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Rewatching Darwin’s Heretic

David Klinghoffer | @d_klinghoffer

With the 100th anniversary this Thursday of the death of Alfred Russel Wallace, it’s a suitable time to take another look at our documentary, Darwin’s Heretic: Did the Co-Founder of Evolution Embrace Intelligent Design? Of course I’ve seen it before — but wow, I’m reminded both of the power of its message and beauty of the production itself. (For the latter, congratulations to Center for Science & Culture associate director John West.)

Last week I tried to correct the misunderstanding on the part of Wallace promoter George Beccaloni that we care about Wallace’s legacy because his break with Darwin over "intelligent evolution" is somehow evidence for the contemporary theory of intelligent design. No one thinks that — though it’s true that Wallace’s later writing eerily anticipates, and in a way sets the agenda for, today’s ID research community on everything from the "mystery of the cell" and the exquisite design of a bird’s feather to the fine-tuning of the universe itself. He’s rightly seen as the founder of ID in its modern iteration. (Though of course the idea goes back much earlier, to Plato and Aristotle, among others.)

More than that, our interest in him lies in his ability to upset stereotypes and clich�s about ID: what it is, how it argues, why thoughtful people would reject orthodox Darwinism in favor of a view open to seeing evidence of guiding purpose in nature. The grip of hackneyed thought keeps many, many people from wrestling in an informed, honest way with the challenge of ID. Wallace is a powerful antidote to and liberator from clich�. For much more on his life and research, see here.