Billy Dembski, proud owner of a doctorate masters in theology, is very confused. In responding to Olivia Judson’s argument that “Darwinism” is a useless phrase and that no sensible person ought to call evolutionary biology Darwinism (and, AFAIC, no sensible person does), Dembski picks out her claim that referring to:

[Darwinism] suggests that Darwin was the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega, of evolutionary biology, and that the subject hasn?t changed much in the 149 years since the publication of the ?Origin.? He wasn?t, and it has. Although several of his ideas ? natural and sexual selection among them ? remain cornerstones of modern evolutionary biology:

Billy replies:

Christ is identified as the cornerstone of a well-known religious faith, so that faith is rightly called ?Christianity.? Does Judson propose replacing ?Darwinism? with ?Darwinianity??

This is false. “The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner.” Yet we don’t call Christians “cornerity,” nor “rejectians.” True, the analogy is developed between Jesus and the stone in that story, but that’s a few stages removed.

Furthermore, Judson was criticizing people who treat Darwin as the Alpha and Omega, and she is criticizing those who would treat Darwin as the cornerstone of modern biology. She’s saying selection (natural and sexual) remain cornerstones. By Billy’s standard, we should refer to evolutionary biologists as selectians, which just sounds stupid. So we’ll stick with calling the field what it’s always been called: evolutionary biology.

To extend this analysis, I’ll observe that modern Christian theology tends to owe more to the teachings of Paul than those of Jesus, so I could suggest that we start calling Christians “Paulians,” but that’d just be petty and stupid. I’ll leave such things to Dembski.


  1. #1 The Ridger
    July 20, 2008

    Brits use the term. But then for them it hasn’t got the baggage.

  2. #2 Dr. Kate
    July 20, 2008

    Once again Dembski fails to comprehend the true fundamental (pun intended) difference between evolutionary biology and religion. Religions CAN be based on a single person’s teachings taken on faith without question, so it is completely appropriate to name a religion after its founder. But scientific disciplines are, by definition, NOT based on the unquestioned statements of a single person. Therefore, it’s completely inappropriate to refer to a branch of science by the name of one of its researchers (or even its “founder,” if you want to go there). Just as we don’t call plate tectonics “Wegenerism”, it’s inappropriate to refer to evolutionary biology as “Darwinism.”

    Judson’s whole point is that evolutionary biology is NOT the same science that Darwin did. It’s based on some of his ideas, yes, but it’s NOT his “teachings.” Dembski can’t comprehend that sciences evolve (pun intended again), because he thinks science is a religion, and (in his mind) his religion hasn’t changed in 2000 years, so of course our “religion” can’t have changed since Darwin, either. Because it’s against his religious beliefs to question what he is taught, he can’t comprehend that others DO question, and that those questions DO lead to changes in ideas. He can’t comprehend that science ISN’T a religion because it ISN’T based on blind faith and belief in what someone else tells you is true. Unquestioning obedience and belief is the only mindset he knows, so he’s unable to imagine or attribute to others any other mindset. Sad, isn’t it?

    Of course, that’s why the creationists insist on calling it “Darwinism.” If they can get enough people to think that science is a religion, then they can argue that their religion ought to get as much time in the science classroom as “our” religion does.

  3. #3 corvus
    July 20, 2008

    Ugh. Dembski seems to have not read or comprehended the article. What a shocker.

    He stands as convincing evidence that a doctorate in theology is something you can get on a plea bargain.

  4. #4 TomS
    July 20, 2008

    Are you sure that he has a doctorate in theology? I believe that he has a master’s degree in theology, from Princeton Theological? He does have doctorates in philosophy and in mathematics.

  5. #5 Beast Ape
    July 20, 2008

    Bravo. I suppose Bill would have us replace all modern sciences with (theorist surname)-nity.

  6. #6 Josh Rosenau
    July 20, 2008

    TomS, thanks for the correction.

  7. #7 Hopeful Monster
    July 20, 2008

    Also note the picture that Dembski has chosen to include, and then label “Olivia Judson busy at her research.” Clearly she must be a bad person, not to be trusted, if she’s consorting with people in black PVC corsets, even if it was a TV documentary on the sexual behavior of animals and plants.

  8. #8 Josh Rosenau
    July 20, 2008

    HM: Good catch. I was reading the RSS feed while offline and didn’t see the graphic. At least Dembski didn’t add fart noises.

  9. #9 oldbogus
    July 20, 2008

    As a former Baptist, I disagree with your comment about calling them “Paulians”. It isn’t “petty and stupid”; it is accurate. IMO, Paul subverted some of Jesus basic teachings so he could have someone to hate (or something).

    The fact that “Darwinism” is inappropriate means evolutionary theory has evolved since “Origin”. Maybe religion needs to evolve but, by definition, fundamentalism cannot change.

    I see all this sturm and drang from the fundies as a reaction to the increasing levels of scientific progress going on. By generating fearful scenarios and false flags, they are attempting to hold a “beachhead”. As that becomes less tenable, they’ll either use “tactical withdrawal” or end up being overwhelmed by the march of progress as they prove how wrong they are.

    In the meanwhile they are damned annoying!

  10. #10 James F
    July 20, 2008

    As much as I like describing intelligent design advocates as cdesign proponentsists, it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. I’ll take my lead from Richard Hoppe and suggest that a “Paleyists” might be more apt. Their arguments, unlike those of “Darwinists,” truly haven’t advanced since Paley’s Natural Theology in 1802.

  11. #11 Modusoperandi
    July 21, 2008

    Hopeful Monster “Also note the picture that Dembski has chosen to include, and then label “Olivia Judson busy at her research.””
    Damn. For a second, I thought that science looked fun…

    James F “Their arguments, unlike those of “Darwinists,” truly haven’t advanced since Paley’s Natural Theology in 1802.”
    Actually, the Arguments from Design and Fine Tuning have advanced, dragged along by advances in science. This is why they’re riddled with terms that sound scientific…well, scientifical anyway.

    As an aside, remember that ID is not religious in nature. This is what all those experts in ID, who by an odd coincedence just happen to be varying degrees of Christian (from somewhat conservative to OMG that’s conservative) say. Repetition makes truth.

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