Intelligent Design

The original ID theorist, whether he knew it or not, was Alfred Russel Wallace

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Darwin’s co-theorist:

Earlier this month, science historian Michael Flannery and political scientist John West discussed the legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) on the occasion of his birthday, January 8. The video is up now and is worth watching. Flannery and West note the irony that Darwin’s younger colleague, co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection, broke with Darwin over Wallace’s later advocacy of intelligent design. An exaggeration? Not in the least. He came to recognize an intelligent “control” operating everywhere in life:

David Klinghoffer, “Fun Game: Ask Your Darwinist Friends, “Guess Who Said This?”” at Evolution News and Science Today:

31 Replies to “The original ID theorist, whether he knew it or not, was Alfred Russel Wallace

  1. 1
    ET says:

    The ancient Greeks predate Wallace. And they were discussing telic thoughts well before him.

  2. 2
    polistra says:

    “Original” isn’t really accurate. Before Darwin, everyone knew that god created life. Wallace was more like the last ID believer in academia, not the first. He was trying to hold onto real science while the fashionable ones pursued dangerous nonsense.

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    Pioneer of modern ID theory and of the theory of evolution. KF

    PS: His key book, 1910 on:

    The World of Life: a manifestation of Creative Power, Directive Mind and Ultimate Purpose


    >> But besides the discussion of these and several other allied subjects, the most prominent feature of my book is that I enter into a popular yet critical examination of those underlying fundamental problems which Darwin purposely excluded from his works as being beyond the scope of his enquiry.

    Such are, the nature and causes of Life itself ; and more especially of its most fundamental and mysterious powers growth and reproduction. I first endeavour to show (in Chapter XIV.) by a care-ful consideration of the structure of the bird’s feather; of the marvellous transformations of the higher insects ; and, more especially of the highly elaborated wing-scales of the Lepidoptera (as easily accessible examples of what is going on in every part of the structure of every living thing), the absolute necessity for an organising and directive Life-Principle in order to account for the very possibility of these complex outgrowths.

    I argue, that they necessarily imply first, a Creative Power, which so constituted matter as to render these marvels possible ; next, a directive Mind which is demanded at every step of what we term growth, and often look upon as so simple and natural a process as to require no explanation ; and, lastly, an ultimate Purpose, in the very existence of the whole vast life-world in all its long course of evolution throughout the eons of geological time.

    This Purpose, which alone throws light on many of the mysteries of its mode of evolution, I hold to be the development of Man, the one crowning product of the whole cosmic process of life-development ; the only being which can to some extent comprehend nature; which can perceive and trace out her modes of action ; which can appreciate the hidden forces and motions everywhere at work, and can deduce from them a supreme and over-ruling Mind as their necessary cause.

    For those who accept some such view as I have indicated, I show (in Chapters XV. and XVI.) how strongly it is sup-ported and enforced by a long series of facts and co-relations which we can hardly look upon as all purely accidental coincidences. Such are the infinitely varied products of living things which serve man’s purposes and man’s alone not only by supplying his material wants, and by gratifying his higher tastes and emotions, but as rendering possible many of those advances in the arts and in science which we claim to be the highest proofs of his superiority to the brutes, as well as of his advancing civilisation.

    From a consideration of these better-known facts I proceed (in Chapter XVII.) to an exposition of the mystery of cell-growth ; to a consideration of the elements in their special relation to the earth itself and to the life-world ; while in the last chapter I endeavour to show the purpose of that law of diversity which seems to pervade the whole material Universe. [Pp. vi – vii, preface, 1914 UK Edn.]>>

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    Seversky says:

    So, Wallace’s work would seem to suggest that being a Creationist does not have to exclude an acceptance of evolutionary theory?

  6. 6
    Mung says:

    I’m somewhat shocked to hear that ID “theory” did not exist before Wallace. Makes me wonder what theists prior to Wallace believed and why they were all wrong.

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    BobRyan says:


    Life is seldom filled with either/or, but humans have a tendency to view things that way through assumptions. ID, as a whole, is filled with varying beliefs. The common denominator it that God exists, for lack of a better word. Intelligence put the laws of physics into place. Remove the intelligence and you remove the laws. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, yet it exists. How does energy originate if it cannot be created? Something with far greater intelligence than humans have must have created energy, since it should not exist in nature.

