"Today the creationists deliver the provoking news. Previously this was the
function of the evolutionists." Do you see the Intelligent Design movement as
this provocation? - Danish scholar of religion Mikael Rothstein
What is the Meaning of the Term "Evolution"?
It has become painful
to "listen to or read" the arguments about "evolution" raging between
people that should be seeking more agreement/unity/support with/from
each other instead of being tempted to ridicule each other's intelligence. It seems
that the argument has been reduced to a "semantical" one where we no
longer have a clearly understood definition of the "hot words" evolution
and creation, and no longer have a clear handle on the real intellectual
issues. Both of these words are unproductive to understanding reality
unless they mean significantly more than just "change." The most
fundamental issue in the consideration of the origin/existence of
life—and life forms—and it's myriad aspects is whether there was
pre-existent/concurrent intelligence capable of purposeful design
involved or whether it came about through some mindless and purposeless process.
My dictionary defines the word "evolve" as "to develop by gradual
changes; to unfold." If, as I suspect, the word evolution comes from
evolve, then the term for what Velikovsky envisioned, "catastrophic
evolution," is almost an oxymoron. But the critical issue in the
definition is that the word connotes a lack of intelligent or purposeful
design, direction or control.
And so some would say that "evolution is a fact" because if you believe
that life went through changes then you believe in evolution. THAT is
what the word EVOLUTION means for them.
My response to the above is that we all agree that life has gone through
changes, but at this point it seems scientifically impossible to say
that some intelligent agency had nothing to do with it. Philosophically
it would always be impossible to say with certainty that intelligence was not involved.
It seems to
me that there is a basic difference, a difference in kind, between
the process of change that takes place in a natural, gradual,
developmental sort of way and one that takes place because of some
extraordinary environmental change. In politics, this difference has
been referred to by the terms EVOLUTION vs. REVOLUTION.
Sudden changes resulting from interventions by hypothetical
super-intelligent space-people using Earth creatures as guinea pigs, are
not appropriately referred to as EVOLUTION. In politics, we might refer
to such intelligent (?) intervention into the gene pool as a "coup" or a
"putsch," but certainly not "evolution." In other words, EVOLUTION
should not be used as the over-arching, generic word for "change."
says he believes that life "went through changes," he means
that it had changes "imposed" on it from intelligent meddlers. This is a
far cry from the view that life underwent natural responses to natural
changes (however catastrophic) in the environment. The very real, basic
differences in these perspectives should be preserved in our language,
not glossed over in the desire to build bridges or to win a debate by linguistic means.
We can agree with the above, especially the last sentence.
am claiming that the evidence indicates intelligent processes in all
significant changes, particularly those involving new kinds of body
parts, new plans for an organism etc. This does not rule out the notion
that creatures may have changed THEMSELVES via some intelligent process
which no longer operates in the world, but always via an intelligent
process. The defining characteristic of evolution(ism) and not just
Darwinism, is that random and mechanistic change is involved. That simply does not work.
I agree with the above. Can we all stop "hardening" our position and
agree that we may lean toward one side of this issue or favor one
position but that we just don't know?
Finally , "Z" writes:
here seems to be that the definition of "evolution" is being taken
from a dictionary. As a former biology major, one professor advised us
to never use a dictionary or an encyclopedia as a major reference source
since the definitions they provide are either inadequate,
subjective and often intended for the layman. For the level of detail of
this discussion, the definition provided by Cardona is incorrect in a
general sense. Evolution is a proven biological process by which
organisms adapt to their environment. Any competent biology text will
lay no claim that evolution in and of itself will bring about new
species. The confusion comes about since, almost since its inception,
evolution (the process) has been used as the driving force in the
"theory that evolution was the process which brought about the origin of
species". There is a major distinction between the two that I did see
prior to my first-year university biology courses. Most people do not
recognize this distinction and simply refer to the theory by the same
name as the process. I've found that most dictionaries (at least the
ones I've read) probably don't have the space or foreknowledge to go
into depth about this distinction and thus you get a skewed dictionary
definition. My suggestion is for someone to get a correct definition out
of a biology text before continuing further with this thread.
Again, I concur with the above sentiments, although I am not sure we can
come up with a completely meaningful definition from a biology text.
Whatever definitions of the words "evolution, creation, engineering" we
come up with, they should incorporate or retain the critical
distinctions dictated by the fundamental issues.
Finally, I still have the strong feeling that the evolutionary concepts propounded have
come about largely through a justifiable, but misguided conscious or unconscious
emotional reaction to the ridiculous "Bible thumping" baggage concepts of
creationists. Here is how one biologist defines the term "evolution":
THE MEANING OF “EVOLUTION”
by Alexander Mebane
Is it really true that "all life on Earth has developed by
evolution"? Yes, no, and maybe. It depends on what meaning you assign
to the protean word “evolution”; so we had better begin by exhibiting
its possible ambiguities.
