The label “science-denier” is like some other insult terms that get bandied around in our charged political environment. Often, those terms are used to silence people whose ideas are out of favor with the most powerful voices in the media and in academia. Whether the subject is evolution or climate change, the purpose of accusing someone of “science-denial” is to keep that person in line. As a tool of intimidation, it enjoys much success.
A Great if Neglected Figure
It’s a poison in the culture that paralyzes free speech and open discussion. In the context of the evolution debate, though, there is an antidote to the “science-denier” label. His name is Alfred Russel Wallace, one of the great if neglected figures in science. He is the subject of a new book by science historian Michael Flannery, Nature’s Prophet: Alfred Russel Wallace and His Evolution from Natural Selection to Natural Theology, published this week by the University of Alabama Press.
Fellow historian and Center for Science & Culture Fellow Mike Keas talks with Professor Flannery about the book in a lively episode of ID the Future. Download the podcast or listen to it here.
With Charles Darwin, Wallace (1823-1913) was co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection. The book is a captivating and provocative history, telling the story of how Wallace broke with Darwin and “evolved” toward a position remarkably similar to the modern theory of intelligent design.
Wallace is an antidote to the “science-denier” label because it was on scientific grounds that this father of evolutionary theory, who was not a man of faith, broke with Darwin. He found evidence of what he called an “overruling intelligence” behind the history of life and of the cosmos. Darwinists have been denying that evidence, and ignoring the inconvenient legacy of Alfred Wallace, ever since.
Turning the Tables
Flannery turns the tables on them. He explains how Darwin’s followers in the mid 19th century championed his theory as an ideological statement in the guise of science. Wallace followed the scientific evidence where it led — to the view that evolution is not an unguided process but, rather, that it reflects an underlying intelligent purpose.
It was the intellectual Darwin enforcers of the day — Thomas Henry Huxley and his X Club — who were the “science-deniers” of their time. It’s an irony, highlighted by the publication of Nature’s Prophet, that Darwinists today follow in that tradition.