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What is evolutionism? Is it even a word? Dr. David Menton explores these questions and examines the worldview of evolution.
Why is it we often encounter the comparison of creationism vs. evolution but rarely creationism vs. evolutionism? Is there no such thing as the word evolutionism? Surprisingly, many English language dictionaries, including even some large unabridged dictionaries, fail to define the word evolutionism and some don’t even list it as a word. For example, the unabridged edition of the Random House Dictionary of the English Language I have in my library weighs ten pounds and has nearly 2,000 pages of definitions yet fails to include the word evolutionism.1 Those dictionaries that do include the word generally leave it undefined and merely list it as a noun related to the main entry “evolution.”
When the -ism suffix is added to a word it forms complex nouns that often imply a system of belief or worldview.While the current Wikipedia entry for evolutionism concedes that the word exists, it assures us that it is “seldom used in the scientific community” and implies that its continued use is mostly by creationists.2 But a Google search for evolutionism gives over a million results—with the vast majority of uses coming from evolutionists themselves! A search for evolutionism on Google Books gives over 200,000 results and on Google Scholar (generally limited to the academic and scientific literature) about 25,000 results.
So why is there a seeming reluctance to admit the very existence of such a commonly used word as evolutionism? Most likely it involves the shade of meaning that the suffix -ism adds to the word evolution. When the -ism suffix is added to a word it forms complex nouns that often imply a system of belief or worldview, and this is what many evolutionists refuse to acknowledge about evolution. To put a point on it, evolutionists do not want you to associate belief with evolution.
In the recent video Evolution vs. God, evangelist Ray Comfort asked the faculty and students at several universities if they believe in evolution, and all firmly acknowledged they did believe. But more astute evolutionists resent being asked if they “believe” in evolution because such a question implies that their strongly held evolutionary convictions involve some trace of belief, a fact they adamantly deny. In a lecture at the 2006 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in St. Louis, evolutionary apologist Dr. Eugenie Scott cautioned her audience about the question, “Do you believe in evolution?” and insisted that the question should always be phrased, “Do you accept evolution?” For her and many other evolutionists, evolution is “settled science” and thus must be accepted as an absolute fact, not merely believed.
Unlike the word evolutionism, the word creationism is found and defined in almost all dictionaries of the English language. For example, my Random House Dictionary defines creationism as “the doctrine that matter and all things were created, substantially as they now exist, by an omnipotent Creator, and not gradually evolved or developed.”3 This dictionary could have similarly defined evolutionism as “the doctrine that matter and all things evolved over billions of years to their current form by purely natural processes, and not supernaturally created in six days by an omnipotent Creator.” But as we have seen, there can be no evolutionism vs. creationism.
Although the word evolutionism is often left undefined in dictionaries, the word Darwinism is usually found and defined. This might seem inconsistent, but to evolutionists the difference between the two words is significant. Evolution they insist is an absolute observable fact while Darwinism is a theory about the mechanism of evolution. Thus an evolutionist might concede that he believes that Darwin has given us a correct explanation for the mechanism of evolution (Darwinism), but regardless of how it happened, he is dead certain of the “fact” of evolution itself.
Evolutionists like to use the phenomenon of gravity as an example of how we should view the supposed phenomenon of evolution. After all, we don’t “believe” in gravity, we observe it and accept it as a fact—and indeed it is a law of nature. Evolutionists insist that we should be every bit as confident in amoeba-to-man evolution as we are that a dropped bowling ball will fall to the floor rather than rise to the ceiling. But thus far, evolutionists have stopped short of calling evolution a scientific law of nature. Evolution is much too nebulous and slippery to ever qualify as a law of nature. Unlike a law, no one has ever attempted to reduce evolution to a mathematical statement applicable anywhere in the universe.
Evolutionary apologists can be devilishly clever in glossing over the failure of molecules-to-man evolution to measure up to the observational status of gravity. For example we often hear that “the theory of evolution is as well-established as the theory of gravity.” They apparently hope that the average person will understand this to mean that evolution is as well established as the “theory” that a dropped bowling ball will fall rather than rise. But the theory of gravity must not be confused with the observation of gravity. The theories of gravity attempt to explain the actual mechanism of observed gravitational force. Anyone who troubles to look into the many exceedingly complex theories of gravity may wonder if a testable theory of gravity even exists.
So is evolution a belief system? Evolution is necessarily a belief because molecules-to-man evolution is not observable but rather must be inferred and believed. This is why evolutionists are stumped when asked to give an observable example of one kind of creature evolving into a different kind of creature. If pressed, they inevitably give an example of limited variation within a kind that is not a contested issue between evolutionists and creationists. It clearly takes a lot of credulity (willingness to believe without evidence) for evolutionists to believe that an expanding cloud of hydrogen turned into people over 14 billion years.
Finally, is evolution a worldview? Any belief system that purports to explain the origin of virtually everything that is real is a religion or worldview. Evolution was certainly the worldview of evolutionist Julian Huxley who believed that “evolution is the whole of reality, a single process of self-transformation.”4 Indeed for those who consistently hold the worldview of evolution, nothing can be elevated above evolution because everything that is real must ultimately be a product of evolution, including religion and even God if he is to be considered to be part of reality. And so it is that evolutionism is a widely held, essentially atheistic belief system that dare not speak its name.