“Darwinian Evolution”

So on another thread there was a critique of using the terminology “Darwinian Evolution.” I have never used it in a disparaging way to my recollection, but rather as a term of clarity, to distinguish it from other meanings… including the kinds of evolution that Ken Ham believes in. But receiving such criticism about the term suggested it was a polemic or antagonistic word… i.e… a word that only creationists use as pejorative.

Well, i dispute this. it seems a perfectly reasonable term, a useful term to use to help in distinction and clarification, and not to mention an honorific term. Charles Darwin was until recently honored onthe back of the British £10 note, after all. i can hardly see how the term is a criticism.

Moreover, it is clearly not a term used exclusively by creationists. Oxford University, Cambridge Univ, Liebniz Univ, Harvard, Science Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, Biology Direct, LiveScience, nature.com, American Scientist, APA, UCLA, these are not exactly bastions of creationists… if such organizations don’t seem to object to the term, I’m having trouble seeing why my use of it deserves special opprobrium.








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Just call it the theory of evolution. It is the theory that Ken Ham rejects.

Creationists continually use the term in a pejorative sense. They insinuate that we are followers of Darwin instead of scientists.

The term “theory of evolution” is used much, much, much more often in scientific writing than Darwinism.


Take a look at this article from Answers in Genesis:

Can anyone tell me, with a straight face, that Darwinism is not being used as a pejorative in this article? Is the term “Darwinism” being used to denote a scientific theory in this article?


“It would be wonderful if we could somehow get rid of the word ‘Darwinism’ altogether. Just as God, notoriously, tends to be invoked by both sides in most wars, so also Darwin tends to appear on both sides of the major debates in evolutionary biology. But it is surely the case that if we let the debate with creationists turn into one about whether Darwin or Jesus Christ is the true author of Holy Writ, we lose even if we win. We must acknowledge and indeed celebrate the fact that science is fallible, and that is what allows it to progress” … “let us [then] put ‘Darwinism’ behind us, move on from the sterile argument about whether he was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and explore instead the much more exciting avenues of biological knowledge that have opened up to us since the Victorian era.” – John Dupré

Or, for how it tastes in the language of bio-semiotics:
"The principles of post-Darwinism, in brief

The views described here are close or complementary to the views of Eva Jablonka, Richard C. Strohman (1993), and many others. Below, some principal differences between neo-Darwinism and post-Darwinism are shortly pointed out:

(1) the main process for post-Darwinism is symbiosis and coherence (from which, in some conditions, competition may follow), whereas for neo-Darwinism it is competition (from which sometimes symbiosis follows);
(2) the first evolutionary event for neo-Darwinism is the mutation of DNA and the distribution of the new mutant (allele) in population, whereas for post-Darwinism it is an ontogenetic change (a change in the usage of genetic memory), which is later followed by stochastic fixation in memory (mainly due to ‘forgetting of un-used’);
(3) the one, which makes the choice, is environment for neo-Darwinism, and organism itself for post-Darwinism;
(4) for neo-Darwinism, DNA (together with environment) is the determinant of all the structure and through that also of the behaviour of organism, whereas for post-Darwinism DNA is like a thesaurus, or vocabulary from which the organism uses the entries it needs.
(5) for neo-Darwinism, the main role of sexual reproduction is to provide new genetic variants, whereas for post-Darwinism the importance of sexual reproduction comprises (a) the creation of species, and (b) forgetting of the unnecessary, i.e., making of the genetic memory dynamic;
(6) generally, neo-Darwinism can be regarded as a restricted special case of post-Darwinism."

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Hi Daniel,

I never thought you meant the term in a pejorative manner.

You are correct that the term isn’t only used by YEC or only those who object to evolutionary theory. Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, and David Sloan Wilson seem perfectly comfortable with Darwinian/Darwinism, along with those you yourself cite.

However the term is not uncontroversial as you yourself have experienced in the other thread and as you see in this thread.

When the term “evolution” is used or “evolutionary theory” there is a ‘weighted’ or ‘standard’ (if someone with a better understanding of lexicography wants to weigh in be my guest) definition it carries with it, which is a reference to the generally accepted idea in biology.

