Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Glossary

On Monday I suggested that it might be useful to post a glossary of terms frequently encountered in a discussion of the issue of the ultimate origin of the cosmos and of life. The following is certainly not exhaustive, but I hope it's helpful to readers who may not be familiar with the terms of the debate but wish to be:

1. Metaphysical claim - A claim that does not lend itself to empirical confirmation. For example, the claim that selfishness is wrong or that rainbows are beautiful.

2. Scientific claim - A claim that can be tested by observation. For example, the claim that disease is caused by bacteria or that oxygen is a by-product of photosynthesis.

3. Cosmology - The study of the history and structure of the universe.

4. Cosmogeny - A subdiscipline of cosmology which studies the origin of the universe.

5. Biogenesis (or Abiogenesis) - The study of the origin of life from non-life.

6. Biological evolution - The process of variation and diversification in organisms. The term is usually used as a synonym for macroevolution which is the large-scale, molecules-to-man view which holds that all life forms have developed from a single ancestral cell. Microevolution is a small scale variation within a particular group or taxon such as is seen in the diversity of types of dogs for instance.
6a. Naturalistic evolution - The view that evolution is a purely physical, unguided, random process.

6b. Materialism - The view that everything in the universe is ultimately reducible to material stuff.

6c. Physicalism - The view that everything in the universe can ultimately be explained in terms of the laws of physics.

6d. Theistic evolution - The view that although evolution is a naturalistic process it is somehow initiated and/or directed by God.

6e. Theism - Nowadays usually used as an abbreviation for monotheism it's the belief that there is one, personal, transcendent God.

6f. Deism - The belief that there's a God which is impersonal and/or uninvolved in the world.
7. Creationism - The view that God purposefully created the world.
7a. Evolutionary - Another term for theistic evolution (see above)

7b. Progressive - The view that God intervenes at various points in the created order to advance or change the direction of the evolutionary process.

7c. Special – The view that God created everything in six days as described in Genesis and that subsequent to the creation week relatively small changes have occurred within the created “kinds” or major taxa.
7c1.Young earth - The form of special creation that holds that the days of creation week were literal twenty four hour days and that creation occurred relatively recently (approx. 10,000 years ago).

7c2. Old earth - The form of special creation which gives a more figurative interpretation to the Genesis days and which accepts the scientific consensus on the age of the earth and the universe.
8. Intelligent Design - The view that the cosmos and living things show empirical evidence of having been intentionally designed. ID, as such, makes no claims as to who or what the designer was nor how, nor how long ago, it acted. It is, therefore an error to call ID religious or a form of special creationism.