Is it possible to ‘falsify’ Darwinism or neo-Darwinism? The ongoing confusion of S. Joshua Swamidass regarding ideology vs. science.

Computational biologist & MD Joshua Swamidass continues to misunderstand ideology. Whether he does so intentionally or not, it reveals a rather important social problem of pseudo-knowledge being presented as knowledge simply because it is being said by a natural scientist. Swamidass has multiple times claimed that “Darwinism was falsified by population genetics back in 1968” (https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/darwinism-falsified-in-science-long-ago/4325). Yet he still doesn’t seem to understand that one cannot actually ‘falsify’ Darwinism. That is the wrong language (likely based on an outdated view of Karl Popper’s notion of ‘falsifiability’) that is rather harming than helping the conversation.

One can only argue, strongly or weakly, visibly or invisibly, against Darwinism, whether or not one uses an alternative ideology to do so. Likewise, one cannot falsify Marxism. One can, however, argue against it. Indeed, non-Marxists and anti-Marxists do this often and regularly. Yet they haven’t ‘falsified’ or erased Marxism (or neo-Marxism) and likely won’t succeed in significantly reducing it for a long time, evidence that there are still many self-proclaimed Marxists & neo-Marxists in universities today, especially in the social sciences and humanities departments (cf. Jordan Peterson’s ‘corrupted universities’ hypothesis). Similarly, there are many people who still promote ‘Darwinism’ and ‘neo-Darwinism’ and who write ‘confessionally’ about ‘Darwinism’ as a kind of worldview today, regardless of the population genetics work of Kimura and others. Swamidass’ lack of understanding about ideology has led him to pretend that he can scientifically reject ideology, which is both myopic and simply wrong.

Darwinian evolution, i.e. Darwin’s natural scientific theory of evolution, however, and later, the ‘neo-Darwinian synthesis’ or ‘modern evolutionary synthesis’ (MES), could potentially be overcome with an alternative ‘strictly scientific’ theory of change-over-time in natural history. The so-called ‘extended evolutionary synthesis’ (EES) is being claimed as doing just that. Yet what one doesn’t see much in Swamidass’ writing that one finds regularly in the writings of IDists and of EES proponents, is legitimate push-back against specifically Darwinian evolutionary theory. No doubt the IDists would like to see Joshua write more about how he believes Darwinian evolutionary theory is now obsolete or how it has been improved upon such that a *different name* should be used nowadays to identify the current type of evolutionary theory that is most accepted in biological sciences. Yet Joshua’s ideology seems to hold him back from doing this, while he promotes evolutionary science and even sometimes evolutionist ideology in defense of his evangelical anti-YECist worldview.

“Darwinism rejects all supernatural phenomena and causations. The theory of evolution by natural selection explains the adaptedness and diversity of the world solely materialistically.” – Ernst Mayr

Gary Hurd is correct when he writes: “The generalization of of [sic] Darwin’s core ideas about natural selection, and common ancestry most certainly have not been falsified.” Thus, the term ‘generalized Darwinism’ was made (cf. Levit, Hodgson, Vromen, Knudsen, Thomas, et al.), usually for applications of ‘evolutionary science’ outside of biology. The ideologues are running amok in evolutionary biology as well as in economics! Let’s not even talk about ‘universal Darwinism’ (coined by Dawkins 1976/83?) as if that offers a sustainable or coherent view of reality, when it is merely a cover for ideological materialism, naturalism & usually either atheism, agnosticism or anti-theism.

However, there is no name associated with a post-Darwinian ‘synthesis’ (the late Lynn Margulis perhaps most well-known) that would give the EES ‘name brand’ credibility, which is likely in part why the EES has yet to catch on broadly among biologists.

When Swamidass writes the following, however, it should be treated as nonsense, not as a credible position or worth taking seriously: “Kimura replaced Darwinism in 1968. No need to make up a pseudo history. Neo-Darwinism as understood within science was falsified a long time ago.” People simply shouldn’t listen to Swamidass’ pseudo-philosophy when he wanders so far outside of his fields of competence, as he so often does nowadays on his PS website. Indeed, many IDists clearly understand this much better than Swamidass does, given that they have evidently paid more attention to philosophy of science than Swamidass has from his ’empty chair.’

