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Darwinism Must Die So Evolution Can Live 951

Posted by kdawson
from the not-all-isms-created-equal dept.
Pickens writes "MacArthur fellow Carl Safina, an adjunct professor at Stony Brook University, has an interesting essay in the NYTimes that says that equating evolution with Charles Darwin opened the door for creationism by ignoring 150 years of discoveries, including most of what scientists understand about evolution — Gregor Mendel's patterns of heredity, the discovery of DNA, developmental biology, studies documenting evolution in nature, and evolution's role in medicine and disease. Darwinism implies an ideology adhering to one man's dictates, like Marxism, says Safina. He adds that nobody talks about Newtonism or Einsteinism, and that by making Darwin 'into a sacred fetish misses the essence of his teaching.' By turning Darwin into an 'ism,' scientists created the opening for creationism, with the 'isms' implying equivalence. 'By propounding "Darwinism," even scientists and science writers perpetuate an impression that evolution is about one man, one book, one theory,' writes Safina. '"Darwinism" implies that biological scientists "believe in" Darwin's "theory." It's as if, since 1860, scientists have just ditto-headed Darwin rather than challenging and testing his ideas, or adding vast new knowledge.'"
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Darwinism Must Die So Evolution Can Live

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  • neodarwinism (Score:5, Informative)

    by tomtomtom777 (1148633) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @04:48AM (#26794773) Homepage

    This is why most biologist refer to Darwins theory plus all the addition thoughts of the last 150 year as neodarwinism

    Darwins basic idea still stands so it doesn't seem illogical to use his name for the theory

    • Re:neodarwinism (Score:5, Informative)

      by harry666t (1062422) <harry666t@gmail. c o m> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @06:28AM (#26795243)
      Duh, it's still an -ism.
    • Re:neodarwinism (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hattig (47930) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @07:01AM (#26795391) Journal

      I thought that "Darwinism" was a term thought up by the religious anti-evolution side.

      Why? I suspect that it is because they associate their beliefs with an entity, God in this case, and thus cannot see how other people don't need to also do that. Thus they ultimately project this viewpoint that people who believe in evolution are actually believing in a false God as part of their propaganda against evolution.

      Darwin, of course, studied theology at Cambridge University. He was also a depressive, presumably because of how stupid (and stubbornly-so) most people were. I think he would be depressed today. Especially if he saw the creationism museum.

      Btw, there was a pretty good David Attenborough programme on BBC TV last week about Darwin and Evolution that showed many of the subsequent discoveries. I forget the title, but it must be available on popular video sharing sites.

      • Re:neodarwinism (Score:5, Informative)

        by wisty (1335733) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @07:17AM (#26795475)

        Some people say he was depressed because he was a devout Christian, but his work was contradicting his beliefs.

        I think that "Darwinism" is used by scientists to describe classical evolution. "Post-Darwinist" theories include punctuated (or stepped) evolution, founder affects, modern genetics, and a lot of other things. The rate of mutations is often evolved - so evolution is itself evolving - groovy hey! I haven't studied that stuff for years, but "Darwinism" has not been the alpha and omega of evolution for quite some time.

        Some interesting developments outside ecology would include the use of evolution in programming (genetic algorithms), the evolution of cancers, the evolution of ideas and institutions, the evolution of ecologies, and basically anything else that satisfies the replication, competition, and mutation criteria. Myopic? I don't think so.

        • Re:neodarwinism (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Firethorn (177587) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @08:04AM (#26795723) Homepage Journal

          I haven't studied that stuff for years, but "Darwinism" has not been the alpha and omega of evolution for quite some time.

          I've read about some of that stuff as well, but having to gone to public school and been stuck in 'regular' classes on occasion, I'd say that 'Darwinism' is about the right level for basic grade school scientific theory. Just don't go trying to apply it to bacteria too much. Bacteria sex is one of the weirder things out there. Mendel's Pea experiments are good for heredity.

          Honestly enough, I've never really understood any but the most literal creationist's objections to evolution. I mean, why aren't they protesting dinosaurs? Isn't the Earth supposed to be too young for them to have existed?

          • Re:neodarwinism (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Nursie (632944) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @09:05AM (#26796103)

            "I mean, why aren't they protesting dinosaurs?"

            I'm pretty sure they used to. There's a whole set of Fundy arguments about the validity of carbon (and other) dating methods, and a load of stock rants on how it's all based on faulty assumptions and circular reasoning.

            They tend not to even touch on the fact we have records of humans and human civilisation back before they think the world was created...

