuracy and because it provides an explanation for the diversity of life on this planet that fits the evidence exceptionally well. If that understanding and acceptance garners me the label “Darwinist” by someone else, great. I don’t much care if that someone else is using the term as a label for my particular biological/geological/ecological understandings or as a label for some implied religious perspective (or lack thereof). Labels, as such, just do not matter to me. Ideologies, less so.

    My guess is that many of you, perhaps most of you, would self-identify as a ‘Darwinist’ according to your own private definition and reject the label according to IDist/creationist definitions of ‘Darwinist’.

    Maybe this is true for most others here on, but not for me. I’ll shrug and embrace whatever label anyone wants to toss at me; such things have very little hold on my mind.

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  47. Gregory,
    Is there such a thing as IDism and can it be found over at UD? If so, have you ever expressed your concerns about IDism to the regulars over there? And have you ever read/heard ID scientists like Behe or Dembski offer criticism of IDism?

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  48. Gregory: My guess is that many of you, perhaps most of you, would self-identify as a ‘Darwinist’ according to your own private definition and reject the label according to IDist/creationist definitions of ‘Darwinist’.

    I think most evolutionary biologists don’t care whether or not they are labelled “Darwinists”; but I think people in general note that “Darwinist” from the mouth of a member of the ID/creationist persuasion is generally delivered with the same tenor as would be the term “Satanist”.- something deplorable or worse.
    Not that it bothers anyone – constant use of such hyperbole serves only to undermine whatever point the hyperbolist is trying to make.
    Darwin was a decent chap – to blame him or his insights into biology for any of the evils of this world is barking mad.

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