Darwinism

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Darwinism is a set of movements and concepts related to ideas of transmutation of species or evolution, including ideas with no connection to the work of Charles Darwin.[1][2][3] The meaning of Darwinism has changed over time, and varies depending on who is using the term.[4] In the United States, Darwinism is often used by creationists as a pejorative term but in the United Kingdom the term has no negative connotations, being freely used as a short hand for evolutionary theory.[5]

The term was coined by Thomas Henry Huxley in April 1860,[6] and was used to describe evolutionary concepts, including earlier concepts such as Malthusianism and Spencerism. In the late 19th century it came to mean the concept that natural selection was the sole mechanism of evolution, in contrast to Lamarckism, then around 1900 it was eclipsed by Mendelism until the modern evolutionary synthesis unified Darwin's and Gregor Mendel's ideas. As modern evolutionary theory has developed, the term has been associated at times with specific ideas.[4]

While the term has remained in use amongst scientific authors, it is increasingly regarded as an inappropriate description of modern evolutionary theory.[7][8][9] For example, Darwin was unfamiliar with the work of Gregor Mendel,[10] having as a result only a vague and inaccurate understanding of heredity, and knew nothing of genetic drift.[11]

Contents

Conceptions of Darwinism

While the term Darwinism had been used previously to refer to the work of Erasmus Darwin in the late 18th century, the term as understood today was introduced when Charles Darwin's 1859 book On the Origin of Species was reviewed by Thomas Henry Huxley in the April 1860 issue of the Westminster Review.[13] Having hailed the book as, "a veritable Whitworth gun in the armoury of liberalism" promoting scientific naturalism over theology, and praising the usefulness of Darwin's ideas while expressing professional reservations about Darwin's gradualism and doubting if it could be proved that natural selection could form new species,[14] Huxley compared Darwin's achievement to that of Copernicus in explaining planetary motion:

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