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”