On Darwinism versus Darwinist

 – Mike Sutton –




Carl Vogt was, apparently “first to be second” with the term Darwinist in 1863. It was first coined in 1861

Vogt (1863) was apparently the first to be second to use the term Darwinist, which was first coined in 1861

I’ve noticed, since the publication of my myth busting book Nullius in Verba: Darwin’s greatest secret,    that many commentators really don’t like being referred to as Darwinists, although they have no problem with ‘Darwinism’. Many Darwinists consider the word ‘Darwinist’ as a term of abuse, and they attribute it to irrational arguments made against Darwin and the theory of natural selection. On which note, according to Jonathan Wells, of the “intelligent design” community, the terms ‘Darwinism’ and Darwinist’ are interchangeable and Darwinists are wrong to believe the term ‘Darwinist’ is meant to be derogatory.

Darwinist or Darwinian, They’re One and the Same    by Jonathan Wells    August 31, 2007:

image“Darwinian” is the name preferred by modern evolutionary biologists, who use it widely in the scientific and popular literature. Yet this is a distinction without a difference. Whether such people call themselves Darwinists or Darwinians, they apparently haven’t heard the news that “evolutionary biology has advanced way beyond Darwin’s 19th-century tracts.”

Could Scott be following the lead of Harvard sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson, who claims that the word “Darwinism” was coined by creationists to make Darwin look bad? “It’s a rhetorical device to make evolution seem like a kind of faith, like ‘Maoism’,” said Wilson in Newsweek in November 2005. “Scientists,” he added, “don’t call it Darwinism.” 

Nice try, but Wilson’s revisionist approach to the history of biology doesn’t fit the facts. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Thomas Henry Huxley (Darwin’s most famous defender in Britain) used “Darwinism” in 1864 to describe Charles Darwin’s theory. In 1876, Harvard botanist Asa Gray (who was Darwin’s most ardent scientific defender in America) published Darwiniana: Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism, and in 1889 natural selection’s co-discoverer Alfred Russel Wallace published Darwinism: An Exposition of the Theory of Natural Selection. Two of Wilson’s former Harvard colleagues, evolutionary biologists Ernst Mayr and Stephen Jay Gould, used the word extensively in their scientific writings, and recent science journals carry articles with titles such as “Darwinism and Immunology” and “The Integration of Darwinism and Evolutionary Morphology.”

The reason that “Darwinism” and “Darwinian” — even “Darwinist” — are used by modern evolutionary biologists is that they are more precise than “evolution” and “evolutionist.” The latter have many meanings, most of them uncontroversial.

The OED has detected the use of the word Darwinism to refer to either the poetry of Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus Darwin, or else, presumably, Erasmus’s belief in the development theory of evolution  (that all things are evolving to perfection – which is not natural selection theory). Here the first usage discovered by the OED is 1840:

.1840 Brit. & Foreign Rev. 10 105 The blank verse of Queen Mab differs little from that measure as it appears in the poems of Akenside, who exercised considerable influence over such poets as escaped from the popular vortex of Darwinism.’

And at the time of writing, the OED has the use of the modern meaning of the term Darwinism dated to Darwin’s friend Thomas Huxley (AKA Darwin’s Bulldog), who was apparently first to use the word Darwinism in this regard in 1860. Huxley used the word in his 1860 book review (published in the Westminster Review) of Darwin’s Origin of Species published in the Westminster Review, (see Darwin Online):


Huxley was apparently the first to coin the word “Darwinism” in 1860

And so we see that the OED is today accurate, if not when Wells wrote on the topic in 2007, with regards to the earliest discoverable use of the word Darwinism. Moreover, here Wells is right, because the term most certainly was not coined in a derogatory context for either Erasmus or Charles. .

So what of the Etymological Origins of the term Darwinist?

The Oxford English Dictionary OED (at the time of writing 23.11.15) has it that it means one or both of two things::

A follower of Charles Darwin; a person who accepts or promotes Darwinism (in scientific and extended use).

And the earliest date the so-called etymological “experts” at the OED can get back to for the word is:

1864 J. Hunt tr. C. Vogt Lect. on Man xvi. 464 No Darwinist [Ger. Darwinist],” ” if we must call them so, has either raised that question or drawn the above inference.”

Once again BIgData-IDD gets us back further than the OED’s experts

When it comes to the term Darwinist – no matter how it is used and perceived by different people today – the same BigData-DD method that found the data that re-wrote the history of the discovery of natural selection (Sutton 2014   ) allows us to uncover the fact that ‘Darwinist’ was, apparently, first coined – in 1861 in a Dutch Book entitled “The Agony of the Popes” by Edmond Lafond, and Adrianus J. Bemmel.    Here the context is somewhat supportive of Darwinism.


First coining of the word Darwinist by Edmond Lafond, and Adrianus J. Bemmel in 1861

As we can see in the image of the text below, where Vogt is quoted by James Hunt (1866), who two years earlier edited Vogt’s 1864 book, which is simply the English translation of Vogt’s 1863 original German version, the term Darwinist was used by Vogt in what is a fairly derogatory way. The term is used also, seemingly, in a rather begrudgingly way by Vogt, who seems reluctant to comply with using the prior-published group identifying label for Darwin’s faithful followers. See Vogt in 1864    in English and in 1863 in the original German.    Perhaps this is because the German Vogt was not at all happy at the idea of natural selection. He certainly disliked its natural conclusions regarding the divergent ramifications of life, since they undermined his beliefs about species.



Vogt in 1863 was, apparently, “first to be second” in a German publication with the term Darwinist.

Natural selection was first explained by Patrick Matthew (1831) in his first book ‘On Naval Timber and Arboriculture’ where he explained the origin of species being defined as those that ramified from but could no longer breed with a common ancestor, meant there were no different species of human beings – only different varieties. But Carl Vogt believed – contrary to the sound knowledge of Thomas Huxley on this topic – that Black people and White people are distinct species. Of course, Matthew knew the very same thing that Huxley later concluded as early as 1831 when he first published his original ideas on ‘the natural process of selection’.

Thanks to Big Data analysis of the literature comprising the books scanned in the Google Library Project, we now know that – contrary to the beliefs of many Darwinists – the term used to name them was apparently originally penned in a book written in Dutch in 1861, where it was first coined in print as a compliment.


Patrick Matthew: The biological father of the theory of natural selection

Matthew took the original ideas of 1831 forward in his second book ‘Emigration Fields’ (Matthew 1839) where he recommended white British colonists interbreed with the Maori people of New Zealand and was apparently first to coin both the phrase and concept of the modern Peace Corps (here) .

See PatrickMatthew.com    for the full details of Darwin’s and Wallace’s plagiarism and the dreadful ‘culture of concealment’ dysology of Darwin’s Darwinists on the topic since 1860 to the present day.


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