- A proponent of evolutionism
In the creation-evolution controversy, those who accept the scientific theory of biological evolution by natural selection or genetic drift are often called "evolutionists", and the theory of evolution itself is referred to as "evolutionism" by creationists. This label is used to suggest that evolution is an ideology such as creationism and other "-isms". In this way, creationists bolster their claim that the scientific theory of evolution is in its basics a belief, dogma, ideology or even a religion, rather than a scientific theory. The terms "evolutionism" and "evolutionist" are rarely used in the scientific community as self-descriptive terms.
"Evolutionism", is defined by the OED as "[t]he theory of evolution, evolutionary assumptions or principles". Creationists tend to use the term evolutionism in order to suggest that evolution and creationism are equal in a philosophical debate.
Development of usageAnthropologists and biologists refer to "evolutionists" in the 19th century as those who believed that the cultures or life forms being studied are evolving to a particular form (see Platonic form). Very few scientists today, if any, believe that evolution in culture or biology works that way, and serious discussions generally take caution to distance themselves from that perspective.
Evolutionary biology explains biotic changes in terms of internal processes and gradual development as a natural progression of previously existing lifeforms. Evolution neither denies nor requires a role for divine intervention. Before the 19th century there were a number of hypotheses regarding the evolution of all material phenomena: suns, moons, planets, earth, life, civilization, and society. The number of hypotheses being propounded increased dramatically in the middle of the 19th century.
In modern times, the term evolution is widely used, but the terms evolutionism and evolutionist are rarely used in scientific circles to refer to the biological discipline. The term evolution was popularised during the 19th century by Herbert Spencer to mean cultural evolution; i.e. the increasing complexity of cultures (see History of the theory of cultural evolution) — it was only later that it acquired its biological meaning. Advocacy of such theory was called evolutionism.
Most scientists object to the terms evolutionism and evolutionist because the -ism and -ist suffixes accentuate belief rather than scientific study. Conversely, creationists use those same two terms partly because the terms accentuate belief, and partly perhaps because they provide a way to package their opposition into one group, seemingly atheist and materialist, designations which are considered to be irrelevant to natural science.
- Carneiro, Robert, Evolutionism in Cultural Anthropology: A Critical History ISBN 0-8133-3766-6
- World Religions and Social Evolution of the Old World Oikumene Civilizations: A Cross-cultural Perspective (on the applicability of this notion to the study of social evolution).
- Review of Buckland's Bridgewater Treatise, The Times Tuesday, November 15, 1836; pg. 3; Issue 16261; col E. ("annihilates the doctrine of spontaneous and progressive evolution of life, and its impious corollary, chance")
- Review of Charles Darwin's The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals The Times Friday, December 13, 1872; pg. 4; Issue 27559; col A. ("His [Darwin's] thorough-going 'evolutionism' tends to eliminate . . . .")
- Ruse, Michael. 2003. Is Evolution a Secular Religion? Science 299:1523-1524 (concluding that evolutionary biology is not a religion in any sense but noting that several evolutionary biologists, such as Edward O. Wilson, in their roles as citizens concerned about getting the public to deal with reality, have made statements like "evolution is a myth that is now ready to take over Christianity").
evolutionist in Czech: Evolucionismus
evolutionist in Danish: Evolutionisme
evolutionist in Dutch: Evolutionisme
evolutionist in Japanese: 進化主義
evolutionist in Polish: Ewolucjonizm
evolutionist in Serbian: Еволуционизам