            Bunch of hateful, wilfully ignorant assholes. Wilful ignorance on this scale should be the greatest sin.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by hattig (47930)

              Ah, the "carbon dating is only accurate for 5,000 years argument".

              Sadly for them it's accurate for 60,000 years (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dating#cite_note-0). Even so, it's not the dating method used for things like dinosaurs, or even pre-homo-sapiens times. There are other elements that decay slower and are thus far more useful as a metric - Potassium-Argon and Uranium-Lead are some I believe, but don't quote me, and I'm at work so can't keep on hunting down references.

          • Re:neodarwinism (Score:4, Interesting)

            by drew (2081) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @12:49PM (#26798887) Homepage

            Honestly enough, I've never really understood any but the most literal creationist's objections to evolution.

            Of course, if you get too literal, you run into other problems. After all, there are passages in Genesis that make reference to God setting up the pillars that support the four corners of the earth... While I'm sure there were still plenty of them in Darwin's time, I doubt you'd find even the staunchest creationists today that still believe that the earth has corners. So somehow they have to pick and choose which parts are literal and which are not. I suppose they use the same logic that they used to decide that homosexuality is still a heinous sin, but the restrictions on eating pork and seafood, when it's acceptable to sell your daughter into slavery, and most of the other old testament laws no longer apply in today's society.

            As far as dinosaurs go, maybe you just weren't paying attention... Most of them claim that our dating mechanisms aren't accurate. They claim that dinosaurs lived side by side with humans up until the flood or until the expulsion from Eden. Others claim that the dinosaurs never really existed at all, and that fossils are part of the earth God created, to test our faith (or planted by the devil to mislead us). I've also heard the claim that our current measures of time and human lifespan were not applicable until the expulsion from Eden, meaning that Adam and Eve may have lived happily in Eden for millions of years before the beginning of the supposed 6,000 year recorded history in the Bible. (Although, you're starting to get away from strict Creationism there, because that interpretation can also be stretched to imply that the "seven days" of creation actually lasted about 4 billion years by our current measurements.)

            I am surprised to see a high ranking Scientist make a statement like this, though. I agree with the reasoning behind it, but I had assumed that the Scientific community had already gotten away from using the term "Darwinism". The only times I can ever remember hearing it used were either 1) Religious types who use the term as a sort of straw man for attacking evolutionary theory, or 2) attempts to apply Darwin's ideas to areas outside of biology, e.g. "Social Darwinism". Is "Darwinism" really still in widespread use among scientists? Or is this more of an attempt to convince non-scientists to give up a term that scientists have already abandoned long ago?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Paladin128 (203968)

          I think it depends on where you were taught and who you were teaching. I've known both sane biology professors, and some who practically canonized Darwin as their patron saint. I agree with the Author's premise; there is too much religious zeal among many biologists. Religion is not science, and confusing the two is detrimental to both.

          I say this as a deeply religious man, and a scientist.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jeremyp (130771)

          He wasn't a devout Christian. He was a Christian at first but no more or less so than anybody else of his time. Yes, he studied Divinity at Cambridge with the aim of becoming a country parson, but that was really only to provide him with a respectable position so that he could carry on collecting beetles

      • Re:neodarwinism (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Firethorn (177587) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @07:55AM (#26795681) Homepage Journal

        I thought that "Darwinism" was a term thought up by the religious anti-evolution side.

        I was taught 'Darwin's theory of natural selection' in school, as part of the basic theory of evolution. Mendel and his peas were in there as well. I'll also note that the theory of evolution in my textbook explicitly didn't cover the start of life; there was some mention of 'primordial soup', but fully admitted that scientists don't really have a clue.

        I have never heard it called 'Darwinism' by anything other than creationists and the people handing out awards in a bit of black humor.

        I wonder if the anti-evolutionists were around when I was a kid; I don't remember ever hearing about them. I wouldn't be surprised if a big part of the yelling right now is the last gasp of the creationists, as they can no longer hide in small areas in local or church schools. News is far more national now than it was even 20 years ago. If my study of history has shown me anything; it's that rarely is anything having to do with the human condition new or unique. There's creationists over in Europe; in China and India.

      • Re:neodarwinism (Score:5, Informative)

        by Excors (807434) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @08:03AM (#26795707)

        there was a pretty good David Attenborough programme on BBC TV last week about Darwin and Evolution that showed many of the subsequent discoveries

        Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life [bbc.co.uk]?

        There's also an interesting quote [guardian.co.uk] from David Attenborough in response to people asking "why he did not give "credit" to God" for the subjects of his nature documentaries:

        They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator.