TSZ’s Mung, however, also confuses the terminology, when he asks: “The question I have is, if Neo-Darwinism has been falsified why is it still the reigning paradigm in biology?” Sorry Mung, but neo-Darwinism always was and still is an ideology, while evolution is the reigning paradigm in biology. Dembski, Behe, Meyer, et al. get this wrong as well, since they treat ‘Darwinism’ as ‘strictly scientific’, and thus paint themselves into a unnecessary corner of incredulity involving evolutionary theories. Once one starts addressing post-Darwinian biology with appropriate terminology, more positive thinking on the topic can take place, which to their credit, IDists have actually tried to do, however, over against their predominantly negative arguments against ‘evolution’ and misnamed ‘Darwinism’.

To set the record straight, Darwinism is an ideology, neo-Darwinism is an ideology and ‘evolutionism’ is an ideology. Evolutionary theory is part of biological sciences. Let me therefore issue yet another warning about this ambitious ‘science vs. religion’ activist in St. Louis who is muddying the communicative waters with his misunderstanding of ideology. Be careful not to let people like Swamidass mangle the English language in order to suit their own neo-creationist, quasi-YECist ideologies as if this is ‘simply good science.’ It is not science. He is in fact just hawking his uninformed opinions as if they count as ‘scientific’ and showing obvious confusion about ideology, including apparently, his own. Will he correct himself or continue to misrepresent the conversation as a ‘fifth voice’ who claims to be bringing revolutionary ‘peace’?

Unfortunately, Swamidass’ scientistically pretentious strategy is simply not going to work. To Mung, he writes: “Yes, defer to the scientists here. That will resolve it.” This kind of ‘Me-Scientist-Man’ arrogant statement reveals just how much work is needed to be done to help natural scientists who are ignorant of ideology finally realise what they’ve been missing that makes all the difference in the conversation.

Let me try to be clear in attempting to be fair to Swamidass that I believe one of the biggest challenges to constructive dialogue with people in the science, philosophy and theology/worldview discourse broadly construed is the general lack of knowledge and understanding about ideology among participants. It is not only Dr. Swamidass who misses the mark, but rather a general condition in North America due to public school teachings that don’t address ideology and thus leave people almost entirely ill-equipped to deal with it, even when most required.

“[I]f we do not resist the idea of Darwinism as a universal principle, biology literally eats itself as it becomes like a racing driver who, to avoid friction, chooses tyres that are so smooth they offer no resistance.” – Connor Cunningham

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387 thoughts on “Is it possible to ‘falsify’ Darwinism or neo-Darwinism? The ongoing confusion of S. Joshua Swamidass regarding ideology vs. science.

  1. Gregory: Swamidass may indeed by right that (neo-)Darwinian theory was ‘falsified’ by Kimura in 1968

    Isn’t this statement a contradiction of what you had written before?
    Boy!

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  2. Very confused OP that missed the definition that I gave, which match’s Gaugers:

    Ann Gauger:
    People at DI have been pretty consistent about using neo-Darwinism, and it means random mutation and natural selection to them. That’s how Steve Meyer uses it consistently. I have tried to get people to add in genetic drift and recombination with limited success. I think epigenetics would now be included, but outside neo-Darwinism. https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/darwinism-falsified-in-science-long-ago/4325/104?u=swamidass

    Using THIS definition, the definition of the DI, which is NOT an ideology, Darwinism (positive selection) as the exclusive mechanism of evolution was falsified a long time ago in science.

    If one wants to use a different definition, such as an atheistic ideology, then of course this assessment does not apply. Darwinism is often meant to mean an ideology, but in science it meant positive selection dominated change, the precise definition of Darwinism used by ID. This is really not that complex.

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  3. DNA_Jock:
    I, for one, am thankful not to be a specialized philosophist.

    Good grief, yes. I’m so glad not to be a professional philosopher. Too many of those guys are idiots.

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  4. T_aquaticus: You would think that an article railing against Darwinism could define what it actually is.

    How quickly they forget. You just told us that Neo-Darwinism and Darwinism is whatever you want it to be. So regardless of whether or not someone else defines it, it will still remain whatever you want it to be.

