Last updated

Evolutionism is a term used (often derogatorily) to denote the theory of evolution. Its exact meaning has changed over time as the study of evolution has progressed. In the 19th century, it was used to describe the belief that organisms deliberately improved themselves through progressive inherited change (orthogenesis). [1] [2] The teleological belief went on to include cultural evolution and social evolution. [1] In the 1970s the term Neo-Evolutionism was used to describe the idea "that human beings sought to preserve a familiar style of life unless change was forced on them by factors that were beyond their control". [3]


The term is most often used by creationists to describe adherence to the scientific consensus on evolution as equivalent to a secular religion. [4] [5] The term is very seldom used within the scientific community, since the scientific position on evolution is accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists. [6] Because evolutionary biology is the default scientific position, it is assumed that "scientists" or "biologists" are "evolutionists" unless specifically noted otherwise. [7] In the creationevolution controversy, creationists often call those who accept the validity of the modern evolutionary synthesis "evolutionists" and the theory itself "evolutionism".

19th-century teleological use

Before its use to describe biological evolution, the term "evolution" was originally used to refer to any orderly sequence of events with the outcome somehow contained at the start. [8] The first five editions of Darwin's in Origin of Species used the word "evolved", but the word "evolution" was only used in its sixth edition in 1872. [9] By then, Herbert Spencer had developed the concept theory that organisms strive to evolve due to an internal "driving force" (orthogenesis) in 1862. [8] Edward B. Tylor and Lewis H Morgan brought the term "evolution" to anthropology though they tended toward the older pre-Spencerian definition helping to form the concept of unilineal (social) evolution used during the later part of what Trigger calls the Antiquarianism-Imperial Synthesis period (c1770-c1900). [10] The term evolutionism subsequently came to be used for the now discredited theory that evolution contained a deliberate component, rather than the selection of beneficial traits from random variation by differential survival.

Modern use by creationists

The term evolution is widely used, but the term evolutionism is not used in the scientific community to refer to evolutionary biology as it is redundant and anachronistic. [7]

However, the term has been used by creationists in discussing the creation-evolution controversy. [7] For example, the Institute for Creation Research, in order to imply placement of evolution in the category of 'religions', including atheism, fascism, humanism and occultism, commonly uses the words evolutionism and evolutionist to describe the consensus of mainstream science and the scientists subscribing to it, thus implying through language that the issue is a matter of religious belief. [4] The BioLogos Foundation, an organization that promotes the idea of theistic evolution, uses the term "evolutionism" to describe "the atheistic worldview that so often accompanies the acceptance of biological evolution in public discourse." It views this as a subset of scientism. [11] [ non-primary source needed ]

See also


  1. 1 2 Allen, R. T.; Allen, Robert W. (1994). Chambers encyclopedic English dictionary. Edinburgh: Chambers. p. 438. ISBN   978-0-550-11000-8. a widely held 19c belief that organisms were intrinsically bound to improve themselves, that changes were progressive, and that acquired characters could be transmitted genetically. The belief was also extended to cultures and societies, and to living organisms.
  2. Carneiro, Robert, L. (2003). Evolutionism in cultural anthropology : a critical history. Cambridge, MA: Westview Press. pp. 2–3. ISBN   978-0-8133-3766-1.
  3. Trigger, Bruce (1986) A History of Archeological Thought Cambridge University Press pg 290
  4. 1 2 Linke, Steven (August 28, 1992). "A Visit to the ICR Museum". TalkOrigins Archive . Retrieved 2008-12-05. In fact, true science supports the Biblical worldview... However, science does not support false religions (e.g. atheism, evolutionism, pantheism, humanism, etc.)
  5. Ruse, Michael (March 2003). "Perceptions in science: Is Evolution a Secular Religion? -- Ruse". Science : 299 (5612): 1523. Retrieved 2008-12-05. A major complaint of the Creationists, those who are committed to a Genesis-based story of origins, is that evolution--and Darwinism in particular--is more than just a scientific theory. They object that too often evolution operates as a kind of secular religion, pushing norms and proposals for proper (or, in their opinion, improper) action.
  6. "Nearly all scientists (97%) say humans and other living things have evolved over time", Public Praises Science; Scientists Fault Public, Media Archived 2009-11-08 at the Wayback Machine , Pew Research Center, 9 July 2009
  7. 1 2 3 Gough, J. B. (1983). "The Supposed Dichotomy between Creationism and Evolution". National Center for Science Education . Retrieved 2009-09-24. "...to say a person is a scientist encompasses the fact that he or she is an evolutionist."
  8. 1 2 Carneiro, Robert L.(Léonard) (2003) Evolutionism in cultural anthropology: a critical history Westview Press pg 1-3
  9. Darwin, Charles (1986). Burrow, JW (ed.). The Origin of Species (reprint of 1st ed.). Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Classics. p. 460. ISBN   978-0-14-043205-3. ...from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved (italics not in original)
  10. Trigger, Bruce (1986) A History of Archaeological Thought Cambridge University Press pg 102
  11. "How is BioLogos different from Evolutionism, Intelligent Design, and Creationism". The BioLogos Foundation. Retrieved 2012-01-19. While BioLogos accepts evolution, it emphatically rejects evolutionism, the atheistic worldview that so often accompanies the acceptance of biological evolution in public discourse. Proponents of evolutionism believe every aspect of life will one day be explained with evolutionary theory. In this way it is a subset of scientism, the broader view that the only real truth is that which can be discovered by science. These positions are commonly held by materialists (also called philosophical naturalists) who deny the existence of the supernatural.