      • Re:neodarwinism (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Nursie (632944) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @09:00AM (#26796073)

        Absolutely.

        I don't know where the author got his information from, but equating Darwin directly with evolution and setting him up as the absolute authority on evolution and natural select is exactly the straw man argument used by the ID/creation morons.

        They try, in their pathetic attempt to debate, to equate "The Origin of the Species" with the bible and insinuate that it is a text that "atheists" (i.e. everyone that doesn't agree with their exact take on biblical inerrancy) hold to be inerrant, holy and the subject of religious fervour. Or that "atheists" hold Darwin to be some sort of messiah, and ascribe that view to belief and faith. This then allows them to knock down their hastily erected straw man by saying "my religion is as valid as yours". It's not only an invalid argument, it's intellectually dishonest, as is the entire ID movement.

        That the NYT thinks this is really the case is shocking.

        Darwin was a smart guy. He wasn't *the* smart guy, and in fact some others around his time were starting to explore similar ideas. A lot has happened since then, some of his work has been extended, some parts contradicted or corrected.

      • Re:neodarwinism (Score:5, Interesting)

        by drooling-dog (189103) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @10:29AM (#26796989)

        I thought that "Darwinism" was a term thought up by the religious anti-evolution side.

        Ideas are easier to attack when they can be pinned to a particular individual, and the attacks made ad hominem. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it's a tactic most often used by conservatives. For example, I find it difficult to discuss global warming with conservatives without veering into a debate on the merits of Al Gore and whether he invented the Internet. Similarly, debates on other matters have been "settled" with assertions that Michael Moore is undeniably fat and doesn't dress nicely.

        You'll start hearing about "Newtonism" and "Einsteinism" the moment that some conservative (most likely religious) constituency realizes that modern physics challenges their worldview every bit as much as evolutionary biology. After all, Relativity is only a theory, and why should anyone listen to a guy who can't comb his hair properly?

        But don't listen to me - I didn't shave today...

    • Re:neodarwinism (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ByOhTek (1181381) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @09:16AM (#26796185) Journal

      Well, the other part is that scientists use Darwinian, not Darwinism. This is like Einsteinian and Newtonian in physics. Nobody kvetches about those. I have yet to hear an evolutionary scientist mention Darwinism when discussing the topic.

    • It would be a pity if we had to purge the name "Charles Darwin" from the history of science in order to satisfy some religious fanatics who simply refuse to live in a world where not everyone shares their superstitious beliefs. That they would insinuate themselves at all in the world of Reason is outrageous. How many advances in biology and medicine have been delayed because of researchers' fear of these medieval god-botherers getting all up in their beeswax?

      I'm starting the countdown until we tell all th

  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @04:50AM (#26794783)

    That is, as the Brits say, bollocks.

    The issue is that this ignorant view may be perpetuated in America. I have never heard anyone in Europe utter such crap.

    Let us pray that Obama can wipe public references to deities into oblivion.

    • by MadMidnightBomber (894759) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @04:59AM (#26794825)

      You beat me to it.

      No-one in science calls themselves a Darwinist anyway, they'd say they were an evolutionary biologist. They do believe in natural selection obviously, since you can't make predictions (hence, do any science at all) from ID. I have appeared as co-author on a paper in Molecular Biology and Evolution, so I know whereof I speak.

      OK, it wouldn't hurt to stop calling it Darwinism, in the same way that we don't talk about Feynmannism (QED), or Einsteinism (relativity). But that's just a name.

      • by DrYak (748999) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @06:20AM (#26795203) Homepage

        They do believe in natural selection obviously, since you can't make predictions (hence, do any science at all) from ID.

        From a strict technical, linguistic-nazi, point of view : they don't *believe in* natural selection, they *believe that natural selection is an useful model they can use*.

        Usually the phrase *believe in* implies some form of faith.
        Whereas scientist *just pick up* a model they consider the best for the situation, based on how much usable it is for making accurate predictions.
        No faith required.

        But apart from the nit-picking about words, I agree with you : ID is useless because its principle simply contradict the way science work - it's not a model you can use to make any useful prediction at all.

        Sometimes deprecated model are used because they are accurate enough in a simpler subset of problems : Newton's physic is simpler to use than Einstein's, yet still good enough at low energy/speed/mass.

        In the case of evolution and natural selection, the model is currently still the best one, considering the tons of additional material that has been added to it.
        And considering the fact that each time a completely brand new branch of biology appears (like genetics), the data produced results still in accordance to what would expect when using the evolution and natural selection models.

