Home » Darwinism, Intelligent Design, News » Shermer vs. Flannery: Resolved: If He Were Alive Today, Alfred Russel Wallace Would Be an Intelligent Design Advocate

Shermer vs. Flannery: Resolved: If He Were Alive Today, Alfred Russel Wallace Would Be an Intelligent Design Advocate

Here (Evolution News & Views January 22, 2012). Both men are Wallace biographers:

Dr. Shermer’s initial remarks, “Alfred Russel Wallace Was a Hyper-Evolutionist, Not an Intelligent Design Creationist,” may be read here.

Professor Flannery opens up his side of the discussion (“Wallace Would Be an Intelligent Design Advocate — and a Prescient Figure in the History of Science“) here.

The occasion for the debate is the online premiere of John West’s compelling documentary short Darwin’s Heretic, which may be viewed here.

Feel free to comment here.

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11 Responses to Shermer vs. Flannery: Resolved: If He Were Alive Today, Alfred Russel Wallace Would Be an Intelligent Design Advocate

  1. Seeing that “Intelligent Design Creationist” exists only in the minds of the willfully ignorant, I agree with Mike Shermer that Wallace was not an Intelligent Design Creationist.

  2. In using such terms I wished to show plainly that I contemplated the possibility that the development of the essentially human portions of man’s structure and intellect may have been determined by the directing influence of some higher intelligent beings, acting through natural and universal laws.

    I haven’t seen this before. It seems clear that he anticipated the post-Dover ID position. But 150 years have passed and still no designer sightings. No hint of who those non-God designers might be or how they came into existence.

    Nor any theory of sequence or protein design, nor any on the horizon.

    So 150 years after Wallace’s statement, ID remains exactly where it started.

    If it’s any consolation, it appears that Shermer loses this particular debate. Assuming I read it correctly.

  3. In his opening statement, Alfred Russel Wallace Was a Hyper-Evolutionist, Not an Intelligent Design Creationist , Dr. Shermer claimed that “In Wallace’s science there is no supernatural.”

    The following paper by Wallace contains several quotes that refute Shermer’s claim: An Answer to the Arguments of Hume, Lecky, and Others, Against Miracles (S174: 1870) (final version, published in The Spiritual Magazine, March 1872, under the title, “No Antecedent Impossibility in Miracles. A Reply to Modern Objectors.”)

    For instance:

    The belief to which I allude is, that all alleged miracles are false; that what is commonly understood by the term supernatural does not exist, or if it does, is incapable of proof by any amount of human testimony; that all the phenomena we can have cognizance of depend on ascertainable physical laws, and that no other intelligent beings than man and the inferior animals can or do act upon our material world. These views have been now held almost unquestioned for many generations; they are inculcated as an essential part of a liberal education; they are popular, and are held to be one of the indications of our intellectual advancement; and they have become so much a part of our mental nature, that all facts and arguments brought against them are either ignored as unworthy of serious consideration, or listened to with undisguised contempt. Now this frame of mind is certainly not one favourable to the discovery of truth, and strikingly resembles that by which, in former ages, systems of error have been fostered and maintained. The time has therefore come when it must be called upon to justify itself.

    This is the more necessary, because the doctrine, whether true or false, actually rests upon a most unsafe and rotten [[p. 114]] foundation. (Bold emphases mine – VJT.)

    Here’s another:

    … I maintain that human testimony increases in value in such an enormous ratio with each additional independent and honest witness, that no fact ought to be rejected when attested by such a body of evidence as exists for many of the events termed miraculous or supernatural, and which occur now daily among us. The burden of proof lies on those who maintain that such evidence can possibly be fallacious. Let them point out one case in which such cumulative evidence existed, and which yet proved to be false; let them give not supposition, but proof. (Bold emphasis mine – VJT.)

    Or again:

    Now, are the modern discoverers of some phenomena usually termed supernatural and incredible, less worthy of attention than these already quoted? Let us take, first, the reality of what is called clairvoyance. The men who have observed this phenomenon, and have carefully tested it through long years or through their whole lives, will rank in scientific knowledge, and in intellectual ability, as quite equal to any observers in any other branch of discovery. We have no less than seven eminent medical men, Drs. Elliotson, Gregory, Ashburner, Lee, Herbert, Mayo, Esdaile, and Haddock, besides persons of such high ability as Miss Martineau, Mr. H. G. Atkinson, Mr. Charles Bray, and Baron Reichenbach. With the history of previous discoverers before us, is it more likely that these eleven educated persons, knowing all the arguments against the facts, and investigating them carefully, should be all wrong, and those who say a priori that the thing is impossible should be all right, or the contrary? If we are to learn anything by history and experience, then we may safely prognosticate that, in this case as in so many others, the disbelievers in other men’s observations will be found to be in the wrong. (Bold emphasis mine – VJT.)

