A severe intellectual sclerosis in scientific and popular media is one big reason that arguments for intelligent design meet with such resistance there. When it comes to the evolution debate, scientists and journalists alike are afflicted by a tendency to think in terms of simple stereotypes and crude clichés — about what ID theory says and what kind of people ID advocates are.
That’s one reason ENV keeps coming back to Alfred Russel Wallace, evolutionary theory’s co-founder. Apart from the inherent historical and scientific fascination of his life and ideas, well and compactly portrayed in John West’s new documentary short Darwin’s Heretic, Wallace has the virtue of blasting apart all the hackneyed formulas about ID that block the channels of thought in the mind of your typical Darwinist. Or rather, he would do so if the Darwinist could be induced to seriously consider the evolution of Wallace’s thinking about evolution as he came to embrace views best described as proto-intelligent design.
Wallace was an iconoclast not only in his scientific opinions but in his cultural and political ones as well, as this brief clip of interviews with Wallace scholar and ENV contributor Michael Flannery demonstrates. Unlike Darwin, he passionately resisted the racism and ethnocentrism of his day and denounced the eugenic thinking advanced by Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton. He was a socialist, albeit of a libertarian type. He firmly insisted on women’s equality and even (it sounds like) superiority to men. When you learn about his life, you find that not one platitude about intelligent design in the Darwinist arsenal — ID’s scientific, political, cultural, religious associations, you name it — is left standing.
This clip is an excellent little introduction to his social views.