I understand that you meant the label as an identifier in distinction from other ways “evolution” could be used. Obviously, such use of ‘Darwinian‘ is not a readily accepted by many within this forum.

Perhaps it would be beneficial to be more precise about the specific aspects/topics being discussed rather than trying to capture the entirety of a theory by means of ‘Darwinian’ ‘non-Darwinian’ etc.





Just because people get upset over the term I’ll start to it is to. In reality I use it sometimes already and sometimes I don’t. I never knew it was used negatively anymore than liberal is. Just depends on the one saying it.

I think you are right in saying Darwinian does not carry all that much baggage, but when it changes to Darwinism, that implies a philosophic system of belief and that becomes prerogative when used in such a way as to slur.
We are all guilty at times of similar offenses. Fundamentalism is often used negatively. Marxism, Stalinism, etc.


Accommodationist lol.


It has been pointed out how ironically those groups who are negative towards evolutionary Darwinism, often are positive toward social Darwinism of the Ann Rand variety.


For me I typically just use the language I prefer that demonstrates my opinion clearly. As long as it’s not a derogatory slur.

Like how I use the term fictional often , or mythological, to label genesis 1-11 and some are not comfortable with the term fictional because they assume that means lie.

But then I argue when I got to the library and get a fictional book I don’t ask where is your liars section because I o ow a fictional novel is not meant to be treated as literal.

That’s why we keep saying Darwinian evolution. Let’s all use that term, since it clearly distinguishes what the debate is about. The debate is not about evolution broadly defined. Many ID proponents have no problem with some sort of evolution, e.g. Behe believes in common descent. So, evolution in general is a broad tent that unifies many on both sides. Thus, using the term ‘evolution’ does not help to delineate what we are debating. The prefix ‘Darwinian’ more precisely marks the distinction, but even Darwinian evolution is compatible with ID, since teleology could all be loaded into natural selection.

Which leaves the question, what exactly is the point that ID is trying to make if it is compatible with everything??? I’ll leave that to you to answer.

I certainly don’t intend to ever use the term “evolution” simpliciter in this context. That term is fraught with confusion, and there ends up being too much equivocation, however intentional, in its use. On far too many occasions, both in this forum and especially elsewhere, if I say, “I don’t believe in evolution,” the response i get far too often is along the lines of, “Evolution is a fact. it can be seen in labs.” Indeed, “evolution” in that sense i would not dispute is a fact, one that can be laboratory tested and confirmed, not unlike Lenski’s long-term evolution experiment. but that is hardly what i am saying, and it is just how language works to use a descriptive term rather than type, repeatedly, “the unguided process of random mutations in coordination with natural selection which selects the more fit organisms to reproduce and pass their genes to the next generation which accumulated beneficial mutations…

Otherwise, if we use “evolution” in the broad sense, we have to recognize ancient Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians - or anyone else that practiced selective breeding, as having known and believed in “evolution?..

Indeed, I hadn’t thought of that. Now as I think about it, it is probably from Dawkins that I picked up the terminology. He also seems to use it as a term of clarification to distinguish it from other forms of evolution…

But Darwinian evolution, specifically natural selection, does something more. It shatters the illusion of design within the domain of biology,

the origin of life may have been a highly improbable occurrence. Darwinian evolution proceeds merrily once life has originated.

The most ingenious and powerful crane so far discovered is Darwinian evolution by natural selection.

Knowing that we are products of Darwinian evolution, we should ask what pressure or pressures exerted by natural selection originally favoured the impulse to religion.

There is no refutation of Darwinian evolution in existence.

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Darwinian evolution or Darwinist evolution is a useful term to distinguish and clarify, but not between modern evolutionary theory and Ken Ham’s rapid speciation post-flood hypothesis. Darwinian evolution distinguishes between a model of evolution that views natural selection as the primary or even exclusive mechanism that drives evolutionary change and the current evolutionary model which incorporates other mechanisms. Neo-Darwinism or modern synthesis refers to the twentieth century synthesis of Darwinian evolution with Medelean genetics. It also incorporated the idea that isolating populations played a big role in evolutionary change.

