Word Games

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Word Games

Post by alextemplet » Tue May 13, 2008 4:45 pm

This thread has more to do with the words used to describe science rather than the science itself, so my apologies if it's inappropriate here and I won't shed a tear if it gets moved to the off-topic.

To a scientist words may be of trivial value relative to the facts they convey, but to politicians and the media words are everything. It is therefore no surprise that in the political battles over the teaching of evolution in public schools, words are being used that probably do not accurately describe their subjects.

A prime example of this is the term "Darwinism." Darwinism is often used as a synonym for evolution, although probably nothing could be further from the truth. Evolutionary theory existed long before Darwin, and today's evolutionary science owes as much to many other scientists as it does to Darwin himself. Yet evolution's opponents continue to refer to evolution as Darwinism. The reason for this, in my opinion, is that Darwinism is a word that sounds as though its subject is the invention of a single man and may or may not be true. "Evolution" is a term that invokes hard science, but "Darwinism" sounds almost like a religion or cult (ex. Lutheranism, Calvinism, Buddhism; all named after their founders) than any reasonable science. Thus the opponents of evolution might find their political battles easier if they are fighting not against science (as "evolution" would imply) but against Darwinism, which sounds more like a religious or political agenda than a scientific one.

Other examples are the terms "creationism" and "intelligent design." Again these words are used by the anti-evolution crowd in an attempt to give their cause more merit than it deserves. The implied meaning is that, since creationists oppose evolution, then no self-respecting person can believe in both creation and evolution. I find this belief to be inaccurate at best and appalling at worst. As many of you know, I am a religious believer myself, and I do believe that God created the universe (creationism) and that He designed it (intelligent design), yet I also believe that He did so using natural evolutionary processes! One could therefore say that I simultaneously believe in creationism, intelligent design, and evolution!

I do not believe that many of the words used to describe evolutionary science in popular culture are accurate, and I believe this is the product of a the sad state of education in our school systems. In my opinion it is this public ignorance that makes anti-evolutionary ideas a much more powerful political force than they have a right to be. I instead choose to refer to evolution as exactly that, not Darwinism, and I refer to those who oppose evolution as anti-evolutionists, not creationists. To me, these terms are much more accurate than the words the media chooses to use.
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Post by MrMistery » Sun May 18, 2008 9:36 am

I have always found the terms "microevolution" and "macroevolution" annoying. Although they obviously originated in creationist literature, I have recently encountered some presumably respectable scientists using them.

PS: As it is a discussion centered on an aspect of evolution that is actually rather important, this thread remains in the science board(despite not being science).
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Re: Word Games

Post by wbla3335 » Sun May 18, 2008 1:17 pm

As you say, evolutionary thought existed before Darwin. Darwinism is an old term, probably begun to distinguish Darwin's theory from others. Many consider Darwinism and evolution as synonymous, either because they don't know about alternative theories or because Darwinism has survived as the fittest.
MrMystery: I disagree. I'm not sure how long creationism has been around, but I think it is recent in the sense it is being discussed here. Evolutionary theorists such as Mayr used these terms a long time ago. If they're good enough for him, they're good enough for me. I don't read creationist literature, so I don't know how these terms are used there, though.

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Post by alextemplet » Wed May 21, 2008 3:07 am

I agree, Andrew. I personally have never really seen a difference between mirco- and macroevolution, at least not in any scientific sense. It seems to me to a rather arbitrary barrier that is rarely (if ever) clearly defined, and simply allows evolution's opponents to claim that every observed or proven case of evolution is simply "mircro" and that "macro" remains impossible.

As for the term "Darwinism," I think the word itself sounds as much like a religion as does "Lutheranism" or "Buddhism," both named after their founders. Although I don't doubt that it might have once been used to describe the scientific theory, I find this odd. I have never heard of a scientific theory being labled as such. Yes, theories are often atributed to their discoverers, but never simply by putting the discoverer's name on it. For example, Einsteinian relativitly is not called "Einsteinism, nor is Mendelian genetics referred to as "Mendellism." I think "Darwinism" is a religious-sounding word that allows anti-evolutionists to discredit evoluition's scientific legitimacy in the public eye.
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Post by MrMistery » Wed May 21, 2008 4:38 pm

I was wrong. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microevolution
Creationists just found something to pick on in these terms..
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Re: Word Games