Related Research Articles

Creationism religious belief that nature originated through supernatural acts of divine creation.

Creationism is the religious belief that nature, and aspects such as the universe, Earth, life, and humans, originated with supernatural acts of divine creation. In its broadest sense, creationism includes a continuum of religious views, which vary in their acceptance or rejection of scientific explanations such as evolution that describe the origin and development of natural phenomena.

Creation science branch of creationism claiming to provide scientific support for the Genesis creation narrative and disprove/reexplain the scientific facts/theories/paradigms about geology, cosmology, biology, archeology, history, and linguistics

Creation science or scientific creationism is a branch of creationism that claims to provide scientific support for the Genesis creation narrative in the Book of Genesis. Creationists also claim it disproves or reexplains a variety of scientific facts, theories and paradigms of geology, cosmology, biological evolution, archaeology, history, and linguistics. However, the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is that creation science fails to qualify as scientific because it lacks empirical support, supplies no tentative hypotheses, and resolves to describe natural history in terms of scientifically untestable supernatural causes. Courts, most often in the United States where the question has been asked in the context of teaching the subject in public schools, have consistently ruled since the 1980s that creation science is a religious view rather than a scientific one. Its scientific and skeptical critics assail creation science as a pseudoscientific attempt to map the Bible into scientific facts. Professional biologists have criticized creation science for being unscholarly, and even as a dishonest and misguided sham, with extremely harmful educational consequences.

Darwinism Theory of biological evolution

Darwinism is a theory of biological evolution developed by the English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809–1882) and others, stating that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual's ability to compete, survive, and reproduce. Also called Darwinian theory, it originally included the broad concepts of transmutation of species or of evolution which gained general scientific acceptance after Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, including concepts which predated Darwin's theories. English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley coined the term Darwinism in April 1860.

Intelligent design A pseudoscientific argument for God

Intelligent design (ID) is a pseudoscientific argument for the existence of God, presented by its proponents as "an evidence-based scientific theory about life's origins". Proponents claim that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." ID is a form of creationism that lacks empirical support and offers no testable or tenable hypotheses, so it is not science. The leading proponents of ID are associated with the Discovery Institute, a fundamentalist Christian and politically conservative think tank based in the United States.

Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987), was a United States Supreme Court case concerning the constitutionality of teaching creationism. The Court considered a Louisiana law requiring that where evolutionary science was taught in public schools, creation science must also be taught. The Court ruled that this law violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion. It also held that "teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction."

Young Earth creationism Belief that Earth was supernaturally created just a few thousand years ago

Young Earth creationism (YEC) is a form of creationism which holds as a central tenet that the Earth and its lifeforms were created in their present forms by supernatural acts of a deity between approximately 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. In its most widespread version, YEC is based on the religious belief in the inerrancy of certain literal interpretations of the Book of Genesis. Its primary adherents are Christians who believe that God created the Earth in six days in contrast with old Earth creationism (OEC), which holds literal interpretations of Genesis that are compatible with the scientifically determined ages of the Earth and universe.

Theistic evolution Views that regard religious teachings about God as compatible with modern scientific understanding about biological evolution

Theistic evolution, theistic evolutionism, evolutionary creationism, divine direction, or God-guided evolution are views that regard religious teachings about God as compatible with modern scientific understanding about biological evolution. Theistic evolution is not in itself a scientific theory, but a range of views about how the science of general evolution relates to religious beliefs in contrast to special creation views.

Evolutionary creation, also presented as Evolutionary creationism, is the religious belief that God as Creator brings about his plan through processes of evolution. It is a type of creationism which, like theistic evolution, accepts modern science, but there are theological differences. Its proponents, who tend to be conservative Evangelical Christians, hold that God is actively involved in evolution to a greater extent than theistic evolutionists.

