Steve Reuland posted Entry 2066 on February 26, 2006 11:14 AM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2061

Over at Daily Kos, DarkSyde continues his series on Know Your Creationists. This episode is about the Discovery Institute’s Jonathan Witt, and while Witt may be a bit player, Darksyde finds plenty to hammer on. In particular, he makes an excellent point about the ID advocates’ use (or rather abuse) of the term “Darwinist”:

Exhibit B: Darwinism. Judging by frequency of usage, DR Witt, along with every other IDCists on the planet, seems enamored with that word. I asked him recently what he meant by Darwinism, and he replied in part “I use the term to refer to a person who believes that natural selection working on random variation produced all the diversity of organic life we see around us.” DR Witt is entitled to speak for himself, but I work with biologists every day as part of my ongoing battle with creationisim, and I haven’t met one yet who refers to himself as a Darwinist, or his field of research as Darwinism. At best it’s a quaint older term which is no longer used among biologists and hasn’t been for decades. At worst, it’s intentionally chosen to present evolutionary biology as a rival ideology to theism by hired guns marketing Intelligent Design Creationism to the Christian laypublic, and Darwin’s name is used specifically to nurture latent resentment, and to conjure up the ever present book-burners and witch-burners who still lurk among the lucid, among that grass roots demographic.

Worse still, DR Witt’s straightforward answer does little to reassure me of his probity: In the very same venue where I asked that question, DR Witt had used the term Darwinism to clearly refer to a school of thought in philosophy, as for example when he said “Thus, in practice the materialist/Darwinists’ fourth … “ and this is just one of many such statements threatening the consistency of his self professed definition.

As best I can tell, Darwinism as used by IDCists can mean pretty much anything the IDCist wants it to mean. They can and do use it to refer to common descent and all modes of speciation/diversification, abiogenesis, cosmology or most any field of science. But it’s by no means limited to science. It’s bandied about in contexts of abstract philosophical claptrap; metaphysical naturalism, materialism, secular humanism, all of which are often nothing more than covert references to atheism. If it served the IDCist purpose in discrediting science, Darwinism could probably mean Killers of Small Furry Animals.

That’s pretty spot on. Let me emphasize that the term “Darwinism” is only rarely, if ever used in the scientific literature. There’s a good reason for this: It has no fixed meaning. It has at times been used to describe the mere process of natural selection causing adaptations (something almost every biologist agrees with) and at other times used to describe the notion that natural selection alone is responsible for evolutionary change (something almost no biologist agrees with). Hence it is usually either redundant or it doesn’t apply. Yet ID advocates use the term almost exclusively to describe anyone and everyone who accepts mainstream evolutionary biology. I don’t know why they expect scientists to take them seriously when they lack the professional courtesy to use accurate terms when describing those with whom they disagree.

To illustrate the fact that biologists almost never use the term “Darwinist” when talking about evolution, I did some literature searches for relevant terms in PubMed. This is an experiment the kids can try at home. The results are below the fold.

Below I list each term with the number of hits it generates displayed to its right. Terms in quotation marks indicate that the results are limited to the term as it appears, not the individual words found separately.

Evolution: 171,174

“Natural Selection”: 3303

Selection: 170,342

Mutation: 420,303

“Genetic Drift”: 1484

Darwinism: 198

Darwinist: 14

Darwinian: 862

The results couldn’t be clearer. First of all, it should be noted that when a suffix is added after Darwin’s name, the preferred term is Darwinian, not Darwinist. But of course “Darwinian” has a nice smooth sound, whereas “Darwinist” sounds harsh and guttural, and you can count on the ID advocates to use the one that’s easiest to associate with evil, not the one that’s the most accurate. But more importantly, neither term is the least bit common.

Here’s something else that’s funny. If you search for “Darwinism”, you’ll see that most of the articles on the first page that happen to be from top journals are simply news items, and not research papers. But a full 4 of the 20 hits on the first page are from the crank journal Rivista di Biologia run by Giuseppe Sermonti . These include articles by our good friend Jonathan Wells, the young-Earth creationist Jerry Bergman, and Sermonti himself. At least someone is getting mileage out of the term.

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Comment #82281

Posted by c on February 26, 2006 1:17 PM (e)

Darwinian has a pretty specific meaning to denote a person who studies Charles Darwin from a historical perspective, as in “Darwinian scholar”. Thus Desmond and Moore, Janet Browne, Ospovat, Bowler, etc. are Darwinians. Evolutionary biologists doing research are not.

Comment #82284

Posted by RPM on February 26, 2006 1:30 PM (e)

Darwinian has a pretty specific meaning in the evolution literature. Darwinian selection is synonymous with positive selection (as opposed to purifying selection and balancing selection).

Comment #82287

Posted by wad of id on February 26, 2006 1:37 PM (e)

People keep describing all the clever IDiotic political strategies, analyzing them, and criticizing them… but in the end I’ve got to wonder what you’ve really accomplished. It’s like the Democrats reacting to the use of the word ‘liberal’ or John Kerry explaining his position on Iraq. Cerebral… intellectual even, but hardly effective in what essentially is a political battle.

I’ll put money on Witt knowingly abusing the term ‘Darwinist’ or ‘evolutionist’ to mean everything that he sees wrong with the world, even if somebody explains to him his mistake. I’m sure you realize… regardless of what this post explains, or the hundreds more coming from our side that I am sure are in the pipeline… Witt will keep on using it. The simple reason is that, for the masses, a one-word political label works on the masses so much more effectively than the nuanced explanations.

Honestly, who the hell (besides the scientist) cares what the scientific usage of ‘Darwinist’ is? It’s about time those of you who are knee-deep in this political shit to start trying something new. Maybe, you should trying embracing the label, and redefining it as something positive, instead of this weak attempt to distance yourselves from the label, or complaining about its misuse. If being a ‘Darwinist’ doesn’t stand for something evil or wrong, why won’t scientists use the word to describe themselves? Makes the ignoramus wonder, doesn’t it? The next thing you know, you’ll have the absolutists mislabeling scientists ‘Einsteinians’ for promoting the notion of relativity. And when is this going to end?

Comment #82288

Posted by Steve Reuland on February 26, 2006 1:39 PM (e)

RPM wrote:

Darwinian has a pretty specific meaning in the evolution literature. Darwinian selection is synonymous with positive selection (as opposed to purifying selection and balancing selection).

Since the advent of widespread sequencing, this has been true, but the term “Darwinian” goes back much further than that.

Even still, a search for “darwinian selection” gives just over 200 hits, whereas “positive selection” gives over 3000 hits.

Comment #82289

Posted by Russell on February 26, 2006 1:44 PM (e)

An eye for an eye and an -ist for and -ist. Don’t forget to use “Paleyist” in any exchange where “Darwinist” is raised.

Comment #82290

Posted by RBH on February 26, 2006 1:50 PM (e)

Russell wrote

An eye for an eye and an -ist for and -ist. Don’t forget to use “Paleyist” in any exchange where “Darwinist” is raised.

And don’t forget those Huttonist geologists.

RBH

Comment #82291

Posted by Steve Reuland on February 26, 2006 1:51 PM (e)

wad of id wrote:

If being a ‘Darwinist’ doesn’t stand for something evil or wrong, why won’t scientists use the word to describe themselves?

Questions like this are best answered by, um, reading the original post:

Steve Reuland wrote:

Let me emphasize that the term “Darwinism” is only rarely, if ever used in the scientific literature. There’s a good reason for this: It has no fixed meaning. It has at times been used to describe the mere process of natural selection causing adaptations (something almost every biologist agrees with) and at other times used to describe the notion that natural selection alone is responsible for evolutionary change (something almost no biologist agrees with). Hence it is usually either redundant or it doesn’t apply.

Scientists tend shy away from terms with multiple meanings, since you could mislead people as to what your position is or what it is that you’re talking about. IDists love such terms for the exact same reason.

Comment #82294

Posted by Gdr on February 26, 2006 2:07 PM (e)

Harsh, maybe, but surely not guttural.

Comment #82295

Posted by Michael Hopkins on February 26, 2006 2:15 PM (e)

Scirus search:

Evolution:

3,913,739 total | 653,615 journal results | 96,107 preferred web results | 3,164,017 other web results

“Natural Selection”:

156,612 total | 15,084 journal results | 2,989 preferred web results | 138,539 other web results

selection:

7,852,945 total | 661,758 journal results | 405,729 preferred web results | 6,785,458 other web results

Mutation:

1,273,943 total | 456,425 journal results | 57,695 preferred web results | 759,823 other web results

“genetic drift”:

27,708 total | 3,974 journal results | 801 preferred web results | 22,933 other web results

Darwinist:

6,070 total | 156 journal results | 131 preferred web results | 5,783 other web results

Darwinian:

66,042 total | 5,218 journal results | 947 preferred web results | 59,877 other web results

Darwinism:

48,915 total | 1,654 journal results | 550 preferred web results | 46,711 other web results

Now just plain Darwin:

533,726 total | 18,068 journal results | 4,392 preferred web results | 511,266 other web results

Obviously the “journal results” are most important. Secondarily look at the “preferred web results.” “Other web results” does not filter out quacks and other bad sources. To show this:

“Answers in Genesis”:

1,960 total | 1 journal results | 1 preferred web results | 1,958 other web results

Another contrast is “intelligent design”:

54,677 total | 553 journal results | 157 preferred web results | 53,967 other web results

Scanning the “journal” and “preferred web” it is clear that the hits are dominated by 1) opposition to or new about “intelligent design”. And 2) use of the phrase in a way unrelated to the ID discussed here such as a patent that says “The invention relates to the clinically intelligent design of diagnostic devices”

Comment #82299

Posted by Dan on February 26, 2006 2:47 PM (e)

Splitting hairs? As you point out, Mr. Hopkins, that many biologists don’t use “Darwinist”, and this may or may not be true since I’m not privy to how you’re validating your poll, you still have the some that do. What do you do with them?

Comment #82303

Posted by BC on February 26, 2006 3:05 PM (e)

On a similar note, the Catholic Apologetics International site, which argues for geocentrism, actually uses the word, “Copernicanism”.
http://www.catholicintl.com/qa/2005/qa-jul-05.ht…

Comment #82305

Posted by wamba on February 26, 2006 3:19 PM (e)

he replied in part “I use the term to refer to a person who believes that natural selection working on random variation produced all the diversity of organic life we see around us.”

Which is the same error found in the “Scientific Dissent from Darwin” list: natural selection is not the only mechanism accepted by modern biology.

If it served the IDCist purpose in discrediting science, Darwinism could probably mean Killers of Small Furry Animals.

I think that’s “Cheneyism”, if you also throw in feathered animals and lawyers.

First of all, it should be noted that when a suffix is added after Darwin’s name, the preferred term is Darwinian, not Darwinist.

That would depend on whether you expect the suffixated word to be a noun or an adjective.

I’m a Darwinist. I’m also a Mendelist, and a Watson-and-Crickist, and a Perutzista, and so much more.

It’s like the Democrats reacting to the use of the word ‘liberal’

Maybe, you should trying embracing the label, and redefining it as something positive, instead of this weak attempt to distance yourselves from the label, or complaining about its misuse…

I certainly wish Dukakis had had the presence to do that with the word “liberal”. He could have pulled out a dictionary, found a definition like this: “ Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.” and said, “Liberal? Yes and I’m @#$%@$% proud to be one!”.

Comment #82312

Posted by Googler on February 26, 2006 3:59 PM (e)

Steve Reuland wrote:

Let me emphasize that the term “Darwinism” is only rarely, if ever used in the scientific literature. There’s a good reason for this: It has no fixed meaning.

That’s true, but somewhat disingenuous. Because the same term is used quite a bit by self-described Darwinism advocates such as Daniel Dennett et al.

We also have A.R Wallace’s book of the same name, not to mention social Darwinism, literary Darwinism, etc.

So to imply that the term is some sort of creationist artifice does not give the whole picture. It has a cultural meaning even if scientists avoid using it.

Now if all you want to say is that Darwinism as used today has little to do with science, you ought to be more even-handed in your criticism and excoriate everybody who uses the term, because in all these uses there is a purported connection with Darwin’s scientific ideas.

Comment #82315

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on February 26, 2006 4:07 PM (e)

Now if all you want to say is that Darwinism as used today has little to do with science, you ought to be more even-handed in your criticism and excoriate everybody who uses the term

Um, I think he just did.

because in all these uses there is a purported connection with Darwin’s scientific ideas.

Darwin’s been dead for over a century, and science had moved lightyears beyond him since then. Which makes his “scientific ideas” of only historical interest.

“Darwinism”, of course, is simply the latest of the ID code words for “atheism” – along with “materialist”, and “philosophical naturalist”.

Naturally, IDers are very careful not to SAY so, though, since this would make it uncomfortably apparent that (1) ID is just religious apologetics, (2) IDers are just lying to us when they claim it’s not, and (3) Judge Jones was entirely correct when he ruled that it was.

Comment #82316

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on February 26, 2006 4:10 PM (e)

I certainly wish Dukakis had had the presence to do that with the word “liberal”. He could have pulled out a dictionary, found a definition like this: “ Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.” and said, “Liberal? Yes and I’m @#$%@$% proud to be one!”.

I always tell people I’m NOT a “liberal” – I’m a RADICAL, thank you very much.

:>

Comment #82317

Posted by slothrop on February 26, 2006 4:11 PM (e)

Not to be hyper-critical, but what on earth do you mean by “guttural?” Do you mean it is a velar (it isn’t)? Or “harsh?” In linguistics, we do not talk in those terms. For a website concerning science, you should be far more respectful of other sciences. We have, in linguistics, a systematic way to describe the sounds produced in a language. You have a linguistic ideology. Tell a Salish that their words sound “harsh.” A more logical reason for the use of “Darwinist.” Is the suffix -ist which can also be used with “fascist,” “sexist,” or “racist.” It tends to be affixed to beliefs that are reviled (at least in the popular vernacular). The use of that suffix, then indexes a negative attitude (kind of like the use of the suffix -gate). Darwinian sounds no less “harsh” or “guttural” than Darwinist. I believe it is the choice of suffix, not their sounds, that is the driving force here.

Comment #82318

Posted by Gerry L on February 26, 2006 4:12 PM (e)

I believe the key message here is to demand definitions. Let’s make it clear what the subject of discussion REALLY is. Just as DarkSyde did, we should keep asking, “What do you mean when you say ‘Darwinist’?” “What do you mean when you say ‘evolutionist’?” And then point out where they are making up their own reality. The strategy is not likely to change the minds of any IDers, but the repetition might have an impact on some bystanders.