  9. 9
    ET says:

    There isn’t any scientific evolutionary theory to accept or reject.

  10. 10
    JVL says:

    ET: There isn’t any scientific evolutionary theory to accept or reject.

    None you accept you mean. You reject every single example without specifying why it’s not acceptable.

    Anyway, if there is no theory of unguided evolutionary theory why do you spend so much time arguing about it and why do you have a whole blog dedicating to arguing about it? Me thinks thou dost protest too much.

  11. 11
    Steve Alten2 says:

    JVL@10, ET has his own blog? Do you have a link to it?

  12. 12
    AndyClue says:

    @Steve Alten2:

    Search for “evotard” on google:

  13. 13
    Steve Alten2 says:

    AndyClue, are you sure that is ET’s blog. I admit that he uses some of the same arguments, but so do others here. And they both have a tendency to use insults over argument, but whoever writes that blog takes it to a ridiculous extreme. I seriously doubt that anyone takes him seriously.

  14. 14
    Querius says:


    You should really consider reading Perry Marshall’s Evolution 2.0.

    I think he makes a good case for evolutionary mechanisms that have been mostly ignored in the largely emotional defense of an obsolete 19th century theory from the days of wooden ships, colonialism, and the concept of “favoured races.”


  15. 15
    ET says:

    Wow. JVL, neither you nor anyone else on this planet can find and link to any scientific theory of evolution. That says it all, really.

    And I do not argue about it, duh. I argue against the unscientific evolutionism, which posits untestable claims, like ATP synthase and the genetic code arose via blind and mindless processes. The BEST evidence for universal common descent is absent a mechanism! That alone proves my point, along with the fact no one can link to the allege theory.

    Evos are so stupid they don’t grasp there can be evolution the thing absent any scientific theory of evolution which attempts to explain and quantify it.

    Thanks to JVL who continues to prove he is scientifically illiterate.

  16. 16
    ET says:

    Acartia Stevie is clueless too. It doesn’t know what an argument is.

  17. 17
    AndyClue says:

    @Steve Alten2:

    AndyClue, are you sure that is ET’s blog.

    Of course it’s his. ET is a pretty famous internet troll. He even managed to get a thread (900 pages!) dedicated to him on an evolutionsts troll forum.

  18. 18
    Steve Alten2 says:

    AndyCue “ Of course it’s his. ET is a pretty famous internet troll.

    I’m still not convinced. I read through a few of the posts on that blog and they are obviously written by someone with very serious sociopathic issues. I can’t see people like Kairosfocus allowing this person to post comments here if he knew about his behaviour on his own blog.

  19. 19
    Querius says:

    I’m not fond of dismissing anyone for their “reputation” alone. From reading the replies on this thread, it seems that ET is pretty frustrated. For meaningful conversation, why not stay with information, quotes, supported assertions, references, and logic, rather than ad hominem attacks, unsupported assertions, and persistent skepticism?

    I’ve also noticed that no apologist for Darwinian evolution has noted my reference to

    I could speculate why, but I won’t.


  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Above, it is pretty clear that Wallace was a co-founder of modern evolutionary theory and a bridge from ancient design thinking (e.g. Plato) and the modern design theory. Which is of course not to be equated with creationism in the generally used current sense. That said, it seems to be a reliable rule of thumb, that those having the worse of an exchange will resort to toxic distractors. To which the obvious answer is, that there has been a general amnesty and if UD were to follow up a few obvious sock puppets, we would rapidly find reason for re-banning. The general rule, as far as I can make out, is that posting comments is a privilege on generally responsible behaviour, and commenters are in the main responsible for their behaviour here and elsewhere. The general situation seems to be that Wallace has obviously been right all along that there are strong signs of design in the world of life. So much so, that the champions of evolutionary materialistic scientism have too often resorted to naked ideological imposition, as say Lewontin and Crick document. Of course, in the court, media and classroom, that censorship is most often presented as if it were a mere centuries old methodological rule. Which is a transparent falsehood, with Wallace — see the above — a main exhibit on why it is patently false. Now, let us return to the substance, further duly advised by the clear balance on merits: a fine tuned cosmos, codes and algorithms in the heart of the cell [so, language and goal-directed behaviour], islands of functional organisation starting with protein fold domains, orphan genes showing gaps between even closely related species, the observed source of functionally specific complex organisation and information, that of irreducibly complex structures and more all line up to strongly show design at cosmological and domain of life levels. Pretty decisive. KF

