Darwin is 200 this year - is evolution the same as Darwinism?

Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2009 07:56 pm
I have often heard the terms "evolution" and "Darwinism" used interchangeably. Are they the same? I know some people find Darwinism too loaded a decription. Is that because Darwin made mistakes or just because of creationist and intelligent design propaganda and media campaigns? Is it like the way the word "liberal" and "socialist" are used interchangeably by some conservatives?

Are all Darwinists evolutionists?
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Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2009 08:11 pm
joydentity wrote:
I have often heard the terms "evolution" and "Darwinism" used interchangeably. Are they the same? I know some people find Darwinism too loaded a decription. Is that because Darwin made mistakes or just because of creationist and intelligent design propaganda and media campaigns? Is it like the way the word "liberal" and "socialist" are used interchangeably by some conservatives?

Are all Darwinists evolutionists?

Modern evolutionary theory is different from Darwin's original theory by virtue of additional detail which has been added over time.

The term "Darwinism" is a rather imprecise representation of Darwin's original set of ideas, the meaning of which is different depending on who is using the term.

The terms "Evolution" and "Darwinism" are not the same. Evolution is a general sense simply means change. But the Theory of Evolution is a scientific sense is a very specific and precise set of ideas.

With regard to creation/evolution debates, "Darwinism" is usually a pejorative term used by creationists to try to obscure the precision of the more accurate modern theory.

Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2009 06:35 am
Darwin only used the term "evolve" at the end of his book "The Origins...". Evolution was a trem tht has been argued about who first coined it. The Greeks seem to be the winners by default but Comte Buffon has been given credit for modern times. Darwin's work was not about EVolution but was about the mechanism of evolution , namely natural selection. Today, we know of several other mechanisms that are non adaptive yet still result in "TRansmutation of species"(Darwins term). Heres an article from this Tues NYT Science section. It saya it all, IMHO
You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat-catching,” Robert Darwin told his son, “and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.” Yet the feckless boy is everywhere. Charles Darwin gets so much credit, we can’t distinguish evolution from him.

Equating evolution with Charles Darwin ignores 150 years of discoveries, including most of what scientists understand about evolution. Such as: Gregor Mendel’s patterns of heredity (which gave Darwin’s idea of natural selection a mechanism " genetics " by which it could work); the discovery of DNA (which gave genetics a mechanism and lets us see evolutionary lineages); developmental biology (which gives DNA a mechanism); studies documenting evolution in nature (which converted the hypothetical to observable fact); evolution’s role in medicine and disease (bringing immediate relevance to the topic); and more.

By propounding “Darwinism,” even scientists and science writers perpetuate an impression that evolution is about one man, one book, one “theory.” The ninth-century Buddhist master Lin Chi said, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” The point is that making a master teacher into a sacred fetish misses the essence of his teaching. So let us now kill Darwin.

That all life is related by common ancestry, and that populations change form over time, are the broad strokes and fine brushwork of evolution. But Darwin was late to the party. His grandfather, and others, believed new species evolved. Farmers and fanciers continually created new plant and animal varieties by selecting who survived to breed, thus handing Charles Darwin an idea. All Darwin perceived was that selection must work in nature, too.

In 1859, Darwin’s perception and evidence became “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life.” Few realize he published 8 books before and 10 books after “Origin.” He wrote seminal books on orchids, insects, barnacles and corals. He figured out how atolls form, and why they’re tropical.

Credit Darwin’s towering genius. No mind ran so freely, so widely or so freshly over the hills and vales of existence. But there’s a limit to how much credit is reasonable. Parking evolution with Charles Darwin overlooks the limits of his time and all subsequent progress.

Science was primitive in Darwin’s day. Ships had no engines. Not until 1842, six years after Darwin’s Beagle voyage, did Richard Owen coin the term “dinosaur.” Darwin was an adult before scientists began debating whether germs caused disease and whether physicians should clean their instruments. In 1850s London, John Snow fought cholera unaware that bacteria caused it. Not until 1857 did Johann Carl Fuhlrott and Hermann Schaaffhausen announce that unusual bones from the Neander Valley in Germany were perhaps remains of a very old human race. In 1860 Louis Pasteur performed experiments that eventually disproved “spontaneous generation,” the idea that life continually arose from nonliving things.