I’m still waiting for someone to ask some politicians for the definition of “frivolous lawsuit” and then to ask them for data about such lawsuits based on that definition.

Comment #82319

Posted by Steve Reuland on February 26, 2006 4:17 PM (e)

Googler wrote:

Now if all you want to say is that Darwinism as used today has little to do with science, you ought to be more even-handed in your criticism and excoriate everybody who uses the term, because in all these uses there is a purported connection with Darwin’s scientific ideas.

I have no problem with anyone using the term as long as they are concise, consistent, and avoid the utterly false impression that this is what biologists who accept evolution refer to themselves as. The sin committed by Witt et al isn’t the mere fact that they use the term “Darwinist”, but they use it in a througly misleading way.

Comment #82320

Posted by PvM on February 26, 2006 4:22 PM (e)

The sin committed by Witt et al isn’t the mere fact that they use the term “Darwinist”, but they use it in a througly misleading way.

Conflation of terms is one of the few ways ID can make ‘its case’. Since ID is based on our ignorance to make its case, I’d say that ID is doomed to continue what many may see as scientifically vacuous and perhaps even misleading.

Comment #82321

Posted by Andy H. on February 26, 2006 4:26 PM (e)

Steve Reuland posted Entry 2066 on February 26, 2006 11:14 AM. – opening comment in thread.

Let me emphasize that the term “Darwinism” is only rarely, if ever used in the scientific literature.

A big reason for that, as suggested in the opening comment of this thread, is that the suffix “-ism” implies a philosophical belief or even a cult, whereas “Darwinism” is supposed to be science.

It has at times been used to describe the mere process of natural selection causing adaptations (something almost every biologist agrees with) and at other times used to describe the notion that natural selection alone is responsible for evolutionary change (something almost no biologist agrees with).

Why is it that random mutations are so often left out of definitions of Darwinism ? Random mutations are as fundamental to Darwinism as natural selection is.

I think that the term “Darwinism” is used by some people to show that they accept some parts of evolution theory, e.g., “changes through time” and common descent, but reject or question the notion that evolution was driven solely by random mutations and natural selection.

Yet ID advocates use the term almost exclusively to describe anyone and everyone who accepts mainstream evolutionary biology. I don’t know why they expect scientists to take them seriously when they lack the professional courtesy to use accurate terms when describing those with whom they disagree.

No term has been more misused than ID. It has become a catch-all term for virtually all scientific (or pseudoscientific, to some) criticisms of Darwinism. The term ID is applied to scientific criticisms of Darwinism that have little or nothing to do with design, intelligent or otherwise. The term ID has been used to describe the Ohio evolution lesson plan, which was not ID at all.

Comment #82322

Posted by Steve Reuland on February 26, 2006 4:27 PM (e)

slothrop wrote:

Not to be hyper-critical, but what on earth do you mean by “guttural?” Do you mean it is a velar (it isn’t)? Or “harsh?” In linguistics, we do not talk in those terms.

I mean one of the common defintions that can be found in the dictionary:

http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/guttural

3 : being or marked by utterance that is strange, unpleasant, or disagreeable.

For a website concerning science, you should be far more respectful of other sciences.

Linguistics is a science? Oh man, now I’ve heard everything

Just kidding. I didn’t intend to make any claims concerning linguistics, I was just using what I thought was a common word with a well-understood connotation. If it’s wrong, I apologize.

Comment #82323

Posted by Arden Chatfield on February 26, 2006 4:43 PM (e)

Hey, LARRY, why are you posting under the name Andy? Why do you have so many names?

Comment #82324

Posted by Arden Chatfield on February 26, 2006 4:44 PM (e)

For what it’s worth, the term ‘guttural’ is very seldom used in linguistics anymore, primarily because it doesn’t really mean anything.

Comment #82325

Posted by Stuart Weinstein on February 26, 2006 4:46 PM (e)

Is that a picture of Witt..?

Not very flattering.

Comment #82326

Posted by wad of id on February 26, 2006 4:46 PM (e)

Steve Reuland wrote:

Let me emphasize that the term “Darwinism” is only rarely, if ever used in the scientific literature. There’s a good reason for this: It has no fixed meaning. It has at times been used to describe the mere process of natural selection causing adaptations (something almost every biologist agrees with) and at other times used to describe the notion that natural selection alone is responsible for evolutionary change (something almost no biologist agrees with). Hence it is usually either redundant or it doesn’t apply.

Steve, I think you make point for me. In the time you take to give this explanation to someone, the (political) point has already been lost. “Redundant” and “doesn’t apply”… uh ok. So it’s either true or false… depending on the context… as only applied to scientists…

Well, ok. Maybe you could pull off an explanation like that. But I don’t think I am smart enough as you to remember all the nuances next time I have to explain to someone what a Darwinist really is, and whether or not I really am one. And the pickle of it is that while the rest of us are trying to figure out what a Darwinist (or Darwinian) is, the morons are sliming us with a label that they know the meaning with crystal clarity.

Comment #82327

Posted by limpidense on February 26, 2006 4:48 PM (e)

It’s amazing and, like the need for similar “yeah-we-know” public service warnings (“Don’t drive and drink,” “Smoking results in various nasty health conditions,” etc.), disheartening that this type of article has to distributed over and over and over again to prove so meting that is both a well-documented fact - the creationist public is ignorant, and the leadership is not often simply ignorant, but lies and a testable theory - revivals of creationism are never changes in essence, but changes in promotional forms.

One newer modification of the basic theory, suggested by many long-time watchers of this tribute to the exploitation of human cowardice and vanity called creationism, by whatever label, is that newer strains of creationism always, in public, pretend to creep a little closer to accepting the real science. Theoretically, this would extrapolate to the bizarre situation of Creationists fully accepting all of the Theory of Evolution, and yet opposing its being taught in schools.

Comment #82328

Posted by Steve Reuland on February 26, 2006 5:04 PM (e)

Andy H wrote:

A big reason for that, as suggested in the opening comment of this thread, is that the suffix “-ism” implies a philosophical belief or even a cult, whereas “Darwinism” is supposed to be science.

That’s not why scientists don’t use the term. They don’t use it because it’s not concise, and scientific communication needs to be concise. The term “Darwinian” lacks the -ism ending, but scientists hardly ever use that either.

I’m sure however that implications of a philosophical belief system are precisely why ID advocates love the term.

Why is it that random mutations are so often left out of definitions of Darwinism ? Random mutations are as fundamental to Darwinism as natural selection is.

The real schism in the meaning of the term “Darwinian” (or its variations) in modern times came when it was used in the 1970s, often in a pejorative sense, to describe strict adaptationism or strict gradualism. People like Stephen J. Gould, Richard Lewontin, or Niles Eldredge would attack “Darwinians” as those people who were strict adaptationists or had a particular archaic understanding of evolution. Later, when creationists began quote-mining them, they found themselves having to backtrack and explain that they weren’t referring to “Darwinism” in the broad sense, but only to those specific schools of thought (some would call them strawmen) that they were criticizing. See for example this recent piece by Niles Eldredge where the poor guy has to go into a lengthy explanation for all the confusion he helped cause.

Hence the term comes down to us pretty much useless since it has been given too many contradictory meanings.

By the way, you are using the term in the same problematic way that I’ve been going on about – i.e., as a undefined blanket description for what we “evolutionists” apparently believe.

I think that the term “Darwinism” is used by some people to show that they accept some parts of evolution theory, e.g., “changes through time” and common descent, but reject or question the notion that evolution was driven solely by random mutations and natural selection.

The ID advocates use it to mean that, but they also use it to mean common descent, and they also use it to mean some nefarious philosophy. They change the meaning as it suits them.

No term has been more misused than ID. It has become a catch-all term for virtually all scientific (or pseudoscientific, to some) criticisms of Darwinism. The term ID is applied to scientific criticisms of Darwinism that have little or nothing to do with design, intelligent or otherwise. The term ID has been used to describe the Ohio evolution lesson plan, which was not ID at all.

Oh please. The Ohio lesson plan was nothing but ID arguments without the name. If anyone is to blame for this apparent confabulation, it would be the ID advocates themselves.

Comment #82330

Posted by Steve Reuland on February 26, 2006 5:13 PM (e)

Stuart Weinstein wrote:

Is that a picture of Witt…?

LOL! No, that’s the character Vizzini from the movie The Princess Bride. After he keeps shouting “inconceivable!” to things that actually happen (and are thus quite clearly conceivable), Inigo Montoya remarks, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Sorry, I thought everyone would get that reference.

Comment #82331

Posted by FL on February 26, 2006 5:23 PM (e)

“Another aspect of the new philosophy of biology concerns the role of laws. Laws give way to concepts in Darwinism“.

Darwinism rejects all supernatural phenomena and causations.”

Evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr, “Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought”, SciAm July 2000.

Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006 –
“Where Do We Go From Here? The Future of Darwinism in American Society,” at the Museum of the Earth, 10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

This panel discussion, moderated by Cornell Provost Biddy Martin, will examine the impact of the recent Dover decision on the future of Darwinism.

Panelists include Cornell faculty members Barbara Crawford, Sheila Ann Dean, Bruce Lewenstein, and Steven Shiffrin; and Janet Shortall, associate director of Cornell United Religious Works.

Seating is limited, call (607) 273-6623, extension 33 for tickets.

“What is Darwinism?”
By Joel Hanes, Talk Origins

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/darwinism.html

******

So, we see the real deal here, no?

As long as you folks continue to freely and publicly use the term “Darwinism”, (and it’s clear now that you do), there’s honestly no use whatsoever trying to complain about any non-Darwinists freely and publicly using the same term also.

You may want to go clear up some things with your own evolutionary homies first, it would seem.

FL

Comment #82332

Posted by limpidense on February 26, 2006 5:37 PM (e)

FL,

I generally just scroll past your oiled evasions and W.D.-ite lies, but somehow read your most recent post here before recognizing it as your “work.”

So, what other names have you used here at PT, ala “Larry”? C’mon and own up! I KNOW the odor that attaches itself to your particular style of slander and misrepresentation, but I can’t conjure up the name you used to try to sell it under.

With a complete, and easily justified lack of respect for you,

— BAC

Comment #82333

Posted by FL on February 26, 2006 5:37 PM (e)

My apologies. I forgot evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulies. Here you go:

“Although I greatly admire Darwin’s contributions and agree with most of his theoretical analysis and I am a Darwinist, I am not a neo-Darwinist.

Neo-Darwinism is an attempt to reconcile Mendelian genetics, which says that organisms do not change with time, with Darwinism, which claims they do.

It’s a rationalization that fuses two somewhat flawed traditions in a mathematical way, and that is the beginning of the end.
Neo Darwinist formality uses an arithmetic and an algebra that is inappropriate for biology.”

—Lynn Margulies, as quoted in John Brockman’s The Third Culture, 1995 (Simon and Schuster).

So, did somebody say earlier, “You keep using that word…”?

FL

Comment #82334

Posted by Steve Reuland on February 26, 2006 5:44 PM (e)

FL wrote:

“What is Darwinism?”

By Joel Hanes, Talk Origins
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/darwinism.html

From that article, quoted from Ernst Mayr no less:

Ernst Mayr wrote:

… The term “Darwinism”, … has numerous meanings depending on who has used the term and at what period.

It would seem that our evolutionary homies don’t need any clearing up.

Let me hear if for my homie Ernst Mayr, beeacchh!

Comment #82335

Posted by FL on February 26, 2006 5:49 PM (e)

Why, thank you for the compliments, Limpidense, you are indeed kind.

However, I do want you to know that I post at PT exclusively as “FL”. No other set of initials, and no other handle.

And btw, thank you for sampling my latest oily wares. Customer service is my middle name, you know!

We’d like it to be known

The exhibits that were shown

Are exclusively our own

All our own, all~our~own

—Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Comment #82336

Posted by FL on February 26, 2006 5:59 PM (e)

And honestly, since Ernst Mayr wrote….

… The term “Darwinism”, … has numerous meanings depending on who has used the term and at what period.

….and since this “numerous” shifting-meanings business is A-okay with evolutionist Steve Reuland, there cannot honestly exist ANY consistent rational basis for evolutionist complaints regarding non-Darwinist usage of the terms Darwinism/Darwinist.

Remember the opening line there?

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Nuff said, folks! Oy!

FL

Comment #82337

Posted by Jeff McKee on February 26, 2006 6:03 PM (e)

The term “Darwinism” was coined by Thomas Huxley. While I was trying to find that reference (I have not yet succeeded), I was amazed as I went through the Huxley literature at how little has changed. The argument that sticks out in much of Huxley’s writing was an argument regarding Archaeopteryx as a transitional form to birds. The “model lesson” plan on “critical analysis” that just got voted out here in Ohio (at least for now) had the same creationist Archaeopteryx crap from the 1860s. For all their political savvy, these ID creationists aren’t very original when it comes to science.

Comment #82338

Posted by Dan on February 26, 2006 6:06 PM (e)

I find it very amusing though that many of you still think Intelligent Design is Theistic by default.

It is not. It implies “intelligence” at the root of this existence. Not necessarily God of the Hebrew Scripture or any other scripture, just intelligently designed. And to add to the soup - I know of no church in this country teaching ID ever. Maybe the Jim Jones Church of ID. :)

Comment #82339

Posted by Steve Reuland on February 26, 2006 6:14 PM (e)

FL, I’m not sure if you’re incapable of understanding a simple point or what.

The shifting meanings are not okay, they are what have rendered the term all but unusable. Anyone who uses it better be pretty clear and consistent with what they mean. This is not a problem for most biologists, because as I’ve pointed out, they almost never use the term.

But the IDists use the term constantly. That would be acceptable if they would be clear on which of the many possible meanings they meant, but of course they aren’t.

Comment #82340

Posted by Dean Morrison on February 26, 2006 6:14 PM (e)

How dare they call me a Darwinian - I’m a Wallacian! If it wasn’t for Wallace perhaps Darwin would never have got around to publishing his ‘dangerous idea’.

http://www.wku.edu/~smithch/index1.htm

“Truth is born into this world only with pangs and tribulations, and every fresh truth is received unwillingly. To expect the world to receive a new truth, or even an old truth, without challenging it, is to look for one of those miracles which do not occur” (from an interview of Wallace published posthumously in 1913).

Of course we Wallacians concur absolutely when it comes to the scientific method, evolutionary biology and the vacuousness of ID.

Comment #82341

Posted by wamba on February 26, 2006 6:28 PM (e)

I find it very amusing though that many of you still think Intelligent Design is Theistic by default.

It is not.

I find it not very amusing that you continue to promulgate Discovery Institute propoganda even after a federal judge has called your bluff. Can you name anyone besides your compadres the Raelians who seriously consider a nontheistic identity for the “Intelligent Designer/Implementer”?