    ETA:

    T_aquaticus: Define what is in Darwinism. Otherwise, you are just blowing smoke.

    No, this is not true. Or are you a different T_aquaticus from the one who posts at Peaceful Science who already knows what Darwism is and what Neo-Darwnism is?

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  5. Gregory: Generalised Darwinism is an ideology. Universal Darwinism is an ideology. Guess who’s pushing this garbage ideology in defense of their materialism, naturalism & atheism as ‘strictly science’?

    Priceless.

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  6. J-Mac: That’s why Behe has written another book about it’s inability to accomplish what Darwinists claim it can…

    Behe and other IDists appear to think that Darwinism can be falsified. This is one reason that I find Gregory’s OP so freaking interesting.

    ETA: That the DI and Joshua Swamidass could find common ground! An idea I floated myself over at PS.

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  7. Entropy: Good grief, yes. I’m so glad not to be a professional philosopher. Too many of those guys are idiots.

    Some of the best posters here in TSZ are philosophers (bruce, KN, walto, -in alphabetical order-), just saying

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  8. Neil Rickert: Perhaps we should discuss pompous sociologists who don’t think, yet think they know everything.

    That’s something I’d like to see! Feel free to start up a new thread.

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  9. J-Mac: Isn’t this statement a contradiction of what you had written before?

    No. It is not.

    Darwinian evolution, i.e. Darwin’s natural scientific theory of evolution, however, and later, the ‘neo-Darwinian synthesis’ or ‘modern evolutionary synthesis’ (MES), could potentially be overcome with an alternative ‘strictly scientific’ theory of change-over-time in natural history.

    No mention at all of Darwinism.

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  10. swamidass: Very confused OP that missed the definition that I gave, which match’s Gaugers:

    Yet perhaps his clearest OP ever!

    I got it. He makes the same distinctions that Michael Ruse makes. I have referred to Michael Ruse a number of times at your site and am just wondering if you have even considered reading his recent book on Darwinism and Christianity. It would seem to be quite relevant to your project there at PS. Don’t let the fact that I recommend it dissuade you.

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  11. Gregory: Talking to biologists (I used to share office space with evolutionary biologists!) can be extremely draining.

    Used to? Did that arrangement end peacefully, or did somebody have to run screaming into the void?

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  12. Mung: Behe and other IDists appear to think that Darwinism can be falsified. This is one reason that I find Gregory’s OP so freaking interesting.

    ETA: That the DI and Joshua Swamidass could find common ground! An idea I floated myself over at PS.

    No, he doesn’t!
    Behe also believes that common descent is only possible with some kind of guidance, as Darwinian processes can only break things… or decrease functions… Wait for his book to be published, read it carefully, and see if you are going to believe that Darwinism can be falsified…

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  13. Gregory: However, since one cannot falsify ideological Darwinism, and since denoting ‘Darwinism’ as ideology constitutes the proper technical usage of the term, which nevertheless a LOT of people get wrong, then no, Darwinism was not falsified by Kimura and to this very day remains unfalsified, since it is unfalsifiable.

    This is just wrong. Sociology does not get to impose its technical jargon on the entire language. Nor does science or mathematics or any other field. Language does not work that way.

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  14. Kantian Naturalist: I’m surprised that you think Dennett is using Darwinism ideologically. That seems baffling to me. If there’s anyone who is an ideological Darwinist, I’d say it’s not Dennett but Dawkins.

    I’m inclined to agree with you about Dawkins.

    Dennett had a debate with Stephen Gould — on the New York Review of Books as I recall. And Dennett seemed pretty ideological to me about natural selection. And he still seems that way to me in “From Bacteria to Bach and Back.”

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  15. Walter Kloover,

    We got on quite fine. Black & white letters on screens are a whole lot different than working in a confined space with people. My boss (quite different from my supervisor) was one of the foremost experts on evolutionary biology & Darwinism in that country. We did a nice interview too, though I never released the recording or wrote about it.

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  16. swamidass,

    “This is really not that complex.”

    Is this your excuse for acting so cavalierly with terminology, so loose & sloppy with concepts?