        Currently that's the best model we have and a better one has yet to come.

        ID is no possible contender, as its fundamental principle aren't scientific : scientific model are made to be used to make prediction, and to model the world in order to understand it better. ID tells us that everything is done on the will of some higher being (and thus nothing could be predicted) and some things are just too complex to be explainable (and thus you can't model the world).

        • by ultranova (717540) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @08:08AM (#26795749)

          Usually the phrase *believe in* implies some form of faith.
          Whereas scientist *just pick up* a model they consider the best for the situation, based on how much usable it is for making accurate predictions.
          No faith required.

          This is utter rubbish. The people running the Large Hadron Collider believe that hadrons really exist as actual tangible particles rather than mere mathematical models and really collide inside the collider (or would if the darn thing worked). The astronomers believe that there really was an Earth-shattering kaboom at the beginning. And biologists believe that species really evolved from slime sitting on ocean waves to slime sitting on corporate boards.

          There's a difference between healthy scepticism and insane paranoia. Confusing the two and implying the latter is some kind of scientific ideal will do nothing but make the general populace see scientists as lunatics. And making patently absurd claims like "no faith required" - Really? Then how do you build those models if you have no faith in logic or your observations? - might make for nice soundbites but will make you sound like an arrogant megalomaniac as soon as someone starts analyzing them a little deeper.

          The basic problem seems to be that "faith" has become associated with religion, despite being a necessary and unavoidable component of everything a non-omniscient being does, and religion has for whatever reason been painted as the antithesis of science, from which a conclusion that they can't have anything in common has been drawn. Consequently, some people feel the need to defend the "purity" of science against such horrible accusations as scientists having faith; in extreme cases not even religious faith but faith in anything, even the reality of whatever they're examining. This whole thing is slowly but surely becoming a farce.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Alarindris (1253418)
          Here's a dialogue from when I was about 10 or so, and was religious because I didn't know any better.

          Friend1: Do you believe in god?
          Me: Yep.
          Friend: Do you think the devil is real?
          Me: Yeah, I believe in the devil.
          Friend2: You believe in the devil?!
          Me: Yeah, it's in the bible...
          Friend1: You can't believe in god AND the devil!
          Me: What?
          Friend2: You just said you believed in the devil!

          And unfortunately, this fucking "believe in" vaguery (if that's a word) nonsense still means something to people.
      • by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @08:39AM (#26795947)
        OK, it wouldn't hurt to stop calling it Darwinism,

        And in TFA "Using phrases like 'Darwinian selection' or 'Darwinian evolution' implies there must be another kind of evolution at work, a process that can be described with another adjective."

        However, there are and were other theories of evolution. Aside from "Intelligent Design", there was also "Lamarckism". Probably others. So "Darwinism" is a useful adjective to mean "the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection".

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Then listen better. Even here in Europe there's people spewing this crap.
      At the moment, here in the Netherlands there's a huge discussion going on on Dutch TV between a broadcasting organization (EO, Evangelical Broadcasting org, lit.) and 'the rest'
      Though a lot of the people even working for said EO are quite intelligent and don't spew crap at all, quite a few (chaired by their former director) are even MORE insane than the US creationists like Kent Hovind and the people from Answers in Genesis

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chrisje (471362)

        Having said that, the EO is a broadcasting corporation many people actively laugh at in The Netherlands. 44% of our population is a registered atheist and I can't remember the last time anyone dragged god into political discourse on particular topics. Granted, the largest political party is the Christian Democrats' party, but at the end of the day I would say that the people who claim Evolution doesn't exist are either too old for their own good or a part of a small, small minority.

        THe ugly truth is, though

    • by whitehatnetizen (997645) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:22AM (#26794923)
      "Let us pray that Obama can wipe public references to deities into oblivion." Oh the irony.....
    • by Stroot (223139) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:29AM (#26794957)
      Don't count on it. There is no US politician yet who can publicly state he is an atheist, or he can forget his further career. Obama did a lot for emancipation of black people, let's just hope that after him there will be female, gay and an atheist presidents too.
      • by Rhuragh (215240) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @08:48AM (#26795999)

        Allow me to acquaint you with Pete Stark (D-CA-13). He's been openly out as an atheist since January 2007. In addition to Stark, there are ten other current members of Congress who decline to list their religion, opening the possibility that some of them are, at least, closet atheists/agnostics.

    • by Rewind (138843) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @06:04AM (#26795135) Homepage

      As an American I have never heard anyone in the US call themselves a "a Darwinist" so I don't see what your point proves.