Science has marched on. But evolution can seem uniquely stuck on its founder. We don’t call astronomy Copernicism, nor gravity Newtonism. “Darwinism” implies an ideology adhering to one man’s dictates, like Marxism. And “isms” (capitalism, Catholicism, racism) are not science. “Darwinism” implies that biological scientists “believe in” Darwin’s “theory.” It’s as if, since 1860, scientists have just ditto-headed Darwin rather than challenging and testing his ideas, or adding vast new knowledge.

Using phrases like “Darwinian selection” or “Darwinian evolution” implies there must be another kind of evolution at work, a process that can be described with another adjective. For instance, “Newtonian physics” distinguishes the mechanical physics Newton explored from subatomic quantum physics. So “Darwinian evolution” raises a question: What’s the other evolution?

Into the breach: intelligent design. I am not quite saying Darwinism gave rise to creationism, though the “isms” imply equivalence. But the term “Darwinian” built a stage upon which “intelligent” could share the spotlight.

Charles Darwin didn’t invent a belief system. He had an idea, not an ideology. The idea spawned a discipline, not disciples. He spent 20-plus years amassing and assessing the evidence and implications of similar, yet differing, creatures separated in time (fossils) or in space (islands). That’s science.

That’s why Darwin must go.

Almost everything we understand about evolution came after Darwin, not from him. He knew nothing of heredity or genetics, both crucial to evolution. Evolution wasn’t even Darwin’s idea.

Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus believed life evolved from a single ancestor. “Shall we conjecture that one and the same kind of living filaments is and has been the cause of all organic life?” he wrote in “Zoonomia” in 1794. He just couldn’t figure out how.

Charles Darwin was after the how. Thinking about farmers’ selective breeding, considering the high mortality of seeds and wild animals, he surmised that natural conditions acted as a filter determining which individuals survived to breed more individuals like themselves. He called this filter “natural selection.” What Darwin had to say about evolution basically begins and ends right there. Darwin took the tiniest step beyond common knowledge. Yet because he perceived " correctly " a mechanism by which life diversifies, his insight packed sweeping power.

But he wasn’t alone. Darwin had been incubating his thesis for two decades when Alfred Russel Wallace wrote to him from Southeast Asia, independently outlining the same idea. Fearing a scoop, Darwin’s colleagues arranged a public presentation crediting both men. It was an idea whose time had come, with or without Darwin.

Darwin penned the magnum opus. Yet there were weaknesses. Individual variation underpinned the idea, but what created variants? Worse, people thought traits of both parents blended in the offspring, so wouldn’t a successful trait be diluted out of existence in a few generations? Because Darwin and colleagues were ignorant of genes and the mechanics of inheritance, they couldn’t fully understand evolution.

Gregor Mendel, an Austrian monk, discovered that in pea plants inheritance of individual traits followed patterns. Superiors burned his papers posthumously in 1884. Not until Mendel’s rediscovered “genetics” met Darwin’s natural selection in the “modern synthesis” of the 1920s did science take a giant step toward understanding evolutionary mechanics. Rosalind Franklin, James Watson and Francis Crick bestowed the next leap: DNA, the structure and mechanism of variation and inheritance.

Darwin’s intellect, humility (“It is always advisable to perceive clearly our ignorance”) and prescience astonish more as scientists clarify, in detail he never imagined, how much he got right.

But our understanding of how life works since Darwin won’t swim in the public pool of ideas until we kill the cult of Darwinism. Only when we fully acknowledge the subsequent century and a half of value added can we really appreciate both Darwin’s genius and the fact that evolution is life’s driving force, with or without Darwin.

Carl Safina is a MacArthur fellow, an adjunct professor at Stony Brook

I only disagree with Safina in his honoring Erasmus Darwin with the foundation of Charles work (by inference). Erasmus wrote some poems , one of which obliquely mentioned evolution in sinmple verse. MAny peoplle in Erasmus time had already tried to develop a compound theory and , soon, due to the findings in epigenetics, we may be honoring Lamarck as the real founder of the mechanisms of evolution. (At least one of them, inheritance of acquired characteristics). This will be a debated issue in years to come as genetics unveils more surprises.
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2009 06:46 am
Is it like the way the word "liberal" and "socialist" are used interchangeably by some conservatives?