    1) I don’t look to the DI for my definition of ‘Darwinism’ or for most other things. I don’t consider them a high level academic think tank; they are mainly propagandists for US education & political ‘renewal of science & culture’ (what the CSC used to be called, long before Swamidass got involved), who happen to also be largely really nice, kind & decent people. They nevertheless are pushing pretty much exactly the same weak American philosophy (WAP) as Swamidass does now, with a few small wrinkles between them.

    History check: In the summer of 2011, I had a phone call with Darrel Falk, then President of BioLogos. This was before Junior Joshua had come on the scene continually bragging about his ‘scientific knowledge,’ newly armed with tenure as a computational biologist. In that conversation I asked Falk very specifically about BioLogos’ position on Darwinism, which up to that point was still listed on their website. I expressed my view why I thought they ought to give up any defense of Darwinism & he seemed to catch my drift and thanked me for it. I explained to him the linguistic difference between Darwinian & Darwinism & the importance of distinguishing ideology from science. By the end of that summer, the term Darwinism was gone from a key place on their website and I take this to mean he understood the dilemma & wished to avoid it.

    Joshua, however, shows now that he *still* doesn’t get it and yet depends on someone else’s definition for his defense because he isn’t clear enough to express himself on the topic. And yet he has the gall to claim: “This is really not that complex”! How rich & foolish at the same time is this outer & doxxer who seeks no forgiveness from me, only TSZ moderators.

    2)

    “The definition of the DI, which is NOT an ideology.”

    Well, of course not. More WAP. What more do you expect? The huge DI book “The Nature of Nature,” for example, doesn’t even have the term ‘ideology’ in its Glossary! When I asked Casey Luskin about ideology, he indicated to me something to the effect that ‘only our opponents are ideological, while we are not.’ I was floored by both the delusion & outlandish insistence of ideological innocence from this man, after having sat through session after session in the DI’s summer program hearing their ideology about the ‘evils’ of Darwinism & Darwinian theory, between the two which they equivocate. Are you suggesting I should adapt the DI’s (&/or Gauger’s) definition of ‘Darwinism,’ Joshua, as if that were helpful & productive towards promoting ‘peace IN science’ & beyond it?

    As for Joshua, until recently he used to spell the term ‘idealogy.’ Hmm, maybe not the go-to guy on this topic?

    3)

    “Darwinism is often meant to mean an ideology, but in science it meant positive selection dominated change.”

    Meant to mean? Here ‘often’ is too general & unspecified. And what does “positive selection dominated change” actually mean, since you’re apparently the only person who uses it? After a quick online search, the only two people to respond to it disagreed; Rossiter & Allan Miller. Yet you think I should adopt your private definition of ‘Darwinism’ as if it holds some kind of community authority?
    And oh, look folks, Joshua is caught in another Oops. Why? He too equivocates between ‘Darwinism’ and ‘Darwinian theory of evolution’ because he didn’t use ‘Darwinism’ with that definition previously. He wrote: “I would say that the Darwinian theory of evolution (defined as positive selection dominated change) was falsified a long time ago.” http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/the-sternberg-collins-paradox-for-non-random-sine-insertion-mutations/comment-page-2/#comment-142535

    As it turns out, I have been blessed to work with a few and have met some very good scientists. In my experience, it is very uncommon for anyone to try to speak so comprehensively about science as Joshua does, here using ‘in science,’ because no single scholar can know more than even a small fraction of what goes on ‘in science’ given the diversity of sciences & scientists around the world. Joshua, however, exaggerates his knowledge habitually & I simply do not find this appealing, digestible or credible when he does this.

    One of the very first things a student of science studies, sociology of science, philosophy of science, or science & technology studies is taught to ask: Which science? Whose science? Yet Joshua puts on pants way too big for himself as if the ‘creation War’ as he calls it requires him to be a bigger genius than anyone else simply in order to ‘win’ all the time by monopolising what science is & means to people. It’s shockingly ridiculous to witness!

    After the ‘Science at the Crossroads’ collection from the 1931 History of Science conference in London, with the Bukharin delegation and Boris Hessen’s paper on Newtonian science, one simply cannot make such claims as Joshua is doing & keep a straight face. Why does he continue this charade of uber-competence? Might it be his narrow programming mind, or is it something else?

