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Olivia Judson: “Let’s not call what we’re doing ‘Darwinism’.”


Olivia Judson is on a mission to control the damage to Darwin’s hemorrhaging theory. Her latest at the NYTimes is to suggest that we stop using the term “Darwinism” because the field of evolutionary biology is so much richer than what Darwin gave us. Others have tried that strategy with equal laughable disingenuity (e.g., Paul Gross in criticizing David Berlinski for Berlinski making Darwinism the target of criticism).

Olivia Judson busy at her research

But Judson gives the game away:

[Darwinism] suggests that Darwin was the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega, of evolutionary biology, and that the subject hasn’t changed much in the 149 years since the publication of the “Origin.” He wasn’t, and it has. Although several of his ideas — natural and sexual selection among them — remain cornerstones of modern evolutionary biology…

Excuse me? Cornerstone? Christ is identified as the cornerstone of a well-known religious faith, so that faith is rightly called “Christianity.” Does Judson propose replacing “Darwinism” with “Darwinianity”?

Could we please dispense with any patronizing nonsense about Darwin being less than the messiah of a materialistic religion that pretends to find its justification in science. If Darwin was not the alpha and omega of evolution, then he was either a knave or a fool or a madman. Darwin did not leave us any other options. He did not intend to. [Hat tip to C. S. Lewis.]

If Judson is serious about dethroning evolution’s messiah, she needs to have a talk with University of Chicago’s Jerry Coyne, who writes:

There is only one going theory of evolution, and it is this: organisms evolved gradually over time and split into different species, and the main engine of evolutionary change was natural selection. Sure, some details of these processes are unsettled, but there is no argument among biologists about the main claims. . . . [W]hile mutations occur by chance, natural selection, which builds complex bodies by saving the most adaptive mutations, emphatically does not. Like all species, man is a product of both chance and lawfulness. [“Don’t Know Much Biology,” June 6, 2007, www.edge.org]

Coyne, of course, is here merely echoing Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. But if Judson remains unconvinced by Coyne, she might want to summon up the departed spirit of Stephen Jay Gould. In his STRUCTURE OF EVOLUTIONARY THEORY, Gould admitted that anything Dawkins really cares about regarding biological structures–their origin, function, complexity, adaptive significance–is the product of natural selection [see ch. 3 of THE DESIGN OF LIFE]. Gould was as much a Darwinist as Dawkins.

Judson really needs to work on demonstrating the proper respect for Darwin as his bicentennial approaches next year.

