Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community


Book on Alfred Russel Wallace now available!


Published by  Erasmus PressAlfred Russel Wallace’s Theory of Intelligent Evolution: How Wallace’s World of Life Challenged Darwinism is now available purchase book.    In this book I provide a context and perspective with which to analyze the intellectual legacy of famed 19th-century naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace.  In it two principle themes are argued: 1) Darwin’s theory of evolution was fundamentally a device to butress and promote his materialistic atheism; and 2) Wallace’s theory of evolution became a teleological synthesis forming a foundation  for modern ID.

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Science or Monkey Business?: A Review of Roy Davies’ The Darwin Conspiracy

Imagine if you will a rather pathetic little boy oppressed by a domineering father and overshadowed by older sisters assuming maternal roles that directed his every move.  Under such conditions it’s not surprising that certain survival strategies would be employed by the boy to establish his place in the family pecking order.  Thus it was, according to biographers Adrian Desmond and James Moore, that a young Charles Darwin stole his father’s peaches and plums only to “discover” them later in heroic fashion and would invent “deliberate falsehoods” in order to gain attention.  In school he would regale classmates with stories of fantastic birds and remarkable flowers, flowers he could change into different colors.  “Once,” write Desmond and Moore, “he invented an elaborate story designed to show how fond he was of telling the truth.  It was a boy’s way of manipulating the world” (1).  But what happened when the boy, whose insatiable need for attention never waned, became a man.  How might he then manipulate the world?  This question, which few have dared to even pose, has been asked and answered in a provocative new book by former BBC writer/producer, Roy Davies titled, The Darwin Conspiracy: Origins of a Scientific Crime, just released by Goldensquare Books (http://darwin-conspiracy.co.uk/). 

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Why the recent article in Nature calling for Wallace recognition is right AND wrong

George W. Beccaloni and Vincent S. Smith of The Natural History Museum (London) recently drew attention to the nearly forgotten figure of Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) in Nature vol. 451.28 (February 2008): 1050.  Bemoaning “how Wallace’s achievements have been overshadowed by Darwin’s . . ., a process certainly not helped by the Darwin ‘industry’ of recent decades,” the authors call for a revision of “the current darwinocentric view of the history of biology.”  Few among this blog could dissent from such a bold proposal.  Beccaloni and Smith would like the focus to be upon the reading of Darwin and Wallace’s seminal papers to the Linnean Society on July 1, 1858, with due recognition accorded Wallace for his joint discovery of natural selection.  Published one month later, this most surely was a major turning point in the history of the biological sciences and in that regard one can hardly find fault with the simple but instructive point that for all the Darwin Day hype, natural selection was indeed a joint discovery.

Yet this in itself fails to do justice to Wallace.  The theory Wallace developed from years of field experience in the Mayla Archipelago did not end with that 1858 reading; in fact, it was just the beginning of an intellectual odyssey that would find fullest expression in what might arguably be regarded as his magnum opus, The World of Life: a Manifestation of Creative Power, Directive Mind and Ultimate Purpose, published just three years before his death in 1913.  That book more than any other expressed Wallace’s fullest and most complete views on the subject of evolution.  While Beccaloni and Smith want us to remember Wallace’s discovery, I suggest a fuller reflection upon what that discovery meant to Wallace and to the biological sciences will uncover a wholly different kind of evolutionary scenario than that fashioned by Darwin, Huxley and their X-Club fellow travelers.  In short, I call for not a recognition of Wallace within this much-touted Darwinian context but rather upon Wallace as the originator of an independent design-centered view best expressed as Wallaceism.  What precisely that means requires some explanation.

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Revisioning Paradigms: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Relocating of Evolution


Discussions of evolution (theistic and materialistic) have too often been cast within a Darwinian framework.  From M. A. Corey’s special pleading for deistic evolution (see his Back to Darwinism [1994]) to the recent sparring match between Robert A. Larmer and Denis O. Lamoureux in a series of exchanges in Christian Scholar’s Review (see issues for fall 2oo6 and fall 2007), discussions are invariably cast within a framework of how much or how little theism Darwinism will admit.  Seldom is Alfred Russell Wallace (1823-1913) ever brought up.  But, in fact, Wallace completely revised the theory he independently founded.  I suggest he did so within a much older Hermetic tradition in science.  What, you ask, does Wallace have to do with Hermeticism?  I’ll admit on its face it appears unlikely. But such a seemingly strained connection is relaxed considerably by seeing Wallace less as an evolutionist-turned-crackpot and more as a prescient thinker himself evolving a teleological view of nature on the one hand and seeing Hermeticism as less a curious exercise in medieval and early modern superstition and more as a viable metaphor for a more integrated worldview on the other.  By re-visioning both we may indeed find the foundation for a historically coherent — certainly a more historically rooted — ID paradigm.