    The crazy thing is, with the attitude Joshua has displayed to me both in private & public so far (hoping he can change & improve; always hope), I’m half expecting him to now say he’s read all of this stuff & knows everything about the history, philosophy & sociology of science already. He’s likely waiting to tell me I’m way behind and haven’t learned anything yet about what ‘Darwinism’ is or means to people simply because I don’t accept the DI’s definition of it.

    Joshua has so far presented himself to me as a) unteachable & b) unrepentant based on our recent encounter here. Yet the Soviet delegation in London was a major event in the history of science (not to mention what happened to both Hessen & Bukharin after returning to USSR), that precipitated the future work of J.D. Bernal, spurred the social history of science & science studies, Michael Polanyi’s work with the Society for Freedom in Science, & many others important features that lurk behind the conversation we are having now.

    And then lo & behold, fresh off of a rather nasty & public breakup with BioLogos that didn’t leave any of them looking that good, here comes along Swamidass with his ’empty chair’ & ‘fifth voice’ blasting, positioning himself as if with such grandeur, yet while operating from within a sheltered non-mainstream evangelical community (who happened to meet WL Craig & Francis Collins, et al.), as if he can proudly speak for ‘mainstream science’ while insisting: “This is really not that complex.” ROTFLMAO.

    Grow up, Joshua. There’s a much bigger discussion that you haven’t been privy to & aren’t tuned in to. Humble yourself and you might learn instead of broadcasting to everyone about “the Science of Adam” that could in the end unexpectedly do a whole lot of damage to us all.

    Speak to me with kindness & respect and you’ll get kindness in return. Stop talking with such confidence about things you know little about because silence and deferral or questions about the things I know very little about is what you’ll get from me. Continue trying to bully me with your scientism & you’ll get dunked on every single time. It’s really that simple, or in your words, “really not that complex.” Or is this direct rebuke & rebuttal also just confusing you because after all, you’re a finite human being, a gifted, but limited scientist & doctor too?

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  17. Joe Felsenstein: Do you (Gregory) think that any science is free from the influence of the ideological views of the scientist?In other words, is there such a thing as science that is ‘strictly scientific’ and ideology-free? If not, then why are you acting as if this is a problem mostly for evolutionary biology?

    In biology, I can see effects of people’s beliefs that the world is in perpetual decline from an idyllic earlier state, or that the world is in a steady-state equilibrium, or that there is continual progress. We should try to be aware of our assumptions, and the role of ideology in them.But I don’t know of any other science that succeeds in being free of ideology.”

    Thanks for this. There are indeed less ideological fields, formal sciences in particular. Mathematics can be done largely free from ideology, yet that is surely not always the case. I’m still slowly getting through Loren Graham & Jean-Michael Kantor’s “Naming Infinity” which is fascinating for how ideology & worldview have impacted mathematics. Graham is a giant in English-speaking Soviet & Russian history of science. Otherwise, I agree with your assessment.

    The ‘strictly scientific’ claims of the DI caught me off guard because they come across as simply drenched in ideology, yet deny holding any ideology whatsoever. It’s such a contrast with what I learned when I did my PhD because I spoke with several scholars & scientists who openly admitted the influence of ideology on their work and how that had changed when the ‘iron curtain’ fell. Yet here were scientists with degrees from decent to good (and a few very good) universities in the US & UK, yet who almost studiously avoided any talk of ideological impingement on their work because of their desire to be perceived as ‘strictly scientific’ or ‘neutral’ wrt ideology. It’s such a stark contrast of presentation!

    According to statistics, evolutionary biology is one of the most highly ideological fields in the contemporary natural sciences. Mathematicians, physicists & chemists, for example, aren’t nearly as biased towards atheism, naturalism & materialism as are evolutionary biologists. Do you find that to be the case also with those around you? I haven’t spent time among N. American evo biologists, but I’ve interacted with them online enough to realise the heavy ideological expressions they make, often without knowing how much ideology they are using in their communications. Evolutionary psychology might be even worse, though it’s surely not as rigorous or empirical as evolutionary biology, while many of its practitioners/proponents try to appear as if they are ‘neutral’ & ‘strictly scientific.’ D.S. Wilson is an unavoidable case in point; sheer brainwashing disguised as ‘just a friendly neutral scientist’.

