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Bronze-level articleEvolutionism

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The divine comedy


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One thing that disturbs me is the use of the word "Evolutionist". It sounds like evolution is a faith or belief, when it really is a natural process that scientists have worked hard to understand. I prefer to say "I understand evolution" rather than "I believe in evolution". It is similar to saying "I understand photosynthesis" or "I understand gravity", or "I understand the process of decay".
—anonymous poster at Talk Origins[1]

The term evolutionism (also evilutionism) is an anti-science label by creationists and intelligent design proponents which implies that belief in "macroevolution" (and standard cosmology, abiogenesis, and common descent) is a secular religion. Creationists argue that this means that evolution should not be taught (because it'd be a religious doctrine) and that evolutionism had led to the failings of present-day society.[2] "Evolutionism" is typical of the misinformation deliberately generated by proponents of the Wedge Document.

The term is similar to creationists and "Darwinism" or global warming deniers and "Warmism".

Often, however, the term just gets thrown around to refer to anyone creationists are disagreeing with at the time, such as atheists or liberal Christians.


[edit] Scientific view

The term is generally rejected by scientists, as the suffix '-ism' carries a connotation of belief and thereby falsely claims that evolution is a religion. It is also used to equate a 'belief' in evolution with other philosophical movements, most of which are very accepting of evolution, such as atheism and secular humanism. This serves primarily to pull 'evolutionism' down to the level of creationism, as equally faith-based belief systems. Capitalizing the word, to make 'Evolutionism', is a similar tactic.

[edit] Teach the Controversy

These textbooks present that billions of years ago, from nothing we got everything. The evolutionary (religious) belief or worldview is that the universe and life is the result of purely natural processes, apart from a Supreme Being or other intelligence. It sounds "natural" enough, but it is a belief nonetheless. It is still a belief in the sense that it is without conclusive scientific evidence to conclusively verify it, just as the religions mentioned above.
—Jerry Smith at Liberty University, conflating the Big Bang with evolution[3]
See the main articles on this topic: Teach the Controversy and Scientism

Evolutionism is a derogatory phrase used to describe evolution and its use stems from the anti-evolutionary attitude in many parts of the USA. By retitling natural selection as "Darwinism", creationists seek to reduce the theory to the level of any other "ism" - like racism, capitalism or socialism. This gives the illusion that the theory is a subjective belief system, and so its acceptance is relative, optional and independent of evidence.[4]

This claim is false for largely same reasons that scientism as a pejorative is wrong. Creationists have several arguments for this, rebutted below.

Moreover, if the theory of Evolution is disqualified because it is actually a religion, then, does this mean that Christianity is not a religion and that the Book of Genesis is not a holy text?

[edit] Lack of evidence

Creationist Henry Morris argued that because evolution has never been observed, the theory of evolution requires as much faith as creationism does. This is because unlike usual science, evolution relies on forensic evidence rather than empirical evidence gathered from a methodological system of directly observed, repeatable results.[5]

More generally, many creationists have repeated the mantra, "evolution requires as much faith as creationism".

"Evolution" as a religion without scientific basis is an attempt to color the argument and imply that evolution is just another belief system or worldview ("ism") as opposed to a scientific theory. One can only assume that the creationist is saying, in effect: "Your beliefs are just as baseless and religiously-motivated as mine are, so you might as well believe what I believe."

Creationists don't seem to understand that scientific ideas cannot be beliefs. Science is based on interpretation of facts, and by definition theories are never beliefs. We may accept evolution, but it would not be science if we believed evolution (or, rather, if one had to believe it regardless of evidence).

Creationists also seem to ignore the massive amount of evidence for historical and current evolution on Earth.

[edit] Non-scientific nature

See the main articles on this topic: Falsifiability of evolution and Historical and operational science

Creationists also argue that evolution is not scientific. Generally, creationists argue that evolution can't be disproved (falsified) and that evolution is based on historical events rather observational science. Both of these claims are incorrect.