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True then, unfortunately truer now . . .

  Former President Theodore Roosevelt, a man known for his typically frank-spoken style (a trait no doubt imbued from his Dutch Reformed roots) and who knew bad science as readily as he knew bad theology when he saw it, made bare the malignant social cancers of the modern age.  As the nation goes to select a new chief executive we should all look for the candor and insightfulness of the 26th President as shown below . . . __________ “There is superstition in science quite as much as there is superstition in theology, and it is all the more dangerous because those suffering from it are profoundly convinced that they are freeing themselves from all superstition.  No grotesque repulsiveness of medieval superstition, even as it survived into nineteenth-century Spain Read More ›

The Cardinal Dresses Darwin Up for God: Compatibilist Strategies – Do They Work?

On  July 7, 2005 Cardinal Christoph Schönborn wrote an article Finding Design in Nature  that seemed to level serious criticism at Darwinism and neo-Darwinism.   “Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science,” wrote Schönborn, “the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real.”  More recently the Cardinal has elaborated upon his position in his latest book Chance or Purpose: Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith (Ignatius Press, 2007).  The work itself emanating as it does from such a well-positioned Catholic leader, one intimate with the Pope, is worthy of some extended comment.

 Schönborn’s book is in some senses confusing.  On the one hand the Viennese Cardinal has some harsh criticism for Darwinian evolution as a metaphysical worldview.  On the other hand Schönborn takes the reader on a much murkier journey in which he appears to defend Darwin’s Origin as a “stroke of genius.”  Freeing himself from the dogma of independent creations, Darwin developed a theory of natural selection and common descent that was, according to  Schönborn, a product of “honest and intense intellectual struggle” (p. 53).  The Cardinal essentially supports Darwin’s biological mechanisms as secondary causes, which “can thus perfectly well be reconciled with belief in creation.  The natural causes,” he writes, “are an expression of the activity of creation”  that occurs throughout all aspects of creation.   Schönborn has a purpose in mind here, namely, to make a distinction between the so-called science of Darwin and the metaphysics of Darwinism in an effort to make Darwin’s biological theory implicitly compatible with theism.  Here begins the Cardinal’s troubles. Read More ›

The Reluctant Mr. Darwin?

Another Darwin Biography

Ecclesiastes tells us, “Of making books there is no end,” and nowhere is that a greater truism than in the ever growing corpus of Darwiniana.  At present writing OCLC (Online Computer Library Center), the world’s largest bibliographic database, lists 14,129 books and articles with occurrences of Darwin, Darwinism, or Darwinian in the title.  That’s enough to confirm the second half of that verse, namely, that “much study is wearisome to the flesh.”  Fortunately, there are at present only two outstanding biographies of the man many consider the most influential scientist of all time.  The first is Adrian Desmond and James Moore’s Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist (1991).  Still frequently cited in the literature, Desmond and Moore’s 800-page biography has been overshadowed more recently by the completion of Janet Browne’s even more corpulent 2 volume prize-winning biography Charles Darwin: Voyaging (1995) and Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (2003).  But the sheer massiveness of both endeavors (Browne’s effort totals nearly 1,200 pages in all) means that few but the most obsessive investigators will venture to traverse that terra incognita.  A book of more modest and accessible proportions seemed overdue.  Then I saw it – a   comparatively slim biography resting humbly on the shelves of Barnes & Nobles’ science section (it really belonged in the philosophy section but we’re coming to that).  It was David Quammen’s The Reluctant Mr. Darwin recently published in 2006.  Excluding the notes, bibliography, and index the total narrative comes to a mere 253 pages, and at $14.95 its price was destined to welcome rather than frighten readers away.  I said to myself: “Here is a book people are likely to actually read!”  I bought it and read it in a weekend. I’m glad I did, but not for reasons one might expect.
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