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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Attention burgeoning post-Darwinists: Should we all join up and get a tax number at this point?

In April 2005, I did a Google search on the word Post-Darwinist.

I didn't come up with much. Biochemist Michael Denton had sometimes been described as a post-Darwinian. His books, Evolution a Theory in Crisis, and Nature's Destiny certainly showed that he had got over Darwinism.

Not wanting to intrude on established fame, I called this blog the Post-Darwinist rather than the "Post-Darwinian." (Because I try to name a blog in a distinctive way. That helps with searches.)

But - either way - look how things have changed by 2008! This morning, shortly after 8:00 am EST (March 15, 2008), I tried another search on post-Darwinist and post-Darwinian.

This time, obviously, I had to use a Google advanced search. By that time I had posted 982 stories to the Post-Darwinist, and had no doubt mentioned the Post-D a number of times on other blogs and sometimes in articles put up on the Web.

So I chose this search string:

"Post-Darwinist OR Post-Darwinian -Denyse -O'Leary"

to get as much stuff as possible that related to me* or my blog* out of the count.

The number was 110 000

I don't remember anything like that from 2005.

I also did a search on Post-Darwinist alone:

Post-Darwinist -Denyse -O'Leary: 48 800

I also tried

Post-Darwinian -Denyse -O'Leary: 60 700

I am not a prophet to be sure. But despite the current ridiculous Darwin hagiography, we may be living in a post-Darwinian age - whether we know it or not, whether we accept it or not. The world is moving away from Darwin.

Still, I don't think we need a tax number. We should just keep ourselves informed. Lots is clearly happening.

*Silly people with nothing better to do write nasty things about people they don't know - but dislike anyway - and use rude names to refer to their blogs. You might want to discount 1.2 % from my search for their influence. Not more, because if they had any influence, they would likely need to start using real names.

Update note March 16 2008: It is true, of course, that people are using these terms to mean a variety of different things, just as they started, long ago, to use the term "socialism" to mean a variety of different things - from Stalinism through Fabianism to the nanny state. It's the relative comfort level with the term that I find interesting.

Update March 18 2008:

One anonymous poster writes to say:

I think you are reading too much into this - firstly, the Internet is growing by leaps and bounds, so any search on any term is likely to yield more results after 2-3 years.

And I don't think the term "post-darwinist" has much meaning. We could also use the terms post-Rutherford, or post-Galileo, or post-Newton - sure science has moved on since all of their contributions, but it doesn't undermine their original contribution. Same with Darwin - there have been many important contributions to evolutionary theory since Darwin's time (and there will continue to be), but it does not undermine Darwin's basic insights to natural selection and common descent.

Yes, the Internet is growing by leaps and bounds, but if the term "post-Darwinist" had been anywhere near as popular back then as it apparently is today, I would have called my blog something else. I can't see how the Internet's growth alone is to blame for that, because I only very occasionally encountered the term (or the alternative post-Darwinian) in the printed material I read while writing By Design or By Chance? (approximately 2002-2004).

Also, people DON'T use the term post-Newtonist or post-Newtonian but we DO (to judge from the search) use the term post-Darwinist or post-Darwinian. To me that signals an impending social change. But as with any prediction, there is only one way to find out for sure.

Another poster noted that the term "intelligent design" yielded two million hits when stripped of obvious identifiers that associate it with the intelligent design controversy. Without doing a project I certainly don't have time for, I wouldn't be able to know what percentage of them refer to ID, as we are discussing it here.

But here is a hunch: When I first started researching this controversy in 2001, I kept turning up promotional copy for products or ideas that show "intelligent design". By now, I expect that the term "intelligent design" - explicitly referencing the intelligent design controversy - has enough cultural traction that most people will not use it without taking into account this particular meaning.

For example, I doubt that Hill Clinton could claim that her proposed health care program shows "intelligent design" without igniting an uproar. But twenty years ago, a politician could have put it that way without controversy.

That too is a cultural change.

By the way (11:25a EST), it is irrelevant that Hill doesn't like ID. A candidate who liked ID and thought it should be taught in schools instead of unguided evolution would still not likely say that her proposed health care program shows "intelligent design". She would be buying two fights for the price of one, because the term is now culturally owned.

Note: I don't run posts that begin by trying to make a point and end by insulting me. If you want to get published here, leave out that kind of thing and your chances go way up.

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