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Alfred Russel Wallace as Darwin’s heretic

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A friend writes to say, One of the most renowned biologists of the nineteenth century, Alfred Russel Wallace shares credit with Charles Darwin for developing the theory of evolution by natural selection. Yet one part of Wallace’s remarkable life and career has been completely ignored: His embrace of intelligent design. Darwin’s Heretic is a 21-minute documentary that explores Wallace’s fascinating intellectual journey and how it sheds light on current debates. The documentary features University of Alabama at Birmingham Professor Michael Flannery, author of the acclaimed biography, Alfred Russel Wallace: A Rediscovered Life:

For years Alfred Russel Wallace was little more than an obscure adjunct to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Remembered only for prompting Darwin to write On the Origin of Species in 1859 by writing his own letter proposing a theory of natural selection, Wallace was rightly dubbed by one biographer “the forgotten naturalist.” In 1998 Sahotra Sarkar bemoaned Wallace’s “lapse into obscurity,” noting that “at least in the 19th century literature, the theory of evolution was usually referred to as ‘the Darwin and Wallace theory’. In the 20th century, the theory of evolution has become virtually synonymous with Darwinism or neo-Darwinism.” While the complaint still has a ring of truth, a decade of recent interest in Wallace has done much to bring him back from history’s crypt of forgotten figures. This shouldn’t suggest unanimity of opinion, however.

Some regard him as a heretic, others as merely a misguided scientist-turned-spiritualist, still others as a prescient figure anticipating the modern Gaia hypothesis. Perhaps Martin Fichman’s phrase hits closest and most persistently to the truth—“the elusive Victorian.” Can the real Wallace be found? If so, what might we learn in that rediscovery? [from publisher]

See also: On the centennial of the passing of Alfred Russel Wallace, controversy continues

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2 Replies to “Alfred Russel Wallace as Darwin’s heretic

  1. 1
    bornagain says:

    Here is a very interesting quote by Alfred Russel Wallace:

    “Nothing in evolution can account for the soul of man. The difference between man and the other animals is unbridgeable. Mathematics is alone sufficient to prove in man the possession of a faculty unexistent in other creatures. Then you have music and the artistic faculty. No, the soul was a separate creation.”
    Alfred Russel Wallace – An interview by Harold Begbie printed on page four of The Daily Chronicle (London) issues of 3 November and 4 November 1910.

    Alfred Wallace is in very good company. Both Einstein and Wigner are on record as to considering it a ‘miracle’ that man could understand math and that it would be so effective in modelling the world.

    “You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or as an eternal mystery. Well, a priori, one should expect a chaotic world, which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way .. the kind of order created by Newton’s theory of gravitation, for example, is wholly different. Even if a man proposes the axioms of the theory, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the ‘miracle’ which is constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.”
    Albert Einstein – Letters to Solovine – New York, Philosophical Library, 1987

    The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences – Eugene Wigner – 1960
    Excerpt: ,,certainly it is hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought, by Darwin’s process of natural selection, to the perfection which it seems to possess.,,,
    It is difficult to avoid the impression that a miracle confronts us here, quite comparable in its striking nature to the miracle that the human mind can string a thousand arguments together without getting itself into contradictions, or to the two miracles of the existence of laws of nature and of the human mind’s capacity to divine them.,,,
    The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.
    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc.....igner.html

    Dr. Craig used the applicability of mathematics as a philosophical proof for God

    Mathematics and Physics – A Happy Coincidence? – William Lane Craig – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BF25AA4dgGg

    1. If God did not exist the applicability of mathematics would be a happy coincidence.
    2. The applicability of mathematics is not a happy coincidence.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    As well, as to the implications of his incompleteness theorem, Godel stated this:

    “Either mathematics is too big for the human mind, or the human mind is more than a machine.”
    Kurt Gödel As quoted in Topoi : The Categorial Analysis of Logic (1979) by Robert Goldblatt, p. 13

    Kurt Gödel – Incompleteness Theorem – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/8462821

    Also of note:

    Alan Turing & Kurt Gödel – Incompleteness Theorem and Human Intuition – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/8516356/

    In regard to Godel and Turing’s work, this following recent paper extended Godel and Turing’s work to ‘challenge the reductionists’ point of view’, and to show that “insurmountable difficulty lies precisely in the derivation of macroscopic properties from a microscopic description”

    Quantum physics problem proved unsolvable: Godel and Turing enter quantum physics – December 9, 2015
    Excerpt: A mathematical problem underlying fundamental questions in particle and quantum physics is provably unsolvable,,,
    It is the first major problem in physics for which such a fundamental limitation could be proven. The findings are important because they show that even a perfect and complete description of the microscopic properties of a material is not enough to predict its macroscopic behaviour.,,,
    A small spectral gap – the energy needed to transfer an electron from a low-energy state to an excited state – is the central property of semiconductors. In a similar way, the spectral gap plays an important role for many other materials.,,,
    Using sophisticated mathematics, the authors proved that, even with a complete microscopic description of a quantum material, determining whether it has a spectral gap is, in fact, an undecidable question.,,,
    “We knew about the possibility of problems that are undecidable in principle since the works of Turing and Gödel in the 1930s,” added Co-author Professor Michael Wolf from Technical University of Munich. “So far, however, this only concerned the very abstract corners of theoretical computer science and mathematical logic. No one had seriously contemplated this as a possibility right in the heart of theoretical physics before. But our results change this picture. From a more philosophical perspective, they also challenge the reductionists’ point of view, as the insurmountable difficulty lies precisely in the derivation of macroscopic properties from a microscopic description.”
    http://phys.org/news/2015-12-q.....godel.html

    It seems that Wallace also sensed that “insurmountable difficulty” in the “derivation of macroscopic properties from a microscopic description” years before anyone else had

    “There seems to me,” said Professor Wallace, “unmistakeable evidence of guidance and control in the physical apparatus of every living creature. Consider for a moment the question of nourishment. Men of various races eat different foods; men of the same race may follow diets as separate and distinct as chalk from cheese. But in all cases the main result is the same. The food is converted into blood. That is interesting enough, marvellous enough, baffling enough; but mark what follows. This blood circulating through the body becomes at one point hair and at another nail; here it transforms itself into bone and there into tissue; at the same moment that it changes into skin it changes into nerve; it is at once the bone in my finger and the eye in my head. Materialism forges such words as secretion, but no word signifying unconscious and accidental action can explain this mystery.
    Alfred Russel Wallace – An interview by Harold Begbie printed on page four of The Daily Chronicle (London) issues of 3 November and 4 November 1910

  2. 2
    Robert Byers says:

    Wallace was a crackpot. No excuses for believing in God. Everybody did.
    He accepted simply everything on first blish. spiritualism, socialism, and other dumb stuff.
    Its was simple to say god didn’t create species everywhere and then say they created themselves because fod wouldn’t do it. FINE. Thats irrelevant to saying that complexity and diversity of biology has a origin in creating itself.
    Its extrapolation from the minor to the major ignoring how major it is.
    wallace was as short sighted as darwin.

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