Re: [asa] Ditch Darwin To Advance Theory of Evolution, says

From: Terry M. Gray <>
Date: Tue Mar 13 2007 - 13:26:20 EDT


I think we are debating semantics here, i.e. an agreed on use of
words. While I fully believe that you (and perhaps others in your
discipline) think that "Darwinism" is an ideology, I don't think that
the evolutionary biology community uses the word in that sense
exclusively. Thus, I'm not sure I can consent to your suggested
usage. I will try, for the sake of clear communication, clarify
between ideology and scientific theory. That, of course, is the key
issue. Darwin's theory of evolution is not necessarily at odd with
theistic belief.

The offense of social Darwinism does not come from the inclusion of
"social". It has more to do with extending Darwin's theory into
realms where it is inappropriate. I.e. the extension into societal
spheres where it does not apply (or for where there is no or little
relevant empirical data to suggest that it applies). This is an
example of Darwinism as ideology--it becomes an all encompassing

I still don't get the distinction between theistic evolution and
theistic evolutionism. I think I'm willing to admit that theism is an
ideology--does that work for you? Evolution as a scientific theory
viewed within that ideology, worldview, or whatever you want to call
it, is what I mean by theistic evolution.

It seems to me that you're quite hung up (semantically) on the "-ism"
or "-ist" suffices. I'd suggest that you be more open to a less
"technical" use.

For what it's worth--evolutionary creationism is synonymous with
theistic evolution for most of us "adherents". There is a semantic
nuance as Denis points out, but the substance behind the term is the
same: there is no fundamental necessary conflict between the science
of evolutionary biology and our Christian theistic faith. I would
also suggest that if you believe that God created the world, then you
are a creationist.


On Mar 13, 2007, at 9:44 AM, Gregory Arago wrote:

> Thank you for following up on my message, Terry, even if you missed
> it the first time. What you said helps me to clarify the different
> pov's we hold on the topic, not least due to the fact that you come
> from a natural scientific background while I come from a social
> scientific one. Hopefully we can find ways to collaborate our
> respectfully sovereign and yet ultimately inter-related spheres of
> study.
> “Darwinism can be an ideology, but it can also be a synonym for
> evolutionary biology. Yes, Darwin's theory of natural selection is
> what I'm talking about here. And that's the way most biologists use
> it. It's a matter of definition, I guess (semantics?). For me, "-
> ism" doesn't necessarily imply ideology. I don't believe that most
> biologists use it that way. (Any more than they use Lamarckianism
> to be an ideology--it's shorthand for the theory best associated
> with that particular name.)" – Terry
> This gets us closer to the heart of our communicative
> misunderstanding/gaps. In my understanding, ‘Darwinism’ is an
> ideology; there is no ‘can be’ about it. ‘Darwinian theory’ or a
> ‘Darwinian paradigm’ is not an ideology. Likewise, the word that
> you wrote ‘Lamarkianism’ (perhaps it was a typo?), is to me non-
> sensical, i.e. with mixed meanings. Either it is within ‘Lamarkian
> theory’ (i.e. as you say, “the theory best associated with that
> particular name”) or it is Larmakian theory stretched into an
> ideology, that is, into ‘Lamarkism.’ The –ism is added to express
> the over-reaching-ness of a theory beyond its legitimate domain
> (e.g. K. Marx called ideology a kind of ‘false consciousness’).
> Thus, perhaps when and if biologists use the term ‘Darwinism’ when
> speaking with non-biologists they are actually conjuring up images
> in the minds of non-biologists of something they are not really
> meaning to express. While it may be unproblematic for biologists to
> use among themselves the term ’Darwinism’ as a synonym for
> ‘evolutionary biology,’ I assume that most people on this ASA list
> are not biologists, and therefore the language used here should be
> for a more general audience. Therefore, if it can be agreed,
> ‘Darwinian’ should be used to refer to Darwin’s theories/paradigm
> and ‘Darwinism’ should be referred to the ideology that has grown
> out around Darwin’s theories/paradigm.
> Thus, there would be no need for you to write the following:
> “Again, I readily recognize that Darwinism can be an ideology, e.g.
> social Darwinism. But, it doesn't have to be…”
> The above clarification says that yes, ‘Darwinism’ has to be, by
> definition, an ideology. Perhaps it would be helpful Terry, if you
> could explain to me what makes you think ‘social Darwinism’ is an
> ideology. That is, does Darwinism become an ideology simply by
> adding the term ‘social’ to it – i.e. as if all social things are
> ideological?
> Perhaps a thread should indeed be started on ‘theistic
> evolutionism’ to help clarify the difference between ‘theistic
> evolution’ and the ideology that has grown out of it. That is,
> unless theistic evolutionists think it impossible that ‘theistic
> evolutionism’ is ideological, but rather strictly scientifically
> naturalistic. It is important to stress that not all ‘theistic
> evolutionists’ actually even accept the ideology of ‘theistic
> evolutionism!’ This makes the semantic importance of challenging
> Darwinism as an ideology so important (and likely what prompted Yew
> Hock Tan to suggest ‘ditching Darwin’). It also helps us to
> understand when ‘evolutionism’ as an ideology perhaps oversteps the
> legitimate domain of evolution as a biological, cosmological,
> anthropological or other scholarly theory. Is this an important
> discussion to have or does it verge too much on philosophy and
> sociology of science to be considered as valuable for natural
> scientists?
> It seems to me that many of the scholars at ASA who accept TE quite
> flexibly as their pov may be willing to ‘get reflexive’ on the list
> about it and thus reveal the boundaries between what is and
> inevitably must be ideological in their scientific work (original
> definition of ideology: ‘the science of ideas’) and what is simply
> ‘objective’ or ‘natural’ or ‘material’ or ‘physical’ about what the
> idea of ‘theistic evolution’ expresses.
> Terry wrote: "either God is controlling the process (Theistic) or
> He's not (Naturalistic)."
> I guess one the problems I have with the label 'theistic evolution'
> is that is encompasses much more than just biology. You are right,
> Terry, that people don't call themselves 'theistic chemists' or
> 'theistic physicists' (though this term would suit many people on
> this list), even if they are in fact theists and scientists.
> However, when the discipline being considered involves the study of
> human beings then there are more reasons to distinguish the import
> of theology into the academic landscape. Oftentimes, theology is
> excluded from the social sciences when it simply cannot and should
> not be excluded.
> I am disappointed that (Matthew) Yew Hock Tan has not returned to
> speak about the challenges to his views posed by myself and others
> on this discussion list. May it be that he was really rather
> interested to promote the ideology of IDism than to engage the
> discourse on a level playing field?
> Warm regards,
> Gregory
> p.s. please excuse, Terry, that I stand corrected on Lamoureux’s
> self-labeling. He writes:
> “Evolutionary creationists are first and foremost thoroughly
> committed and unapologetic creationists. They believe that the
> universe is a created reality that is absolutely dependent for its
> every moment of existence on the will and grace of the Creator. The
> qualifying word in this term is the adjective 'evolutionary,'
> indicating the method through which God created the world. This
> view of origins is often referred to as 'theistic evolution.'
> However, that categorization places the process of evolution as
> primary term and makes the Creator secondary as only a qualifying
> adjective. Such an inversion in the order of priority is
> unacceptable to evolutionary creationists.”
> As with Glenn Morton, Lamoureux accepts being called a
> 'creationist.' Otoh, along with Denis, I also believe the universe
> is a created reality, but I am not a ‘creationist.’ Maybe a
> ‘creationary theist’…?
> Side note: on Wikipedia, the concep-duo 'evolutionary creationist'
> is linked to the article on 'theistic evolution.' Perhaps as a
> token of understanding to Matthew, someone at ASA would be willing
> to write a summary of Perspectives of an Evolving Creation and post
> it on Wiki, as a further resource for those interested in learning
> about TE and not TE'ism :-)
> The best gets better. See why everyone is raving about the All-new
> Yahoo! Mail.

Terry M. Gray, Ph.D.
Computer Support Scientist
Chemistry Department
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523
(o) 970-491-7003 (f) 970-491-1801

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Received on Tue Mar 13 13:26:33 2007

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