    I’d be curious to hear more about these effects that you can see. We are agreed that the assumptions we bring into our sciences/fields of study can and often do make visible impact. In social sciences & humanities, there is no field of study that ‘succeeds in being free of ideology’ and that has led to what Peterson now calls the ‘corruption of western universities’ with highly imbalanced & disproportionate representation in those fields. It is absolutely unmistakable, usually even if a person, department or committee is trying very hard to hide it.

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  18. Suddenly all the evolutionists have no idea what Darwinism is. And yet, whenever the atheists here talk about the theory of evolution and some creationist (what’s a creationists, I don’t know) asks them which theory of evolution, some one like Allan or Alan will go into anaphylactic shock.

    Seems we can now at least all agree, Darwinism must be dead, or at least it was never alive to begin with.

    Finally.

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  19. Oops, did I say Glossary? Self-correction. I meant Index. No ideology in “The Nature of Nature”. It’s the ideology-free Discovery Institute, serving ‘strictly science’ to the next gullible country on Earth (Columbia most recently, the irony!), just down the road from Starbucks headquarters. = P

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  20. Mung,

    Seems reasonable to ask for definitions to clarify what anyone means when using phrases containing Darwin, evolution and -ism.

    Does Gregory associate Darwinism with atheism?

    For me “Darwinian” simply indicates the non-random element of adaptive evolution.

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  21. dazz: Some of the best posters here in TSZ are philosophers (bruce, KN, walto, -in alphabetical order-), just saying

    I am not a philosopher. But I do make an effort to understand the discipline. And I find uninformed, gratuitous insults to the disciple of philosophy to be ironic in a forum where uniformed criticism of biology is so often taken to task by the biologists.

    I think both Gregory and Joshua (in his latest post here) are saying important and valuable things. On Darwinism, I believe they are talking at cross-purposes because their academic disciplines use the word in different ways* (as KN pointed out).

    Then there are people who seem to use whichever definition suits their debating points by being vague about which sense they are using the word in. I find that tactic tiresome.

    ———————————————-
    * However, I am not sure ‘Darwinism’ is used in modern, primary scientific literature as opposed to the term being something that scientists countering ID have tried to define to clarify arguments.

    ETA: Joshua did use ‘falsified” incorrectly, I believe, when he said Darwinism was falsified. Better to say something like the mechanism of NS is not the only mechanism used to model population genetics in modern biology.

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  22. Alan Fox:
    phoodoo,

    Mutation and drift

    So, mutation, drift, and natural selection. That’s the theory then. How’s about we just call this Darwinism then? Or if you prefer, Neo-Darwinism?

    And you just said the mutations and drift, that’s the random part, right?

    I am just thinking, off the top of my head, maybe that’s what others also mean they say Darwinism, but who knows? But let’s say its that, simple enough?

    So, is it science? Is it falsifiable?

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  23. phoodoo: And you just said the mutations and drift, that’s the random part, right?

    Calling the random aspect of evolution non-Darwinian seems reasonable to me.

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  24. Gregory: According to statistics, evolutionary biology is one of the most highly ideological fields in the contemporary natural sciences.

    I’d be interested in the background to that remark. Are you speaking of a statistical analysis of the texts of the primary scientific literature of evolutionary biology? Is the use of such “big data” technologies an example of an ideological influence on the sociology of science a valuable new tool for the field, or both?

    theology/worldview discourse broadly construed is the general lack of knowledge and understanding about ideology among participants. It is not only Dr. Swamidass who misses the mark, but rather a general condition in North America due to public school teachings that don’t address ideology

    IMHO, this is a key point. Scientists involved in the ID debates should perhaps be aware of the sense of ‘Darwinism’ used in Gregory’s discipline. Gregory, if you have the time and interest, I’d welcome an OP on how that can be done, where discussions of ideology should be incorporating into education, and on how other countries differ from North America in doing this.

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  25. Alan Fox: Mexico and Canada?