      As for the wipe public references to deities into oblivion, why bother? I think it would be better if the world at large stopped trying to feel better about themselves because they are "right". Forcing science on someone for no reason isn't any better than forcing religion on someone imo.

      If you want to believe in creationism, go crazy. I don't care. You are free to have that opinion. If you want to accept evolution, likewise, have a field day. I, again, don't care about your personal thoughts. It has no impact on me and you are free to disagree with my own.

      What does impact me is the annoying ongoing battle, with minimal relevance to society as a whole, is this idea that 'everyone must think what I think'. It is stupid, let it go. I mean if people are breaking the law with violence or forcing ideas on someone then sure, go after them for that. Otherwise? Let people think what they want on issues of religion vs science. Fighting that battle is just an exhaustive waste for no fathomable reason that has yet to ever achieve any measurable goal. Trying to do so again for the 100,000,000th time is unlikely to change that outcome.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xest (935314)

      It's bollocks because if it wasn't an "ism" Creationists would still find something official sounding.

      Looking at Scientology, it's a play on Science and the various "ology" fields out there- phsycology, sociology etc. when the reality is it has nothing to do with either. Should we all stop calling Science Science because it's giving Scientology an air of being an authentic set of ideas?

      These movements play on this for a reason and a sudden change of wording isn't going to vanish their ability to come up wit

    • Exactly (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Fungii (153063) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @06:22AM (#26795211)

      He adds that nobody talks about Newtonism or Einsteinism

      No one talks about "Darwinism" except the creationists. The reasons he gives are exactly the reasons they invented the term - it's far easier to discredit a dead guy from 100 years ago than it is a scientific concept.

      By making it seem like the work of one man with millions of blind followers it appears more fallible.

      Their tactics are pretty ironic really.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Corbets (169101)

      The issue is that this ignorant view may be perpetuated in America. I have never heard anyone in Europe utter such crap.

      You've obviously never lived in Europe.

      http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/swiss_news/Swiss_drag_knuckles_accepting_evolution.html?siteSect=201&sid=7141596&cKey=1160562740000&ty=st [swissinfo.ch]

      Ignorance is not solely an American problem; it's simply our prevalence on the world stage that leads you to believe that. Living in Europe for the last 3 years, I've found it's not particularly different here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by crmarvin42 (652893)
      Be careful about casting aspersions on an entire Nation because of a handful of nutjobs. Britan may not have the Anti-Evolutionist ID proponents, but it does have a rampant case of Homeopathy which is compounded by the growing belief that Vaccinations cause Autism.

      The evidence for Homeopathy and Vaccine caused Autism are not any better than the "evidence" for ID put forward by the nutjobs here in the US. There is a whole soap opera going on right now concerning the Science blog "Bad Science" by Brian G
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by alcmaeon (684971)

      Let us pray that Obama can wipe public references to deities into oblivion.

      There isn't a chance in hell your prayers will be answered because a) there is no god b) Barak Obama isn't him either, and c) Obama panders to the religious nonsense more than most presidents we have had with the possible exception of George W, but Obama has only been in 3 weeks. Give him time and he will beat Bush.

  • by VShael (62735) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @04:52AM (#26794795) Journal

    I'm sick of pandering to the ill-educated buffoons who want to drag civilisation kicking and screaming back into the dark ages.

    Darwin wasn't utterly and completely right first time out of the bag. So what?
    His discoveries have been validated, refined, added-to, improved in ways he could never have predicted.
    Again, so what?

    Darwin laid the bedrock, the foundation, upon which stands much of modern science, let alone biology.

    And until you can give me a reason why we should metaphorically bury the giants upon who's shoulders we collectively stand, I will resist this utterly foolish idea.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dnwq (910646)
      Damn it, he's not saying "we should bury Darwin's theory of evolution altogether to hide from the mad fundie hordes!", he's proposing a change in terminology that seems entirely appropriate, to be honest.

      And the reason, quite rightly, is this: "We don't call astronomy Copernicism, nor gravity Newtonism." The theory of biological evolution has changed since Darwin introduced it.

      To continue to label modern evolutionary theory as 'Darwinism' walks into a creationist trap to paint evolution as some sort of
      • by VShael (62735) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:47AM (#26795035) Journal

        We don't call astronomy Copernicism, nor gravity Newtonism.

        And we don't call evolution "Darwinism". It seems only the creationists do that, and they are deliberately obfuscating matters anyway.

        However we DO call Newtonian Dynamics by its name, and rightly so. "Darwinian evolution" also has it's place, even if it has been supplanted in our understanding.