  21. 21
    ET says:

    If I am an internet troll then evos are total butthead losers, liars and equivocating cowards. Oops, it doesn’t matter if I am internet troll as evos are butthead losers, liars and equivocating cowards.

  22. 22
    ET says:

    Acartia Stevie:

    I read through a few of the posts on that blog and they are obviously written by someone with very serious sociopathic issues.

    Coming from someone with serious sociopathic issues your bald assertion is meaningless.

  23. 23
    Querius says:


    Well put. While there’s no end of speculation why “might have” or “must have” occurred, the fundamental issue is the origin of information and information processing. A neutral evaluation suggests we live in a massive biochemical information processing environment. For example, organisms don’t adapt because it’s their nature to do so, but rather because they’ve been programmed to do so by conscious intelligent design.

    To put it more bluntly, one can certainly make an endlessly evolving story on how automobiles “must have” evolved, and there is certainly plenty of evidence of violent collisions as a source of change. But, we know this is fallacious by experience. Biological systems are vastly more complex than automobiles or computers, yet we’re supposed to believe these evolved naturally without conscious design or DNA programming. The DNA code itself, not to mention the multiple overlapping epigenetic codes, are also supposed to have evolved somehow. Show me how a code evolves with intelligent intervention.

    Regarding fine tuning, I agree that a number of constants seem fine tuned but I wonder how many of them are actually emergent from a smaller set or perhaps something more fundamental.


  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    Q, if there are super-knobs that set the parameters we see that pushes the question up one level: why such an interlock, why this setting. Especially, as on evidence there are many other possible values in a huge range. Besides, there is a fair amount of evidence that many parameters are effectively independent. KF

  25. 25
    Querius says:


    I’d say fine tuning parameters are not simply “interlocks” but rather one or more of these parameters might be emergent from another (or something even more fundamental).

    Besides, there is a fair amount of evidence that many parameters are effectively independent.

    Would you happen to have a reference for this? I wonder how this assertion would be tested.



  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    Q, do you not see how “interesting” it would be if there are front-loading super-laws that force cosmological parameters, quantities and laws to mathematical ranges conducive to C-chem, aqueous medium, cell based life? That is what pushing fine tuning up a level means. In search terms, divide a configuration space into n cells, where there are deeply isolated target zones amidst a very large number of possible configs. Next, propose a golden search that somehow finds one or more of these [we have here some sort of scattershot multiverse model]. The problem is, a search is a sample — thus subset — from the set with n elements. For a set of n elements, the set of subsets has scale 2^n, i.e. the search for a golden search is exponentially harder than search for search. Direct search is already overwhelmingly challenged by the deep isolation. Worse, multiverse is an empirically unobserved speculation, a move over into philosophy while wearing the lab coat, that opens up ALL of the issues comparative difficulties across worldviews puts on the table. For instance, our being free and manifestly under moral government is on the table. The upshot is, fine tuning is very hard to dismiss. KF

    PS, Walker and Davies extends to multiverse speculations, esp. if we reckon with the challenge of causally successive traversal of a transfinite claimed past; which leads us to recognise that, credibly, the causal-temporal past was finite:

    In physics, particularly in statistical mechanics, we base many of our calculations on the assumption of metric transitivity, which asserts that a system’s trajectory will eventually [–> given “enough time and search resources”] explore the entirety of its state space – thus everything that is phys-ically possible will eventually happen. It should then be trivially true that one could choose an arbitrary “final state” (e.g., a living organism) and “explain” it by evolving the system backwards in time choosing an appropriate state at some ’start’ time t_0 (fine-tuning the initial state). In the case of a chaotic system the initial state must be specified to arbitrarily high precision. But this account amounts to no more than saying that the world is as it is because it was as it was, and our current narrative therefore scarcely constitutes an explanation in the true scientific sense.

