Thursday, July 17, 2008

a science not an ideology

Three articles about Darwin by Olivia Judson in the New Yorker:
  • June 17: Darwinmania! Darwin got all the glory, but did he deserve it?
  • July 8: An Original Confession Many scientists admit that they’ve never read Darwin’s Origin of Species. What are they missing?
  • July 15: Let’s Get Rid of Darwinism Darwin lives on, and should, but for the sake of evolutionary studies the term “Darwinism” should be retired.
In the last article, Olivia Judson says that evolutionary biology should not be referred to as Darwinism because it makes it sound as if the science began and ended with Darwin, and as if it has not developed since Darwin. One commenter on the article also pointed out that it ignores the contribution of Alfred Russell Wallace. GeneXs at Witches and Scientists observed that the term 'Darwinism' is also "used nearly as a curse by Creationists, Young-earth Fundamentalists, and Dominionists". To my mind, calling a science an "-ism" makes it sound like a political ideology instead of a science. We don't call the physics of gravity "Newtonism" (though people do refer to Newtonian physics, I suppose). Of course Dawkins' new atheism is an ideology, and social Darwinism was an ideology (and a particularly unpleasant one at that), but evolutionary biology is a science, not an ideology, and therefore shouldn't be labelled as an -ism.

1 comment:

genexs said...

I love Wallace. He was an entomologist and based a great deal of his research in evolution on insects. There's a good chapter on him in a book by Peter Raby called 'Bright Paradise', which details the exploits of a number of Victorian Age jungle explorers. Wallace was a bit of a wild man and quite a contrast to the more stilted Darwin. He also advocated some metaphysical beliefs, which alienated scientists at the time. Raby also wrote a bio of Wallace, but sadly I have not read it.

Thanx for mentioning my post.