Re: [asa] The term Darwinism

From: Douglas Hayworth <>
Date: Tue Jun 30 2009 - 14:41:44 EDT

I've only skimmed the discussion in this thread, so I apologize in
advance if this has already been said. Take it as another "vote" on
what Darwinism means.

Within evolutionary biology, the terms Darwinian evolution and
Darwinism are generally understood to refer particularly to natural
selection and/or (to a lesser extent) gradualism. A strong "Darwinist"
is one who holds that N.S. is the primary factor shaping evolution; to
such a person, mutation and random genetic drift, etc. are much less
interesting (although no one nowadays denies the reality of these
other forces of evolution).

Notice that I said "within evolutionary biology". Within the
scientific community, the label doesn't imply anything whatsoever
about theism. It is a scientific paradigm/theory. It's only in those
discussions that go on "outside" of science where the terms mean all
sorts of far-reaching things. (The term is used outside by atheists
who think the science is all there is, and by the creationists who
fixate on the name Darwin because of its horror effect - like invoking
the name of Hitler.)

In any case, I don't see much benefit in Cameron's notion that there
might be some valid God-constrained or God-channeled alternative to
N.S. We know that mutation occurs by real chemical-physical mechanisms
and produces variation in populations. When that variation exists,
N.S. (and other factors, such as drift) will in fact operate to cause
evolution. If God were entirely directing the mutational process or
the breeding decisions, why do we see variation that results in
differences in survival, and why do populations evolve in response to
environmental changes that cause some individuals to die while
allowing others to live on and produce offspring? In other words, if
God is directly guiding the mutational and selectional steps, why do
the data not look like that? Are we to believe that the variation we
see is just the appearance of evolution (i.e., like the old
appearance-of-age argument)? Of course, God could be making only
occasional interventional "choices" -- too few for us to detect as
non-random, but that option carries with it all sorts of difficult
implications about God's activity in the world that neither a
Calvinist or an open-theist would be comfortable with. Does he not
uphold the mechanisms he created? How much intervention is enough to
accomplish his purposes? How would we ever be able to detect such
non-random directionality in evolution?

It's one thing to use some form of the anthropic principle to show
that a belief in God's providence is not irrational, but it is another
thing to suggest that this providence occurred by direct intervention.
From the little bit that I know about his work, Simon Conway Morris
sets a good example here. He has argues that evolution need not be
viewed as a mere "grand lottery", yet I am quite certain that he would
not attempt to suggest that God was directly making and choosing
mutations and breeding partners as a way to direct evolution.


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Received on Tue, 30 Jun 2009 13:41:44 -0500

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