Comment #82342

Posted by wamba on February 26, 2006 6:30 PM (e)

Can you name anyone besides your compadres the Raelians who seriously consider a nontheistic identity for the “Intelligent Designer/Implementer”?

Michael Behe keeps talking about Mt. Rushmore. Maybe he thinks that the same guys who carved Mt. Rushmore designed and implemented the bacterial flagellum. Could it be?

Comment #82343

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on February 26, 2006 6:31 PM (e)

there’s honestly no use whatsoever trying to complain about any non-Darwinists freely and publicly using the same term also.

Please do. Pretty please. It makes it that much easier to show in court that (1) ID is just religious apologetics, (2) IDers are just lying to us when they claim it’s not, and (3) Judge Jones was entirely correct when he ruled that it is.

And since you also demonstrate this with your every post, I strongly encourage you to keep posting, too. Under whatever name you like.

Comment #82344

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on February 26, 2006 6:34 PM (e)

I find it very amusing though that many of you still think Intelligent Design is Theistic by default.

So it’s space aliens …. ?

Would you mind telling me who designed the space aliens?

Comment #82345

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on February 26, 2006 6:36 PM (e)

many of you still think Intelligent Design is Theistic by default.

I’m a little curious, though ——- why is it, exactly, that you capitalize the words “Intelligent Designer”. Like we do with, say, “God” or “the Lord”, but not with, say, “space aliens” or “human designers”.

Would you mind explaining that for me, please?

Comment #82347

Posted by Steve Reuland on February 26, 2006 6:44 PM (e)

Dan wrote:

I find it very amusing though that many of you still think Intelligent Design is Theistic by default.

It is not. It implies “intelligence” at the root of this existence. Not necessarily God of the Hebrew Scripture or any other scripture, just intelligently designed.

I’m not sure where the topic of ID being theistic came from, but…

I find this a pretty good example of the same phenomenon we find with the IDist use of the term “Darwinism”. The term “intelligence” is a vague term that can mean lots of things too. What the IDist really mean is divine intervention, but the use of “intelligence” helps to obscure this.

Comment #82351

Posted by Spike on February 26, 2006 7:08 PM (e)

Comment #82289
Posted by Russell on February 26, 2006 01:44 PM (e)

An eye for an eye and an -ist for and -ist. Don’t forget to use “Paleyist” in any exchange where “Darwinist” is raised.

I agree with Russell. I also agree with wad of id.

Because of the Wedge document, we know very well this is a political fight. The only way to win it is on political grounds, and politics is all about language.

If you haven’t read this essay on political irrationality, I recommend it highly.

Why People are Irrational About Politics by Michael Huemer

http://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/irrationality.htm

Based on the level of disagreement, human beings are highly unreliable at identifying correct political claims. This is extremely unfortunate, since it means that we have little chance of solving most social problems and a good chance of causing or exacerbating them. The best explanation lies in the theory of Rational Irrationality: individuals derive psychological rewards from holding certain political beliefs and since each individual suffers almost none of the harm caused by his own false political beliefs, it often makes sense (it gives him what he wants) to adopt those beliefs regardless of whether they are true or well-supported.

The beliefs that people want to hold are often determined by their self-interest, the social group they want to fit into, the self-image they want to maintain, and the desire to remain coherent with their past beliefs. People can deploy various mechanisms to enable them to adopt and maintain their preferred beliefs, including giving a biased weighting of evidence; focusing their attention and energy on the arguments supporting their favored beliefs; collecting evidence only from sources they already agree with; and relying on subjective, speculative, and anecdotal claims as evidence for political theories.

[Emphasis added]

“…each individual suffers almost none of the harm caused by his own false political beliefs…” But when they do, they are ready to change, as we learned in Dover when the voters responded to the actions of the school board and in Ohio when the taxpayers were informed their state DOE was leading them into a “Dover trap.”

Perhaps someone should start a hospital that excludes any treatments that have resulted from understanding evolutionary biology. We had the cartoon already: Modern anti-biotics for those who accepted evolution, penicillin for those who did not.

We need to help those on the fence understand what the consequences are of replacing science education with religious indoctrination. We can start with the legal consequences and what they mean to the taxpayer, but we should follow up with discussions about lost opportunities, lost jobs and lost lives.

Comment #82353

Posted by i like latin on February 26, 2006 7:21 PM (e)

Well I guess we don’t need new terms for the ID homie army..

IDiot works quite will, IDiocy is already in the dictionary and I’ll be damned… so is idiotism.

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=idiotis…

–Apologies for the ad hominem but it does serve to illustrate a point.

All of those words mean basically the same thing. So, it’s easy to discuss. However darwinism has a plethora of meanings which, as has been pointed out in this thread, makes it a difficult term to discuss unless the person that uses it defines it.

Comment #82354

Posted by Jim Harrison on February 26, 2006 7:36 PM (e)

On the one hand, it’s as silly to call modern biologists Darwinists as it would be to call modern physicists Einsteinians or Gellmanians. On the other, if you’re understanding of the world is going to be associated with somebody’s name, you could do very worse than Darwinism since Darwin was in many respects an admirable man who would be rather venerable even if hadn’t turned out to be right about everything important.

Comment #82356

Posted by wad of id on February 26, 2006 7:49 PM (e)

Scientific jargon tends to develop new meanings on their own in popular usage, especially if a word or phrase becomes associated with larger ideas than the original scientific context. Many examples come to mind… “Jurassic”, “wormholes”, “hormonal”, “quantum”, etc.

This is clearly the case with “Darwinian”. Supporters of evolution need to decide (sooner rather than later) whether or not that word should be coopted by the far-right for a negative connotation. There is nothing wrong with words gaining additional meanings, as it happens all the time. But there is everything wrong with a word being used to label a large class of people incorrectly. My beef with the original post is that it is so clueless about the status of the usage “Darwinian” or “Darwinist” as a nonscientific, popular usage of the word, that it criticizes the usage on totally different grounds.

So, really the question that should be asked by pro-science people is… what would we like the popular definition of “Darwinism” to be? And how do we get other people to accept our usage? Really, who $!@#ing cares what the IDiots think it means…

Reality check, people. The D-word is likely to stay in the vocabulary of many, as the culture war rages. There is not much of a point in trying to quash its use by declaring its meaning “redundant” or “inapplicable.”

Comment #82361

Posted by David B. Benson on February 26, 2006 8:24 PM (e)

R. Dawkins uses ‘Darwinism’ as the first word of page 196 of “The Selfish Gene”.

Comment #82366

Posted by Gary Hurd on February 26, 2006 9:10 PM (e)

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on February 26, 2006 01:36 PM (e)

“Dogmatic Darwinists” - An Instance of the Misleading Rhetoric of the Anti-Evolutionists.

Many is the time when I have had some good idea to ply aginst the antiscience gang only to find Wes already there.

Comment #82373

Posted by FL on February 26, 2006 10:18 PM (e)

However darwinism has a plethora of meanings which, as has been pointed out in this thread, makes it a difficult term to discuss unless the person that uses it defines it.

But as we’ve seen from the specific examples of Ernst Mayr and even last month’s Cornell University Darwin Day announcement, some evolutionists are NOT in any hurry to define Darwinism ~at all~ whenever they use the term.

Therefore, if one specifically insists upon ID’ers doing so without an equally specific insistence upon evolutionists doing so—-that is hypocrisy. You gotta sweep your own sidewalk first.

******

Since none of y’all (except for biologist Lynn Margulies) wants to be identified any more with the term “Darwinism”, consider the following questions:

When was the last time you evolutionists offered even a smidgen of public disagreement with ANY evolutionist’s usage of the term “Darwinism”?

Did you speak up at all when Ernst Mayr used the term in his books and articles? Or were you quiet and content with being an adherent of Darwinism as he used the term in his articles/books?

Did you email Cornell University yet and tell them they were wrong to use the term “Darwinism” in their February 2006 news release without defining it first? Or did it not really make any difference to you after all?

And when’s the last time you visited evolutionist Michael Ruse’s home page? You DO know what the caption says right next to his picture, don’t you?

“Philosophy of biology (especially Darwinism)…”

http://www.fsu.edu/~philo/people/faculty/mruse.h…

(Nope, no definition there either! Imagine that!)

So aren’t you going to dial him up (850-644-1483, according to the website) and give him an earful tonight?

******

If NOT, then let’s really be honest. You guys haven’t swept your own sidewalk first.

That is, you’re trying to jump on ID’ers without first jumping on your fellow evolutionists for the same perceived offence. That is hypocrisy. It’s also irrational too, btw.

*******

This DarkSyde character, btw, is so very quick to say mess like “Darwinism as used by IDCists can mean pretty much anything the IDCist wants it to mean”.

But he’s totally unaware of the now-documented-and-quoted fact that Darwinism as used by evolutionists can and does likewise mean pretty much anything the evolutionist wants it to mean.

Further, he boasts that “I work with biologists every day as part of my ongoing battle with creationism, and I haven’t met one yet who refers to himself as a Darwinist, or his field of research as Darwinism.”

Which, as it turned out, simply means that DarkSyde is jack-ignorant of the very existence of evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulies, whose clear example was clearly given previously.

Therefore, with all due respect, please find an evo-writer who actually makes sense for your next thread.
This one is essentially, well, Darwinist Dogfood.

FL

Comment #82379

Posted by Steve Reuland on February 26, 2006 10:44 PM (e)

FL wrote:

But as we’ve seen from the specific examples of Ernst Mayr and even last month’s Cornell University Darwin Day announcement, some evolutionists are NOT in any hurry to define Darwinism ~at all~ whenever they use the term.

For crying out loud man, you don’t even pay attention to the things you link to. Mayr offered five distinct definitions of what “Darwinism” can mean. That tells us two things: 1) “Darwinism” doesn’t have a fixed meaning, so it needs to be defined when used. 2) Ernst Mayr is not one of those guilty of conflating meanings. Quite the opposite, he’s one of those who has tried to clarify. Compare that to obscurantist Jonathan Witt.

Further, he boasts that “I work with biologists every day as part of my ongoing battle with creationism, and I haven’t met one yet who refers to himself as a Darwinist, or his field of research as Darwinism.”

Which, as it turned out, simply means that DarkSyde is jack-ignorant of the very existence of evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulies, whose clear example was clearly given previously.

I think it’s pretty obvious that DarkSyde doesn’t work with Lynn Margulis (note the spelling) on a daily basis, hence she is not among the people he is describing. That doesn’t mean he’s ignorant of who she is. What he says however is absolutely true: As a general rule, biologists, even those who study evolution specifically, don’t describe themselves as “Darwinists”, and they don’t call their line of work “Darwinism”. The fact that Margulis or any other given biologist once used the term doesn’t refute this fact in the least.

You might consider that Margulis’s remarks concerning “Darwinism” were necessary precisely because the term is used in so many different ways that she had to clarify what she meant by the term. Why else bother to define it and differentiate it from “neo-darwinism”?

Comment #82380

Posted by Mel on February 26, 2006 10:51 PM (e)

Wow! From BC we learn of a geocentrist. I checked the link and, sure enough, it’s true! I’ve kept the link in my already bulging “religious madness” bookmark folder. Thanks.

Re:Know Your Creationists: The Philosopher’s Stoned

Science is faith? From Exhibit A (from Witt):
Belief in the scientific method is faith, in the sense that there are a number of unprovable axioms that must be accepted: 1) There is an objective reality …

Denying reason:
We’re seeing a lot of “atheism is a religion” these days. In my view, this and Witt’s comment both implicitly contain the same core attack: they deny reason without even mentioning it! This attack does not even admit a conflict between reason/science and faith/dogma; everyone, it claims, is a dogmatist. Isn’t this just post-modernism unleashing dogmatism? This is what I expected but it’s amazing to see it in the flesh.

Axioms are faith?
If axioms could be proved, they wouldn’t be axioms. Witt would have us prove existence by means of knowledge of what?Accepting an axiom that is presupposed by all knowledge is not faith; it’s a fundamental epistemological requirement. Even in attacking axioms, Witt must assume them. I think Rand is dead-on correct about this.

IDC is religious!
I boil the thing down to this: “There exists a non-natural undesigned designer, because all natural living things require a designer.

From Steve Reuland:
It’s routine for IDCists to throw up a virtual haze of pseudoscientific chafe using every one of those techniques and then some in a few short sentences, and it often demands fairly detailed rebuttal to straighten the whole stinking mess out.
A historian (I don’t remember who) said about (as I recall) Midevil times: something like “a time of impenetrable irrationalism.” I’ve always found this to be a chilling idea that provokes fear in my gut because I can see so much of it today.

Attacks on reason are very very serious. If reason loses, we’ll end up being ruled by mad men with mad schemes.

Anyway, nice contribution Steve! Thanks!

Comment #82383

Posted by Spike on February 26, 2006 11:21 PM (e)

I’m not a “Darwinist” and never have been. I don’t “adhere” to “Darwinism” in any way.

I agree with the idea that humans and all other life on Earth evolved through entirely natural processes, some known, some as yet to be discovered. I agree with this idea because it has lots and lots of scientific backing that I can reference that fits in with and relies on other science, including biology, chemistry, physics, paleontology, geology, astronomy, as well as engineering and math. I agree with this idea because in all the years I studied biology and worked in the bio-pharmaceutical industry, I never once saw any biological event that required theorizing an intelligent designer, other than those working in the R&D department, that is. Every product we made and tested was done so using current scientific understanding of evolutionary biology.

The problem is that when the ID crowd, and the creationists, both young- and old-earth, use “Darwinist” they do so in a pejorative sense as a political tool. Perhaps the people FL cited are being political as well. Perhaps they are embracing the term, in the way that some women embrace the term “b1tch,” in order to “own it.”

But FL’s post actually proves the point that has been pressed many times in this thread: Even scientists and science philosophers who study evolution do not agree on the meaning of “Darwinist,” so if IDists are going to use it, they need to be sure they are defining the term, otherwise it diminishes understanding rather than increasing it. Much the same way that intelligent design theory diminishes our understanding of biological processes rather than increasing it.

Comment #82386

Posted by k.e. on February 26, 2006 11:51 PM (e)

Mel you said:

Attacks on reason are very very serious. If reason loses, we’ll end up being ruled by mad men with mad schemes.,

WHAT DO YOU MEAN IF ?

F.L.

Yes limpidense didn’t have his mind reading glasses on when he accused you of being Larry, I was wondering when you go going to scream like a pig about that.