    We are left in a bit of a conundrum with respect to the problem of specifying the initial conditions necessary to explain our world. A key point is that if we require specialness in our initial state (such that we observe the current state of the world and not any other state) metric transitivity cannot hold true, as it blurs any dependency on initial conditions – that is, it makes little sense for us to single out any particular state as special by calling it the ’initial’ state. If we instead relax the assumption of metric transitivity (which seems more realistic for many real world physical systems – including life), then our phase space will consist of isolated pocket regions and it is not necessarily possible to get to any other physically possible state (see e.g. Fig. 1 for a cellular automata example).

    [–> or, there may not be “enough” time and/or resources for the relevant exploration, i.e. we see the 500 – 1,000 bit complexity threshold at work vs 10^57 – 10^80 atoms with fast rxn rates at about 10^-13 to 10^-15 s leading to inability to explore more than a vanishingly small fraction on the gamut of Sol system or observed cosmos . . . the only actually, credibly observed cosmos]

    Thus the initial state must be tuned to be in the region of phase space in which we find ourselves [–> notice, fine tuning], and there are regions of the configuration space our physical universe would be excluded from accessing, even if those states may be equally consistent and permissible under the microscopic laws of physics (starting from a different initial state). Thus according to the standard picture, we require special initial conditions to explain the complexity of the world, but also have a sense that we should not be on a particularly special trajectory to get here (or anywhere else) as it would be a sign of fine–tuning of the initial conditions. [ –> notice, the “loading”] Stated most simply, a potential problem with the way we currently formulate physics is that you can’t necessarily get everywhere from anywhere (see Walker [31] for discussion). [“The “Hard Problem” of Life,” June 23, 2016, a discussion by Sara Imari Walker and Paul C.W. Davies at Arxiv.]

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  29. 29
    Querius says:

    Thanks for the links. Your second one is a good introduction and states:

    Since physicists have not discovered a deep underlying reason for why these constants are what they are, we might well ask the seemingly simple question: What if they were different? What would happen in a hypothetical universe in which the fundamental constants of nature had other values?

    My questions are

    “How do we know whether changing one of these constants would also change a different one?” and then “If just one of these constants, changed, how do we know that several, or perhaps even all of them would change?”

    This is what I meant by “emergent” constants, also referred to as derivative constants. The ratios in particular are interesting in this regard.

    Luke Barnes in his paper, The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life writes:

    Our formulation of FT, however, is in obvious need of refinement. What determines the
    set of possible physics? Where exactly do we draw the line between “universes”?

    As Barnes went on to state, many physicists (and even more numerologists) have tried and failed to find relationships between several constants to arrive at the Fine Structure constant. The indication that the Fine Structure “constant” varies slightly with energy proves the point. There’s more going on here. What happens to the speed of light in a vacuum when passing between two plates that are very close–close enough for the Casimir effect to come into play?

    Regarding how some theorists conjure an infinite number of multiple universes egregiously violates both intelligent design AND parsimony in my opinion. In rejecting an intelligent designer, these theorists simply substitute Probability in place of God. Neither hypothesis can be tested and retreating to probability dismisses all methodical inquiry.

    For example, in answer to the question of why lightening struck a particular tree, the answer would degenerate to “With millions of lighting strikes a year, it was only a matter of probability that this particular tree would eventually be struck.” Such an answer suppresses other inquiry such as tree height, moisture, conductivity, atmospheric conditions, and other scientific explanations. Maybe it is indeed pure chance, but that shouldn’t be the first explanation, but the last resort.

    But, it’s easy to imagine that initial conditions must also be fine tuned. And to jump-start the universe of necessity presupposes an super-natural physics at the least that starts space-time. And without Time, how can one suppose probability can exist? Hypothesizing that a different universe of the Mother of All Universes (MOAU) started ours simply kicks the can down the road.

