[Post-dated to stay up here for the rest of Darwin Day.]
In honour of this year's Darwin Day, I'm going to make a humble suggestion to defenders of evolutionary biology that they please, fer Chrissake, stop walking into the buzzsaw that is "Darwinism" year after year. Really. Just stop. Let me explain.
The most high-profile purveyors of creationist and Intelligent Design crap have an annoying habit of referring, not to "evolution" or "biological evolution" or "evolutionary biology," but to "Darwinism," and for good reason.
First, it gives them a chance to present, not the current state of affairs in science, but the view of evolution as of 150 years ago, in order to ridicule it. And, more importantly, it allows them to inextricably link the entire field of evolution with one man as if to portray it as some kind of narrow-minded, KoolAid-swilling cult. And, sadly, it's worked very well all this time. But it's time to change all that.
Quite simply, it's time to take a stand and refuse to discuss this area of science with anyone who insists on using the word "Darwinism" or any of its variations, and note well how that's a perfectly fair and reasonable stance to take.
Colleges and universities don't teach courses in "Introductory Darwinism" or "Darwinism 101" or the like. Rather, those institutions of higher learning more properly use variations on "evolution" and so on, so it's not outrageous to demand that people who want to debate the topic at least have the integrity to use the correct words.
To that end, I propose that high-profile defenders of science (folks like PZ Myers, Larry Moran and the like) just flat-out refuse to get involved in any debate or discussion which involves the word "Darwinism." It should, from this day forward, be a matter of policy that, if someone isn't capable of using the correct terminology, they're not worth the time it takes to have a civil discussion.
Any debate challenges that are advertised using the word "Darwinism" should be ignored as utterly fraudulent and dishonest, and ridiculed appropriately and mercilessly. And, more to the point, any op-eds or letters to the editor that take issue with "Darwinism" should be answered, not by addressing the content, but as follows:
On Tuesday's letters page, a Mr. Throat Warbler-Mangrove described, in detail, his objections to what he referred to as "Darwinism."
I would like to point out that, in the field of actual scientific research, we do not refer to "Darwinism," but more properly to "biological evolution" or "evolutionary biology."
If Mr. Mangrove wishes to rephrase his objections to use the proper terminology, then we might have something to discuss. As it is, however, anyone who persists in attacking what they call "Darwinism" is simply demonstrating their utter lack of understanding of science and can safely be ignored.
That should be the new strategy, and people should embrace it like a rabid wolverine on a piece of raw meat. No usage of the word "Darwinism" should go unchallenged -- debate participants should be corrected instantly every time they use it, letters page editors should be educated that no such letters will be addressed, and so on.
In a nutshell, the job is to make it impossible for the wingnuts to keep using that word -- every time they do, they should get smacked upside the head and told what the correct terminology is or the conversation is over. Because, if you think about it, it's not really that unfair a demand, but I'm guessing it will drive the wingnuts to absolute distraction.
And isn't that reward enough by itself?
BY THE WAY, I should point out how the ID wingnuts really don't have the moral high ground to complain about this insistence on proper terminology, given that they're constantly pissing and moaning about being described as "creationists." So if they want to get all anal-retentive about accuracy, they certainly can't bitch about a similar request.
Are we good here? I think we're good here.