        What I object to is changing the terminology to suit the prejudices of ignorant people, when they will neither appreciate the gesture nor cease their complaints.

        If we were to start modifying any language, (which we shouldn't) a better place to start would be the word "theory" which seems to come under perpetual attack by virtue of the fact that its scientific meaning differs from its everyday meaning. Yet another distinction creationists are all too willing to overlook and exploit for their benefit.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by gilroy (155262)

        To continue to label modern evolutionary theory as 'Darwinism' walks into a creationist trap

        Actually, to pretend that scientists refer to evolutionary theory as "Darwinism" is walking into the creationist trap, since (in my experience, at least) only creationists refer to it that way. Scientists refer to evolution as, well, evolution.

  • by abigsmurf (919188) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @04:58AM (#26794819)

    Newtonian physics/mechanics is in common usage and although there's no 'Einstienian", there is the term 'relativistic' applied to the branch of physics he's most famous for

  • What ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy.gmail@com> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:02AM (#26794837)

    The only people who go on and on ad nauseum about "Darwinism", as if it were the be-all and end-all of Evolutionary Theory, are the Creationists.

    The reason no-one talks about "Newtonism" or "Eisteinism" is because neither of those things threaten the basis behind the belief systems of a significant chunk of the planet (and therefore the power weilded by the people behind them). Why waste time attacking something you couldn't care less about ?

    • Re:What ? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WegianWarrior (649800) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:15AM (#26794897) Journal

      THIS! A hundred time THIS!

      And let me add that in my experience, 99% of all people who calls the scientific theory of evolution for "Darwinism" is from the US, just like a large majority of the hardline creationists...

      The rest of the western world seems happy enought to accept that the theory of evolution fits the known facts and is a valid scientific theory, just as they accept that religion - while nice - has naught to do in science class.

      Blame the US education system I guess...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Xest (935314)

        As I said in another post elsewhere it's irrelevant anyway. If we didn't have Darwinism we'd get creationists calling it something like "Creation Theory" to give it an air of undeserved authenticity.

        They'll always find something to twist to suit their goals.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PinkyDead (862370)

      Absolutely.

      Another reason creationists refer to Darwinism is that it sets them up for an Ad Hominum attack.

      Darwin was a slightly flawed individual, living as he was in a time when social values were "Victorian". He would naturally had a view of the world that was somewhat tainted by a patriarchal society that was imperial, sexist and racist. And creationists are often found to be using this as evidence against his theories.

      As well as this, the writing of his time, even scientific writing, was colourful an

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:02AM (#26794839)

    I could be hanging out with the wrong scientists, but I rarely hear anyone describe what they work on as "Darwinism". There are "evolutionary biologists", who research evolution, not Darwinism. The well-accepted name for the process is evolution, and as far as I can tell nobody calls the idea Darwinism, though Darwin is widely credited as having had an important early role in its development.

    We do actually speak of Newtonian mechanics, for what it's worth. Probably more than anyone in science actually speaks of Darwinian evolution. So we've sort of already done what this guy is asking for, it seems?

  • I beg your pardon? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Schiphol (1168667) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:04AM (#26794853)
    I don't think many popular science writers, or whoever it is that shapes the public understanding of scientific issues, have read, let alone endorse, The Origin of Species. It is truer that most of them do endorse the so-called Modern Synthesis [wikipedia.org], a synthesis between evolution-theoretic ideas and genetics, which cristallised around the mid-40s and is, arguably, not the last word in the theory of evolution. But I don't see how having Darwin's name associated -in all justice- to the Modern Synthesis cluster is any more harmful to the theory than having Einstein's name associated -in all justice- to the theory of relativity.

    On the other hand, from TFA:

    "Using phrases like "Darwinian selection" or "Darwinian evolution" implies there must be another kind of evolution at work, a process that can be described with another adjective. For instance, "Newtonian physics" distinguishes the mechanical physics Newton explored from subatomic quantum physics. So "Darwinian evolution" raises a question: What's the other evolution?

    Into the breach: intelligent design."

    Of course. This is just as it should be. Intelligent design is a powerful source of evolution. Or how does the writer think Airbuses emerged from the Wright brothers' prototype? The passage I just quoted implies that there is no legitimate evolution that is not Darwinian. This is plain silly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Chuck Chunder (21021)

      Or how does the writer think Airbuses emerged from the Wright brothers' prototype?

      I'm pretty sure we're talking about biology here, not aeronautical engineering.

      The passage I just quoted implies that there is no legitimate evolution that is not Darwinian.

