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A Glossary of Origins-Related Terms

© 2005-2007 T. Wallace.  All Rights Reserved. 

Successful communication depends largely on the use of terms that are well defined and understood by all parties involved.  The origins debate is no exception to this rule.  Many terms used by both sides are popularly misunderstood.  Some tend to be misused, while others cause some confusion by having multiple definitions.  The terms included in this glossary range in application from narrow, technical terms used in laboratory science to philosophical and religious terms.  They all have in common the fact that they have proven to be misunderstood or misused in some measure, which is why they appear here.  This document, by nature, is subject to periodic additions and refinements.  Reader patience and feedback is appreciated...

a priori  adv.
(Latin) literally “from the former” presupposed and accepted without examination or analysis.

absolute  adj.
not modifiable by other factors such as culture, individual psychology or circumstances (e.g., time, proximity, etc.); unchangeable; an antithesis of relativism.

ad hominem  n.
(Latin) literally “against the man” a criticism of one’s opponent’s person or character rather than an answer to his argument, methodology, or logic.

agnosticism  n.
the belief that certain knowledge of God’s existence and/or personal knowledge of God Himself is at least questionable, if not impossible.

anthropocentric  adj.
man-centered (as opposed to theocentric). Most popular philosophies, world-views, and frameworks of interpretation are anthropocentric in that they either view human reason and opinion as autonomous, or they operate under the presupposition that human reason and opinion are autonomous, or both.

anthropology  n.
that which deals only with man, his relationship with himself and with other men, such as the studies of psychology and sociology, and nothing beyond man.

antiphilosophy  n.
many of the modern forms of philosophy which have given up any attempt to find a rational unity to the whole of thought and life.

antithesis  n.
direct opposition of contrast between two things (e.g., “joy” is the antithesis of “sorrow”)

atheism  n.
the belief that there is no God. By definition, the atheist postulates that the non-existence of God is “known” as a “fact”—though any viability for such a claim would necessarily be based on exhaustive knowledge (i.e., omniscience), a property typically reserved for God Himself alone, yet which atheists claim for themselves, exhibiting superlative measures of arrogance, irrationality and delusion. Agnosticism turns out to be at least a more noble, if not tenable, position.

autonomy  n.
self-rule, the ultimate end of anthropocentric (man-centered) philosophies and theologies which reject the right of authority of the Creator-God over man, the creature (as opposed to heteronomy). The philosophies of Nietzsche and Sartre, for example, move along this line to the point at which the goal of autonomy necessitates God’s “elimination”—an event contrived in man’s imagination, perceived to free men from moral accountability to anyone but themselves.

carbon dating  n.
see radiocarbon dating

continuum  n.
a set of elements such that between any two (or all) of them, there exists a third (or fully comprehensive) element.  A universal example is the universe itself, which is comprised of time, space, and matter/energy.

cosmology  n.
a branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of the universe; a theory or doctrine describing the natural order of the universe.

creation  n.
the act of causing to exist what has not previously existed.

creationary  adj.
pertaining to creation, as in creationary writer, creationary concept.

creationism  n.
1) general—the view that a creator brought the universe, its contents, and its inhabitants into being and into order from literally nothing (as opposed to the view that matter is either eternal or the result of a spontaneous self-creating process); 2) biblical—the view that the Creator is none other than the Creator-God whose nature and purpose in creation and history is revealed in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures (the Bible), including His initial acts of creation as indicated in a straightforward reading of the Creation Week account in Genesis and corroborated in the balance of the Bible; 3) scientific—the view that empirical science is fully capable of corroborating either or both general and biblical creationism viewpoints (described above), and which serves as the basis for scientific endeavors with that end in mind.

creationist  n.
pertaining to the articulation and/or defense of some form of the creationary belief system and its interpretation of the data of empirical science; a person commited to the same.

Darwinism  n.
the theory of evolution proposed by Charles Darwin in On the Origin of Species (1859), which postulated that present-day species have evolved from simpler ancestral types by the process of natural selection on the variability found within populations.  The limited (and erroneous) understanding of genetics inherent in Darwin’s original postulation subsequently necessitated the evolution of Darwinism to Neo-Darwinsim (mid-20th century), sometimes referred to as “modern synthesis,” which is what most contemporary evolutionists embrace as “macro-evolution” today.