That is an apt analogy. Referring to the acceptance of a theory of evolution as Darwinism politicizes what is essentially a simple acceptance of the weight of scientific evidence. People who are described, and often describe themselves as creationists have a political and social agenda, so it is useful for them cast those with whom they disagree in terms which suggest that they (the people with whom they disagree) are also forwarding a political and social agenda, although there are actually very few people who fanatically insist on "Darwinism." By casting the debate between creationists and scientists as a difference of opinion, rather than religious adherence versus the weight of scientific evidence, the bear leaders of the creationists hope to create the impression that they are being imposed upon, and not allowed to think as they like. The truth of the matter, however, is that creationists hope to impose on the public, and interfere with the ordinary teaching of ordinary science in public schools.

Are all Darwinists evolutionists?

That's a rather naive question. In the first place, "evolutionist" is a term like "Darwinist." It is a term invented by those who wish to portray their (usually illusory) opposition in terms of polar opposites, which is important in portraying objections to a theory of evolution as a matter of differing opinions.

But the question is naive because "Darwinists" and "evolutionists" only exist in the minds of creationists who oppose the teaching of a theory of evolution. But within the self-serving definitions those people use, it is obviously axiomatic that these two terms are interchangeable.
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Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2009 06:51 am
Chuck Darwin is a legitimate candidate for stupidest white man ever to walk the Earth (stupidest ideas, most horrifically evil consequences); his ideas were the main philosophical cornerstone of naziism, communism, the eugenics movements, and most of the new kinds of grief which distinguish the last century from previous ones.

His name is associated with the original gradualistic and uniformitarian versions of evolution, which has generally been scotched in favor of the Gould/Eldridge/Myer punctuated equalibria (punk-eek) version which is newer, by no easier to defend on any sort of a logical basis.

The following little screed gets posted around on conservative forums fairly regularly; if you make just the littlest effort to read through the rhetoric the thing actually explains most of the major problems with both variants of evolution:


The big lie which is being promulgated by evolutionists is that there is some sort of a dialectic between evolution and religion. There isn't. In order to have a meaningful dialectic between evolution and religion, you would need a religion which operated on an intellectual level similar to that of evolution, and the only two possible candidates would be voodoo and Rastifari.

The dialectic is between evolution and mathematics. Professing belief in evolution at this juncture amounts to the same thing as claiming not to believe in modern mathematics, probability theory, and logic. It's basically ignorant.

Evolution has been so thoroughly discredited at this point that you assume nobody is defending it because they believe in it anymore, and that they are defending it because they do not like the prospects of having to defend or explain some expect of their lifestyles to God, St. Peter, or some other member of that crowd.

To these people I say, you've still got a problem. The problem is that evolution, as a doctrine, is so overwhelmingly STUPID that, faced with a choice of wearing a sweatshirt with a scarlet letter A for Adulteror, F for Fornicator or some such traditional design, or or a big scarlet letter I for IDIOT, you'd actually be better off sticking with one of the traditional choices because, as Clint Eastwood noted in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly:

God Hates IDIOTS Too...

The best illustration of how stupid evolutionism really is involves trying to become some totally new animal with new organs, a new basic plan for existence, and new requirements for integration between both old and new organs.

Take flying birds for example; suppose you aren't one, and you want to become one. You'll need a baker's dozen highly specialized systems, including wings, flight feathers, a specialized light bone structure, specialized flow-through design heart and lungs, specialized tail, specialized general balance parameters etc.

For starters, every one of these things would be antifunctional until the day on which the whole thing came together, so that the chances of evolving any of these things by any process resembling evolution (mutations plus selection) would amount to an infinitessimal, i.e. one divided by some gigantic number.