Atticus Finch, Something else you said "But for them it means “what began with Darwin, and has been modified and extended a great deal since.” There is little danger that one biologist will fail to understand what another means when he says “Darwinism." Darwin was the first one to go beyond what the data told him. Darwin only saw micro evolution on his travels on the Beagle and all his artificial selection examples were micro evolution in nature. Yet he emphatically extended his findings and his theory to macro evolution for which he had zero evidence. He would brook no suggestion that there was a divine input and that natural selection explained all life. He in fact became an atheist based on his incorrect assessments of his findings. In that way current evolutionary biologists follow Darwin. They still make improper conclusions based on the data and if surveys can be considered reliable have become atheists. So maybe the term Darwinist or Darwinism has more applicability that Judson wishes to admit. Current evolutionary theory contains more than what Darwin understood but in other ways it is rigidly like the master. jerry
Atticus Finch, A lot of people here use the term Darwinism/Darwinist to refer to those who use the findings from evolutionary theory to assert something much more than is implied by the data. The findings of evolutionary theory have been extended to things way beyond the biological and paleontology findings to include metaphysics, philosophy etc as well as distort what can be concluded about evolution itself. Darwinism and Darwinist are probably terms that should be discarded but then what do you call people like Dawkins and Dennett who put such important emphasis on Darwin and his ideas in their writings. Many who support a completely naturalistic mechanism for evolution use the terms or some variant of it. Judson or whoever wrote the notes at the end recommends Dawkins and uses the term "non-Darwinian evolution" implying there is Darwinian evolution. If there is Darwinian evolution then there are Darwinists and Darwinism. So the article is self contradictory. I use the term Darwinian paradigm often to refer to those aspects of evolutionary theory that have their origins with Darwin, primarily natural selection. I recognize that Darwin's original ideas have been extended and some times modified by many to what was known and first called neo Darwinism and then later changed further and called the modern synthesis and is now being extended to something else yet to be named. People on both sides of the debate use the terms while evolutionary biologist prefer something else to reflect what is current and then like Judson use the term themselves. There is little clarity in this debate on both terms and ideas. jerry
jerry, I've heard a number of evolutionary biologists refer to a present-day body of theory as "Darwinism." But for them it means "what began with Darwin, and has been modified and extended a great deal since." There is little danger that one biologist will fail to understand what another means when he says "Darwinism." A problem I have run into with some ID proponents is that they take the "Darwin is the Christ of atheists" notion all too literally. If I say something that allows them to categorize me as a Darwinist, they proceed to try to hold me to what Darwin wrote as though it were to me as the Bible is to them. In reality, no Darwinist regards the words of Darwin as Evangelicals regard the words of the Bible. There's not even a loose analogy. By the way, I'm not an atheist, and I'm not a materialist. But when it comes to science, I am a pragmatist. I hold to methodological materialism in science because it has worked mighty well for certain purposes. "Telling the Truth" is not one of those purposes. Want a method for driving malarial mosquitoes to extinction? Go to science. Want the Truth? Meditate or pray or read scripture or go to church. Atticus Finch
Well it looks like Stephen Matheson has got his wish and got banned from here. While he seemed to be going out of his way to be negative, he did raise some interesting questions that would have been nice to debate with him. For example, he suggested that everything that Olivia Judson said was right on and I went off to read the article and had some questions for him when I discovered his comments were deleted. It would also be interesting to see just who uses the term Darwinism, Darwinian evolution or Darwinist. From what I gather, it is not just ID people or creationists. jerry
Off Topic: EVOLUTION An award-winning, humorous look at the evolution of the Christian experience, and a parody of Darwinian evolution. http://www.godtube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=4bd88c0f6c71a36772e5 bornagain77
Mats said (#5), It’s hard to stop using therms like “Darwinism” when his disciples don’t stop making museum exibits in his honor, and when his faithful don’t stop having “Darwin Days” all over the nation. There are also the "I love Darwin" stuff (T-shirts, stickers, coffee mugs, etc.), "Friend of Darwin" certificates (conferred on members of the Kitzmiller v. Dover plaintiffs team), celebration of the Darwin-Lincoln birthdate coincidence (though the two men have nothing else in common), and the Darwin-Wallace medals (conferred by the Linnean Society of London). Larry Fafarman
It's hard to stop using therms like "Darwinism" when his disciples don't stop making museum exibits in his honor, and when his faithful don't stop having "Darwin Days" all over the nation. Stop worshipping Darwin, and perhaps (perhaps) evolution skeptics will believe you. Mats
Epic dude, just epic. :lol: I was just in a similar debate where it was insisted time and time again that "Darwinism" was creationist rhetoric, maybe Huxley also believe in a creator just like Darwin... Oh, and this paper has an interesting title but unfortunately I don't have a subscription: http://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&channel=s&hl=en&q=darwinism+and+immunology&btnG=Google+Search F2XL
Hmmm. Where can I find out more about this research? SCheesman
I think it comes down to where one wants to put one's faith. As Dembski notes, naturalistic evolutionists worship Darwinianism (despite the terms they use to try and get the most milage). There is evidence on either side. For me, there is more on the side of ID. I don't believe the designer will ever participate in an experiment as a manipulated independent variable. If you start from a Christian perspective, you know that won't occur. There will always be enough evidence on either side to force, or allow, a choice. People will either intentionally blind themselves to evidence of design, they will not, or they will not commit to one side or the other. However, on a practical basis, I think the assumption of design has a much greater potential for practical benefit to society. If you start with a design assumption, you will be looking for function and the intention of the system (e.g., why was this system designed the way it was). This would have prevented the years of false assumptions about 'junk DNA,' and much of the nonsense about vestigial organs. On a practical level, I have raised a question to atheists, and so far I have received no response. What practical benefits to society has naturalistic evolution resulted in? I'm not talking about microevolution here, although I would question the real world benefits there as well. Even with bacterial resistance, the same problem could be answered from more of an engineering standpoint. "Okay, our drug isn't working anymore. What should we try now?" If there are no answers to this question of the practical benefits of naturalistic evolution to be found, then it is nothing more than an interesting mental exercise. parapraxis
The Coyne quote is a gold mine of speculation presented as fact, and the invocation of consensus, which is only resorted to when a theory is in trouble with the evidence.
...natural selection, which builds complex bodies...
Natural selection does not "build" anything...
...by saving the most adaptive mutations...
...it just throws stuff out. There is absolutely no evidence that random mutation and natural selection "build complex bodies." This unending, evidentially unfounded, logically absurd, mathematically ridiculous speculation presented as established scientific fact really annoys me, especially because so many people buy it without even thinking about it. There is a very good reason why so many mathematicians, computer programmers, and engineers are skeptical of Coyne’s claims. Coyne lives in the ever-changing ether of speculation based on a pre-assigned assumption. Mathematicians, computer programmers, and engineers must figure out how stuff really works, and demonstrate that they know what they are talking about with hard evidence and results. Once I applied my hard-science, mathematical, engineering background to “evolutionary theory,” I slapped myself in the forehead and asked: Are these guys nuts, just out of contact with reality, or insufficiently educated in basic logic, mathematics, and the method of logical inference to the best explanation based on what is known? The answer is that they are philosophically committed to a universe without design or purpose, and that explains their unwillingness to think logically or consider the evidence impartially. GilDodgen

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