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Alfred Russel Wallace — New Biography Is a Defeater for Arguments for Theistic Evolution

David Klinghoffer

Alfred Russel Wallace

Science historian Michael Flannery is a Fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture and the author of a new book, Nature’s Prophet: Alfred Russel Wallace and His Evolution from Natural Selection to Natural Theology, from University of Alabama Press. There’s so much to say about Wallace, the co-discoverer with Charles Darwin of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Wallace broke with Darwin and became, arguably, the founding father of modern intelligent design theory. 

He is a master disruptor of stereotypes. From the book description:

A spiritualist, libertarian socialist, women’s rights advocate, and critic of Victorian social convention, Alfred Russel Wallace was in every sense a rebel who challenged the emergent scientific certainties of Victorian England by arguing for a natural world imbued with purpose and spiritual significance. Nature’s Prophet: Alfred Russel Wallace and His Evolution from Natural Selection to Natural Theology is a critical reassessment of Wallace’s path to natural theology and counters the dismissive narrative that Wallace’s theistic and sociopolitical positions are not to be taken seriously in the history and philosophy of science.

There’s so much to say about Wallace, and the publication of Professor Flannery’s important book will provide an occasion for that. For now I want to point you to a new ID the Future episode with host Mike Keas, fellow historian of science, who talks with Flannery about a key tactic in arguments for what’s called “theistic evolution.” By that we typically mean attempts to marry the Darwinian theory of unguided evolution with traditional theism, a logical contradiction no matter how hard proponents work to obscure that evident fact. Flannery talks with Keas about a recent sally by theistic evolutionist Kenneth Miller.

Listen to the podcast or download it here.

Miller’s own new book is The Human Instinct: How We Evolved to Have Reason, Consciousness, and Free Will, in which the Brown University biologist sets up a false dilemma under which we need to choose between two alternatives, Darwinism or some species of special creation. The false dilemma is typical of a certain kind of intellectual and emotional manipulation. It’s easily deflected, though. Simply show that there are not just two choices available but a third, or fourth, or more, as well. Flannery’s book, in telling the story of Wallace’s intellectual “evolution,” demonstrates the fallacy. Darwin’s own colleague-turned-critic perceived that evolution required an overarching guide, an intelligent agent, to accomplish its journey through time. This is intelligent design in a nutshell.

As I mentioned, we’ll have more to say about Flannery and Wallace in days to come. For now, I’m happy to announce that Nature’s Prophet is on sale for $26 instead of the listed $44.95, including free shipping! That’s courtesy of the Discovery Institute Book Store, and I can tell you the sale is NOT indefinite in duration. Get your copy now!