    Being a product of it, I think that Canadian (or at least Ontario’s) education system is likely not that different from any blue state in US and I suspect not that different from Western Europe’s. Education in red states, Spanish/Portuguese America, and in the non-Western world are all foreign to my experience.

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  26. BruceS,

    Well, the idea that Biblical creation is an alternative fact that deserves serious consideration in an educational environment remains practically unknown in Europe.

    ETA typo

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  27. phoodoo:
    Suddenly all the evolutionists have no idea what Darwinism is.

    And yet, whenever the atheists here talk about the theory of evolution and some creationist (what’s a creationists, I don’t know)asks them which theory of evolution, some one like Allan or Alan will go into anaphylactic shock.

    Seems we can now at least all agree, Darwinism must be dead, or at least it was never alive to begin with.

    Finally.

    I know exactly what I understand by the term ‘Darwinism’ (do I need to list them again?). It’s a term I rarely use, though. The people who use the phrase all the time, however, seem incapable of defining it. How peculiar.

    On the ‘theory of evolution’ thing, you know exactly what I mean when I say it, and I’ve clarified a dozen times. I mean, you know what I support and you oppose by now, don’t you? But no, you poor confused little fella, I might mean Lamarckism, or Charlieism, or front loading, or just-drift, or just-selection. Of course I might.

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  28. Mung: A neologism seems appropriate. Suggestions?

    We need a neologism for exaggerating the reaction someone might have when someone triumphantly plays one of their small collection of cards for the dozenth time? That’s esoteric.

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  29. Neil Rickert: Dennett had a debate with Stephen Gould — on the New York Review of Books as I recall. And Dennett seemed pretty ideological to me about natural selection. And he still seems that way to me in “From Bacteria to Bach and Back

    That debate is at following link. It occurred more than 25 years ago, so your memory is definitely still going strong, at least when it comes to Dennett.

    https://dl.tufts.edu/pdfviewer/2j62sh27j/8k71nw16v
    I have not read it yet, but I do wonder in what sense you think it is ideological.

    Going by memory, Dennett’s book used NS ideas borrowed from biological evolution in two places: his claims about cultural memes and his review of Godfrey-Smith’s ideas on Darwinian populations. Are either of those what yo are calling ideological? If so, can you expend on why you hold this opinion?

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  30. Neil Rickert: And Dennett seemed pretty ideological to me about natural selection.

    That’s not my impression. Could you expand on why you describe Dennett as being ideological about Darwinian evolution?

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  31. phoodoo: So, mutation, drift, and natural selection. That’s the theory then. How’s about we just call this Darwinism then? Or if you prefer, Neo-Darwinism?

    Alan, Alan…look here!

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  32. Gregory (to Joshua Swamidas): Continue trying to bully me with your scientism & you’ll get dunked on every single time.

    When you use the word “scientism” here I would hope that everyone understands your meaning. We can all see that “scientism” and “science” have different meanings and cannot be interchanged.

    So IMO, for the sake of clarity, we should all follow your lead and think carefully in the future about the context when we use terms like “Darwinism” and “Darwinian”.

    I’m not sure why anyone who thinks about it would disagree with you on this.

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  33. phoodoo,
    Just to be clear, do you define Darwinism as referring to evolutionary theory as a whole and not just the adaptive aspect usually referred to as natural selection?

    If so, I disagree and think that Darwinism and Darwinian should be reserved for the selective aspect to evolution.

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  34. CharlieM: When you use the word “scientism” here I would hope that everyone understands your meaning.

    That everything in reality can or will be explained by scientific endeavour? Does anyone subscribe to that concept? Is my understanding of the concept incorrect?

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  35. BruceS,

    Couple of takes from that article. I’d agree that use of “ideology” is almost exclusively pejorative and when science is claimed to be scientism, science has to be defined narrowly.

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  36. Also, when some talk of a conflict between religious concepts and scientific knowledge, they should ask themselves when claims conflict we the observed reality, perhaps it might be simpler (and more honest) to modify a claim rather than deny an observed fact.

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  37. BruceS: IEP on Ideology and Science:
    https://www.iep.utm.edu/sci-ideo/

    ETA: In the interests of full disclosure, the author of the IEP article is a professor at Baylor. But his CV shows his Phd is in Philosophy of Science and his dissertation committee had several of the field’s luminaries.

