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Fact-Checking “Professor Dave”: Is the Term “Darwinism” Really Used Only by “Creationists”?

Günter Bechly
Photo: "Professor Dave," via YouTube (screen shot, fair use).

Is “Darwinism” an obsolete term? That’s what atheist YouTuber Dave Farina says in a recent video attacking intelligent designAs I wrote previously, Farina’s attacks on intelligent design do little more than recycle misinformation and stereotypes. This claim about “Darwinism” is a case in point. Farina alleges that the term “Darwinism” is no longer used by modern scientists, but only by “creationists.” 

This is a common trope among anti-ID activists who do not work in the field of evolutionary biology. I had to debunk the same claim in my debate with Joshua Swamidass (Unbelievable? 2021). Like Swamidass, Farina does not present any scientific evidence for this unsubstantiated assertion. Of course he does not, because he cannot, because it is factually incorrect. 

The Peer-Reviewed Evidence

As this nonsense is so often found in Internet forums discussing intelligent design, I here provide the peer-reviewed scientific evidence to put the point to rest once and for all.

Michael Ruse (1982) edited an anti-ID book titled “Darwinism defended” and Ruse (2015) authored the entry “Darwinism” for an international encyclopedia, where he defined “Darwinism [a]s the theory of evolution through natural selection.” Ernst Mayr (1984), co-founder of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis, asked “What Is Darwinism Today?” Evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould (1984) in his Tanner Lectures presented “Challenges to Neo-Darwinism.” Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist and popularizer of Darwin’s theory, did not at all think that “Darwinism” is obsolete but instead elevated it to the status of a general theory of everything that he named “Universal Darwinism” (Dawkins 1985). Some 18 years later Dawkins gave a whole lecture on “Neo-Darwinism” (Dawkins 2013). Francisco Ayala et al. (2002) debated “Neodarwinism and infectious diseases transmission.” Arber (2008) used computer modelling to explore the “Molecular mechanisms driving Darwinian evolution.” Deslile (2009) suggested a pluralistic “proper foundation for neo-Darwinism.” Evolutionist philosopher of biology David Hull (2011) presented himself as “Defining Darwinism” in a special issue of a journal entirely devoted to this very question. Brooks (2011) asked in the same issue, “How Darwinian is neo-Darwinism?” and Depew (2011) pondered “the future of Darwinism.” Kampourakis & Gripiotis (2015) wrote in Perspectives in Science about “Darwinism in Context.” Denis Nobel (2015) wrote about “Evolution beyond neo-Darwinism.” Philosopher of science Jamie Milton Freestone (2021) looked at “Contemporary Darwinism as a worldview.” Hancock et al. (2021) published a study in the prestigious journal Evolution and concluded in the abstract, “The Modern Synthesis (or ‘Neo-Darwinism’), …, remains the foundation of evolutionary theory. … Neo-Darwinism is alive and well.” Even more recently, Brown & Hullender (2022) found that “Neo-Darwinism must mutate to survive.”

These are just a few examples of academic publications about (Neo-)Darwinism with that term in the title, which is not to mention the many studies that use the term in the text as a matter of course. An example from my own field of expertise is paleontologist David Sepkoski (2012), who famously identified the five big mass extinction events, and who uses the term “Darwinism” all over the place in his book Rereading the Fossil Record

Most of the above-mentioned scientists are renowned mainstream evolutionists, and none of them considers the term “Darwinism” as obsolete or no longer used in contemporary science. That totally debunks Farina’s claim that only “creationists” use the term Darwinism but not real scientists. Even the uber-skeptical Wikipedia, which is dominated by a virtual Mafia of anti-ID activists who successfully conspired to erase my Wikipedia page (Benjakob 2017Klinghoffer 2017), does not consider “Neo-Darwinism” to be an obsolete term. The prestigious Encyclopedia Britannica concurs.

Embarrassing and Appalling

Farina apparently did not bother to do a minimum of fact-checking. This is embarrassing and appalling for somebody who claims to be a science educator. 

However, there is still more misinformation being peddled by Farina. Next up I will tackle his critique of Casey Luskin and the fossil record relating to human evolution.