deism  n.
belief in a personal Creator/God whom man is obligated to worship, and under whose authority man is obliged to ethical conduct, repentance from sin, and from whom divine rewards and punishments are merited by men.  Deists have historically denied God’s intervention in the natural order of the past, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the authority of the Bible, the Atonement of Christ, miracles, God’s election of people (e.g., Israel and/or the Church), and His supernatural redemptive acts in history.
[from Spirit of Revival: The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God by Archie Parrish and R.C. Sproul]

determinism  n.
the view that human action is not free, but results from such causes as psychological and chemical makeup which render free-will an illusion

entropy  n.
a measure of the amount of energy unavailable for work within a system or process; a measure of the probability of distribution or randomness (disorder) within a system.

epistemology  n.
that part of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge, its nature, limits and validity.

equivocal  adj.
not certain; capable of having more than one meaning or interpretation; ambiguous.

evangelical  adj., n.
pertaining to (or an entity adhering to) the biblical Christian doctrine that man cannot save himself from his sin and guilt by means of works of any kind, but that salvation is granted freely in the kindness of God by means of genuine faith in Him and His promise as revealed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
[The term “gospel” derives from “Godspell” in old English, meaning “good news” the Greek word used in the New Testament for “gospel” is euaggelion, which transliterates to “euaggelion,” and from which is derived the English the root word “evangel”.].

evolution, biological  n.
1) microevolution”—the name used by many evolutionists to describe genetic variation, the empirically observed phenomenon in which exisiting potential variations within the gene pool of a population of organisms are manifested or suppressed among members of that population over a series of generations.  Often simplistically (and erroneously) invoked as “proof” of “macro evolution” 2) macroevolution—the theory/belief that biological population changes take (and have taken) place (typically via mutations and natural selection) on a large enough scale to produce entirely new structural features and organs, resulting in entirely new species, genera, families, orders, classes, and phyla within the biological world, by generating the requisite (new) genetic information.  Many evolutionists have used “macro-evolution” and “Neo-Darwinism” as synonymous for the past 150 years.

evolution, general theory  n.
the notion of a continuous naturalistic, mechanistic process by which all living things have arisen from a single living source, which itself arose by a similar process from a non-living, inanimate world, which in turn came into being and developed from nothing (i.e., spontaneous generation).

evolutionary  n.
pertaining to evolution, as in evolutionary writer, evolutionary concept.

evolutionism  n.
the various beliefs and ideological tenets associated with the assumption of evolution as the process by which life (if not the universe) has come to be in its present state, and/or the often zealous and dogmatic advocacy of those beliefs and tenets.

evolutionist  n.
pertaining to the articulation and/or defense of some form of the evolutionary belief system and its interpretation of the data of empirical science; a person commited to the same.

existentialism  n.
the theory that human experience is not describable in scientific or rational terms, with emphasis on man’s apparent freedom to make choices in a contingent and purposeless world.

exogenous  adj.
caused or introduced by factor(s) or agent(s) from outside the organism or system.

extrapolate  v.
to infer something that is unknown from something that is known.

faith  n.
trust or confidence in the reliability of a person or thing (including one’s a beliefs). A significant distinction exists between the sincere ‘faith’ one might hold in one’s naturalistic, mechanistic philosophy, for example (on one hand), and the object of the historical, biblical Christian ‘faith’ (on the other hand). The former amounts to entrusting one’s life and hope to one’s chosen belief system, while the latter is entrusting one’s self to the person of the Living God, whose character and history have been revealed, in part, through the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, as confirmed by the Spirit of God Himself—personally—to the person who willingly submits to His will. A portrayal of these as merely “different belief systems” wholly ignores the essence of the Christian faith: It is not one more belief system among many options, but is instead a reconciled, experiential relationship with the one personal Being from whom all creation both derives its origin and anticipates its destiny. Any alternative, no matter what form or name it may take, is ultimately a dead religious/philosophical belief system.

fundamentalist  adj., n.
pertaining to (or an entity adhering to) the same “fundamental” biblical Christian doctrines or rules of faith of the early church, including:  the infallibility of Scripture; the deity of Jesus Christ; the Virgin Birth and miracles of Jesus Christ; the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ; and the physical resurrection and eventual return of (and judgment by) Jesus Christ.

gene  n.
a unit of heredity transmitted in the chromosome which—through interaction with other genes—controls the development of hereditary character.

gene pool  n.
the available genetic trait variables within a population of organisms, containing all the trait variations (e.g., brown or blue eyes) that could possibly be manifested in the offspring of that population through reproduction.

genetic variation  n.
changes that take place within a population of organisms as a result of the genetic mixing that occurs through reproduction; trait variations (e.g., brown or blue eyes) appear and disappear from generation to generation through varying recombinations of dominant and recessive genetic instructions—not to be confused with mutation.

