Re: [asa] Monkey Trials and Gorilla Sermons

From: Steven M Smith <>
Date: Mon Jan 07 2008 - 22:52:27 EST

I meant to send this to the whole list.

From: Steven M Smith <>
Date: Jan 7, 2008 8:45 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Monkey Trials and Gorilla Sermons
To: Gregory Arago
 On Jan 6, 2008 2:07 AM, Gregory Arago <> wrote:
> Yes, Bowler is provocative to TE's, EC's and non-evolutionists each in
> their own way. I'm curious: Why do you restrict the ideology of
> 'evolutionism' to a naturalistic philosophical position? Surely the
> over-application of 'evolution' as simply meaning 'change-over-time' (and
> thus giving it a monopoly over 'change,' which is arguably a larger concept
> than evolution) can happen outside of the category 'natural.'
.... [Snipped]....
*Steven M Smith <>* wrote:
.... [Snipped]....
>  The other pet peeve that annoyed me was his use of the term
> "evolutionism."  For Bowler, "evolutionism" was a general term that included
> all of the ideas of evolution -- "change over time," "common ancestry," and
> "natural selection."  I personally prefer to see that term restricted to the
> naturalistic philosophical position that "evolution removes any need for and
> proves the absence of a creator God."
> Gregory,
I have no desire to get into a discussion over the philosophical
implications of the term "natural."  That subject was beat to death on this
list during November.  I saw no reason to join that discussion then and have
nothing to add to it at this time.
So like a politician (which I am not) I will use your question as an excuse
to clarify my point about "evolutionism."
Many on-line discussions concerning evolution suffer from a lack of
precisely defined terms.  "Evolution" itself is one of the worst offenders.
We frequently hear someone say that "Evolution is a fact" or "Evolution is a
theory" or "Evolution is a religion."  And I would contend that because the
term "evolution" has become so imprecise that each of these statements can
be true depending on how you define the word.  Therefore, when discussing
the subject, I prefer using more direct terms to indicate meanings that are
often mixed in the word "evolution."  For example, all of the following
ideas (right or wrong) have at some time been referred to simply as
"evolution": "change over time", "change in the frequency of alleles within
a population", "descent with modification", "natural selection",
"inheritance of acquired characteristics", "molecules to man", "Big Bang to
us", "speciation", "a process that does not require a Creator God", or even
simply "atheism."  Thus if we want a general term that includes all of the
ideas expressed about evolution, the term "evolution" itself is sufficiently
Adding the suffix "-ism" to a word generally denotes an ideology or
philosophy based on the named person or idea.  A philosophy that considers
science to be the answer to all of man's problems or the standard by which
all other ideas are judged becomes "scientism."  In like manner, the
philosophy that evolution proves that there was no Creator God has been
defined in many places as "evolutionism."  By this definition, evolutionism
is a probably a subset of the ideology of scientism.  This is the restricted
sense in which many people use the term "evolutionism."  My peeve with Peter
J. Bowler's book is that he uses the word "evolutionism" as a general term
to refer to all of the different beliefs about evolution.  I simply do not
like to see a word with a well-defined meaning used so imprecisely when
there is another word ( i.e., evolution) that has already been mongrelized.
Steve "Don Quixote" Smith
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Received on Mon Jan 7 22:53:45 2008

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