I) The original meaning was the unfolding, or working-out, of
something potentially present at the outset, like the unrolling of a
written scroll, or the development of an embryo into a baby. (In 1866,
Ernst Haeckel made the famous pseudoscientific claim that that
development illustrates the evolution of life on Earth ("ontogeny
recapitulates phylogeny")—a notion that is no longer taken seriously by
anyone.) "Evolution" in this sense would apply to the very implausible
hypothesis that all subsequent evolutionary changes were somehow
compressed or "pre-programmed" into the very first living cell, so that
its later development into the vast "Tree of Life" was no more than the
natural unfolding of a future already predetermined in that first
ancestral organism, without need of any further causative agents. This
looks so much like a reductio ad absurdum that theorists such as
Denton (Nature's Destiny) and Ruffié (Traité du Vivant)
would undoubtedly deny advocating any such absurdity—though we ought to
recall how obviously "impossible" it looks that a barely-visible
fertilized egg, or zygote, could contain within itself, without need for
any external direction, all of the agencies needed to transform itself,
in nine months, into a human baby!
If life's development is thought to have been directed over time
not solely by its origin, yet by some supposedly single and
self-consistent external agent (called "God"), we have the picture known
as "theistic evolution"—which, since it is interpreted as the unfolding
over time of a single consistent intention, might still be called an
"evolution" in the original sense of the word.
II) However, the term "evolution" as now usually understood has
come (rather improperly) to designate something quite different:
Lamarck/Darwin’s hypothesis that all life-forms have "evolved". by
unbroken genealogy, from earlier ones by a process of gradual
transformation, thus producing a continuous, though branching, "Tree
of Life"—envisioned by Darwin, and also by late Lamarck, as having
sprouted from a single primordial “root" organism. Lamarck, closer to
the original definition, had invoked as transforming agent a
metaphysical élan vital prompted by an organism's
life-experience; but Darwin replaced that by the very important
scientific postulate that all transfomations have been affected
naturally, by merely accidental gene-altering agencies—of which
life-experience is not one.
Does the fossil record prove this continuous metamorphosis to be
true, as you have undoubtedly seen asserted? No. As paleontologists
have always known, but only for the past generation have dared to say,
it proves it to be false: species do not "gradually
evolve” out of earlier ones, but are seen to be suddenly-appearing
discrete, and permanently-stable entities. This really-observed
non-Darwinian process has been given (by Gould and Eldredge, 1972) the
somewhat opaque name of "punctuated equilibria”.
III) You will sometimes see the word "evolution"
employed in a quite different (and really improper and tendentious)
third way, as designating merely "the real history of the life-forms
that have inhabited Earth, as we can decipher it from the fossils they
have left in the rocks". When evolutionists declare that "evolution is
a fact", it is this (illegitimate) sense of the word that they tacitly
have in mind; but they hope you will take it in Sense II.
IV) We might retain the name "evolution" (as paleontologists still
do), though now
designating the really-observed process of sudden new-species advents in
one discontinuous step, rather than by Darwin/Lamarck's supposed
continuous metamorphosis. Is this only a modification of
Darwin' s Sense-II evolution—or something essentially different? That
depends on whether the speciation process is really (as they claim) a
wholly-natural one, each new species having been brought into being
solely by Darwin's accidental causes, and thus derived by strict
genealogy from a single "parent" species.
That Darwinian explanation, however, is in reality a decidedly
questionable one, as will be made evident in what follows. If the
origin of species is in truth an event brought about not by natural
causes but by artifice (as would seem likely to be the case), we
would then have to speak either of "artificial evolution" or of
continual creations"—an idea long known to theologians under the name
of "successive (or "progressive") creation."
Yet, if (as Christians, Jews, and Muslims are required to believe)
all the billions of species have been produced by the intentions of a
single divine Designer, that perpetual artificial process might not
unreasonably be described as a stepwise sort of "theistic
evolution"—and, thus, an "evolution" not in Sense II but in the
original sense of the word!
However, the real evidence makes it far easier to believe that a
great multitude of DNA-sculptors, generally working at cross-purposes,
must really have been responsible for the "creations". If that is the
case, such a non-consistent species-originating process conforms to
neither Sense I nor Sense II, and could still be called evolution only
in the inappropriate purely-historical sense noted above under III.
 See Jeffrey Schwartz's Sudden Origins (1999).
 As it is used by EIdredge in his Triumph of Evolution (2000).