The results of evolution have been directly observed in the beak shapes of finches in the Galapagos islands, which, among other things, helped inspire Darwin's theory of evolution. As to whether evolution is the source of current biodiversity, it cannot be proved because it is historical. However, just as we can use indirect evidence to make very strong predictions about occurrences in geology, astronomy and cultural anthropology, so we can in biology.

On the other hand, creationists fail to note the (lack of) falsifiability of creationism.

[edit] Morality

See the main articles on this topic: Evolution and morality and Teleology

Creationist Henry Morris argues that:[6]

Evolution is a religion because it encompasses views of values and ultimate meanings.

This view is incorrect.[7]

First and foremost, the scientific theory of evolution does not say anything about values or meanings. While some people may add on such constructs to the theory, in doing so they form a separate philosophy which should not reflect on the theory itself. This claim is false as the theory of evolution says absolutely nothing about the origin or destiny of souls and or spirits. If Evolution is a religion, then why do the alleged evolutionists recognize no formal priesthood, no holy texts, no holy laws, nor even prayers or rituals.

This argument also falls prey to the fallacy of composition: just because some evolutionists get morality from evolutionary beliefs, does not mean that all evolutionists do, or that evolution necessarily leads to these moralities. In fact, the wide range of political beliefs of evolutionists (from liberal to conservative to Social Darwinist) suggests that evolution is unrelated to moral beliefs.

[edit] Dogmatism

See the main article on this topic: Evolution conspiracy

Creationists argued that evolution has become unquestionable. This is incorrect. See the main article.

[edit] Michael Ruse

See the main articles on this topic: Michael Ruse and List of fallacious creationist quotes

Creationists AIG[8] and Duane Gish[9] cite the 2000 article "Creationists correct?: Darwinians wrongly mix science with morality, politics" by Michael Ruse (an anti-creationism writer):[10]

Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit that in this one complaint—and Mr [sic] Gish is but one of many to make it—the literalists are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.


Evolution therefore came into being as a kind of secular ideology, an explicit substitute for Christianity.

Ruse's point was that two kinds of evolution exist side-by-side. There's the powerful scientific theory of evolution which is well-evidenced and one of the crowning achievements of science, and there's the quasi-religious evolution which promotes particular moral or social theories. His purpose is to prevent the two from being confused. Unfortunately, creationists have misused his essays on the subject to promote their own purposeful confusion of the two.

Ruse specifically pointed out several times that evolution (including common descent) is scientific. There are, however, other things called evolution which are not. For example, in Is Evolution a Secular Religion, he writes: ". . . if the claim is that all contemporary evolutionism is merely an excuse to promote moral and societal norms, this is simply false. Today's professional evolutionism is no more a secular religion than is industrial chemistry."

What if it was claimed that "John Doe, a creationist theologian who previously defended creationism as science, has now stated that creationism is actually religious in nature." Would you accept this as an argument against creationism? An appeal to authority is a poor argument at best. Science is based on evidence, not social hierarchy. Michael Ruse can say whatever he wants, but it will not change the facts.

[edit] Origin

Darwin himself used the term in chapter 6 of The Descent of Man, saying: "Every evolutionist will admit that the five great vertebrate classes, namely, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes, are descended from some one prototype; for they have much in common, especially during their embryonic state."[11]

The term 'evolutionism' was first widely used in reference to cultural evolution during the 19th century. It later came to refer to biological evolution, especially those who believed that biological evolution mirrored cultural evolution by constantly progressing towards a particular form.[citation needed]

Currently, some scientists are happy to use the term to refer to a biologist who specialised in evolution. Thus, the term evolutionist may be no more indicative of religious faith in evolution than 'florist' indicates faith in flowers or 'physicist' shows a philosophical acceptance of the premises of physics.[1]

[edit] Self-confessed evolutionists

The term has also been used by Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, PZ Myers, and Niles Eldredge (among others) as a self-descriptor.[citation needed]

AronRa used it in his video "7th Foundational Falsehood of Creationism",[12] though not in reference to himself. In his earlier "5th Foundational Falsehood of Creationism",[13] he criticizes the lumping of all science disagreeable to creationists into "evolutionism."

Others think the term should be avoided due to the potential for misunderstanding.[citation needed]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Further reading

[edit] Footnotes

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