Geologic Column
The "Geologic Column"

geological age  n.
an estimated “age” and assumed duration of time assigned to a specific layer of sedimentary rock, based on position and fossil content (see table); since fossil “ages” are often based on the position of such sedimentary layers, a fair amount of circular reasoning is involved in both methods of “age” determination.

geologic column  n.
(in “historical geology”) the total successive series of assumed periods of time (geological ages) assigned to specific layers of sedimentary rock, based on position and fossil content; many periods & epochs are frequently missing from—or out of order in—local records, making the system unreliable and suspect in substantiating uniformitarianistic interpretation of the geological record (see table)

heteronomy  n.
rule by another, in which one is morally responsible to obey limitations and proscriptions established by the ruling entity (as opposed to autonomy). Central to biblical Christianity is the individual’s willful submission to the will, right and authority of the Creator-God in a heteronomous relationship (which, by definition, is a theonomy).

humanism  n.
(1) a philosophy or system of thought that begins with man alone in an attempt to determine a unified meaning of life, (2) a philosophy or system of thought beginning with man alone, with particular emphasis on a generalized, but empirically baseless, optimism and hope for mankind’s future.

ipso facto
(Latin) literally “by the very fact” made absolutely certain by the immediately preceding fact itself.

kind  n.
the created “kind” (from the Hebrew word min) refers to the originally created populations of various forms of life from which all other forms have arisen. It does not deny variation or mutation, but says that instead of one unicellular organism being the progenitor of all life on earth through all time, there were a number of originally created populations whose individuals cannot vary or speciate across the discontinuities which separate each kind from every other kind. The concept of baramin (Hebrew for 'created kind,' as used among creationary proponents today) is related to the concept of discontinuities that exist between groups of organisms as originally created. For instance, the dog, the wolf, the coyote, are clearly in the same baramin. And there is a definite discontinuity between this baramin and the bovine baramin, although both are mammals. Baramins can be partially identified by successful (live birth) hybrids, but probably go way beyond what hybridization can do today. Genetic studies may help determine discontinuities. The fossil record is also a help.

logic  n.
the science of correct reasoning; the predictable and inevitable consequence of rational analysis. In classical logic it may be asserted that “A” is “A” and that “A” cannot equal “non-A.”

mechanism  n.
the process or technical aspect of something, which produces the end result.

mechanistic  adj.
pertaining to the theory or philosophy of mechanism, that everything in the universe is produced by matter in motion; that all natural processes are explicable in Newtonian mechanics; that all biological processes (including human life and behavior) are explicable in physiochemical terms.  The (erroneous) logic behind the philosophy is apparently that, since some (or many) things and phenomena can be explained by man in purely physical, natural terms, therefore all things and phenomena must be capable of explanation by man in purely physical, natural terms.

methodology  n.
study of the procedures and principles whereby the question of truth and knowledge is approached.

mutation  n.
an error in the duplication of genetic information during cell duplication; the resulting effect can range from neutral and harmless (e.g., mole or benign growth) to fatal (e.g., cancerous tumor, birth defect or genetic disease); mutations only affect offspring when they occur within the reproductive cell-producing organs, through which the erroneous code may be passed on.  Often erroneously confused with genetic variation.  Mutations damage or corrupt existing genetic information; they have not been empirically shown capable of adding new, useful, meaningful genetic information.

naturalism  n.
the philosophical/religious view that all objects and events can be accounted for through scientific explanation alone, by way of known natural processes and causes, and that there are no non-natural or supernatural objects, processes, events, or causes. A corollary to humanism.

natural selection  n.
the process in which various genetically determined traits become manifested, suppressed, or eliminated in a population of living organisms over time, usually as a result of environmental factors.  This process acts on (i.e., “selects” from) existing genetic information in the subject population’s gene pool, but adds no new genetic information to the subject population’s gene pool.

Neo-Darwinism  n.
based largely on Darwinism (the evolutionary theory/belief initially advanced by Charles Darwin [mid-19th century], suggesting that present-day species have evolved from simpler ancestors), Neo-Darwinism was a mid-20th century adaptation (sometimes called “synthesis” or “modern synthesis”) of Darwinism to accommodate a significantly more accurate understanding of genetics than was present in Darwin’s original theory, it’s popularity among the day’s intelligentsia notwithstanding.  Invoking a “mechanism” of mutations combined with natural selection, Neo-Darwinism has been the predominant model among evolutionists for the past 150 years.

nihilism  n.
a denial of all objective grounds for truth; a belief that existence is senseless and useless, often leading to destructive tendencies in society and/or the individual.

