Darwinism and that dreaded E-word

A strong feature of the current “war on evolution” by Christian conservatives and other creationists is avoidance of the dreaded E-word – evolution. Every chance they get intelligent design (ID) proponents and other creationists try to replace “evolution” with “Darwinist,” “Darwinism”, etc. The nearest they seem to come to acknowledge the E-word is when they use the term “Darwinian evolution.”

Their use of “Darwinism” is innapropriate for three reasons:

evolution red darwinism blue

1: If you mean evolution why not use the commonly agreed word. Google Trends shows that “evolution’ is the preferred word used in searches. In this figure the red plot shows usage of “evolution” and the blue plot “Darwinism.”

2: More precisely, “Darwinism” should only be used to describe Darwins contributions to science – his theory of natural selection. After all the concept of evolution preceded Darwin and evolutionary science today includes a lot more than natural selection.

Many people (including most scientists) do use “Darwinism” to describe “natural selection” rather than evolution in general. So the blue plot in the above figure obviously overestimates the use of “Darwinism” in the ID/creationist way. Despite this, I have found creationists will sometimes justify their use as being the culturally accepted one!

3: Evolution deniers are obviously using the term “Darwinism” with the express purpose of demonising evolutionary science. They attempt to limit the whole science to the theory of natural selection. They imply that evolution is an old theory, advanced 150 years ago, and therefore no longer valid. And they wish to paint Darwin himself as somehow evil, that Darwinism is a social or political movement (an -ism) and thereby taint the science.

Hence there is a conscious strategy to never use the E-word, unless Darwinism is somehow attached.

natural selection red darwinism blueDespite their best efforts they have not been able to supplant the E-word with “Darwinism,” as the first figure shows. Even when we compare the usage of “Darwinism” with “natural selection” (which “Darwinism” really means) the latter term is still more commonly used. In this second figure the red plot shows usage of “natural selection” and the blue plot “Darwinism.”

Considering many people use “Darwinism” honestly (to mean natural selection rather thane evolution) I think the evolution-deniers have not yet been successful with their strategy of changing the way we use words.

Similar articles:
Is “Expelled” successful?
Expelled – no integrity exhibited
A respectable man with a dangerous theory
Scientific dissent from . . . science?
Intelligent design/creationism: Postscript

4 responses to “Darwinism and that dreaded E-word

  1. Thank you for this post, Ken! I remember a comment Richard Dawkins made in an interview (I wish I could remember which one!): Evolution is a fact and natural selection is the theory that best explains how evolution worked. It was an interesting distinction that, as a layperson, had escaped me until then.


  2. Interesting. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Very good post, Ken. If I have time tomorrow, I’ll try to do a post on it.


  4. Pingback: Rachel’s Musings » Blaming Darwin for the Holocaust

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