The words evolutionist and evolutionism.

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by w1z4rd, Apr 3, 2007.

  1. w1z4rd Valued Senior Member

    I hear the religious folk bandy these words around a lot, and because of the strangeness I decided to try find out more about them.

    What makes me wonder about these words are the following:

    - Why should evolution and the theory around it have and ism or an ist?

    For instance I have never heard of someone who believes in the theory of gravity to be known as a Gravitationist, or that someone who believes in the germ theory of disease called a Germist.

    If someone disagree`s with say a field of study in the histories such as the Holocaust, they are known as a holocaust denialist. Someone who doesn't believe in the HIV theory for AIDS is normally known as an AIDS denialists. People who agree with the theories are not known as holocaustists or hivists.

    Why should this apply to the theory of evolution?

    - Lets have a look at the dictionary definition on the word:

    Now why is this word in the dictionary? Is it the correct usage of the word?

    The wikipedia article on Evolutionism gives you a much deeper insight into the history's of the word and the current usage of the word:

    I just get the feeling that the dictionary definition is inaccurate.
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Don't fall into the trap of believing that the evolution of the English language follows a logical path. Words are coined, and if they achieve acceptance, they show up in the dictionary. It's as simple as that. "Bling" is in there and so is "evolutionist" because both words occur commonly in American language, if not British.
    And it's all a matter of politics and fashion, isn't it? A person who doesn't believe in gravity would be called a gravity denialist, because "respectable" people all "know" that the "law" of gravity is true. On the other hand, a person who doesn't believe in the theory that white people are innately superior to other people is not a "white supremacy denialist." We don't have a word for that person at all, because it is assumed that it includes all "respectable" people and does not need to be pointed out.

    Unfortunately over the past thirty years it has become fashionable and politically correct in America to know absolutely no science. People who are completely ignorant of science have positions as publishers of newspapers, directors of TV news, and leaders of the three branches of American government.

    As a result, people who thirty years ago would have been called "evolution denialists" or simply "religious nuts" are now treated with respect and called "creationists."
    Since what the now-respectable religious nuts believe is the "ism" of creationism, what they oppose also has to be an "ism" and it's evolutionism.
    Once again, this needs to be made clear. A dictionary of the English language (or the American language as some of ours put it) is not a guide to proper usage. It makes no claim to sorting out a consistency in popular terminology. It is only a record of words that are regarded as "accepted usage" by some easily verified standards, primarly appearing in print in publications over a certain threshold of circulation or, I suppose now, being captured on recordings of conversations between people who have some claim to respectability such as newcasters, educators and politicians.

    There is no such thing as "correct" usage of any English word, beyond that which the speakers of this language "accept" as being correct. Approval doesn't matter: the "N" word is in the dictionary. Coinage out of thin air doesn't matter: "humongous" is in the dictionary. Ranting and raving by people with good education doesn't matter: some dictionaries now list "dove" and "snuck" as alternates to the "preferred" forms, "dived" and "sneaked." Ignorance doesn't matter: "flammable" is now preferred over "inflammable" and one of the definitions of "buffalo" is "the American bison."
    A dictionary definition is only "inaccurate" if it inaccurately records the meaning of the word in common usage. Unfortunately, the definition of "evolutionism" in Wikipedia and all the online dictionaries I reviews is an accurate record of the way the word is used.
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  5. Athelwulf Rest in peace Kurt... Registered Senior Member

    This is precisely what I've noticed too. It was when I was reading another forum many, many months ago. Someone posted, "Evolutionism is proof that creationists can't spell". Made me chuckle.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    It's worth noting that Firefox thinks "evolutionism" is spelled wrong. Almost as if my browser agrees with me. This makes me chuckle too.

    I'm interested in what sorts of names gravity denialists called themselves.
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  7. w1z4rd Valued Senior Member

    Thanks for the information fraggle rocker and athelwulf.
  8. Grantywanty Registered Senior Member

  9. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    There is no "the" dictionary. Most online dictionaries are lousy sources for usage, or even careful definition.
    If yours isn't, get a better one.
    The question of which speakers accept which usages is exactly the issue, and one of the important functions of a dictionary is to settle it.

    Are you going to say, for example, that a dictionary should simply define "borrow" as a verb synonym of "loan"? Should it simply define "bling" as jewelry? Does "anti-Semite" really refer to anyone who opposes the Israeli Zionist state, or are there nuances of usage to consider? Is a "nigger" simply any American with melanistic skin, as the common and accepted usage of millions of Americans would have it, or is usage advice a good idea in such cases?

    I want my dictionary to give me usage advice, based on acceptance and use of English words by the better speakers and writers: based on what is meant by the people who use the word with competence and attention to its meaning.

    There is no hard line of demarcation between usage and meaning. To fail in describing the one is to fail in defining the other.

    There are good dictionaries, or at least better ones, out there.
  10. Four Winds Registered Member

    Actually, I have a lot of friends who are blingists, or as we like to say, followers of blingism.
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    "Better speakers and writers" is an elitist way of putting it. If you're looking for elitistm in the English language you'll probably have to buy your dictionary in the U.K. Or if you want you can review Schleebenhorsts's posts. He's a Scotsman with a quaint and charming attitude about the Queen's English.

    In democratic America, everything is a popularity contest. The speakers and writers we emulate are the ones we like, not the ones with credentials. Dizzy Dean, a baseball player with a marginal education, became a beloved radio announcer and added a good many colloquialisms to our language. A lot of Americans inexplicably like George Bush, and I noticed on the last episode of "24" Kiefer Sutherland, whom I'm certain knows better, was carefully mouthing that Texas-village-idiot mispronunciation of "nookyuler bomb."

    That said, even our dictionaries nonetheless make an attempt at sorting speech that is generally regarded as "proper" from that which is merely "accepted." You'll find "bling" marked as "slang" and also defined as a flamboyant style of jewelry popularized by entertainers. The N word marked as "vulgar" and defined as an insulting term. "Lay" for "lie" marked as "incorrect but widely used." "Buffalo" for "bison" marked as "popular but unscientific." I haven't got a paper dictionary handy but even the online dictionaries define "anti-semitism" as "hostility to Jews as a religious, ethnic or racial group," which encompasses anti-zionism under "ethnic" since "ethnic" originally referred to nations.
  12. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Not at all - unless you have some academic notion of "better" in mind, in which case the elitism is at your end.

    The better speakers of slang establish its meanings, and slang can be used incorrectly - as any number of teenagers can tell anyone who thinks otherwise.

    A dictionary of slang that simply described its encountered meanings without usage advice would fail compared with a better dictionary - the hundreds of middle aged Protestant "youth ministers" who incorporate teenage slang into sermons do not establish the meanings of those words, nor should their usage be included in a slang dictionary as a legitimate meaning of the words. They are not among the "better", in that lingo.

    Again,if your dictionary does not make these distinctions it fails at defining the words. And the better at making usage distinctions the better the dictionary - it's at the core of the role.
  13. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member


    There is a similar sounding name which may be used as an alternative for creationists.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2007
  14. Roman Banned Banned

    I think my ex-girlfriend was a fakir.

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