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Jul. 26, 2010

Darwinism: The Ridiculousness of a Term

by Jesse Medalia Strauss

Click to enlarge images

Greetings Dear Reader,

My last couple of entries I have tackled ridiculousness pertaining to issues that have massive scope. Issues such as energy independence, climate change, the fate of our current geo-political system; ridiculousness that we hear about everyday on television, in newspapers, and across the blogosphere. However today, while riding the subway, I was reminded that ridiculousness comes in all shapes and sizes. And in this case, ridiculousness came in the form of a book title.

I was sitting on the 6 train this afternoon, heading uptown, the way I often do. Glancing ever so discretely at other passengers, just to entertain myself along the journey when something caught my eye. A man, standing across from me was reading a book called Darwinism Under the Microscope by James P Gills and Tom Woodward. At first I didn’t think much of it. I was just comforted to know that there are some average citizens left who still take interest in science and hopefully that man was learning a great deal.

But then I thought about the word Darwinism for a bit, and you know what, that term is rather ridiculous. The fact that it seems so normal and common speaks great volumes about how little we’ve actually progressed as a society. Before you get skeptical and begin to distance yourself from this blog post, allow me to explain.

First I am going to break up the word. The first part of the word is Darwin. This obviously refers to Charles Darwin. A man of great intellect, Darwin discovered the scientific theory of evolution while studying the behavior of finches in the Galápagos Islands. His work has been heavily peer reviewed and is accepted as a perfectly valid scientific theory by an overwhelming majority of the scientific community.

The second part of the word is ism. Ism is normally used as a suffix that comes after an ideology people subscribe too or follow. Communism, socialism, capitalism, fascism, Judaism, Catholicism and so on and so forth. Do you see what’s wrong then?

Evolution is an accepted scientific theory. Gravity is also an accepted scientific theory. We don’t call people who believe in gravity as part of Newtonism. Your calculus teacher does not preach Leibnizism. Yet in the world we live in, Microsoft Office recognizes Darwinism as a word and not Newtonism and Leibnizism.

We say that Darwin discovered the theory of evolution. We cannot claim that for the various isms people follow throughout the world. Nobody discovered capitalism, nobody discovered imperialism, nobody discovered Protestantism or Calvinism. They were thought up, that is why they are called ideologies because they all stem from ideas. They are all philosophical.

The theory of evolution is not philosophical. It stemmed from intense observation and adherence to the scientific method. The fact that the line between discoveries coming out of the scientific field and ideology are becoming so blurred within the eyes on the populace exposes a frightening fact. There is a massive disconnect between the citizenry and the scientific community.

When two authors with a PHD and an MD can demote a scientific theory that has the same status as gravity to an ideology that can be either followed or ignored without anyone batting so much as an eye, this fact is confirmed. When a politician puts an ad on television claiming his opponent believes in evolution, and that is considered an attack ad, this fact is confirmed. When people with no scientific background can discredit climate change every time it snows, yet ignore climate change theory in the face of record high summer temperatures, this fact is confirmed.

During President Obama’s inaugural address, he said that we need to restore science to its rightful place. The only problem is, we have become so far removed from the scientific community that we no longer know what that rightful place is. We have lost sight on how to properly educate the masses in science. We have lost our grasp on the basic foundations of scientific understanding and principle and thus we no longer take it seriously. Scientists have to come out and show us what their rightful place is and that place must be restored before our times take a turn for the even worse. Remember, it was the Scientific Revolution that got us out of the Dark Ages.

Be Skeptical, Be Critical, Take Nothing On Faith.

All the best,

Jesse M. S.

About Jesse Medalia Strauss

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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