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Alfred Russel Wallace: Today’s Special Anniversary

Photo: “Beetles collected in the Malay Archipelago by Alfred Russel Wallace” (cropped), ©Natural History Museum, London, via Flickr.

Editor’s note: This year, 2023, marks the bicentennial of the birth of Alfred Russel Wallace, co-founder with Charles Darwin of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Unlike Darwin, Wallace thought that biology, chemistry, and cosmology proclaimed clear evidence of intelligent design. This fall we are celebrating the life and achievements of Wallace, who can be regarded as one of the godfathers of intelligent design. To find out more about him, we are featuring two special offers: You can download a free short book about Wallace by historian Michael Flannery; and you can get a hard copy of Flannery’s in-depth academic book about Wallace, Nature’s Prophetat a large discount.

Today is the anniversary of the publication of Alfred Russel Wallace’s most important book, The World of Life. The book was published on December 2, 1910. As Wallace scholar Michael Flannery wrote here yesterday, academic opinion on Wallace has worked assiduously to turn Alfred Wallace into a second-tier Charles Darwin, ignoring or dismissing his role as a forerunner of modern intelligent design theory. Professor Flannery notes that the most recent Wallace biography, from Princeton University Press, doesn’t even mention The World of Life! I found that shocking.

Could it be because of the book’s sweeping argument for design in nature? Reflecting on this year’s bicentennial of Wallace’s birth, Flannery concludes:

The take-home lesson is clear: if Costa’s new biography tells us anything it is that George Orwell’s prediction in 1984 has come to pass, “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” We may regretfully add Wallace to the Party’s list of obfuscating revisions. The good news is that the truth is still available for those who want to know. 

It’s good to be able to report that the truth is indeed available through a range of media. You can observe this noteworthy year, and this memorable day, by consulting these outstanding resources: