Tuesday, May 30, 2006

What do you call yourself?

I call myself an Evolutionary Biologist (or, when I'm in a room of Evolutionary Biologists, I'm an Evolutionary Geneticist). Over at The Questionable Authority, there's a small discussion happening about Species Concepts. In the comments to Part I, a commenter named "Karl" asks some important questions - to paraphrase: why do we care about species? I tried to answer in the comments, but the blog's author did a much better job than I in Part II. However, Karl raised another question in the comments:
I apologize for "Evolutionist". That is as bad as "Darwinist" eh? Except that I'm using it to describe me - and I'm not a biologist, it means only that I believe in Evolution as opposed to ID(Creation). What should I call myself?
Another excellent question. What does a person, who understands* the difference between ID, Creationism, and Evolutionary Biology, but is not a Biologist, call themselves? As acknowledged by Karl, the words "Evolutionist" and "Darwinist" are essentially constructs of Creationists. So when a non-biologist, like an Engineer, or a Doctor (of medicine), or a Teacher, stumbles into one of those undying and annoying "debates", what's the easiest way for such a person to identify themself as ally to science, and member of the reality-based community?

I also dislike the saying "I believe in Evolution". As I didn't say to a waiter in Chico, California during the SSE 2003, I don't want you to BELIEVE, I want you to UNDERSTAND. To me, it's not a question of belief - it's a question of ignorance vs. knowledge - do you know enough about the theory of Evolution to trust it as a scientific theory (with all the uncertainty and potential for refinement that implies)?

To get back to the labels, it seems that a long phrase, like "I favour evolutionary theory, because the alternatives are not science" is just too long and awkward. Do we have a word (or pair of words) that fits that statement? Should we (as in, we who are not IDiots or Cretinists) "take back" the derogatory terms of our opponents, a la "Queer"?

I must think on this some more. Comments welcome, of course.

* I use the term "understands" in the context of if one understands the differences between these points of view, one also understands that creationism is a vacuous, reality-denying religious idea, and ID is an anti-scientific weaselly religious idea, while Evolutionary Biology is a legitimate field of scientific inquiry based on a well-established and well-supported scientific theory. Understanding the definitions of words like "hypothesis" and "theory" is also included.

1 comment:

Carlo said...

I've decided that I can't deny the facts to myself any longer: I hate what Jesus stands for.

So I think these people (evolutionists) should call themselves "SANE" and "LOGICAL". Whilst creationists may call themselves "INTENTIONALLY DENYING REALITY THUS CRAZY".