Limpid go back and look for the larryism in “Dan’s” barf

Speaking of Hog Howlers F.L. when are you going to give us another rendition of your 2 minutes of glory on the Pulpit of your local church on “Darwin Sunday”

you know the one that goes:


I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up ….….but by the content of their character

Well F.L……. you would have real trouble with a speech like that wouldn’t you ?

lying is not a pretty thing ….especially on a pulpit.

Comment #82388

Posted by limpidense on February 27, 2006 12:03 AM (e)

Not that I care what this FL believes, but I’m quite aware he isn’t one of Larry F’s legion. I believe that I recall FL’s particular scent under another troll’s name, who managed to bore everyone from bothering to engage him some years back.

Someone else’s reading skills really seem to be in question here, perhaps.

Comment #82391

Posted by k.e. on February 27, 2006 12:35 AM (e)

limpidense not directed to you of course, just FL ,I knew that he would kick up. If it WAS Larry he would not argue simply because he’s insane.

On the comprehension;
Yes ala rather than aka er…

passe

If anyone knows how to put in European symbols let me know

Comment #82403

Posted by Stephen Elliott on February 27, 2006 3:46 AM (e)

Steve Reuland posted Entry 2066 on February 26, 2006 11:14 AM….
Let me emphasize that the term “Darwinism” is only rarely, if ever used in the scientific literature….
Yet ID advocates use the term almost exclusively to describe anyone and everyone who accepts mainstream evolutionary biology. I don’t know why they expect scientists to take them seriously when they lack the professional courtesy to use accurate terms when describing those with whom they disagree…

I don’t think for one minute that they do. The term is not for scientists, it is a PR maneuver to hoodwink the general public.

Comment #82420

Posted by Tim Hague on February 27, 2006 6:31 AM (e)

I prefer to constantly use the word ‘scientist’ when someone says ‘darwinist’.

‘The darwinists claim… etc’

Answer - actually, the scientists claim… etc

If someone says ‘what about scientists who don’t “believe” in evolution’ the answer is simple - they are not scientists.

Comment #82429

Posted by Chip Poirot on February 27, 2006 7:53 AM (e)

There is no doubt that ID advocates misuse and abuse the term. Furthermore, it is indeed true that the term is often thrown around with little meaning. But since I took the time to respond to Dark Syde on this issue on Daily Kos, I’ll take the time here. I think I do know what the term means. And when appropriately used, both the term Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism are perfectly appropriate. Of course, one might also use the term “synthetic theory” to describe much the same thing. In fact, they are good terms. I’ll repeat a few points here I made on Daily Kos.

Let’s note for the record that a number of prominent people in the pro-evolution movement use the term. They say it loud and they say it proud. Why not? Mayr uses the terms Darwinism, Neo-Darwinism and Synthetic theory throughout his writings. Michael Ruse uses all terms extensively. The terms are used by Dawkins, Dennett, Sober and many others. At times, the terms are even used interchangeably. For example, Michael Ruse has referred to himself as an “ultra-Darwinian”. Though Ruse himself goes to great lengths in his historical writings to distinguish between “Darwinism” and the mdern mature science of the synthetic theory. E.O. Wilson uses the term. There are of course related terms such as Evolutionary Pyschology and Sociobioloy

So the fact that the term seldom appears in published articles on evolution is a red herring. Indeed, in much of scientific. What do these terms all have in common? They describe research strategies employed by scientists in their work. Since for evolutionary biologists, the principles of the synthetic theory are assumed as useful background knowledge, there is no need to specify the basic assumptions or name the research strategy they are employing. It is either assumed, or, it is unconscious. I judge the latter to be a bad thing.

Long before Kuhn, going back at least to Pierre Duhem and probably Charles Pierce we have known that scientific research is not conducted in a vacuum. Scientists don’t go out assembling a jumble of random facts. Their research is frame by a set of principles that guide observation, tell them what questions to ask, what questions not to ask, how to judge the results of their research, and finally, tell them what kind of phenomena are even acceptable and believed to exist. Scratch a hyper empiricist and you will find a naive and unknowing practitioner of a paradigm of some sort. The fact is that there is a philosophy underlying evolutionary biology. There is an ontology and an epistemology. And this is a good thing.

Rather than beating on the ID’ists for using the term “Darwinian” or “Darwinist” or “Neo-Darwinist” we should beat on them for abusing and failing to adequately grapple with what Kuhn, Lakatos, Popper, Laudan and many others have actually written. We should beat on them for not taking the time to understand the basic ideas and concepts underlying Neo-Darwinism and for not bothering to articulte their own coherent research strategy.

At the risk of going on a bit too long let me add a further point. Not only do scientists work in overarching research strategies (whether they admit or not), they also work in a broader scientific community. While I would eschew the strong program in the sociology of knowledge, I fully acknowledge the weak program. When studying any community one must always distinguish between the self description (emic) of the members of the research community and the actual behavior of the research community (etic).

Most physical and natural scientists that I know (not all, but many) are bright people. Probably brighter than I am. They tend however (for the most part) to be naive or indifferent to matters related to philosophy of science. Thus it does not surprise me that the emic self description of people is “there is no paradigm or research tradition, I just go with the evidence”. But when you observe the practice of science at a broader level, it is clear that the emic is often at odds with the etic.

I see nothing to be gained by being naive about philosophy of science. Again, I’ll say the term Neo-Darwinist loud and I’ll say it proud. It describes a lot that is reliable knowledge.

For the record:
I would define Darwinist as any theory that explains common descent and bio-diversity through variation and gradual natural selection, but does not fully specify a mechanism of inheritance.

I would define Neo-Darwinist as any theory that explains common descent and bio-diversity as resulting from non-acquired genetic variation as the mechanism of inheritance and gradual natural selection.

These terms thus distinguish theories that have developed as a consequence of Darwin’s writings from teleological, saltationist and orthogenetic theories of evolution.

Comment #82431

Posted by wad of id on February 27, 2006 8:06 AM (e)

FL, since you’re whining about hypocrisy, why don’t you go clean up your own side of the aisle. Start with “ID”, or even “research program of ID”.

Lead by example, eh?

Comment #82433

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on February 27, 2006 8:15 AM (e)

Not that I care what this FL believes, but I’m quite aware he isn’t one of Larry F’s legion.

No, FL isn’t Larry. FL was here before, a while ago, arguing about philosophy.

Larry isn’t an IDer. Larry is just a crank.

Comment #82444

Posted by FL on February 27, 2006 9:20 AM (e)

Anyone contact Cornell University or Michael Ruse yet?

Comment #82456

Posted by Raging Bee on February 27, 2006 11:05 AM (e)

Both “Andy H.” and “FL” are Larry Fafarman, who is known for posting under other names. He has shown that he does not understand any subject relevant to evolution, nor many subjects not relevant to evolution. These subjects include: biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, imaginary numbers, the Holocaust, and the workings of the US legal system. The overwhelming majority — if not all — of the assertions and opinions he posts here are repetitions of assertions and opinions already debunked in previous threads. He is only seeking attention, so please do not give it to him.

Comment #82457

Posted by Raging Bee on February 27, 2006 11:13 AM (e)

Oops, I seem to be wrong about “FL.” My apololgies…

Comment #82463

Posted by Flint on February 27, 2006 11:30 AM (e)

‘Darwinist’ is a word much like ‘liberal’ - context is critical. In the mouth of a creationist, these two words converge to the point where they are nearly synonymous, both meaning “as low as a Godless human can fall.”

Comment #82464

Posted by BWE on February 27, 2006 11:37 AM (e)

OMG. PRincess bride is my all time favorite movie.
http://newsbusters.org/node/4186

Comment #82468

Posted by Googler on February 27, 2006 12:02 PM (e)

'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank wrote:

Now if all you want to say is that Darwinism as used today has little to do with science, you ought to be more even-handed in your criticism and excoriate everybody who uses the term

Um, I think he just did.

Not really. By singling out only one of the ideological players in this game, he misses the cultural significance.

'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank wrote:

“Darwinism”, of course, is simply the latest of the ID code words for “atheism” — along with “materialist”, and “philosophical naturalist”.

This is another misleading statement. Many people use those terms in their proper context, and they have a significance that that goes beyond their use by creationists, if any.

So they really aren’t “code words” at all, unless they are being misused. To dismiss them as such may be convenient propaganda, but it completely misses the point.

Comment #82485

Posted by AD on February 27, 2006 1:33 PM (e)

Some assorted questions, as always:

Chip:

I would define Darwinist as any theory that explains common descent and bio-diversity through variation and gradual natural selection, but does not fully specify a mechanism of inheritance.

I would define Neo-Darwinist as any theory that explains common descent and bio-diversity as resulting from non-acquired genetic variation as the mechanism of inheritance and gradual natural selection.

Do you mean “scientific” theories here, which is pertaining only to observable, testable, falsifiable, and measurable data? Or do you mean any “theory”, so that philosophy and religion have a foot in the door?

If you mean the former, then I think that would be entirely plausible, though culturally problematic, as scientific inquiry has provided a lot more information than Darwin ever did. The casual reader is apt to assume the term means “As Darwin” specified. Given that science is still bound by communicating in some written language (english in the case we are discussing), I cannot see the desire to step into that pit being particularly strong, so other terms would probably serve better.

If you mean the latter, those are nice definitions, but they don’t have a thing to do with science. Thus, I would object strenuously to applying them to any science class or curriculum.

In either case, I’d be against using them regarding scientific issues. In the first case, because people are apt to misunderstand, and in the second case, because it would be just plain wrong. Philosophically/Religiously they might work, but the relevance to science then fades away.

The problem, you see, is that the terms have been perverted by propaganda, and were not really used in the first place (as spoke to above).

Googler:

Not really. By singling out only one of the ideological players in this game, he misses the cultural significance.

The OP refers to a specific person. To deal with a person, you must consider the context around them. I do not think singling people out is necessarily a bad thing, nor does it necessarily eliminate context. If you’re going to make the argument this is the case, please support yourself.

This is another misleading statement. Many people use those terms in their proper context, and they have a significance that that goes beyond their use by creationists, if any.

Many people, but few scientists, as illustrated above. They are also often the subject of highly misleading use.

The original misleading statement by Lenny was:

“Darwinism”, of course, is simply the latest of the ID code words for “atheism” — along with “materialist”, and “philosophical naturalist”.

I don’t think that is terribly misleading at all. That is how ID uses the word. What, precisely, is misleading about Lenny calling a spade a spade? In the context of ID, he is stating that the word is used to mean atheist. This is rather well-defined at this point. You accused people of missing context before, but you ignore the context of Lenny’s statement, which seems rather odd.

So they really aren’t “code words” at all, unless they are being misused. To dismiss them as such may be convenient propaganda, but it completely misses the point.

The whole point is that they are code words precisely because they are being misused. Their use by a creationist is, at this point, a necessary and sufficient condition to believe the word is being misused to apply to atheism, and thus irrelevant in a scientific context, along with highly misleading. This seems crystal clear to me, again.

Allow me to be 100% simplistic and blunt, however:

1) “Darwinism/Darwinist” are used to represent atheism and philosophical exclusive naturalism by the ID crowd.
2) They also attempt to use these terms to refer to anyone who believes in evolution.
3) Not everyone who believes in evolution is an atheist or a philosophical exclusive naturalist.
4) Therefore, the attempts by ID proponents to use these terms in this manner is both highly misleading and false, either through ignorance or deliberate deceit.

Hopefully that is clear.

Comment #82495

Posted by BWE on February 27, 2006 2:46 PM (e)

“Inconcievable”. That was the word that Vezzini kept using when Inigo said “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Vezzini was referring to the remote possibility that they were being followed and then chased by the Dread Pirate Roberts (Wesley). I was suddenly struck with the uncanny similarity between Vezzini and Prince Humperdink and Dave Scott and Dembski.
Think about it for a minute.

DS=Vezzini
Dembski=Humperdink.

Dover was the iocaine challenge but DS wasn’t the one who drank it, Behe was.

Think about it.

Vezzini still at large,still thinking he is the smartest man alive. Inigo in the palace. Humperdink not willing to quit but still loathe to put himself in real harm’s way…

Or think of DS as Count Rugen. Think of Uncommon descent as the room under the tree.

Comment #82511

Posted by BWE on February 27, 2006 3:55 PM (e)

Ok. Aren’t you all simply astounded at the similarity?

Comment #82513

Posted by Chip Poirot on February 27, 2006 3:59 PM (e)

AD,

You are drawing too sharp a dichotomy. In order to quantify, observe and attempt to falsify, you must have philosophy. Your measurement terms and observations are defined by the theory. You seem to be suggesting a naive empiricism-just go out observe, measure, quantify-and that’s all that science needs.

I see science and philosophy in a continuum. One rests on the other. There is science as in what the natural and physical sciences do. There is science as in the overarching approach to knowledge. Both need each other.

Comment #82537

Posted by AD on February 27, 2006 5:47 PM (e)

Chip,

I don’t suggest the dichotomy is actual; obviously, everything we do as human beings is integrated in some manner, or we’d not have people making religious arguments about science. Nor, in fact, would I have discussed football with my car mechanic this morning. Blurring of distinction occurs in almost all cases.

To address your quote directly, however:

You are drawing too sharp a dichotomy. In order to quantify, observe and attempt to falsify, you must have philosophy. Your measurement terms and observations are defined by the theory. You seem to be suggesting a naive empiricism-just go out observe, measure, quantify-and that’s all that science needs.

In any circumstance where science is going to be viable, what you need is a method that is accepted by multiple philosophical lines of thought, and (excluding extreme views that preclude useful observation - denial of viability of any perceptions, or those who believe appeal to supernatural cause is an ultimate answer for practical problems) a consensus among most of those who perform science that the method you are using is as neutral and objective as humanly possible. I am not saying this process is fixed permanently in stone as perfectly objective, but there would be a large difference between counting all dogs that you see and counting only the brown dogs you see in order to determine how many brown dogs exist out of all dogs…

Some methods are clearly non-objective. I would welcome reasonable discussion as to the critical methods used by science, but one also needs a flat out denial of all methods which are clearly uncritical. To me, that is the “dichotomy”. You have to, at some point, make a real world level judgment about the objectivity of any given approach, and the non-objective ones must be thrown out. Without that, you’d never get a damn thing done. It’s not philosophically perfect, but the decision must necessarily be made to proceed. We can quibble about where the line should be drawn in particular borderline cases (string theory?), but when something blatantly fails to qualify(ID), you chuck it and move on. I do not support debate ad naseum.

I see science and philosophy in a continuum. One rests on the other. There is science as in what the natural and physical sciences do. There is science as in the overarching approach to knowledge. Both need each other.

