A reader writes:
I'm sorry, but I have to come to the defense of the reader who claimed that "Darwinist" is a term whose only real meaning and utility is as an epithet thrown at thinking people by religious extremists. The reader may have been a bit strident in making the point, but he or she is absolutely right that there is no such thing as a "Darwinist" any more than there is such a thing as an "Einsteinist," "Newtonist," or "Crick and Watsonist."
There are only people who believe in the foundational discoveries of modern science, and people who do not. Believing in science is not a matter of belonging to a partisan camp, it is simply acceptance of a method for advancing knowledge that has proven itself to be perhaps humanity's greatest innovation. The use of the term "Darwinist" suggests that one who believes in natural selection is taking a side in a debate, when in fact no such debate over the validity of natural selection exists in any meaningful sense within the scientific community. I am sure your use of the term was not intended to be pejorative, but don't think it's being "touchy" to point out the problem with using it, since, consciously or unconsciously, it impacts the way people think about the so-called "debate" over evolution.
I think you're being overly touchy yourself in your response to your interlocutor ("Is Darwinist a Loaded Term?"). The simple fact is that one can head off to websites hosted by the likes of Ray Comfort, Human Events, Vox Dei, and other, less respectful sources of internet-based religious dialogue and see "Darwinist" used as shorthand for "atheist," as though atheism requires the replacement of Christian (or Jewish, or Muslim...) ideology with a central pillar based upon the theory of natural selection. One cannot deny that, for the vast majority of atheist-theist dialogue, "Darwinist" is used as a pejorative by theists. That you don't intend to use it so is admirable; that you seem to be ignorant of the taint the word carries in such discussions is naive at best.
The problem is not (just) that it's a pejorative - although it is. The problem is that the modern theory of evolution has rejected or far surpassed many of Darwin's own ideas about his theory. The core truth remains, but the use of the term implies that the credibility of evolutionary theory comes from the person of Darwin rather than from 150 years of peer-reviewed research. I'm not a biologist but it's been my impression that this term is absolutely detested throughout the scientific community, as if the modern laws of physics were called Newtonism. This isn't mere touchiness.
I rest my case.
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