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  38. Alan Fox:
    phoodoo,
    Just to be clear,do you define Darwinism as referring to evolutionary theory as a whole and not just the adaptive aspect usually referred to as natural selection?

    If so, I disagree and think that Darwinism and Darwinian should be reserved for the selective aspect to evolution.

    No, that’s not clear at all Alan. It seems you have never heard of Darwinian Theory. Its not hard to find writings on it, you know? You like wikipedia I recall, they have a page on it. Let me help you if I can:

    Darwinism is a theory of biological evolution developed by the English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809–1882) and others, stating that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual’s ability to compete, survive, and reproduce.

    There is one part in particular that I want you to take note of. Its the word variation. Do you see that word? If not, go back, and check again so we can make sure we are on the same page (literally and metaphorically).

    Now, pay attention, the natural selection part, its meaningless without the variation part. Just tear it up, throw it away if no variation. Variation is so important to the theory that they use the word variation, just to make sure you understand that variation is part of it.

    Now, Alan Fox comes along and says, well, if you want to talk about the variation part, I wouldn’t call that Darwinism. Why does Alan Fox say that? Maybe you can answer that. You are Alan after all, right?

    So no Alan, if you want to call Darwinism selection without the variation, I am afraid you are out on some remote island, all by yourself. Maybe Allan will visit occasionally. Rumraket will probably send you a care package now and again. But surely no one else can understand you well enough to know why Darwinism is selection without the variation.

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  39. Alan Fox:
    BruceS,

    Well, the idea that Biblical creation is an alternative fact that deserves serious consideration in an educational environment remains practically unknown in Europe.

    Ontario has education guidelines that prohibit such ideas from educational institutions, including public and private (assuming the private want to offer something that is recognized as a Secondary School Diploma.). To comply with standards, all science classes must teach biological evolution and biological evolution only.

    Moran refutes various internet rumours here:
    https://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2015/08/teaching-evolution-in-ontario-schools.html

    FAQ on OSSD and private schools
    http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/privsch/questions.html

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  40. Neil Rickert: And yes, Darwinism can also be an ideology. And I’m inclined to think that Dennett is using it that way.

    Kantian Naturalist: If there’s anyone who is an ideological Darwinist, I’d say it’s not Dennett but Dawkins.

    I’m curious as to what sense either of you consider Dawkins an ideological Darwinist.

    I have little regard for his sophomoric takes on philosophy of religion and detest his thinly-disguised hate speech on Islam. But if you are referring to the selfish-gene theory, how is that ideology in the scientific sense that I think Dawkins meant it? Quite possibly it is incorrect science. But how it is ideology?

    Perhaps you are referring to the idea of universal Darwinism which Gregory’s OP says Dawkins originated. I could see how this concept could be ideology if misapplied to politics. But again, it can also be used in an attempt to formulate scientific theories in various disciplines, like anthropology (cultural evolution), linguistics (Millikan), psychology, and even quantum mechanics (decoherence theory). These ideas may very well be incorrect scientifically, and it may also be correct to point out their origin in biological evolution, but why are they ideological?

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  41. phoodoo,

    It is true that ‘Darwinian selection’ acts on variation. However, what is also clear is that Darwin’s conception of inheritance was, basically, wrong. He didn’t know about mutations, or genetics generally. His variation was caused by ‘fluctuations’, environmentally induced. It’s quite Charlieist in that regard. He was sympathetic to Lamarckism, and his chapters on inheritance are quite cringey from a modern stance.

    It illustrates why it’s quite dumb to use the term at all. Because when you use it, you aren’t apparently doing so with the intent of making a distinction from drift, drive, mutation, transposition or recombination – things that Darwin didn’t know about – or to make a statement about adherence to an outmoded view of inheritance. It’s much more an ideological label. So it’s quite peculiar when you leap on the ‘mutation, selection’ definition of Darwinist as the important one. Everyone apart from a few oddballs agrees they happen, at least some of the time. No-one thinks they are all that happens. So everyone and no-one is a Darwinist. What a jolly useful term. Maybe it’ll catch on.

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