    Critiquing a favorite argument of Hume’s, that miracles occur in many religions, Wallace observes:

    Mr. Hume assumes, therefore, to know that nothing which we term a miracle can possibly be performed by any of the probably infinite number of intelligent beings who may exist in the universe between ourselves and the Deity. He confounds the evidence for the fact with the theories to account for the fact, and most illogically and unphilosophically argues, that if the theories lead to contradictions, the facts themselves do not exist. (Bold emphasis mine – VJT.)

    Dr. Shermer also quotes the following passage from Wallace:

    In using such terms I wished to show plainly that I contemplated the possibility that the development of the essentially human portions of man’s structure and intellect may have been determined by the directing influence of some higher intelligent beings, acting through natural and universal laws.

    But what Wallace is envisaging here is not that natural laws themselves could explain the origin of the human intellect, but rather, that advanced (but not Divine) intelligent beings, working within the constraints of natural law (which was itself designed by “one Supreme Intelligence”), may have engineered the growth of the human brain that occurred in the lineage leading to human beings, thereby accounting for the origin of the human body. That’s Intelligent Design.

  4. Yeah. And right behind us is Darwinian evolutionary theory.

  5. vjtorley:

    Thanks for all those quotes! It seems that Wallace is ID’s best friend!

    I especially liked this quotes:

    Mr. Hume assumes, therefore, to know that nothing which we term a miracle can possibly be performed by any of the probably infinite number of intelligent beings who may exist in the universe between ourselves and the Deity.

    He’s referring, of course, to the angelic realms, realms consisting of “intelligent beings”. He likely has, in the back of his mind, Wisdom.

    Wallace gives a refined view of how the Deity—via angelic powers—might influence our world. Excellent.

    As to Shermer’s argument, his argument falls apart here:

    These are the only expressions I have used in alluding to the power which I believe has acted in the case of man, and they were purposely chosen to show that I reject the hypothesis of “first causes” for any and every special effect in the universe, except in the same sense that the action of man or of any other intelligent being is a first cause.

    Wallace DOES believe in “first causes” at play in our world, and that makes him a critic of methodological naturalism—which is the scourge of today’s science (and, in Wallace’s words, built on a “rotten foundation”.)

    As to accusations of Wallace’s supposed “racism”; well, what can I say. If you read about Wallace, you’ll find that he enjoyed very much living with the native people, and, IIRC, he fell in love with one of the “savages”. He held the native people in high regard, considering them to have, if not a higher, as high a developed moral sense as we “Westerners”. And it is Darwin, in his “The Descent of Man”, who is racist, and who becomes, then, the father of modern eugenics.

    I often wondered why Darwin wrote such a book, since he was for the freeing of slaves, and it strikes me that he did so as a counterattack to Wallace’s writings. It would be interesting to look a little more deeply into Darwin’s motivations about all these things. It might make Darwins a scoundrel twice when it came to Alfred Russell Wallace.

  6. …. together with those silly, old ID advocates, Einstein, Planck, Bohr, Godel, and much of the time, Darwin. He gave money to the Christian Missionary Society until the month he died. The record of it turned up a few months ago.

    Lilliputians all, of course, compared to you and your idols, Joe. Grow up!

  7. To be replaced by a science fiction fantasy? My only observervation is that ID seems incapable of formulating a theory of design.

    As a minor (very minor) inventer, I’m.q.acutely aware that invention builds on invention an relies on modules imported from previous inventions, plus libraries of formulas and specifications.

    According to gpuccio, the smallest unit of function in DNA is the protein domain, which is far beyond mere mortal intelligence to produce.

    This leaves several possible scenarios:

    1. The designer is an omniscient being, which is Behe’s position.
    2. Gpuccio is wrong about the attributes of functional space, and incremental traversal is possible.
    3. Elizabeth is correct, and incremental change is the result of multidimisional selection, not simply a result of simple, incremental selection of a single function.
    4. Something I have omitted or haven’t thought of.

  8. VJ,

    The first quote is stunning for its relevance to comments made here a century and a half later.

    They all are.

  9. Hi Axel,

    I think you may have misunderstood Joe’s comment.

    It happens.

  10. As a minor (very minor) inventer, I’m.q.acutely aware that invention builds on invention an relies on modules imported from previous inventions, plus libraries of formulas and specifications.

    Except where Tesla’s AC generator was concerned, right?

    And yes there are plenty of explanations that you haven’t thought of…

  11. Axel,

    “Intelligent Design Creationist” is an underhanded, dishonest attempt to make Intelligent Design proponents into Biblical Creationists.

    IOW Shermer needs to “grow up”- get it?

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