This I disagree with. There is a continuum to a point, but I think of the spectrum like this:

Science
Maybe Science but Maybe Philosophy
Philosophy

Perhaps we cannot 100% label everything, but there are things I can be certain enough to know beyond a reasonable doubt are science, and likewise with philosophy. More so, to clarify a definition, I’m regarding philosophy as making metaphysical and untestable claims, and science as making physical and testable claims. We can argue about what those claims can be and how they are made, but again, there is already a process in place for science that makes it fairly easy to exclude certain kinds of statements. Statements which endure must often survive withering critiques from a variety of sources, ensuring the best reasonable objectivity.

In very plain language - there are some grey areas at the edge of any discipline (other than, perhaps, formal logic and theoretical mathematics) in terms of what, precisely it “is” that one is doing. However, the vast majority of a discipline is well-defined and well-refined by time in any scientific field, and is highly objective because it has been tested by individuals with multiple viewpoints and observational philosophies and has been held as not-yet-falsified.

Evolution falls in that bucket. ID does not, as it is in principle untestable, makes no claims about future observations, and does not provide a method for falsification. It fails blatantly in any reasonable test for scientific credibility.

Comment #82538

Posted by AD on February 27, 2006 5:53 PM (e)

Edit: Pardon multiple spelling errors. I purchased a new keyboard and have lost my ability to type.

Comment #82541

Posted by FL on February 27, 2006 6:05 PM (e)

Regarding Mayr, it is true that you can use Mayr to argue for people needing to define Darwinism when they use the term(although I still don’t see anybody trying to contact the evolutionists at Cornell University or evolutionist Dr. Michael Ruse on this point, so the sidewalk remains unswept.).

However, consider this: if you go to Mayr’s SciAm article….

http://www.biologie.uni-hamburg.de/b-online/e36_…

….Mayr doesn’t really talk about Darwinism’s shifting meanings, but instead talks about what Darwinism means ~period~.

There is NO meaning of Darwinism, for example, that does NOT “reject supernatural phenomena and causations”, is there?

And in particular, there is NO meaning of Darwinism, that does NOT flat-out reject teleology, is there?

And honestly, which of you evolutionists would dare to disagree with Mayr’s stated end-result of Darwinism?

“For theologians and philosophers alike, Man was a creature above and apart from other living beings….The application of the theory of common descent to Man deprived man of his former unique position.”

********

What does all that lead up to? Simply this:

Even if an evolutionist or non-evolutionist uses the term “Darwinism” without defining it, there ARE some clear non-negotiable tenets (non-negotiable because they are presented as science) that Darwinism is all about, and which you folks honestly don’t deny (and if you ever did, publicly, we’d know about it with all the resultant bad ink and dissension.)

In other words, while this gig of don’t-call-me-a-Darwinist-even-though-I-subscribe-to-Darwinism’s-nonnegotiable-tenets is understandable from a pro-evolution PR perspective, it’s also, well….kind of a waste of time.

As long as you buy into or even tacitly go along with what Slate.com editor Jacob Weisberg pointed out is “the prevailing scientific view” (evolution as an unguided undirected process, or “a completely mindless process” in Futuyma’s textbook), you are in fact a Darwinist.

Judging from Mayr’s and Hane’s writings, there are many flavors, many meanings, of Darwinism that you may choose to accept or reject as a description of your personal POV. Hence the helpfulness of “defining” things.
But behind those flavors or meanings, are the non-negotiables of Darwinism, described so clearly by Mayr. And that part is what makes you a Darwinist despite your chosen flavor.

Perhaps this is why you folks honestly don’t mind (and never complain) when evolutionists use the term “Darwinist” (say, Cornell U. and Dr. Ruse) without defining it.
You already know that the things Mayr said Darwinism is specifically about in SciAm (no teleology for example), are the things you yourself agree with, because if you don’t, you are bucking “the prevailing scientific viewa” and borrowing trouble.

Hence you only jump on ID’ers and not your fellow evolutionists on this issue of using the term Darwinism.
Hmmmm, to say the least.

FL

Comment #82545

Posted by BWE on February 27, 2006 6:27 PM (e)

FL:

Dude, Darwin’s theory predicts that species evolve from other species through natural selection. A bunch af refinement has gone on sing then including punctuated equilibrium, sexual selection, genetics etc. but what the hell are you babbling about?

I picked a quote from your link:

The truly outstanding achievement of the principle of natural selection is that it makes unnecessary the invocation of “final causes” - that is, any teleological forces leading to a particular end. In fact, nothing is predetermined. Furthermore, the objective of selection even may change from one generation to the next, as environmental circumstances vary.

That is a bit of an overstatement I might say. WHy do you need to force this through such a small hole?

“There is NO meaning of Darwinism, for example, that does NOT “reject supernatural phenomena and causations”, is there?”

Darwinism, I would assume could not mean more, nor for that matter less, than an understanding and employing the knowledge of the role of natural selection in speciation.

“And in particular, there is NO meaning of Darwinism, that does NOT flat-out reject teleology, is there?”

See above.

“And honestly, which of you evolutionists would dare to disagree with Mayr’s stated end-result of Darwinism?”

Dude, would you get back to the point. See my post above and comment on the striking similarities between the freakin movie and real life?

Jeeze. I know who you are.

Comment #82551

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on February 27, 2006 6:53 PM (e)

PRincess bride is my all time favorite movie.

It’s in my top five, too.

“The Dread Pirate Roberts is here for your sooouuullll”.

:>

Comment #82553

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on February 27, 2006 6:56 PM (e)

There is NO meaning of Darwinism, for example, that does NOT “reject supernatural phenomena and causations”, is there?

Um, I thought ID was supposed to be science and not religious. So what is this “supernatural phenomena” thingie that you are now dragging into it?

Thanks, FL, for once agian making it so crushingly clear to everyone that (1) ID is nothing but religious apologetics, (2) IDers are just lying to us when they claim it’s not, and (3) Judge Jones was perfectly correct when he ruled that it is.

Comment #82563

Posted by BWE on February 27, 2006 7:19 PM (e)

FL, (jeff)
You sound like you’re trying to prove something. What is it?

Comment #82569

Posted by Chip Poirot on February 27, 2006 7:44 PM (e)

AD

I do not think we are very far apart on this. At most we have a difference of emphasis. I would accept for example your tri-partite division of Science, maybe science, Definitely not science as valid as a general description.

The point i am making that I think you are missing is that the practice of science rests on some principles that we would probably not classify as pure science. For example, Elliott Sober has coined the “no evil demons” axiom. Now Sober justifies his no evil demons axiom by reference to a likelihood proposition. All well and good. But ultimately, we are getting into an infinite regress. Somewhere along the line in order to do science you do have to have an implicit or explict ontology and epistemology. Now I think that ontologies and epistemologies are ultimately testable by implication, even if they are not directly and immediately testable.

In my view, ID fails as science, not because of its ontology per se, but because it just doesn’t do the heavy lifting that it takes to actually do science.

So to my way of thinking one can say ID is “not science” because 1. It disregards the ontological and epistemological rules which have come to define our shared cultural understandings of science broadly construed in the late 20th century and 2. It does not engage in any effort to construct testable hypotheses and subject those hypotheses to tests.

So all ID has is a few half baked ideas about teleology, saltationism and orthogenesis. Each of these ideas has been roundly rejected in the past for a reason. Its’ not unscientific to attempt to revise dead research programs. But it is unscientific to attempt to do so without any real evidence for doing so.

But they are partially correct. There is a philosophical debate about “naturalism” or “materialism” vs. “supernaturalism”. Now, personally, I don’t think that high school science classes should get bogged down in that debate. I do deem it worthy for a cultural anthropology or philosophy class, or for that matter, a philosophy of science class.

Comment #82570

Posted by Dan on February 27, 2006 7:47 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #82575

Posted by Moses on February 27, 2006 8:05 PM (e)

Comment #82511

Posted by BWE on February 27, 2006 03:55 PM (e)

Ok. Aren’t you all simply astounded at the similarity?

That was a clever and humorous analogy.

Comment #82590

Posted by BWE on February 27, 2006 9:01 PM (e)

That was a clever and humorous analogy.

Damn straight.

Comment #82597

Posted by FL on February 27, 2006 9:32 PM (e)

Quick note:

Um, I thought ID was supposed to be science and not religious. So what is this “supernatural phenomena” thingie that you are now dragging into it?

Nope, I didn’t drag anything in. Ernst Mayr did.

My sincere question “There is NO meaning of Darwinism, for example, that does NOT “reject supernatural phenomena and causations, is there?” derives ~directly~ from your evolutionist comrade Ernst Mayr’s statement about Darwinism in the pages of Scientific American.

The portion in quotation marks is Mayr’s, not mine: after all, Mayr flat-out stated that “Darwinism rejects all supernatural phenomena and causations.”

All of ‘em. As in, no exceptions whatsoever. Including the origination of the first humans, btw.

In fact, Rev. Lenny, isn’t this ~your~ position as well? Mmm?

FL

Comment #82603

Posted by FL on February 27, 2006 10:08 PM (e)

You sound like you’re trying to prove something. What is it?

Specifically, a couple of things, BWE.

(1) –That you guys are practicing a double standard, (it’s called ‘hypocrisy’), trying to jump on ID advocates for using the term “Darwinism” without defining the term, while not saying one peep of public criticism towards your fellow evolutionists who do the same thing (and yes there’s specific very recent examples on the table, Cornell University and Dr. Michael Ruse’s website.)

(2) –That if I choose to call you a Darwinist, BWE, (with or without “defining” the term), I have NOT placed an inaccurate label on you.

Well, why not? Because even though there are “numerous meanings” to the term Darwinism (Mayr), any flavor of which you may personally choose to identify or not-identify with, the fact remains that there exist several non-negotiable tenets of Darwinism no matter what flavor you choose or don’t choose.

Those tenets are described uncompromisingly by Mayr in his SciAm article, and they are echoed by Futuyma (“a completely mindless process” with “no purpose” “no conscious forethought” and “no goal”) in his evolutionary biology textbook.
And this is “the prevailing scientific view”, (Jacob Weisberg), and that’s no small grain to go against.

So, BWE, if you call me Jeff Whassisname, you are inaccurate. In a previous thread, I’ve already identified both my hometown and home-church, and if you contact Jeff for HIS hometown and HIS home-church, you’ll find they don’t match with mine.

On the other hand, if I call ~you~ a Darwinist without defining the term, I am yet speaking accurately about you.

For while you may choose to identify with any or no particular meaning/flavor of Darwinism, yet you can honestly be counted on, NOT to publicly deny those Non-Negotiables of Darwinism given by Mayr and Futuyma and others.

Even now, you’ve offered no disagreement to any of their quoted non-negotiables. You simply go along to get along. (Or, far more likely, you simply agree with ‘em anyway.)

Therefore, at the end of the day, that’s what makes ~you~ a Darwinist, no defining necessary.

********

That’s what I have attempted to prove, I suppose.

FL

Comment #82605

Posted by Mel on February 27, 2006 10:18 PM (e)

Copernicanism

After being shocked by the CAI link on “Copernicanism” from yesterday, I looked a little further.

I wouldn’t have believed this unless I’d seen it with my own computer! I’ve already booked a “Flood Geology” Web site so I guess the next stop is to see if the “flat earthers” are still around.

From Talk.Origins:
Forget about the evils of Darwinism.
Some creationists say the initial blame lies with the evils of Copernicanism.”

From fixedearth.com:
The Bible Denys Copernicanism

All of the evidence that is required to expose and destroy the counterfeit Copernican Model of a rotating and orbiting Earth–and the entire evolutionary paradigm resting upon that counterfeit–is set out in
scores of links on this web page.”

This probably has no chance of getting traction. But, if one
were ask people (geocentric or heliocentric?), I wonder how often one would get the right answer?

Adding this junk to the “culture of misery” the religionists want to create, we have a real nightmare in this country. How long will it be before we hear “The Kingdom of God” as the goal of a presidential campaign?

Comment #82608

Posted by Steviepinhead on February 27, 2006 10:47 PM (e)

I don’t have to wait for Lenny.

I know of no evidence whatsoever supporting the notion (myth? fable?) that a supernatural force of any kind was required to produce the “first humans.” All indications are that the “first humans” were born of their parents, like all other humans and all other sexually-reproducing multi-cellular living things.

That there’s no evidence for a supernatural intervention (care to explain, FL, how you would propose that we would even begin to go about obtaining such evidence, using the same scientific method we use to predict the weather, launch satellites, and harness nuclear energy?) does not, of course, mean that it didn’t happen. But I’m unlikely to believe that until I’m shown the evidence.

Unlike FL, who apparently believes the “evidence” of the way-later-recorded oral traditions of a tribe of migrant herders, which traditions incorporate a melange of stories told by even earlier peoples (who nonetheless drew different conclusions about which gods were responsible for cranking the plot machinery), none of which are supported by any particular evidence.

Of course, oral traditions can sometimes perpetuate–in highly schematized and personified form–real information about significant past natural events, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and floods, and of real historical events and personages. Such is suspected to be the case with the myths of certain Northwest Coast native peoples regarding the conflicts of Thunderbird and Whale: these may “record” subduction quakes and the resultant tsunamis. Presumably, however, FL will join the rest of us in doubting that they “record” the actual existence of the demiurges Thunderbird and Whale.

Essentially similar tales with similar plots are widespread all over the world. This may tell us something about the origin and spread of modern humans, or something about the pre-scientific mode of explaining natural and cultural phenomena, but it does not seem likely that it tells us a whole lot about the existence and motivations of a host (or a few, or one) of mighty invisible sky-beings.

FL ought, of course, to apply this same skepticism and critical faculty to the notion that the migrant herder tales from the Midddle East vouchsafe the existence of the supernatural beings to which they attribute the origin of a great flood, etc. But he won’t–some tribal myths are simply entitled, without any satisfactory explanation, to much more credence than others…

Why put “first humans” in quotes? Because the “first humans” almost certainly resembled their parents, the “last ape-men,” in almost every respect–just as you greatly resemble and differ slightly from your own parents and children, such that drawing some kind of hard and fast line between the generations, and assigning one generation to our most recent proto-human ancestors and another to their fully-human offspring, is almost certainly impossible–the kind of phony dichotomy that makes for dramatic stories, but poor science.

Does this set of evidence-based understandings make me an “atheist,” a “materialist,” or any other -ist? Does FL’s set of evidence-free beliefs make him a “creationist,” a “Luddite,” a “fundamentalist”? Do applying these kinds of labels to each other usefully sort us into criminals and good guys, abusers and nurturers, worthy and unworthy members of our species?