      What it implies is that there isn't a distinct alternative to "Darwinian evolution". Evolution as it's understood today is an improvement on Evolution as posited by Darwin rather than a distinct theory (as in the Newtonian/Quantum example).

      • by thepotoo (829391) <thepotoospam@nOspam.yahoo.com> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @09:03AM (#26796095)

        I'm pretty sure we're talking about biology here, not aeronautical engineering.

        Good call.

        To have evolution you need to have phenotypic variation in a population, variation in fitness for different phenotypes, and some degree of heritability for different phenotypes. Aeronautical engineering has two of these things, but does not reproduce, therefore it is not evolution.

        However, there is an "alternative" to natural selection [defined as animals get better adapted to their environment across generations].

        This alternative is artificial selection, or selective breeding. Rather than letting nature pick the best phenotypes to reproduce, we select characteristics that we like (they may not have a high fitness in the wild) and breed them. That's still considered evolution, just not Darwinian selection. It's about as close to ID as you're going to get until we can make designer bacteria.

  • Semantics (Score:5, Funny)

    by Now15 (9715) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:06AM (#26794859) Homepage

    This is an issue of semantics, and of marketing strategy. A rose by any other name ... still evolved from its Rosoideae anscestors in the wild fields of Asia.

  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by glwtta (532858) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:08AM (#26794871) Homepage
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but these days the term "Darwinism" refers to a 19th century understanding of evolution, specifically to distinguish it from modern evolutionary theory.

    The only people who use "Darwinism" to mean "theory of evolution" are creationists.
  • by Daemonax (1204296) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:11AM (#26794891)
    A quite skim over the article. It's rubbish. That Darwin distracts from all the others who have helped strengthen our understanding of how the variety of life on the planet came to be, I'll accept that.
    That 'Darwinism' must die so people can understand evolution? That's just bollocks.
    Education must simply improve, and ignorance should never be tolerated.
  • by XahXhaX (730306) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:18AM (#26794899)
    This is a good idea. Just ask any proponent of creati...err...intelligent design.
  • Doh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Genda (560240) <[mariet] [at] [got.net]> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @06:03AM (#26795127) Journal

    I'm really sorry anyone is comparing any scientific idea to "Creationism" or the current flavor of the month "Intelligent Design" which from every angle I can see is neither. Evolution as a general study covers everything from punctuated equilibrium, to impact of ionizing radiation on nucleotides. There must be dozens, maybe hundreds of different disciplines, technologies, framed of reference, scientific venues, and interrelated studies. This would be like comparing a sequoia to a blade of astro-turf, and arguing they are equal because they are both green.

    Creationism is a belief system in search of evidence to justify it's validity. This someone opening a box of puzzle pieces, cutting all the none conforming bits off the pieces, and forcing them into some semblance of a presupposed picture. In short this is a mental illness. It is someone who places more importance in the way they want things to be, than the way they in fact are. This is magical thinking. Most human beings develop beyond this level of function at about the age of 10. It is no more ludicrous than Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.

    The nature of science is you have an idea. You test it against the world. If the data doesn't match the theory, the theory is wrong, and you need to rethink it. No handpicking data to match your theory. Scientist who do that are called frauds, and lose the respect and recognition of their peers almost instantly. This isn't to say that there isn't belief, politics, and hubris among scientists. It's hard to ignore human foibles, but at least one can account for them. Magical thinking doesn't even try. Those same foibles are point and purpose to magical thinking, and any truth that happens there is purely coincidental.

  • Dumb idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jw3 (99683) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @06:51AM (#26795335) Homepage

    Allow me just a few points. BTW I am an evolutionary biologist. Carl Safina, with all due respect, is not.

    First, let's get one thing straight that the author of the article confuses. "Evolution" is the observation that all living things seem to be related, plus the observation of the change of the living world in time. This observations are older than Darwin. "Theory of evolution" is any theory that tries to explain this observation. "Neodarwinism" or "Synthetic Theory of Evolution" is one particular theory that involves the mechanism called "natural selection". Natural selection is a mechanism that can be observed. Darwin's greatness was in linking this mechanism to the rise and change in complexity of all living things, and in the ability to foresee the consequences that only recently started being fully understood.

    1) "Equating evolution with Charles Darwin ignores 150 years of discoveries"

        First, nowadays formally we use the terms "neodarwinism" or "synthetic theory of evolution". "Darwinism" is most often used in certain popular (non-scientific) texts, and also by creationists.

    2) "Using phrases like Darwinian selection or Darwinian evolution implies there must be another kind of evolution at work, a process that can be described with another adjective."

