Home > Anti-evolution, Evolution > I am not a Darwinist

I am not a Darwinist

November 17, 2006

Larry Moran says it well:

I am not a Darwinist, just as most of my colleagues in the Department of Physics are not Newtonists, and most of my friends who study genetics are not Mendelists. All three of these terms refer to the ideas of famous men (Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Gregor Mendel) who made enormous contributions to science. But in all three cases, the modern sciences have advanced well beyond anything envisaged by their founders.

Call me an evolutionary biologist.

Darwin’s genius was to provide the first workable naturalistic mechanism for evolution (that is, natural selection). Even he realized that other mechanisms were not only possible but perhaps necessary. To be a “Darwinist” is to claim that natural selection is more or less sufficient to explain the whole enchilada

Memo to the Discovery Institute … can you quit fighting “Darwinism” as if it is what modern evolutionary biology is about? After all, “Darwinism” is a (nearly) 150 year old idea and we have come far since 1859. It may indeed be the banner that Richard Dawkins rides under, but don’t imagine that Dawkins speaks for evolutionary biology. He certainly doesn’t speak for me.

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  1. November 18, 2006 at 12:13 am | #1

    And I am not a Halstedist, either. (Link included for those who don’t know who William Halsted was.)

  2. November 18, 2006 at 8:55 am | #2

    I agree. I think Dawkins may be either using the term he sees as common, or trying to reclaim it. But it’s not really the appropriate term at all. The adjective “Darwinian” has its place, but not that noun “Darwinism”, which not only restricts evolutionary biology to what that one (admittedly great) man knew and nothing which has been discovered or learned since, but makes it an ideology, which is a pernicious ‘branding’ that must be resisted.

  3. Buffalo Gal
    November 18, 2006 at 9:33 am | #3

    Besides, “Darwiniac” sounds so much better.

  4. November 18, 2006 at 10:20 am | #4

    Your memo to the DI will fall of ears in which fingers are firmly implanted–they don’t want to hear it. As with most PR efforts, their use of the term is carefully considered, to imply a personality cult, a religion (consisting of people they claim are atheists). What they say will never make any sense.

  5. November 18, 2006 at 4:19 pm | #5

    Yes, but doesn’t always work like that. People who accept Leon Trotsky’s analysis of WW2 and the Soviet Union of the time are Trotskyists. And so are people who broadly accept his premises and methods, but openly acknowledge that these specific analyses were just plain wrong. He predicted that stalinism wouldn’t outlast the war.
    I’m happy to be called a Darwinist – and a Gouldian – even though I have disagreements with both, when talking generally, when the specifics of evolutionary speed, punctuated equilibrium, and genetic determinism aren’t relavent.
    If, during the course of a discussion, I need to go into these specifics, of course I can. In the same way that I can call myself an atheist, and if necessatry specify that I hold theological claims to be not false as such, but meaningless.

  6. Timothy Chase
    November 18, 2006 at 5:36 pm | #6

    Kapitano wrote:

    Yes, but doesn’t always work like that. People who accept Leon Trotsky’s analysis of WW2 and the Soviet Union of the time are Trotskyists. And so are people who broadly accept his premises and methods, but openly acknowledge that these specific analyses were just plain wrong. He predicted that stalinism wouldn’t outlast the war.

    I think you are missing the point, Kapitano.
    Leninists, Stalinists, Trotskyists and Maoists were people devoted to a quasi-religious figures relying upon a cult of personality and totalitarian ideology to who wanted to and generally became dictators. That isn’t science. Occasionally there may be something approaching a cult of personality in the sciences (e.g., Freud – although there are certainly questions regarding just how scientific that is), but no such cult-like worship of the demi-god Darwin has ever existed.
    Darwinism? Gouldianism?
    Let it go, Kapitano.

  7. Michael Hopkins
    November 18, 2006 at 8:20 pm | #7

    <creationist>
    Scientists are abandoning Darwinism in droves, as a leading biochemistry textbook author Larry Moran stated, “I am not a Darwinist”.
    </creationist>

  8. Kapitano
    November 18, 2006 at 11:17 pm | #8

    Timothy Chase wrote:

    I think you are missing the point, Kapitano.
    Leninists, Stalinists, Trotskyists and Maoists were people devoted to a quasi-religious figures relying upon a cult of personality and totalitarian ideology to who wanted to and generally became dictators. That isn’t science.

    First, if you’re going to make sweeping statements about political writings, it usually helps to know something about the subject. Calling it rude names does not constitute a well worked out position.
    Second, it’s you who are missing the point. The point is not that Trotsky or any of the other thinkers you haven’t read was right or wrong, good or bad, quasi-religious or scientific.
    The point is that the term “Troskyist” applies both to those few who believe Leon Trotsky was correct in most of his political writings, and those who believe that his methods and presuppositions remain useful, because although some of his predictions notably failed, the majority did not. You do not need to be a Trotskyist to understand this distinction.
    I was suggesting that the same can apply to terms like “Darwinist” and “Gouldian”.

  9. Andrew
    November 19, 2006 at 11:56 pm | #9

    I think we should also note that words and definitions are twisted by PR machines to present their opponents in the least light. So for instance, to be called a NeoDarwinist is to evoke thoughts in the readership of modern people supporting an old idea, with all of the baggage associated with old ideas being discredited or dogmatic. Standard propaganda practice. ID is the modern upbeat and trendy thought, whilst the science of evolutionary biology is untrustworthy and foolish to “believe” in.
    Most telling of course is the transference that occurs. So “good, sound science” is based on common sense (which of course has been shown time and time again not to be a good measure of how the world actually is). So sound-science is actually bad science, but to the readership it creates a distrust of real science and so allows the PR agenda to gain respectability…
    I think I’m with Larry on this one, but perhaps for different reasons…

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