In most cases, no. Most of the time, FL probably teaches a lot of good lessons using his bag of ancient tales and metaphors, while doing relatively little harm. I hope I mostly pass along good information, and cause relatively little harm, as I encourage others to use their senses and critical faculties to evaluate the evidence that explicates our reality.

Neither support for evolution nor belief in an interventionist creator can reliably sort us into good or bad people, or good and bad parents, or even–on many issues–good or bad citizens. But the capacity to critically evaluate the evidence–or to ignore and obfuscate it–does threaten to divide us into opposing “cultural” camps of the reality-based and the superstition-driven.

FL evidently wants us to declare sides in a “tribal” culture war. Even though I may be just as good a citizen, neighbor, parent, and friend as he, he apparently thinks, at some not-too-deeply buried level of things, that I’m “evil” because I don’t go to the same church he does. If I don’t change my mind, bad things will, and ought, to happen to me, either here or in the happy hunting grounds…

I, on the other hand, don’t have any particular problem with his personal belief system, so long as he doesn’t try to impose it upon me, my children, my government, or my school system. Can FL say the same, and back his claims with evidence of the same kind and quality that allows us to predict weather (without idolizing Thunderbird or Thor?) or launch satellites (without invoking Mercury or Hephaestus?) or harness nuclear energy (without propitiating Zeus or Jehovah?).

I don’t think so. But time will tell. In the meantime, I find FL’s intense interest in getting us to “confess” the basis for our personal thought/belief systems deeply troubling. Keeping tabs in this way leads to what good end, FL, here or in the afterlife? Mind coughing up your underlying motivations there, good buddy? Purely for purposes of peaceful discussion and intellectual cameraderie?

Comment #82622

Posted by Steve Reuland on February 28, 2006 2:00 AM (e)

FL wrote:

There is NO meaning of Darwinism, for example, that does NOT “reject supernatural phenomena and causations”, is there?

There aren’t any scientific theories that don’t reject supernatural phenomena and causations.

Comment #82624

Posted by Steve Reuland on February 28, 2006 2:24 AM (e)

FL wrote:

(1) —That you guys are practicing a double standard, (it’s called ‘hypocrisy’), trying to jump on ID advocates for using the term “Darwinism” without defining the term, while not saying one peep of public criticism towards your fellow evolutionists who do the same thing (and yes there’s specific very recent examples on the table, Cornell University and Dr. Michael Ruse’s website.)

FL, before actually having a point here, you’d have to establish two things:

1) That use of the term “Darwinism” was actually commonplace among evolutionists. You’ve provided a handful of anecdotes. This doesn’t make your case, as it was already noted by me that the term appears not only among popularizers, but even in the technical literature. My point was not that it’s never used, but that it’s very uncommon. Those exceptions you’ve found after diligent searching are the exceptions that prove the rule.

2) That the pro-evolution people who use the term “Darwinism” don’t define it. Again, the specific examples you’ve given show the opposite. Mayr and Margulis did define the term. Mayr actually defined it five ways!

In the end, it’s silly to claim that the use/abuse of the term among evolutionists is anywhere near that of the IDists. I went to a talk by Ruse a few weeks ago, and in an hour long presentation, he maybe used the word “darwinian” twice. People who attend ID presentations (I’ve been spared from that thus far) say that the word crops up dozens of times, and in fact it’s almost all they talk about. You can read their articles on the web and see the same thing.

Comment #82630

Posted by Stuart Weinstein on February 28, 2006 3:00 AM (e)

Steve writes
“LOL! No, that’s the character Vizzini from the movie The Princess Bride. After he keeps shouting “inconceivable!” to things that actually happen (and are thus quite clearly conceivable), Inigo Montoya remarks, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

I need to get out more.

Comment #82649

Posted by Chip Poirot on February 28, 2006 7:26 AM (e)

Steve,

While disagreeing with the ID’ists on this page over many issues, I think that in this case some of them have raised a valid point. In all frankness my view is that you and Dark Syde both have in this case raised a red herring-or probably several red herrings.

The definition (according to Dark Syde’s diary) that was given to him by the ID’ist of Darwinist was evolution by random genetic mutation and natural selection. That definition while short, is essentially accurate. It would have been more accurate on the basis of that definition to say “neo-Darwinist” since Darwinism proper did not specify the mechanism of inheritance.

Again, simply because people don’t use a term in the technical literature does not mean the term is invalid. People do use the basic principles and concepts. People do constantly use terms like gene flow, mutation, fitness, natural selection. These of course are the basic concepts of the Neo-Darwinian research tradition.

I think it is fair to challenge the ID’ists to be specific when they throw terms around. But when it comes down to it, whether one agrees with them or not, the term “Darwinian” or “Neo-Darwinian” does indeed describe a general approach to biology. In fact, it is after Darwin that there are significant changes in how biology is practiced and viewed. Prior to Darwin teleological and design explanations were part of science. Post-Darwin, they were not. Granted, the change didn’t happen overnight, but Darwin did inaugarate a change in how we think about the world. Some would say (and I would include myself) that this was a “Darwinian Revolution”. Thus it is not unfair to equate Darwinism, in the broadest sense of the word, with an overall philosophical approach to science.

The ID’ists are attacking this revolution. I disagree with them and I think they have not offered any good reasons to abandon. Just because people don’t use the term in all their technical writings means absolutely nothing when it comes right down to it.

If you want to make a hyper-empiricist case for science, make it. If you want to argue that science functions without philosophy of any sort or kind, make that argument. Thus far, I haven’t seen much in the way of argumentation at all.

Comment #82656

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on February 28, 2006 7:59 AM (e)

In fact, Rev. Lenny, isn’t this ~your~ position as well? Mmm?

No, FL. It’s not. (shrug)

But thanks for demonstrating once again that (1) ID is nothing but religious apologetics, (2) IDers are just lying to us when they claim it’s not, and (3) Judge Jones was entirely correct when he ruled that it is.

Comment #82658

Posted by AD on February 28, 2006 8:21 AM (e)

The definition (according to Dark Syde’s diary) that was given to him by the ID’ist of Darwinist was evolution by random genetic mutation and natural selection. That definition while short, is essentially accurate. It would have been more accurate on the basis of that definition to say “neo-Darwinist” since Darwinism proper did not specify the mechanism of inheritance.

The problem is that you are taking what they said at face value.

“Trust but verify.”

To paraphrase Reagan. If you look at how they actually use the word, you will find that the definition espoused in the article is, oddly enough, not anywhere even remotely close to what they really use the word for on a very common basis. That’s the bone I have to pick with it. It would be foolish to believe most members of the ID movement to be truthful.

Just look at the opinion from Dover if you don’t buy that.

Comment #82665

Posted by Chip Poirot on February 28, 2006 8:49 AM (e)

AD,

If you go to Daily Kos and read Dark Syde’s original article, you will see that I am quoting Dark Syde directly. Also, Steve repeats this definition.

Now, I agree with both Dark Syde and Steve that ID’ists have a tendency to throw the term around and use it carelessly. Furthermore, I agree they tend to conflate several philosophical principles into one.

My disagreement is not over criticizing ID’ists for misusing and abusing the term. The way both Steve and Dark Syde have stated their views leads me to believe that they are denying the importance and significance of the term altogether. For reasons I have stated above, and thus will not repeat here, I think that terms like “Darwinian”, “Neo-Darwinian”, “Mendelian” are very useful terms. Amd each of these terms does have an ontological underpinning. Incidentally, if you back and read Dark Syde’s original diary, you might see why in my interpreation of Dark Syde is at best skirting the issue of ontology and other important philosophical issues.

Just as it does not pay to use the term “Darwinian” carelessly, it does not pay to be careless about basic principles of philosophy.

Now, if Dark Syde and Steve want to clarify their position and state that they agree that there is indeed a research tradition (paradigm, research program, etc.) that can usefully be called Neo-Darwinian, and will admit that research traditions in science have ontological, epistemological as well as conceptual and observation statements, I’ll shut up on this issue. If they will admit that the term “Darwinian” has extreme importance in the history of science, I’ll shut up.

So far all I see is people refusing to address this issue and offering naive empiricist dogmas to justify a position.

I’m reminded of Keynes’ dictum that madmen authority who claim to be immune from the influence of economists, are often distilling the wisdom of some defunct economist. Ditto for scientists who claim to be immune from the influence of philosophy. They also tend to be distilling the wisdom of some defunct philosopher. In this case my suspicion is that it is an ill considered and poorly understand version and conflation of Popper and the logical positivists. Perhaps its Pemple and Hopper they are influenced by?

Comment #82668

Posted by wad of id on February 28, 2006 9:09 AM (e)

(2) —That if I choose to call you a Darwinist, BWE, (with or without “defining” the term), I have NOT placed an inaccurate label on you.

False. And FL conveniently ignores the main point… context matters. If FL were writing about Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and BWE, while using the terms “Darwinist”, that would be placing an inaccurate label… precisely because it is framing the issue by misappropriating a word.

Well, why not? Because even though there are “numerous meanings” to the term Darwinism (Mayr), any flavor of which you may personally choose to identify or not-identify with, the fact remains that there exist several non-negotiable tenets of Darwinism no matter what flavor you choose or don’t choose.

Those tenets are described uncompromisingly by Mayr in his SciAm article, and they are echoed by Futuyma (“a completely mindless process” with “no purpose” “no conscious forethought” and “no goal”) in his evolutionary biology textbook.

This is a great example of the problem of teleological double-speak. Futuyama’s attribution to the processes of natural evolution are understood to describe exactly those natural processes… just as gravity is a “completely mindless process” with “no purpose” “no conscious forethought” and “no goal”. Those attributions do not (and indeed cannot) preclude a higher-order process (i.e. a supernatural construct) that may employ evolution teleologically.

Case in point: FL’s posts are properly attributed as “completely mindless”, “purposeless” and “lacking in foresight”… sort of like what people usually call doodling on paper. But would an IDist concede and say that FL’s doodles are not “Designed?” Or say, we attribute the truthfulness of FL’s writings to be like the outcome of flipping a coin. Those coin-flipping outcomes are usually understood well in a-teleological terms. But will the IDist concede that the coin-flipper is not Designing the toss?

There is nothing inconsistent here for the Darwinist. That it is inconvenient and problematic for the teleologist is his damn problem.

Comment #82686

Posted by George on February 28, 2006 11:18 AM (e)

Can we get back to the really important stuff here?

Did the Shrieking Eels evolve or were they designed?

Think of Uncommon descent as the room under the tree.

Yes. Every time I go there, a little of my soul is pumped away…

Comment #82687

Posted by AD on February 28, 2006 11:18 AM (e)

Chip,

I think you mistake what my point is. I don’t necessarily agree with the article either. If you step back from the immediate context here and take a look at the overall debate, I think you will find a few things:

1) The majority of non-philospher, non-scientists could not give you a consistent definition of “Darwinist” or “Darwinian”. (Leaving aside the issue that you wouldn’t get a consistent one from philosophers or scientists either)

2) The term is used to mean a variety of things by ID supporters which do not conform to the definitions given in the article above.

3) The term is virtually unused in comparison to much more accurate descriptions in scientific literature. (again, reference some of the things stated above)

I don’t deny the term has meaning and value - but I believe the meaning and value are either as past relics of science that have been left behind in favor of newer theory and definitions, or that the meaning is now turned into philosophical statements.

However, given that we have a majority of people uninformed or misinformed about the terms, and a lack of precise scientific meaning for them, I think it is foolish to use the terms in any scientific context. That is not to rob them of meaning, but it is to say they lack the necessary precision and neutrality to be valuable in scientific literature, *especially* when communicating with non-scientists. Knock yourself out using them in philosophy, but I’d no more use them to describe science than I would to describe baseball.

In the same way I would not refer to the K-3,3,1,1 structure as “that knot thingy” in a formal mathematical paper, I would be very hesitant to throw around terms like “Darwinist” in a scientific paper. They have meanings which are clearly non-scientific while lacking relevant precise scientific meaning. In other words, I think they are inexorably wrapped up in non-specific philosophical ideals at this point, which is fine. That provides them a meaning.

It’s just not one appropriate for use in a solid scientific context.

Now, if Dark Syde and Steve want to clarify their position and state that they agree that there is indeed a research tradition (paradigm, research program, etc.) that can usefully be called Neo-Darwinian, and will admit that research traditions in science have ontological, epistemological as well as conceptual and observation statements, I’ll shut up on this issue. If they will admit that the term “Darwinian” has extreme importance in the history of science, I’ll shut up.

To address this directly, my point is that there is, in fact, absolutely no such thing in terms of a research program. “Darwinian” is valuable in terms of both long past historical scientific precedent and a philosophical movement often associated with some (but hardly all) scientists, I agree. That’s incontrovertably true, so long as you make sure not to overstate the point. There is no widespread research program/tradition/paradigm which is scientific that could be called “Neo-Darwinian”, however.

There are definitely philosophical implications to any scientific research, but I think you would be much more accurate to refer to the current spate of biological research regarding evolution as “modern evolutionary research” or something similar. There are many scientists who believe in natural apparent randomeness yet unnatural (and undetectable) supernatural guidance in the evolutionary process. These scientists would object strongly to the connotations that come with “Neo-Darwinian” and are viable research scientists working in the field. Ultimately, even if some scientists draw philosophical conclusions about science from their work, that’s not science. It’s just a scientist being an armchair philosophr. Obviously, not all of them do, and of the ones that do, they often highly disagree (witness both atheist and theist scientists referencing the same evolutionary evidence to suppor their views).

Again, I think the problem is that you are creating a false conformity here - there are many scientists with non-uniform views all working in the same field to have a very specific uniform philosophical bent. To type an entire massive body of research as anything narrowly specific in terms of epistemological and ontological details is blatantly impossible. You have a variety of people with different views and different agendas regarding this all participating in the same field, which necessarily produces a diversity of viewpoints and approaches.

Comment #82696

Posted by BWE on February 28, 2006 11:31 AM (e)

FL,

That you guys are practicing a double standard, (it’s called ‘hypocrisy’), trying to jump on ID advocates for using the term “Darwinism” without defining the term, while not saying one peep of public criticism towards your fellow evolutionists who do the same thing (and yes there’s specific very recent examples on the table, Cornell University and Dr. Michael Ruse’s website.)

I think the point is context. If you could substitute the words “evil minions of the dark lord” without changing the meaning of the text, then is is probably not a very useful word in the interests of accuracy.

That if I choose to call you a Darwinist, BWE, (with or without “defining” the term), I have NOT placed an inaccurate label on you.

Unless you could replace the word with “evil minion of the dark lord” and not change the meaning of the sentence.