          Well, of course, as any of my students would immediately ask "what about lamarckian evolution?" (an alternative explanation for the process of evolution, largely rejected or falsified by observations)

    3) "And isms (capitalism, Catholicism, racism) are not science."

    Yeah, right, like electromagnetism, empiricism or autism.

    4) "What Darwin had to say about evolution basically begins and ends right there."

    If this only was so simple. Darwin, as I mentioned before, not only proposed natural selection as an important mechanism of evolution, but also was able to point out the consequences, ranging from kin selection to the role of sexual reproduction.

    5) Do you really believe that creationists would less fiercely attack a "synthetic theory of evolution"? The problem is much, much deeper than just an association or a given name.

    Cheers,
    j.

  • by smchris (464899) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @08:34AM (#26795909)

    Instead of the classic vulgar misreading of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in which this and that scientific principle is "just a theory" ("So why can't I call creationism _my_ theory?"), this is what he was writing about -- periodically changing the paradigm of thought to one that melds better with the sum of current observations. In short, a good idea that is more about the culture of science surrounding evolution.

  • by MrKaos (858439) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @08:53AM (#26796021) Journal
    It's disappointing to see reason slow filtered out of this debate and be replaced with ignorance. What is interesting is to see the political deception creep into Catholic doctrine over the years...
    Darwin's theory of evolution compatible with Christian Faith - 1996 [utk.edu]
    conservative Catholics do indeed have growing doubts about the teaching of Darwin - 2006 [time.com]
    Evolution has not been "scientifically" proven - 2007 [timesonline.co.uk]

    However at least the Catholic church isn't dismissing the idea's, which is a long way from the outright attacks made by more fundamentalist churches. The thing about this debate is that while fundamental theist's attack science and the theory of evolution using doubt, no counter-argument is made that has any impact on the faith of proponents of Intelligent Design.

    Science and Religion are different bodies of knowledge, but not mutually exclusive because both use reason as a tool for different goals. There are scientific people who are religious and religious people who are scientific. Making a science based argument about the ignorance of Intelligent Design to someone who has a predominately religious background make both sides dig their heals in. That's why this debate has become so polarised.

    I've found that having an understanding of the doctrine that supports scientific investigation and framing that discussion so that it attacks the underpinnings of Intelligent Design an important tool. Building and demonstrating an understanding of the theocratic aspects of this debate is an important tool to disarming the proponents of Intelligent Design and helping them understand why science is important to their faith.

    A scientific argument explaining the shortcomings of Intelligent Design to a religious person really just reveals their ignorance of science and, as such, they feel ignorant of science but it's not important to them.

    A theocratic argument explaining the shortcomings of Intelligent Design to a religious person reveals the shortcomings of Intelligent Design when compared to the discoveries made by a study of Evolution.

    When confronted with one of these discussions I point out that Intelligent Design limits how far humanity explores nature, or in theocratic terms "the works of God". I go on to point out that there is nothing in the Theory of evolution that attacks Christian beliefs but, in fact, uses science as a tool to uncover the amazing wonder of how nature works, or in theocratic terms "the glory of God".

    It's at this point that proponents of Intelligent Design start to join the dots for themselves. The insecurity they feel about Darwin's idea's attacking their belief system give way to the possibility that Intelligent Design could actually be a form of blasphemy, something that is important to a religious person.

    I think it's important to frame the debate this way because the Intelligent Design position cleverly deceives religious people into accepting ignorance over education and promotes the notion that science aims to dispel religion. Science and Religion have to co-exist in society if we are to dispel ignorance and fundamentalism.

    • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @09:52AM (#26796531)

      Science and Religion are different bodies of knowledge, but not mutually exclusive

      That's a politically correct lie used to avoid alienating religious folk (maybe even to avoid the cognitive dissonance of alientating yourself if you're a religious pseudo-scientist!).

      The fact is that science and religion really are, in at least one very core area, mutually exclusive.

      If something happens then it's either happening according to the laws of nature or it's not (maybe it's happening due to the intervention of god, or the flying spaghetti monster). It can't be both. Given that scientists believe that the laws of nature (as revealed by the scientific method) govern EVERYTHING that happens (with major reason - there's never, by definition, been any exception to any scientifically accepted theory), it means that science is incompatible with any notion of god other than a totally impotent one that can have no influence on your life, or anything else.

      So, science may be compatible with going to church, living the ten commandments, or whatever else you like to do, but it's not compatible with belief in a god that has any power in any domain covered by a scientific theory.

"Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago." -- Bernard Berenson

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