In probability theory, to compute the probability of two things happening at once, you multiply the probabilities together. That says that the likelihood of all these things ever happening, best case, is ten or twelve such infinitessimals multiplied together, i.e. a tenth or twelth-order infinitessimal. The whole history of the universe isn't long enough for that to happen once.

All of that was the best case. In real life, it's even worse than that. In real life, natural selection could not plausibly select for hoped-for functionality, which is what would be required in order to evolve flight feathers on something which could not fly apriori. In real life, all you'd ever get would some sort of a random walk around some starting point, rather than the unidircetional march towards a future requirement which evolution requires.

And the real killer, i.e. the thing which simply kills evolutionism dead, is the following consideration: In real life, assuming you were to somehow miraculously evolve the first feature you'd need to become a flying bird, then by the time another 10,000 generations rolled around and you evolved the second such reature, the first, having been disfunctional/antifunctional all the while, would have DE-EVOLVED and either disappeared altogether or become vestigial.

Now, it would be miraculous if, given all the above, some new kind of complex creature with new organs and a new basic plan for life had ever evolved ONCE.

Evolutionism, however (the Theory of Evolution) requires that this has happened countless billions of times, i.e. an essentially infinite number of absolutely zero probability events.

And, if you were starting to think that nothing could possibly be any stupider than believing in evolution despite all of the above (i.e. that the basic stupidity of evolutionism starting from 1980 or thereabouts could not possibly be improved upon), think again. Because there is zero evidence in the fossil record (despite the BS claims of talk.origins "crew" and others of their ilk) to support any sort of a theory involving macroevolution, and because the original conceptions of evolution are flatly refuted by developments in population genetics since the 1950's, the latest incarnation of this theory, Steve Gould and Niles Eldredge's "Punctuated Equilibrium or punc-eek" attempts to claim that these wholesale violations of probabilistic laws all occurred so suddenly as to never leave evidence in the fossil record, and that they all occurred amongst tiny groups of animals living in "peripheral" areas. That says that some velocirapter who wanted to be a bird got together with fifty of his friends and said:


Guys, we need flight feathers, and wings, and specialized bones, hearts, lungs, and tails, and we need em NOW; not two years from now. Everybody ready, all together now: OOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.....

You could devise a new religion by taking the single stupidest doctrine from each of the existing religions, and it would not be as stupid as THAT.

But it gets even stupider.

Again, the original Darwinian vision of gradualistic evolution is flatly refuted by the fossil record (Darwinian evolution demanded that the vast bulk of ALL fossils be intermediates) and by the findings of population genetics, particularly the Haldane dilemma and the impossible time requirements for spreading genetic changes through any sizeable herd of animals.

Consider what Gould and other punk-eekers are saying. Punc-eek amounts to a claim that all meaningful evolutionary change takes place in peripheral areas, amongst tiny groups of animals which develop some genetic advantage, and then move out and overwhelm, outcompete, and replace the larger herds. They are claiming that this eliminates the need to spread genetic change through any sizeable herd of animals and, at the same time, is why we never find intermediate fossils (since there are never enough of these CHANGELINGS to leave fossil evidence).

Obvious problems with punctuated equilibria include, minimally:

  • It is a pure pseudoscience seeking to explain and actually be proved by a lack of evidence rather than by evidence (all the missing intermediate fossils). In other words, the clowns promoting this BS are claiming that the very lack of intermediate fossils supports the theory. Similarly, Cotton Mather claimed that the fact that nobody had ever seen or heard a witch was proof they were there (if you could SEE them, they wouldn't BE witches...) This kind of logic is less inhibiting than the logic they used to teach in American schools. For instance, I could as easily claim that the fact that I'd never been seen with Tina Turner was all the proof anybody should need that I was sleeping with her. In other words, it might not work terribly well for science, but it's great for fantasies...


  • PE amounts to a claim that inbreeding is the most major source of genetic advancement in the world. Apparently Steve Gould never saw Deliverance...

  • PE requires these tiny peripheral groups to conquer vastly larger groups of animals millions if not billions of times, which is like requiring Custer to win at the little Big Horn every day, for millions of years.

  • PE requires an eternal victory of animals specifically adapted to localized and parochial conditions over animals which are globally adapted, which never happens in real life.