Progressive creationism the religious belief that God created new forms of life gradually over a period of hundreds of millions of years

Progressive creationism is the religious belief that God created new forms of life gradually over a period of hundreds of millions of years. As a form of old Earth creationism, it accepts mainstream geological and cosmological estimates for the age of the Earth, some tenets of biology such as microevolution as well as archaeology to make its case. In this view creation occurred in rapid bursts in which all "kinds" of plants and animals appear in stages lasting millions of years. The bursts are followed by periods of stasis or equilibrium to accommodate new arrivals. These bursts represent instances of God creating new types of organisms by divine intervention. As viewed from the archaeological record, progressive creationism holds that "species do not gradually appear by the steady transformation of its ancestors; [but] appear all at once and "fully formed."

Orthogenesis Hypothesis that organisms have an innate tendency to evolve towards some goal

Orthogenesis, also known as orthogenetic evolution, progressive evolution, evolutionary progress, or progressionism, is the biological hypothesis that organisms have an innate tendency to evolve in a definite direction towards some goal (teleology) due to some internal mechanism or "driving force". According to the theory, the largest-scale trends in evolution have an absolute goal such as increasing biological complexity. Prominent historical figures who have championed some form of evolutionary progress include Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Henri Bergson.

Creation–evolution controversy The ongoing cultural, political, and theological dispute about the development and diversity of life on Earth

The creation–evolution controversy involves an ongoing, recurring cultural, political, and theological dispute about the origins of the Earth, of humanity, and of other life. Species were once widely believed to be fixed products of divine creation in accordance with creationism, but since the mid-19th century evolution by natural selection has been established as an empirical scientific fact.

<i>Darwin on Trial</i> book by Phillip E. Johnson

Darwin on Trial is a 1991 book by law professor Phillip E. Johnson disputing tenets of science and evolution and promoting creationism. Johnson wrote the book with the thesis that evolution could be "tried" like a defendant in court. Darwin on Trial became a central text of the intelligent design movement, and Johnson has been described as the "father of ID".

Michael Ruse, is a British-born Canadian philosopher of science who specializes in the philosophy of biology and works on the relationship between science and religion, the creation–evolution controversy, and the demarcation problem within science. Ruse currently teaches at Florida State University.

Jewish views on evolution includes a continuum of views about the theory of evolution, experimental evolution, the origin of life, age of the universe, evolutionary creationism, and theistic evolution. Today, many Jews accept the theory of evolution and do not see it as incompatible with traditional Judaism, reflecting the emphasis of prominent rabbis such as the Vilna Gaon and Maimonides on the ethical rather than factual significance of scripture.

Objections to evolution Arguments that have been made against evolution

Objections to evolution have been raised since evolutionary ideas came to prominence in the 19th century. When Charles Darwin published his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, his theory of evolution initially met opposition from scientists with different theories, but eventually came to receive overwhelming acceptance in the scientific community. The observation of evolutionary processes occurring has been uncontroversial among mainstream biologists since the 1940s.

Timeline of intelligent design timeline

This timeline of intelligent design outlines the major events in the development of intelligent design as presented and promoted by the intelligent design movement.

The eclipse of Darwinism The period when evolution was widely accepted, but natural selection was not

Julian Huxley used the phrase “the eclipse of Darwinism” to describe the state of affairs prior to what he called the modern synthesis, when evolution was widely accepted in scientific circles but relatively few biologists believed that natural selection was its primary mechanism. Historians of science such as Peter J. Bowler have used the same phrase as a label for the period within the history of evolutionary thought from the 1880s to around 1920, when alternatives to natural selection were developed and explored—as many biologists considered natural selection to have been a wrong guess on Charles Darwin's part, or at least as of relatively minor importance. An alternative term, the interphase of Darwinism, has been proposed to avoid the largely incorrect implication that the putative eclipse was preceded by a period of vigorous Darwinian research.

Although biological evolution has been vocally opposed by some religious groups, many other groups accept the scientific position, sometimes with additions to allow for theological considerations. The positions of such groups are described by terms including "theistic evolution", "theistic evolutionism" or "evolutionary creation". Theistic evolutionists believe that there is a God, that God is the creator of the material universe and all life within, and that biological evolution is a natural process within that creation. Evolution, according to this view, is simply a tool that God employed to develop human life. According to the American Scientific Affiliation, a Christian organization of scientists:

A theory of theistic evolution (TE) — also called evolutionary creation — proposes that God's method of creation was to cleverly design a universe in which everything would naturally evolve. Usually the "evolution" in "theistic evolution" means Total Evolution — astronomical evolution and geological evolution plus chemical evolution and biological evolution — but it can refer only to biological evolution.

Alternatives to evolution by natural selection

Alternatives to evolution by natural selection, also described as non-Darwinian mechanisms of evolution, have been proposed by scholars investigating biology since classical times to explain signs of evolution and the relatedness of different groups of living things.

<i>Monad to Man</i> book by Michael Ruse

Monad to Man: the concept of progress in evolutionary biology is a 1996 book about the longstanding idea that evolution is progressive by the philosopher of biology Michael Ruse. It analyses the connection between ideas of progress in culture generally and its application in evolutionary biology.