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Is the term Darwinism a “scientific slur”?

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Darwinian Ken Miller is promoting his new book, The Human Instinct: How We Evolved to Have Reason, Consciousness, and Free Will. In a guest column at Scientific American, he claims that the use of the term “Darwinism” is a slur against science:

A number of purposes are served by reducing an entire scientific field to an “ism” based on the name of its founder. The first is obvious. Evolution then becomes an ideology, not a field of science. This view is on full display at the lavishly appointed Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, where visitors are assured that scientific data can be interpreted in two ways—from a Darwinist perspective, or from a creationist point of view. Because both depend only upon one’s preconceptions, the creationist viewpoint is just as valid as any other. More.

The creationist museum aside, there is only one word for Miller’s claim: Incorrect. As is well established “Darwinist/Darwinian” has always been widely used among supporters and sympathizers, not as a slur. A friend writes to draw our attention to a paper he happened to be citing, “Fay JC, Wu C-I. 2000. Hitchhiking Under Positive Darwinian Selection. Genetics 155:1405–1413.” He wonders if Miller is just out of touch. Or what?

Here’s a list of papers from various years illustrating the same thing.

It used to be that junior trolls would sign on to various ID sites make the point that no one uses the term Darwinism and then go on to some other distraction when their error was pointed out.

Miller also seems to need to believe that Darwinism (natural selection acting on random mutation as a creator of complex new machinery and functions) is not simply the creation story of pure naturalism, so he writes,

… evolutionary psychology [is] a discipline in which evolutionary principles can indeed be used to great effect. But it is also a field in which Darwinian “just-so” arguments have been used to explain everything from male and female shopping behavior to music and to tell us that the impulse to rape was favored by natural selection—so all males are potential rapists. A gentler example of this cultural overreach is proudly advanced by David Sloan Wilson, president of the Evolution Institute, who proclaims that in this century the theory of evolution will expand “to include all human-related knowledge,” including “anthropology, art, culture, economics, history, politics, psychology, religion, and sociology.” In short, step aside, humanists and social scientists, we’re taking over.

Maybe so. But I’m still waiting for an evolutionary explanation of the thrilling beauty of a Mozart symphony or a James Joyce short story, to say nothing of a truly biological explanation for the particular political situations in the U.S., Venezuela or Germany. In advocating for greater public understanding of evolution, we might do well to keep in mind that it is a theory for the origin of species, not the explanation of all things human, great and small. More.

Actually, evolutionary psychology’s idiocies are an inevitable outcome of Darwinism. On that view, our brains evolved randomly as our genes were passed on. There is no other narrative even possible, if Darwinism is true. The narrative explains absolutely everything, including Miller’s high-minded examples, on that specific account. High-mindedness is an evolved illusion.

Fortunately, Miller notwithstanding, Darwinism is not true. Evolution can happen in many ways. But Scientific American will buy Miller’s narrative and his book will be just the thing in faculty lounges. Everything finds its place.

See also: Three Things Biologists Rarely Know About Biology. johnnyb:  Anyway, I’ve found that evolution has essentially blinded numerous biologists and funneled them all into an understanding of evolution which is directly counter to how organisms are experimentally understood to change. Certainly, there are many great biologists who understand these issues. However, I might go as far as to say that a majority of biologists are poorly informed on these points.


“The evolutionary psychologist knows why you vote — and shop, and tip at restaurants”

Why would you think that a God capable of creating entire universes and who knows your innermost thoughts before you do would be impressed in the slightest people fawning over Him and groveling before Him?
Sounds like a straw man to me. Giving thanks and praise where it is due is just common sense. Denying reality, as a/ mats do, is just ignorance. ET
Dirt can be very useful stuff but I wouldn't worship it. But then the whole concept of the 'worship' of anything seems a little odd to me. Why would you think that a God capable of creating entire universes and who knows your innermost thoughts before you do would be impressed in the slightest people fawning over Him and groveling before Him? It looks a lot more like trying to show other people how pious you are and we know what the Bible says about that. Religion would not have survived and flourished in human society if it didn't provide a significant benefit to people. Speaking as an a/mat, I would not try to eradicate religion even if I could. I think it would be nice if some faiths could find a way to rein in the more extreme elements in their communities but perhaps the best we can hope for is some sort of modus vivendi where religion leaves evolution (and science in general) alone as long as it stays in the science classroom and laboratory and atheists stop trying to claim the authority of science for their anti-religious perspectives. Seversky
dirt worshippers, indeed. One aspect of the muscular materialist's modern miasma that I've always found fascinating is the idea that "we" should eliminate all religion. A few of my co-religionists are offended by being called child-abusing brain washers but I find it quite hilarious. Apart from the fact that I've not yet met a single human being whose mind couldn't use a wash, the idea is just appallingly self-contradictory. Religious people have dominated every human culture in every human age without documented exception. So the evolutionary utility of religion ought to be not only beyond question to all but actually sacrosanct to those very same evolutionary evangelists (I know!) who so stridently yet stupidly champion its eradication. They actually intend to try eliminating a central trait of the human psyche that has persisted for as long as humans have existed, to the best of our knowledge, thus demonstrating to them in the only court they claim to acknowledge, its enduring utility to human survival. It's like saying "we're going to eradicate the opposable thumb" or "we need to remove the frontal lobes from our genetic inheritance!" Apart from the sheer blood-drenched horror that would be required to actually achieve such an aim, the senseless self-contradiction involved passes equally un-noticed by the public purveyors of this preposterous panacea. You can only laugh at people so helplessly confused by their own mendacity. ScuzzaMan
I prefer "dirt worshippers." Just saying. FourFaces

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