So when you use Darwinian evolution to talk about current evolutionary theory, you are using the term incorrectly.

The use of Darwinism and evolutionism on the other hand, seems to me to be almost exclusively pejorative from anti-evolution camps to imply that acceptance of the evolutionary model is an ideology comparable to a religion. People are going to respond poorly to that.


The debate is about the modern theory of evolution used by scientists which has been so heavily modified since Darwin’s time that it makes no sense to attach his name to it.

The debate is about a group of people rejecting the scientific consensus because of religious beliefs. In order to try to rationalize this rejection of the scientific consensus they try to portray competing theories as religious beliefs or philosophical worldviews, anything to disguise the theory for what it is: science.

Instead of saying Darwinian evolution, why don’t you just say “the scientific consensus”?


It would be even simpler to say that you reject the overwhelming scientific conclusion that explains life’s history.


If you manage to convince Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne that they are using the term incorrectly, I promise I will likewise concede. Fair enough?


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Are they using the term incorrectly?

You tell me…

But Darwinian evolution, specifically natural selection, does something more. It shatters the illusion of design within the domain of biology, and teaches us to be suspicious of any kind of design hypothesis in physics and cosmology as well. (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion)

Liquid water is a necessary condition for life as we know it, but it is far from sufficient. Life still has to originate in the water, and the origin of life may have been a highly improbable occurrence. Darwinian evolution proceeds merrily once life has originated. But how does life get started? The origin of life was the chemical event, or series of events, whereby the vital conditions for natural selection first came about. The major ingredient was heredity, either DNA or (more probably) something that copies like DNA but less accurately, perhaps the related molecule RNA. Once the vital ingredient—some kind of genetic molecule—is in place, true Darwinian natural selection can follow, and complex life emerges as the eventual consequence. (Dawkins, The God Delusion)

This chapter has contained the central argument of my book, and so, at the risk of sounding repetitive, I shall summarize it as a series of six numbered points… 4. The most ingenious and powerful crane so far discovered is Darwinian evolution by natural selection. Darwin and his successors have shown how living creatures, with their spectacular statistical improbability and appearance of design, have evolved by slow, gradual degrees from simple beginnings. We can now safely say that the illusion of design in living creatures is just that—an illusion. (Dawkins, The God Delusion)

I want to begin with a prior question, one that takes precedence for reasons we shall see: a Darwinian question about natural selection. Knowing that we are products of Darwinian evolution, we should ask what pressure or pressures exerted by natural selection originally favoured the impulse to religion. (Dawkins, The God Delusion)

The educational and scientific crisis had begun modestly enough, when administrators of the Dover, Pennsylvania, school district met to discuss which biology textbooks to order for the local high school. Some religious members of the school board, unhappy with the current text’s adherence to Darwinian evolution, suggested alternative books that included the biblical theory of creationism. (Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution is True)

This book lays out the main lines of evidence for evolution. For those who oppose Darwinism purely as a matter of faith, no amount of evidence will do—theirs is a belief not based on reason. But for the many who find themselves uncertain, or who accept evolution but are not sure how to argue their case, this volume gives a succinct summary of why modern science recognizes evolution as true. I offer it in the hope that people everywhere may share my wonder at the sheer explanatory power of Darwinian evolution, and may face its implications without fear. (Coyne, Why Evolution is True)


It appears that one of the main differences between @Daniel_Fisher and @EricMH and those who discuss here is whether they have taken formal evolution courses or not (please correct me if I’m mistaken). I can testify that taking a formal course through my local state university helped me a great deal with understanding the science. I am not sure why–whether it was the text from a reputable author, or the systematic way in which the teacher explained it–but would you consider taking one? @DOL wrote that as he tried to challenge evolution from the inside out, by taking a PhD level training, he became convinced of its truth (though it was his biblical studies in Regent that first convinced him that the 7 day creation was not intended to imply YEC, as I recall; correct me if I’m wrong, Dr Lamoureux). Thanks.

Mr Fisher and Mr Holloway, if you have had different experiences and I’m mistake, please accept my apologies. I would be interested in your first encounters with the theory. Thanks.


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