So, BWE, if you call me Jeff Whassisname, you are inaccurate. In a previous thread, I’ve already identified both my hometown and home-church, and if you contact Jeff for HIS hometown and HIS home-church, you’ll find they don’t match with mine.

I apologize quite thoroughly for the unnecessary and willfully untrue ad hominem attack. I was just so puzzled over the return of that guy that I had to use it in a link somewhere. It was innappropriate and offensive and I retract my link and apologize for the outburst.

Chip Said:

So far all I see is people refusing to address this issue and offering naive empiricist dogmas to justify a position.

I said

Darwinism, I would assume could not mean more, nor for that matter less, than an understanding and employing the knowledge of the role of natural selection in speciation.

Where is the dogma? (Out chasing the karma)

Comment #82699

Posted by Chip Poirot on February 28, 2006 11:37 AM (e)

AD,

Since I’ve addressed some of these points in previous posts I’ll confine myself to summarizing.

I don’t think that any one has ever claimed that all researchers in a field sit down and consciously think about the research program. Nor do they try (for the most part) to exhibit doctrinal conformity. For most people a research program is probably not even consciously thought of. And I think this becomes increasingly true as the research program becomes more dominant and more accepted and more successful. Neo-Darwinism has been tremendously successful and therefore very few people sit down and feel a need to consciously justify it or examine it (save for philosophers of biology). But this does not mean that it does not exist or exert a real force on scientific thinking and practice.

If you go back and look at Steve’s list of terms that do show up you will see that they all refer to core concepts of Neo-Darwinism. Terms like selection, fitness, genetic mutation, gene flow are all central concepts. An article that purported to demonstrate Lamarckian inheritance would face an enormously high burden of proof if submitted to the vast majority of journals-and it should! In contrast, no one spends a lot of time trying to prove the Central Dogma of modern genetics. But everybody uses it and accepts it as a valid principle. The Central Dogma is of course a core concept in modern evolutionary thought-which I will conveniently call “Neo-Darwinian”.

I’m getting frustrated because I have made these points before and now have the sense that none of my points have been addressed.

Oh well. If people want to continue to present an image of science that derives from Pemple and Hopper, who am I to stop them?

Comment #82701

Posted by Steve Reuland on February 28, 2006 11:48 AM (e)

Chip Poirot wrote:

The definition (according to Dark Syde’s diary) that was given to him by the ID’ist of Darwinist was evolution by random genetic mutation and natural selection. That definition while short, is essentially accurate.

That was not the definition Witt gave. Read it again more carefully. The definition he gave is something almost no biologist would agree with. And even then he went on to use the term in a completely different way just a little bit later.

As FL was kind enough to show us, Ernst Mayr has written that there are 5 different things that “darwinist” can mean. So it’s not so simple as saying that evolution via natural selection fits the definition. It does fit the definition, but at times the word is meant to differentiate evolution from non-evolution, or gradual evolution from saltationism, and so forth. A clever and unscrupulous speaker can thus make his view seem far more moderate than it really is (or the view of his opponents far more radical) by playing fast and loose with the definition.

It would have been more accurate on the basis of that definition to say “neo-Darwinist” since Darwinism proper did not specify the mechanism of inheritance.

It would have been more accurate, in the sense of communicating what Witt truly meant, had he simply said “evolution” and not used the D-word at all.

Again, simply because people don’t use a term in the technical literature does not mean the term is invalid.

I never said it was invalid.

The ID’ists are attacking this revolution.

It’s never quite clear just what it is they’re attacking. At the base of it all, they’re practicing apologetics: science has found God, etc. But the ID movement mostly attacks evolution itself, since they cannot stand the idea that man is an ape. Different ID advocates hate different parts of evolution, so they use the term “Darwinist” to obscure their internal disagreements and to make it seem as if their critique of evolution is far more limited than it really is.

If you want to make a hyper-empiricist case for science, make it. If you want to argue that science functions without philosophy of any sort or kind, make that argument.

Why would I want to make either argument? The point I was making was fairly limited.

The way both Steve and Dark Syde have stated their views leads me to believe that they are denying the importance and significance of the term altogether.

Historically and conceptually speaking, I think the term is indeed important and significant. But in the context of contemporary biological research, it can be dispensed with (as seen by the fact that it has been). And in the context of the evolution-ID debate, it is mostly used by the ID side to mislead people about the nature of the debate.

Now, if Dark Syde and Steve want to clarify their position and state that they agree that there is indeed a research tradition (paradigm, research program, etc.) that can usefully be called Neo-Darwinian, and will admit that research traditions in science have ontological, epistemological as well as conceptual and observation statements, I’ll shut up on this issue. If they will admit that the term “Darwinian” has extreme importance in the history of science, I’ll shut up.

These were things that I never disagreed with to begin with. Although I would quibble with the adjective “extreme”, I’d agree that that the term Darwinian has been important in the history of science. Unfortunately, it has been so overused (even before the IDists came along) that it has come to mean a lot of different things, and is now almost entirely irrelevant in contemporary research. This is in spite of the fact that the individual concepts it can represent (selection and mutation, incremental change, common descent, etc.) are more important than ever.

Comment #82702

Posted by AC on February 28, 2006 11:54 AM (e)

FL wrote:

(2) —That if I choose to call you a Darwinist, BWE, (with or without “defining” the term), I have NOT placed an inaccurate label on you.

I think the problem is simply that the use of “Darwinist” by religiously-motivated anti-evolution people (such as you) is, virtually without exception, pejorative. You can do your song and dance about how you’re just saying what [insert venerable scientist] said, or how these scientists over here call themselves Darwinists, but your intent is no less transparent. Personally, I’d just like you to cut out all the BS.

Here, I’ll get you started: Science, in practice, rejects all supernatural phenomena and causations, because there is no evidence for them.

Comment #82707

Posted by k.e. on February 28, 2006 12:15 PM (e)

I’ve seen the world “Darwinism” to mean essentially BS detector in an editorial.
That would seem to me to be a term that has consistant meaning by both scientists and people like F.L. except of course F.L. is unwittingly showing his ignorance every time he uses it.

So F.L. who unknowingly projects ‘I don’t like “darwinism” because it detects my BS’ is correctly using the term.

Comment #82716

Posted by AD on February 28, 2006 1:00 PM (e)

I’m getting frustrated because I have made these points before and now have the sense that none of my points have been addressed.

Chip, I think you are failing to understand that there’s a wildly different basis in starting assumptions here. It’s not that I’m failing to address them – it is that I believe your points are not necessarily hitting the target you believe they are hitting. Allow me to use a slightly different context to explain:

Consider that you are an auto mechanic. If someone comes to you and wants to have a discussion about general practices of auto-mechanics, I’m sure that you could come up with something to talk about. However, if that person then took your general opinions and suddenly tried to cement them as a clear and cut definition of how all auto-mechanics worked, I think there would be major problems, and a lot of other mechanics who disagreed. This would then grow worse by a significant factor if someone else happened to be using very similar language to what you used, but twisting the terms to (falsely) demonstrate that all auto-mechanics were also pedophiles.

I get the sense that, when you discuss, this is what is happening. You are pegging things into precise holes that they do not belong in, nor are applicable to the thing in many cases, and doing so from a clearly non-representative sample of a field. For instance, the 5-definition scheme of Darwinism illustrates this point – you can’t say any one thing about it, because people use it to mean so many things! It’s like my saying “bat” without accepting some people think of the flying critter and some people think of the thing you swing in baseball (and there are possibly more definitions). The definition you are using is not incorrect, but it is notable to examine what other definitions exist and how they are used, often by those who are neither scientists nor philosophers. For instance, if “hindu” happened to be a term that referred to a certain genetic building block, even though it is perfectly viable scientifically, it would probably be highly problematic to hold onto this term in light of what it meant to the rest of the world in common use.

Neo-Darwinism has been tremendously successful and therefore very few people sit down and feel a need to consciously justify it or examine it (save for philosophers of biology). But this does not mean that it does not exist or exert a real force on scientific thinking and practice.

First, allow me to pull your earlier definition of Neo-Darwinism…

I would define Neo-Darwinist as any theory that explains common descent and bio-diversity as resulting from non-acquired genetic variation as the mechanism of inheritance and gradual natural selection.

Regarding this, let me first say that I am going to assume you mean “scientific” theory here, which is to say we’re not addressing metaphysical concerns. If we are addressing such theories, this definition is clearly non-viable if it would apply to science in any way, shape, or form, as it immediately fails most reasonable tests for what science is. Thus, I doubt that’s what we are discussing here.

However, if this definition is about scientific theories, what you are encapsulating is essentially (again, there will be some arguments about specific application of words) what is already referred to among scientists as the theory of evolution; why do we need this additional definition for it? Specifically, why do we need an additional definition when the term is definitely being misused by others outside the discipline of science in ways that are, in fact, intellectually bankrupt? It would seem to me we are only opening ourselves up to trouble to play that game. Why can we not just say that “evolution” has been a highly influential and successful concept, and does exert major influence over biological research? This, I would submit, is unequivocally true. It seems to me you are adding an additional, unnecessary, and potentially misleading layer. Perhaps this is the source of our confusion? If you can better explain why you feel the need to include this, I’d appreciate that, otherwise I can’t help but think it is extraneous.

In contrast, no one spends a lot of time trying to prove the Central Dogma of modern genetics.

Can you more clearly define what you mean by central dogma here? If you mean that people do not question past genetics research much, that is true. That is because most genetic theories have held up against intense scrutiny already applied in the past (we’ve already done the heavy lifting), to the point where unless some new evidence is introduced that we currently do not have, there is no reason to re-question things. In the same way, I don’t spend much time scrutinizing the Pythagorean theorem in mathematics, and there’s a good reason for that. It works, and has been proven to work for quite some time. Unless someone can find me a situation in which it “breaks”, I have no real interest in repeatedly re-examining what I already can reliably conclude to be true. To engage in such a thing would dangerously inhibit future progress, as we’d be stuck in an unending cycle of self-evaluation, so much so that we’d be paralyzed with regard to proceeding.

More so, the best way to invalidate past theories which are flawed is to continue to press forward, as eventually the weight of additional theories piled on top of them tends to cause them to collapse if they have flaws. New information usually drives re-evaluation, not idle past speculation. It is often the cutting edge of science that brings down past theories, not religious interest groups.

This is not to say science should be immune to review – there is definitely a place for outside observation of the process. I think the reason we are having trouble here is that, in the context of this board, the outside force is scientifically unsophisticated, religiously dogmatic, progress-inhibiting fundamentalists who also wish to violate some of our very important civil liberties in order to force their religion down the throats of our children. I suppose I’m just saying, if you view things precisely in that context, you might be able to see why there would be a strong counter-reaction to what you are saying – what your words communicate to the audience might well not be what you were intending to communicate.

My guess is that we’re having some sort of disconnect here, as evidenced by:

Oh well. If people want to continue to present an image of science that derives from Pemple and Hopper, who am I to stop them?

To answer your rhetorical question, you’re a human being with a vested interest in preserving the integrity of science, assuming you aren’t advocating a return to the middle ages. Thus, I’d ask this: What sort of epistemological and then methodological process would you suggest is in place regarding science (or, if you think the one in place is bogus, what would you use), and how would you preserve this process in the face of political/religious pressure that is unwilling to follow the accepted doctrines of the discipline? How would this process account for the definite variety of philosophical viewpoints among scientists, and the necessary fact that they might interpret information differently on an indvidual level?

Comment #82717

Posted by Chip Poirot on February 28, 2006 1:12 PM (e)

Steve,

This is the original quote from Dark Syde, reprinted above by you:

quote author=”Exhibit B: Darwinism. Judging by frequency of usage, DR Witt, along with every other IDCists on the planet, seems enamored with that word. I asked him recently what he meant by Darwinism, and he replied in part ‘I use the term to refer to a person who believes that natural selection working on random variation produced all the diversity of organic life we see around us.’“>

That definition is essentially correct. Again, just because people do not use the term consciously when they publish an article does not make the term unimportant to scientific research.

“Darwinism” has meant many things. In the 19th century Darwinism simply meant “evolutionism”. And evolutionism included saltationist and teleological theories of evolution. Darwinism was later used to distinguish a focus on natural selection from Mendelism.

At the core of Darwin’s explanation for bio-diversity was constant variation and natural selection. So technically speaking, any theory that incorporates both is “Darwinian”.

I think there are actually multiple positions within the ID movement-which is part of the problem. As a whole, it is just a confused mish mash of religious and quasi-religious thinking in combination with a few discredited ideas. But on the whole, they do know what they are attacking, even if they get a lot of technical points wrong. What they are attacking is the idea that the origin of species can be explained exclusively (at least in scientific terms) as a natural process. And they rightly equate Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism with that view.

I’m all for challenging them and pinning them down on their definitions and term usage. But it is not helpful, nor in my opinion really intellectually honest to insist that “Darwinism” or “Neo-Darwinism” are irrelevant to scientific research.

Comment #82721

Posted by Chip Poirot on February 28, 2006 1:39 PM (e)

AD,

First a definition. I would define a theory as a statement that specifies causal relationships. For example: The Quantity Theory of Money specifies a causal relationship between the quantity of monetary aggregates and the price level. So inflation is “explained” by increases in the money supply. Now, I would call the Quantity Theory of Money a discredited theory or ill supported hypothesis, but let’s not go there for now. It has the formal structure of a theory and is capable of being tested. If we want to be technical we can distinguish between theory and hypothesis-as in an hypothesis is an untested theory. One can distinguish between specific theories such as “the theory of natural selection” and groups of related theories. I would call groups of related theories a “research tradition” (but feel free to substitute in the word “research program”, “paradigm”, etc.). So for exaple, “Monetarism” and “Keynesianism” are more general theories. They incorporate a lot more than just one specific causal statement. The relationship between theory, ontology, epistemology and observation terms is complex. People like Quine, Laudan and most recently Susan Haack have wrestled with this issue.

All the above is a much abbreviated discussion that is much lengthier and more problematic.

There is therefore no “the theory of evolution”. At least not historically. Historically there have been many theories of evolution. Goldschmidt has a “theory of evolution” that has been discredited. He explains bio diversity by dramatic reorganization of chromosomes leading to macro mutations and then elimination or survival by natural selection. His theory is not really Darwinist per se because it is not gradualist-though clearly it is Darwinist with its focus on selection.

What you call “the theory of evolution” is the modern synthetic theory of evolution: evolution by variation of non-acquired genetic characteristics and differential survival by natural selection. The common term for the modern synthetic theory is “Neo-Darwinism”. The term is used to distinguish the modern synthetic theory from rivals and precursors. If it makes you feel better to say “synthetic theory” all well and good, though some might ask “what are you synthesizing?” Well, the obvious answer is Mendelian genetics and natural selection-though I suppose the term Mendelian does not do modern genetics full justice. But modern genetics does owe its debt to Mendel just as natural selection really owes its debt to Darwin and Wallace. So the term “Neo-Darwinian” is readily descriptive.