    Retreating into a hypothesized MOAU that is temporally infinite and has infinite probabilities of Dark Something, and infinite energy that can generate information and consciousness simply is again an acknowledgement of God under a different name.


  30. 30
    kairosfocus says:

    Q, physics is of course going to develop with time. The values of constants and structures of law we see today are driven by evidence. The parameters and expressions have yielded parameters etc that are free on a best current explanation basis. Those are the ones being looked at. Further to such, we need to look at the possibility that such are set by deeper expressions or what I termed super-laws above. Such super laws, structurally, will have parameters that drive their derivative laws and constants [the ones we now see, at least as approximations] to their particular values. We saw this already, e.g. when Kepler’s empirical laws turned out to be driven by Newtonian gravitation. However, robustly, there will be free parameters and particular equations driven by the underlying postulates, i.e. the framing axioms of the theory. In short, a theory at this level is an abstract, logic-model world controlled by empirical evidence, within which we can articulate a dynamic-stochastic framework for what is constant, what changes, how fast. Key expressions involved will be differential equations and/or related structural operators possibly with stochastic/probabilistic elements. Those drive dynamic evolution, here, of the cosmos. The role of mathematics comes in by way of the logic of being involving structure and quantity; this also permits us to manipulate values and explore consequences, the answer is, across many dozen parameters, that we are in a deeply isolated operating zone for a life-supporting cosmos. This robust pattern, shows that once fine tuning has been detected, it will propagate at higher forcing levels. The fine tuned, complex balance of factors behind the observed cosmos is not about to go away. KF

    PS: The stochastic comes in at many levels, in many ways. One starts with even deterministic Newtonian dynamics, where we find that there is such sensitive dependence on initial conditions and structures present that the butterfly effect and chaos theory results obtain. Toss a die on a table, with eight corners, four edges, spinning and speed, the butterfly effect leads to randomness of outcomes for practical purposes, the calculation is too sensitive to be followed with confidence on accuracy in the long term. BTW, this also relates to the orbital dynamics of solar systems and long term stability [a fine tuning issue]. When a great many particles interact, we have a similar result but the overall population follows various distributions with astonishingly stable macro-parameters, this is the heart of statistical thermodynamics. The normal curve was detected in making astronomical observations etc, and the core theory is that a central value is varied by a large population of small random factors, leading to a bell-scatter. The binomial distribution of fair coins shows another way to a bell curve. So far with Quantum theory there seems to be an irreducible stochastic behaviour leading to distributions, and more. The point is, probability, stochastic patterns and the like are readily seen, are common, and themselves follow orderly patterns.

  31. 31
    Querius says:


    Yes, I agree. Let’s take your observations a step further in a couple of directions.

    1. Let’s assume that there’s some underlying entity or process from which all the others emerge. This entity of process still requires fine tuning and must result in fine-tuned relationships. For example, it’s been suggested that life on earth would not be possible if water contracted rather than expanded in its solid state. How could any such entity or process come into existence from non-existence? If information is conserved, then how can information emerge from non-existence?

    I think it can’t without a supernatural (beyond existing natural) source of information, consciousness, free will, design that includes emergent laws of physics, and fine tuning.

    2. What is the relationship between stochastic and chaotic processes? Can a mathematically apparent stochastic process emerge from a chaotic process?

    I think the answer is yes. Here’s why.

    The shape of the normal curve might be the result of, for example, thousands of butterflies in Brazil mostly canceling each other out. In other words, the Mandelbrot set would be entirely deterministic were it not for both “highly tuned” initial conditions AND the insertion of free will within spacetime.

    For example, if you took an infinitely sharp pin and an infinitely accurate clock (or maybe Planck length and time) to specify a point in spacetime, the coordinates would (overwhelming likely) all be irrational numbers. Applying this operation to the Mandelbrot set will ALWAYS have the identical result. The apparent normal distribution “at the fringes” is introduced by a process external to the Mandelbrot set—which I’d suggest is free will in spacetime.
    However, in a conversation with a well-known physical chemist, he suggested that deterministic, chaotic, and stochastic behaviors seemed to exist in different layers of abstraction.

    What do you think?


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