Post by alextemplet » Wed May 21, 2008 9:57 pm

Perhaps you (and I as well) were wrong about the origin of the terms "micro-" and "macroevolution"; however, according to that wiki article, we were correct that they are practically meaningless in a strict scientific sense:

The attempt to differentiate between microevolution and macroevolution is considered to have no scientific basis by any mainstream scientific organization, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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Post by AstusAleator » Thu Jun 05, 2008 3:56 am

I still use micro and macro when discussing evolution with people that are not educated in science or evolution. I always add a disclaimer that it's not as simple as I'm making it sound. I think the distinction might make it easier for people to understand that they shouldn't expect to see new species popping up in a timeframe of only hundreds of years. Anybody that hasn't had a science education and hasn't taken time to research for themselves could really have a hard time with understanding the enormity of 4.5 billion years.

In terms of time, and our frames of reference, it's initially almost impossible for someone to comprehend millions of years, much less billions. Those numbers just become nonsense words. You might as well be saying kajillions or aasd;fasdfions.

An interesting little excersise we did in geology (which probably most of you have done) is that we took adding-tape and turned it into a time-scale with a centimeter being a million years. As the tape keeps unrolling and unrolling and unrolling... you begin to understand the enormity of natural history.
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Post by alextemplet » Mon Jun 30, 2008 7:30 pm

I think another reason most people do not fully appreciate the enormity of large numbers is that we hear them all the time that they have become almost too common. In the media we are literally bombarded by the word "million," from game shows like "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" to news reports saying things like "x million Americans are (insert condition here)" to reports of businesses or celebrities earning or losing x millions of dollars. The real truth of the matter is that in today's vernacular, million is a very small number.
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Post by gamila » Thu Jul 30, 2009 10:44 am

This thread has more to do with the words used to describe science rather than the science itself,


the very words biologist use to describe their science end in meaningless or contradiction as colin leslie dean has pointed out
species is a technical term used by biologist every day yet it is meaningless nonsense
ie

biologists tell us that the bactrian camel and the dromardry camel are two different species
but
they can interbreed which should mean they are the same species
but we are told they are different species
thus the notion of species ends in contradiction ie meaninglessness

a beautiful example of colin leslie dean point


biologist use such terms as life phylum and species but they have no idea what the words mean

scientists cannot tell us what a species or phylum is

quote

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Species

"However, the exact definition of the term "species" is still controversial, particularly in prokaryotes,[2] and this is called the species problem.[3"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phylum

"Although a phylum is often spoken of as if it were a hard and fast entity, no satisfactory definition of a phylum exists"

with out a definition of these terms then biologists are really talking nonsense for with out definitions to locate the things they talk about they are really not talking about anything at all If the biologist talks about say speciation or this species proving natural selection but cant tell you what a species is then he is talking meaningless nonsense

Take colin leslie dean proving natural selection wrong


the very words biologists use are nothing but meaningless word games

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Post by papa1983 » Thu Jul 30, 2009 1:35 pm

Let the insanity begin......
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Thomas H. Huxley (1825-95) English biologist.

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Re: Word Games

Post by AstusAleator » Fri Jul 31, 2009 12:01 am

Nah... that might have worked a month ago but nobody cares anymore
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Re:

Post by MichaelXY » Sun Aug 02, 2009 8:20 am

gamila wrote:
This thread has more to do with the words used to describe science rather than the science itself,


the very words biologist use to describe their science end in meaningless or contradiction as colin leslie dean has pointed out
species is a technical term used by biologist every day yet it is meaningless nonsense
ie

biologists tell us that the bactrian camel and the dromardry camel are two different species
but
they can interbreed which should mean they are the same species
but we are told they are different species
thus the notion of species ends in contradiction ie meaninglessness

a beautiful example of colin leslie dean point


biologist use such terms as life phylum and species but they have no idea what the words mean

scientists cannot tell us what a species or phylum is

quote

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Species

"However, the exact definition of the term "species" is still controversial, particularly in prokaryotes,[2] and this is called the species problem.[3"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phylum

"Although a phylum is often spoken of as if it were a hard and fast entity, no satisfactory definition of a phylum exists"

with out a definition of these terms then biologists are really talking nonsense for with out definitions to locate the things they talk about they are really not talking about anything at all If the biologist talks about say speciation or this species proving natural selection but cant tell you what a species is then he is talking meaningless nonsense

Take colin leslie dean proving natural selection wrong


the very words biologists use are nothing but meaningless word games


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