Wallace as a Way Forward in Debate Over Evolution
The debate over evolution and intelligent design has implications which often overshadow the science -- implications for religion, philosophy, and society. Clashing worldviews have entrenched interest in the question, which has led to a stalemate in public opinion, as David Klinghoffer writes in Washington Post. "For the past three decades, Americans have been locked into a basically unchanging split of views on the subject, with only about 16 percent believing in Darwin's theory of unguided evolution." Is this split really necessary? If we look to Darwin's co-discoverer, Alfred Russel Wallace, the answer may surprise us.
Charles Darwin would have turned 200 in 2009. Will we still be having the same argument when he turns 300? Not, perhaps, if we take a lesson from evolutionary theory's founder. Or rather its other founder -- Darwin's less famous co-discoverer, Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913). The Welsh-born naturalist and adventurer could hold the key to dissolving much of the fractious furor over evolution.
Religious preferences or worldview commitments drive much of that debate. Putting Biblical literalists to one side, Darwin's materialism is the main philosophical objection to evolutionary theory. In its Darwinian version, evolution denies the possibility of discovering evidence that a supreme being guided life's history with a purpose in mind. The same is not true of Alfred Russel Wallace's understanding.
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