  • For any number of reasons, you need a minimal population of any animal to be viable. This is before the tiny group even gets started in overwhelming the vast herds. A number of American species such as the heath hen became non-viable when their numbers were reduced to a few thousand; at that point, any stroke of bad luck at all, a hard winter, a skewed sex ratio in one generation, a disease of some sort, and it's all over. The heath hen was fine as long as it was spread out over the East coast of the U.S. The point at which it got penned into one of these "peripheral" areas which Gould and Eldredge see as the salvation for evolutionism, it was all over.

The sort of things noted in items 3 and 5 are generally referred to as the "gambler's problem", in this case, the problem facing the tiny group of "peripheral" animals being similar to that facing a gambler trying to beat the house in blackjack or roulette; the house could lose many hands of cards or rolls of the dice without flinching, and the globally-adapted species spread out over a continent could withstand just about anything short of a continental-scale catastrophe without going extinct, while two or three bad rolls of the dice will bankrupt the gambler, and any combination of two or three strokes of bad luck will wipe out the "peripheral" species. Gould's basic method of handling this problem is to ignore it.

And there's one other thing which should be obvious to anybody attempting to read through Gould and Eldridge's BS:

They don't even bother to try to provide a mechanism or technical explaination of any sort for this "punk-eek"

They are claiming that at certain times, amongst tiny groups of animals living in peripheral areas, a "speciation event(TM)" happens, and THEN the rest of it takes place. In other words, they are saying:


ASSUMING that Abracadabra-Shazaam(TM) happens, then the rest of the business proceeds as we have described in our scholarly discourse above!

Again, Gould and Eldridge require that the Abracadabra-Shazaam(TM) happen not just once, but countless billions of times, i.e. at least once for every kind of complex creature which has ever walked the Earth. They do not specify whether this amounts to the same Abracadabra-Shazaam each time, or a different kind of Abracadabra-Shazaam for each creature.

I ask you: How could anything be stupider or worse than that? What could possibly be worse than professing to believe in such a thing?

Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2009 06:57 am
You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat-catching,” Robert Darwin told his son, “and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.”

Good call. GOOD call!! I mean, for predicting the future, that's as good as it gets.

Anything in the history books about Robert Darwin winning trifectas or doing other kinds of things which require precognition and that sort of thing?

Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2009 07:09 am
CAtarina always said
"Leonardo, why a you always a painting AHHH?, You be a goooda boy ana go into da governemenda servicia lika you poppa"

Robert Darwin provided the fortune with which Charles could live a gentlemans life and pursue his ideas. Doesnt that piss you off Gunga?
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Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2009 08:14 am
The analogy here would be Newton theories was the start of the science of physic but as knowledge increased it was found that his laws were special cases of how the universe work.

Not wrong just not complete and only covering a range of conditions that you would be aware of in everyday life.
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Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2009 09:47 am
Chuck Darwin is a legitimate candidate for stupidest white man ever to walk the Earth (stupidest ideas, most horrifically evil consequences); his ideas were the main philosophical cornerstone of naziism, communism, the eugenics movements, and most of the new kinds of grief which distinguish the last century from previous ones.

Gunga is our resident catastrophist whose grasp of fact is tenuous at best. He has little understanding of the subject , but doesnt let that stand in his way from leading from hiss ass.

His name is associated with the original gradualistic and uniformitarian versions of evolution, which has generally been scotched in favor of the Gould/Eldridge/Myer punctuated equalibria (punk-eek) version which is newer, by no easier to defend on any sort of a logical basis.
More bullshit from hiss fertile imagination .

Gunga has no experience or training in any of the crap he spews. Hes just a worldview peddlar and a Flood believer. The fact that hes never unsure of his beliefs is that he rushes to the CReationist literature to scrape up any morsels of crap that he can find. The funny thing is that gungas postings are never new ideas, he never has any data or evidence, and when he does, it gets shot down by real science almost immediately. Im sure that hes now gonna post the tired old cherrypicked , out of context quotes from scientists whod said things that he interprets as them refuting their sciences in moments of candor.
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