non sequitur  n.
(Latin) literally “it does not follow” a logical fallacy; the conclusion offered cannot not justly be inferred from the premises.

obfuscation  n.
deliberately making something obscure, confusing, or difficult to comprehend.

pantheism  n.
the belief that God and nature are identical; that the universe is an extension of God’s essence (as opposed to the universe being a special creation of a transcendent God).

philosophy  n.
theory or logical analysis of the principles underlying conduct, thought, knowledge, and the nature of the universe. See also religion.

presupposition  n.
a belief or theory which is accepted before the next step in logic is developed; often consciously or unconsciously affects the way a person subsequently reasons.

propitiation  n.
a sacrifice that bears and satisfies God’s righteous wrath towards sin and sinfulness—and in so doing, secures God’s favor and mercy toward those whose trust is in Him.

propositional truth  n.
truth which can be communicated in the form of a statement in which the predicate or object is affirmed or denied regarding the subject.

radiocarbon dating  n.
a method of estimating the ages of organic materials using the ratio of carbon-14 to carbon-12 (the content of the former decreasing as the content of the latter increases within the organic material over time); tested effectively only to ages of about 3000 years

radiometric dating  n.
a method of dating artifacts by the use of measurable, unstable isotope elements, which are known over time to to decay at currently known rates into measurable, stable elements; the difference in content of each element within the artifact in question is used as a ratio to estimate an “age” of the artifact; this process, while often portrayed as accurate and reliable, invariably requires multiple unverifiable assumptions in calculating alleged “ages”--making it highly suspect as a reliable dating method; results often vary widely (“useful” dates retained & published, others ignored), confirming the method’s unreliability.

rational  adj.
that which is related to or based on man’s power to reason consistently

rationalism  n.
the belief that man can reach a unified meaning of life starting from man only, and using only man’s power of reason (cf. humanism (1))

religion  n.
a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, often (but not necessarily) involving supernatural or divine being(s). See also philosophy.

science  n.
knowledge or study dealing with facts and/or truths, systematically arranged, showing the operation of (and conforming to) general laws; systematic knowledge of the physical or material world

scientific method
a process involving observation, repetition, and measurement in determining objective, true knowledge; involves gathering of data, formulation of hypotheses, and and empirical testing of the hypotheses, using the five senses.

scientific community
the collective body those persons who participate in scientific endeavors as a vocation, including those who work in the field, the lab, and those involved analysis, critical commentary, and training in connection with both empirical data and hypotheses concerning the data and otherwise. The term “scientific community” is often deceitfully used by persons who subscribe to a naturalistic belief system, to refer only to themselves exclusively, in order to censor opposition, denigrate belief systems in which naturalism does not dominate, and to minimize public awareness that the terms “naturalism” and “science” are by no means synonymous.

scientism  n.
an exaggerated trust in, and advocacy of, the application of the principles and methods of natural science to other disciplines, usually from the biased viewpoint that science (i.e., scientific knowledge) is the only available means by which man may improve his chances for survival and improvement.

semantics  n.
(1) the study of the development of the meaning and uses of words and language; (2) the exploitation of the connotations and ambiguities in words.

species  n.
a class of individual organisms having some common characteristics or qualities; usually similar or alike in appearance; always able to breed among themselves; by some defintions unable to breed with members of other species.
The following papers by Kenneth Cumming provide more information: On the Changing Definition of the Term "Species" | Patterns of Speciation | Reticulate Evolution

synthesis  n.
the combination of partial truths or concepts of a thesis and its antithesis into a higher stage of truth or concept.

theocentric  adj.
God-centered (as opposed to anthropocentric). The biblical Christian philosophical world-view is essentially theocentric, in which the authority, sovereignty, character, will and glory of the Creator-God are of supreme significance over and above the notions or aspirations of man, the creature.

theonomy  n.
rule by God. The relationship of Christians to the Creator-God, both individually and corporately, is a theonomy (a heteronomy in which God is the ruler), involving willful submission to God’s will and authority.

thermodynamics  n.
the science which addresses the relationships between heat and mechanical energy (work), and the conversion of either into the other; classical thermodynamics deals with the properties of systems in which temperature is a necessary coordinate; informational thermodynamics deals with the information conveyed by a communicating system; statistical thermodynamics deals with the organized complexity (order) of a structured system.

unequivocal  adj.
certain; capable of having only one meaning or interpretation; unambiguous.

uniformitarianism  n.
the belief and assumption that most or all known natural processes (e.g., sedimentation, erosion, weather patterns) have always operated similarly and at the same rates throughout history.

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