In a sparkling, concise and controversial new biography of the co-discoverer of evolutionary theory, historian Michael A. Flannery tells a largely unknown story that has been embarrassing Darwinians in the know for almost a century and a half.
In Alfred Russel Wallace: A Rediscovered Life, published by Discovery Institute Press, Flannery shows how Wallace ultimately came to reject the sufficiency of his own theory of natural selection to explain what he called in the title of his final work and magnum opus, The World of Life (1910).
The title was a double entendre. In considering the evidence from biology, from the world of life, Wallace perceived that the world must also be permeated by life and intelligence not perceptible directly to our senses but whose existence may be inferred from biological phenomena — human consciousness above all, but also the intricate functioning of the living cell and the hemoglobin molecule, bird wings and feathers, butterfly coloration and insect metamorphosis, and much more. Beyond the “self-acting agency” of undirected evolution, he argued, there must be some “Creative Power,” a “directive Mind,” and an “ultimate Purpose.” Anticipating modern intelligent design theory, Wallace was not speaking here about God in any traditional sense. Yet he wrote, “To afford any rational explanation of [life’s] phenomena, we require to postulate the continuous action and guidance of higher intelligences; and further, that these have probably been working towards a single end, the development of intellectual, moral, and spiritual beings.” He often referred to these “intelligences” as “angels.”
After Wallace’s death, his ideas — which some at the time called “Wallaceism” — were largely forgotten. However, from the middle twentieth century on, scientific fields as diverse as genetics, biochemistry, paleontology, taxonomy, and cosmology yielded their secrets and the pillars holding up the materialist worldview began to loosen from their moorings. What’s coming into focus now is a very different view of nature. Wallaceism is fast being vindicated as the truest picture of life and its development.
Michael A. Flannery is Professor and Associate Director for Historical Collections at the Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and editor of Alfred Russel Wallace’s Theory of Intelligent Evolution (2008).