Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Is "Darwinism" a made-up term?

One of the many double messages one gets about evolution:
  1. Evolution is so much bigger (and more robust!) than Darwinism.  Dawkins is a Darwinist but I'm not.  
  2. By Darwinism, you mean "Biology." "Darwinism" is a propaganda term invented by creationists.
It's possible that (2) is more likely to be espoused by educators and lobbyists than researchers.  Richard Dawkins and Paul Gross probably exemplify (2).  Off the top of my head, Larry Moran (Sandwalk), James Shapiro, Lynn Margulis, Rudolf Raff, and the Alternberg 16 scientists own to (1), although for some of them (1) might simply mean that there is more than one mechanism even though adaptation through selection is still the primary explanation for functional information (since selection depends far less on serendipity).   

But the problem is exemplified in the recent Nature article in which biologists disagree about whether evolutionary biology is in great need of re-conception.  

Depending on which biologist you ask, attacking selection is either attacking a straw man or attacking an unassailable, unquestionable foundation of biology.  Point out this contradiction and the various factions will rally and point out that they all believe in evolution (cue "Book of Mormon" song "I Believe") and they all believe selection is important.  Just in case the "non-existent" controversy "gives aid and comfort" to the Enemy.   

I'll end with this bit of think-of-the-children-ism from secular evangelist Bill Nye:
And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine.  But don't make your kids do it because we need them.  We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.
We need your kids to think like us.  Because engineers can't build stuff without the narrative speculations of evolutionary biology. (See Salem hypothesis)

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