Re: [asa] The term Darwinism

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Sun Jun 28 2009 - 00:24:19 EDT

For the record, I think the recent exchanges between Stephen Barr and John
West on this subject highlight some of the problem with discussing this.
John West's argument with Barr seems to be that he's certain Darwinism means
unguided evolution - Barr's reply is that this isn't necessarily true (I
think what Barr says he believes is God's relation to evolution rules out
any suggestion that the man is being wishy-washy on guidance - he takes a
harder view of it than most DI people do, I'd think). So Barr insists that
he accepts Darwinism, but takes Darwinism to be neutral on questions of
guidance or direction - I think he'd insist science is incapable of ruling
on such things. West's reply is that either Barr rejects Darwinism (because
he believes in guidance) or he's rejecting guidance (because he believes in

Anyway, for those interested in further reading: is the First Things blog
where Stephen Barr and others (Francis Beckwith's contribution in particular
stands out to me) are discussing this. John West's posts on this subject
are at (both exchanges are multipart, else I'd
just link directly).

The impression I get from these exchanges (and I'm glad they take place)
that ID proponents want those sympathetic with them to reject Darwinism
publically, on the grounds that they think Darwinism is essentially tied to
a belief that evolution is unguided and undirected. Meanwhile, TEs (or
perhaps theistic ID opponents) many times think questions of guidance can be
divorced from Darwinism, and what remains is still Darwinism - therefore
they can 'believe in Darwinism' while still believing evolution is guided.
I'm sure there's also the view that, even if they were to explicitly reject
Darwinism solely on the grounds that they believe Darwinism cannot be
divorced from a metaphysical claim about evolution being unguided, doing so
would merely complicate matters. After all, to this day I see Behe written
off as a YEC and evolution-denier, despite his position being vastly more

On Sat, Jun 27, 2009 at 11:59 PM, Cameron Wybrow <>wrote:

> Good point, David.
> I don't think that "Darwinism" would have caused the confusion you are
> speaking about back in the period Randy was writing about. However, one
> could make a case that with the rise of things like "social Darwinism",
> "Darwinism" might be understood to refer to some philosophy or political or
> ethical view based loosely on biological evolution, but going much beyond
> it.
> For that reason, I agree with you that the term "Darwinian evolution" is
> more accurate and less ambiguous than "Darwinism". But it takes longer to
> type! So I sometimes type "Darwinism" as a short form, counting on the
> context to make it clear that I am talking about the evolution of species,
> not survival-of-the-fittest economics or eugenics programs or anything of
> the sort.
> Anyhow, sticking with "Darwinian evolution", it seems to me that not only
> Coyne and Dawkins, but also Miller and Collins, accept "Darwinian evolution"
> as an accurate and essentially correct "historical" account of nature. And
> that is where I am skeptical. I am dubious that the Darwinian account can
> really explain macroevolution, once the discussion moves from big, broad
> generalities to the examination of the building of particular organs and
> systems. It seems to me that when it comes to the particulars, Darwinian
> evolution is quite sketchy, much sketchier than any major theory that I can
> think of in any field of science. Of course, Coyne and Dawkins have a
> strong religious motive (atheism) to overlook this sketchiness and accept
> Darwinian evolution anyway; but Miller and Collins, one would think, would
> have a religious motive, not necessarily to reject Darwinian theory, but at
> least to give it a very hard look.
> Cameron.
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Dave Wallace" <
> To: "Cameron Wybrow" <>
> Cc: <>
> Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2009 1:38 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] The term Darwinism
> Cameron Wybrow wrote:
>>> This is why I always use "Darwinian evolution" (or "Darwinism") as a term
>>> of distinction, and not just as a mere synonym for "evolution".
> Seems like a reasonable definition except that it is not clear how to
>> easily refer to those like Dawkins and Coyne that not only accept
>> "Darwinian evolution" but also hold to philosophical naturalism. I have
>> tended to use "Darwinism" for that purpose since the "ism" postfix is
>> often used to refer to world view or religious beliefs.
>> Dave W
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Received on Sun Jun 28 00:25:19 2009

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