|The divine comedy|
“”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|
The term evolutionism (also evilutionism), an anti-science label used by creationists and intelligent-design proponents, 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 has led to the failings of present-day society.
The implications of the term "evolutionism" typify the misinformation deliberately generated by proponents of the Wedge Document, and in this sense, the role of the term is similar that of "Darwinism" to Creationists or of "warmism" to climate change deniers.
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 — which explains why the term is often employed by apologists when discussing things completely unrelated to evolutionary theory, such as cosmology or theodicy.
“”"Evolutionists"...? What do you mean; scientifically literate people?
|—Atheist YouTuber Martymer81 (paraphrase)|
Scientists generally reject the term "evolutionism", as the suffix "-ism" carries a connotation of belief and thereby misleadingly suggests that evolution is a religion. The word may also equate a "belief" in evolution with other philosophical movements, most of which are very accepting of evolution — such as atheism or 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", involves a similar tactic.
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|
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.
This claim is false for largely the 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?
Lack of evidence
Creationist Henry Morris (1918-2006) argued that because evolution has never been observed, the theory of evolution requires as much faith as creationism does. This is because unlike the usual science, evolution relies on forensic evidence rather than empirical evidence gathered from a methodological system of directly observed, repeatable results.
More generally, many creationists have repeated the mantra, "evolution requires as much faith as creationism". (The units used to measure degrees of "faith" may remain undefined.)
"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.
Creationists also argue that evolution is not scientific. Generally, creationists argue that evolution can't be disproven (falsified) — often as part of the very same incoherent rant that boils down to a half-assed attempt to do exactly that — and that evolution is based on historical events rather than 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 proven 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 can we in biology.
On the other hand, creationists fail to note the (lack of) falsifiability of creationism.
“”Evolution is a religion because it encompasses views of values and ultimate meanings.
This view is incorrect, to put it mildly.
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, destiny, or even existence 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.
Creationists argued that evolution has become unquestionable. This is incorrect. See the main article.
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  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.
The word evolutionist appears in English from 1833 (meaning "acrobat") and from 1866 (meaning something like a "practitioner of evolution").
Darwin used the term "evolutionist" in chapter 6 of The Descent of Man (first published in 1871), writing: "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."
Currently, some scientists are happy to use the term "evolutionist" to refer to a biologist who specialises in evolution. Thus, the term "evolutionist" may be no more indicative of religious faith in evolution than "florist" indicates faith in flowers or "physicist" suggests a philosophical acceptance of the premises of physics. Similarly, evolutionary biologists in countries such as the UK use the term "Darwinism" as a synonym for "evolution by natural selection" with no controversy (Richard Dawkins has done so, for instance), with those who accept it being "Darwinists". This is distinguished from specialist creationist usage.
Many Young Earth creationists misuse the word "evolutionist" by referring to cosmologists as evolutionists, such as "evolutionists claim that the universe is 16 billion years old." They also misattribute abiogenesis to the field of evolution, such as "evolutionists claim that we came from a rock!", of talk about for example "evolutionary geologists" (or worse, "evolutionary selenologists"), which should give a hint of how much they understand the science they talk about and especially their credibility.
- Ruse, Michael, 2003 (Mar.). Is Evolution a Secular Religion?. Science 299:1523-1524.
- Harrub, Brad, 2003. Is Evolution Ready to Take Over Christianity?
- From the Beagle to the School Board: God Goes Back to School, Morris Sullivan, Impact Press, Spring 2005.
- Smith, Jerry F. "The Inclusion of False, Falsified, and Falsifiable Data that Favor an Evolutionary Worldview in the High School Science Curriculum of Public and Private Schools in the Philippines."
- Eugenie Scott and Glenn Branch. Don't Call It Darwinism. Evolution: Education and Outreach, Volume 2, Number 1 (2009), 90-94
- Morris, Henry M., 1974. Scientific Creationism, Master Books, Arkansas, p. 4.
- Morris, Henry M., 1974. Scientific Creationism, Master Books, Arkansas, pp. 196-200.
- Claim CA610
- Anonymous. Leading anti-creationist philosopher admits that evolution is a religion. Answers in Genesis.
- Duane Gish. (Sept 1, 2004). Science, Education, and the subject of Origins.
- Ruse, Michael, 2000 (May 13). Creationists correct?: Darwinians wrongly mix science with morality, politics. National Post.
- Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition, 2008, s.v. "evolutionist".