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What's in a name?

Discussion of everything related to the Theory of Evolution.

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What's in a name?

Postby alextemplet » Sat Jan 05, 2008 4:28 pm

I was thinking this morning about how many people associate the terms "Darwinism" and "evolution" as virtual synonyms. Certainly Darwin was a significant contributor to evolutionary theory, but does he really deserve to be identified with the entire scientific discipline as a whole? The theory of evolution has been around for a very long time. The ancient Greeks had some theories on the subject, and I once read that they even had a version of the theory of natural selection.

Darwin's great contribution to evolutionary science was that he greatly advanced our understanding of how evolution and natural selection work, much as Mendeleev's periodic table advanced our understanding of how atoms work. However, nobody today refers to chemical periodicity as "Mendeleevism"; why, then, is evolution or natural selection so often referred to as Darwinism?

Is it possible that, because of the political/religious nature of the debate, Darwin has gained an excessive amount of fame (or infamy?) compared to other sciences and has thus had his name identified as synonymous with his theory? Is it perhaps easier for anti-evolutionists to refer to natural selection as "Darwinism" and thus attempt to make it look like the dreamings of one man, instead of the more scientifid term of "evolution"? This may be the case; the theory of heliocentiricism, for example, was originally called "Copernicanism" by many of its opponents who opposed it for many of the same reasons. I have noticed that the use of the term "Darwinism" as a synonym for evolution seems to be most common in creationist circles, which leads me to suspect that it is simply a term of convenience for Darwin's opponents.
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Postby MrMistery » Sat Jan 05, 2008 7:42 pm

using the word "darwinism" for evolution as it is currently understood is not accurate. The theory has grown greatly since Darwin's time.
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Re: What's in a name?

Postby alextemplet » Sun Jan 06, 2008 5:52 am

Exactly my point, yet the word is often used as synonymous with evolution, especially among anti-evolutionist circles. Even the name of this forum "Evolution and Darwinism" hints that the two terms might be synonyms.
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Postby MrMistery » Sun Jan 06, 2008 5:02 pm

yeah, i know. i once told the admin to change the name but he seems to have forgot. I definitely agree with you that creationists like the term(from the same reasons that you stated) but there are also some people that use it without noting the subtle but important difference(like the admin did when he wrote the forum descriptions)
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Postby mcar » Mon Jan 07, 2008 11:52 am

Could it be that the time when Darwin's contribution were compared to others, many and possible related evidences must perplexed a many? and the evidences becomes more interesting, somewhat a puzzle is revealed piece by piece. A great effort must have been given to further investigate Darwin's work. Results are suprisingly very near in explaining a good concept regarding the origin of different species on earth. And as for evolutionary ideas, what is dominantly remembered is this partly controversial theory of Darwin. Would it be right to say that Darwin's ideas served as a template to define evolution at the present?

As for his opponents if it is convenience, that would be enough to say that it is the "evolution" thing.
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Postby Draco » Mon Jan 07, 2008 5:32 pm

Darwinism is rarely used here in the UK, but then again the Evolution vs Creation debate is not as big as it is in USA so that might be why.
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Re: What's in a name?

Postby Darby » Mon Jan 07, 2008 6:11 pm

It has been suggested that connecting a widely-accepted tenet of biology to a person from the 19th Century is a way to make it comparable to religious explanations:

- originating in the past. The suggestion is that the idea is passed down without thought or revision, which is of course completely false.

- dependent (supposedly) on an authority figure (Darwin) and a central book (On the Origins of Species). Sometimes it seems that the main problem with a lot of the religious opposition is that, since they base their lives on concepts that draw from an "unimpeachable" authority and a written source accepted verbatim, they tend to assume that that is how everybody else must be doing it. We must worship Darwin, we must have "faith" in evolution, we are "fundamentalists." All wrong, of course, but it's not easy to understand a very different worldview.
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Postby Draco » Tue Jan 08, 2008 12:48 pm

That is all very intresting but I still agree with alex about this, that is why the term Darwinism is rarely used over here because as I mentioned the Evolution vs Creation debate is almost non existant in the UK.
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Postby alextemplet » Wed Jan 09, 2008 7:09 am

I wonder if there will ever come a day when the evolution debate will be settled here in the US; probably not, considering how polarized this country is becoming.
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Postby Draco » Wed Jan 09, 2008 10:28 am

I also doubt the evolution debate will be settled there, I've heard about the demands about 'the great designer' theory should be taught in biology.
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Re: What's in a name?

Postby genovese » Wed Jan 09, 2008 1:28 pm

How did the idea of teaching the "designer theory" in a school science class ever arise in the US?
Presumably, science isn't taught in classes in place of religion, so why isn't "designer Theory" taught and kept in the religious lessons? Presumably no one would object to that.
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Postby Draco » Thu Jan 10, 2008 12:26 pm

I have no idea about why, it was just something that my teacher mentioned in class once.
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