The term “central dogma” is sometimes used to refer to the underlying principle of “Mendelian” genetics: in other words, only changes that occur in the chromosomes of the sex cells can be transmitted to offspring. So Lamarckian inheritance is ruled out. Note how by saying “Lamarckian” I also readily and easily convey a well understood, albeit discredited concept-or really, a number of discredited concepts. So the term “Mendelian” genetics helps us to distinguish from Lamarckian concepts.

As for my views on science, for lack of a better term I would call myself a classical pragmatist. You could also call me a Piercean since classical pragmatism descends from the writings of Charles Sanders Pierce (and please don’t confuse us with Rorty’s vulgar pragmatism and his butchering of Dewey). Some well known modern classical pragmatists are Larry Laudan and Susan Haack. In some ways I think Elliott Sober is also influenced by Classical Pragmatism.

How do you defend science from the onslaught against it by the religious right and the Pomo Left? The only way is to get in there and slug it out. It’s a battle one fights daily. But we certainly don’t make progress by running away from terms and quoting Pemple and Hopper.

Btw: do you get the reference to Pemple and Hopper? They don’t exist. It’s Popper and Hempel. A lot of people in discussing science seem to mix Popper and Hempel quite naively while engaging in naive and excessive deferentialism to science. Popper and Hempel said some similar things and some dissimilar things.

But again, to paraphrase Keynes-scientists who claim to be immune from the influence of philosophers are often distilling the wisdom of some defunct philosopher.

Comment #82723

Posted by Steve Reuland on February 28, 2006 1:48 PM (e)

Chip, let me add some emphasis to show you where Witt’s definition goes wrong. He sez:

“…a person who believes that natural selection working on random variation produced all the diversity of organic life we see around us.”

Natural selection is not the only mechanism of evolutionary change. It is at most the only adaptive mechanism of change, but there are many other mechanisms recognized as well. Neutral theory, for example, holds that natural selection isn’t even primarily responsible for the diversity we see.

Let me assure you, this is no accident on Witt’s part. If you pay attention to IDist language, they will always include this modifier. It sets up a straw-man by making biologists appear too dogmatic to accept the possibility of other mechanisms, or unwilling to acknowledge that evolutionary change is far more complex than a 6 word statement allows it to be. And it also makes their own views seem more moderate than they really are, since they can claim that their only beef is with a strict selectionist viewpoint, instead of being against evolution writ large.

The last thing that Witt and his cronies want is for their audience to understand that evolutionary theory is a complex body of thought, and that their own attacks on it have little to do with the specifics of the theory and everything to do with battling atheism.

What they are attacking is the idea that the origin of species can be explained exclusively (at least in scientific terms) as a natural process. And they rightly equate Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism with that view.

I very much agree with you on the first sentence. The IDists believe in the origin of species via divine intervention, and since modern evolutionary theory doesn’t include this, they have to attack it. As for the second sentence, “Darwinism” or “Neo-darwinism” (given their scientific meanings) are not synonymous with the mere idea that evolution proceeds via natural processes. I’m not sure if that’s what you meant, but the mere fact that Darwinian evolution is consistent with the idea that only natural processes are responsible for life’s diversity is to state what’s true about all scientific theories. No scientific theory invokes supernatural causation, and such causation, if one believes in it, is always extraneous to the theory itself.

Comment #82725

Posted by AD on February 28, 2006 1:59 PM (e)

Chip,

Yeah, I did get the reference regarding them - I claim to be nothing even approaching an expert on philosophy (and to a point, this is very deliberate), but I do know the names. I’m a sort of anti-philosopher myself, which is not to say that I believe philosophy is “bad” or any such nonsense. It has great value. I just try to always build from the ground up, in terms of observing practical reality, defining a goal, and then using whatever methods best achieve that goal.

With regard to what you are saying, I don’t disagree with your intent. In fact, I think we probably have nearly identical viewpoints on this. My issue is not related to philosophy, really. It is this:

From a purely practical standpoint, there are political activist groups attempting to attach (knowingly) bogus definitions to things like “Darwinist”. Either we need to present a united front in rejecting them (which has not, as of yet, happened), or we need to deny them the hill on which they wish to do battle by changing our terms.

Rhetorically speaking, either of those are a valid strategy, but the latter seems to be much more practical in execution. That’s my main concern.

However, you raise some valuable concerns about the context within which science is conducted - yet I would think that the intense value placed on new and verifiable research would mean that if someone had a solid study that put a dent into a current major theory, it would become the “hot” issue in science in a good way. The problem is that scientists invalidate science, and it is the competition among scientists for research money and stature that make such a system work.

To wit, I think one of the big problems I have with some scientists is that they feel the need to use science as a stepping stone for their own religious beliefs, which they then portray as science. Likewise, when those who are not scientifically educated attempt to co-opt science and twist it to fit their religion, they are essentially doing the same thing. There’s a line drawn by methodological naturalism that cannot be effectively crossed, and yet, people find it very easy to cross that line at times. Often, I think this is to gain recognition, yet it’s ultimately counterproductive for everyone.

This is not to say I disagree with the historical value of the terms - in fact, I think you are dead on to say that Lamarckianism or Darwinism have historical contexts that are highly valuable. We’d be unable to intelligently discuss the history of moder biology without them.

Likewise, though, in the specific debate we are in now about evolution, it’s misleading to keep bringing up Darwinism. Why?

We aren’t talking to philosophers of science (who are, on average, way more educated about science than all laymen and some scientists), and we aren’t talking to people who realize we don’t mean everything Darwin said was right when we throw around that term. I think that’s where the disconnect is; I’m not talking about historical context and you’re not talking about specific debate tactics. In essence, I think we are both right, now that I’ve read your explanation.

Thank you.

Comment #82726

Posted by Steve Reuland on February 28, 2006 2:06 PM (e)

Let me add one last thing, and I’m probably bowing out of this discussion.

Chip Poirot wrote:

I’m all for challenging them and pinning them down on their definitions and term usage. But it is not helpful, nor in my opinion really intellectually honest to insist that “Darwinism” or “Neo-Darwinism” are irrelevant to scientific research.

My point all along has been that while the concepts (as varied as they are) have remained relevant, the actual terms have not. Terminology is an important thing in science, and any word that has multiple, possibly loaded meanings is not a good term. That doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t use it, as long as they’re clear on what it is they mean, but it helps us understand why it is that scientists tend to stay away from it. And when viewed in light of how the IDists use it almost exclusively to describe their enemies, this makes it clear that they are using rhetorical tricks, not trying to accruately describe their views or the view of those with whom they disagree.

Comment #82744

Posted by Chip Poirot on February 28, 2006 3:03 PM (e)

Steve and AD,

I agree that the ID’ists tend to use rhetorical tricks (at least when they are being clever). Sometimes they simply speak from pure misinformation. I also agree that as a general rule, it is pointless for a researcher to specify the research tradition in each and every article. So in that sense, terms like Darwinism, Neo-Darwinism, etc. are probably not very useful in day to day scientific work.

But the terms still are useful in more general overall discussions. So in a discussion about the nature and history of science for example, it is useful to use terms like “Darwinian” or “Neo-Darwinian”, “Copernican”, etc. They are useful umbrella terms that convey information just as are terms like Monetarist, Keynesian…

AD, I have the sense you want to argue for a pure inductive approach to science. But we have known since Hume this is not possible. Since Pierce we have known we use induction, deduction and abduction.

In the history of science, prior to Darwin science, or more precisely, natural philosophy, did indeed invoke “supernatural” explanations. Paley was one of England’s foremost scientists-not a raving backwoods fundamentalist. Darwin shifted the terms of debate and the publication of the Origin of Species altered the nature and meaning of the word “science”.

Though I agree that ID’ists try to present Darwinism as too dogmatic, it is still not wrong to portray the modern theory of evolution as “natural selection acting on random genetic variation”. Sure, there are things like structural constraints and sexual selectiona and random drift. But “random genetic mutation” I think covers genetic drift and natural selection to my way of thinking is just ultimately shorthand for a myriad of factors that influence differential survival and reproduction. I think their point is that they think science, particularly evolution, should include vitalistic, teleological and/or saltationist theories, because vitalism, teleology and saltationism leave the door open for supernatural explanations.

So while modern science does, by definition, exclude supernatural explanations, that does not detract from the fact that Darwinism or Neo-Darwinism are ultimately responsible for that. Now when I say “exclude supernatural explanations” I mean that they exclude such explanations from the structure of scientific explanation. I do not mean that it excludes such things as “theistic evolution” for example.

I think the best strategy in dealing with this is to say “yes, I do eschew explanations based on vitalism, teleology and saltationism…”. For that matter, when used and defined carefully, I would proudly admit to being a “mechanist” or a “determinist” or a “materialist”. Rather then run from the terms, I would embrace them and discuss their full meaning and application.

Its a little bit like being called a liberal. As soon as you say “this is a meaningless term” you have lost the debate. Better to embrace it and defend the principles of liberalism. When Howard Dean was on hardball and was asked “Is the Democratic Party Pro-Choice” he should have said resoundingly yes-and here’s why. We’re pro-freedom. Instead, he got trapped into sounding confused.

Anyway, if you wish to bow out it is probably a good thing. I suspect we have reached the point where we may just be talking past each other.

Comment #82756

Posted by AD on February 28, 2006 3:33 PM (e)

AD, I have the sense you want to argue for a pure inductive approach to science. But we have known since Hume this is not possible. Since Pierce we have known we use induction, deduction and abduction.

I would agree that’s problematic, and definitely not my goal.

We do need to have an axiomatic framework put into place which should guide future scientific inquiry, so that there are a set of norms that would be used to define the methods of inquiry, how they are measured, and what occurs.

What I would like is for this to be defined as sensibly, concisely, and with as much reasonable flexibility as can be allowed to account for the broad base of people invovled in science. Notice that I, quite deliberately, exclude those not involved in science from this process - a fundamentalist preacher has no place in this debate, just as a physicist has no place lecturing on sub-atomic particle behavior at a church.

Once you can establish that sort of thing, it becomes fairly easy to rule in “good” science, fairly easy to rule out “bad” science, and only difficult when you have truly borderline cases. An established set of axioms can save a lot of trouble in the long run.

In this case, regarding ID specifically, one thing I think needs to be a point of concern is when to close debate on an issue. Obviously, everything in science is reviewable going forward, but the caveat “in light of new information” should probably be pointed out a few times. ID makes the same arguments ad nauseum, and sometimes it is not a bad tactic to simply ask if they have anything new, or just the same old tired garbage. Endless debate becomes just plain stupid when it’s the exact same debate on repeat.

I suppose you could loosely call me a practicalist in that regard. My concern is with what will actually allow science to continue doing what it is doing (that being discovering new things that advance our technology and understanding) - philosophy of science is a very valuable part of that equation, as it makes sure science is doing what we think it is doing. Ultimately, however, I’m apt to always side with pushing forward, rather than over-reviewing.

Call it my bias as someone in the field practicing a discipline.

Comment #82757

Posted by AD on February 28, 2006 3:43 PM (e)

Edit:

Somehow, I snipped a middle paragraph, which was…

I also agree about hitting back on definitions. I definitely agree that when someone tries to frame the terms of a debate to put you at a disadvantage, you turn that back on them by defending what your terms actually mean (which puts them in a difficult spot opposing you) and the significance thereof. The trick, however, is knowing which terms to do this with. Sometimes it’s better to pull the rug out on someone by denying the fight, though; you can damage someones credibility in a debate if you can show the argument they are attacking is a nonsensical strawman. In an ideal world, you’d use a combination of both to make them seem uninformed and incompetent, all while defending your turf.

Comment #82784

Posted by BWE on February 28, 2006 6:27 PM (e)

These are very serious science issues we are dealing with here. For example: Can evolution really explain wesley’s tolerance to iocane? I don’t think so. So when you go out there just haphazardly bandying about the term “Darwinian” referring to prince humperdink’s hold on power, you are potentially laying the groundwork for real social strife in our own universe. Jeez. It’s not just “as you wish” here.

Comment #82793

Posted by David B. Benson on February 28, 2006 6:52 PM (e)

Philosophy and science –

Many of the comments have been a helpful refresher. (I remind you that research is done by people good enough and fortunate enough to be awarded a Ph.D. What does that abbreviate, again?) I’ll just pitch in a older, throughly discussed concept: the physicists ‘principle of least action’. There is simply no prior reason that nature should be explicable by least action. Indeed, there may be some mathematical framework which explains physical phenomena without appeal to least action.

However, the mathematics of least action offers an easy route to predict, for example, refraction as well as many other disparate phenomena. So many take the principle of least action to be part of the philosophy of physics.

Comment #82795

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on February 28, 2006 6:58 PM (e)

Where is the dogma? (Out chasing the karma)

Oooh, Buddhist jokes. :)

Q. What did the Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor?
A. “Make me one with everything”.

Q. What did the hot dog vendor say when the Buddhist asked for his change?
A. “Change must come from within”.

HO HO !!! HEE HEE !! HA HA!!!! I kill me !!!!!!

Comment #82820

Posted by Edin Najetovic on February 28, 2006 11:22 PM (e)

Rev, I wish you would if you keep telling jokes like that >.>

Comment #83024

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 1, 2006 8:47 PM (e)

Come oooonnnn — you know you laughed at them.

Comment #83025

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 1, 2006 8:56 PM (e)

Heck, probably even Larry laughed at them.

And, until his recent experiment with punning (search “bug” on the recent emtomology thread), no rumor of humor had ever tinkled the doorbell of his cranium.

Comment #83026

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 1, 2006 8:58 PM (e)

Oops. make that “entomology.”

Emtomology, I suppose, might involve whatever hijinks our emergency responders get up to in between shifts…

Comment #83839

Posted by Henry J on March 5, 2006 4:08 PM (e)

The movie (The Princess Bride) is on cable this afternoon.

Henry

Comment #83888

Posted by Henry J on March 5, 2006 6:18 PM (e)

Re “The movie (The Princess Bride) is on cable this afternoon.”

Cancel that post - apparently the monthly cable Channel Guide was wrong.

Comment #84040

Posted by BWE on March 6, 2006 11:42 AM (e)

178,000,000 for god
232,000,000 for sex
510,000,000 for love
38,600,000 for cult
3,900,000 for Stupid christians

Some other google results.

If, as my wife claims, god is love, then god beats sex hands down.