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Customer reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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on October 19, 2010
Flannery did a masterful job with this philosophical analysis of Wallace's work on evolutionary theory. Much of Wallace's book is reprinted within this volume and fully supports the integrity of Flannery's thesis.

For philosophy of science grad students (such as myself), this is a must-read. Well done, Mr. Flannery.
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on July 10, 2009
This reprinting of sections of Wallace's 1910 publication The World of Life documents the fact that Charles Darwin's theory was not so much an attempt to understand nature as it was an attempt to replace theism with a materialistic, atheistic worldview as documented in The Darwin Myth: The Life and Lies of Charles Darwin by Benjamin Wiker (available on Amazon). In other words, Darwin's purpose was not science but theological. Russel recognized that Darwin's theory explained much, but did not, and could not, explain everything in the natural world. As anyone who has read Darwin's Origin of Species can plainly see, Darwin was not interested in understanding reality but in proving a worldview, a worldview that served both as a lens and blinders in his work. In his excellent introduction to the book, the editor, Professor Flannery, documents the conclusion that Wallace today would be most comfortable in the Intelligent Design camp. Darwin knew of Wallace's heresy, and it upset Darwin greatly. I am thankful that this now rare book is again back in print because it allows us to better understand, not only Darwin's motive in defending his theory but also the major problems the co-founder of evolution had with Darwin's conclusions. Indeed, the book The World of Life effectively challenged Darwinism, a challenge still very much alive today.
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on August 8, 2009
I will not directly comment on this attempt to make Wallace into an intelligent design advocate, except to reproduce his own words on the matter (from another of his books, Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection, 2d ed.):

-----"Some of my critics seem quite to have misunderstood my meaning in this part of the argument. They have accused me of unnecessarily and unphilosophically appealing to "first causes" in order to get over a difficulty--of believing that "our brains are made by God and our lungs by natural selection;" and that, in point of fact, "man is God's domestic animal." An eminent French critic, M. Claparède, makes me continually call in the aid of--"une Force supérieure," the capital F, meaning I imagine that this "higher Force" is the Deity. I can only explain this misconception by the incapacity of the modern cultivated mind to realise the existence of any higher intelligence between itself and Deity. Angels and archangels, spirits and demons, have been so long banished from our belief as to have become actually unthinkable as actual existences, and nothing in modern philosophy takes their place. Yet the grand law of "continuity," the last outcome of modern science, which seems absolute throughout the realms of matter, force, and mind, so far as we can explore them, cannot surely fail to be true beyond the narrow sphere of our vision, and leave an infinite chasm between man and the Great Mind of the universe. Such a supposition seems to me in the highest degree improbable.

Now, in referring to the origin of man, and its possible determining causes, I have used the words "some other power"--"some intelligent power"--"a superior intelligence"--"a controlling intelligence," and only in reference to the origin of universal forces and laws have I spoken of the will or power of "one Supreme Intelligence." 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. 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. A belief of this nature may or may not have a foundation, but it is an intelligible theory, and is not, in its nature, incapable of proof; and it rests on facts and arguments of an exactly similar kind to those, which would enable a sufficiently powerful intellect to deduce, from the existence on the earth of cultivated plants and domestic animals, the presence of some intelligent being of a higher nature than themselves."

Wallace was a spiritualist, but spiritualists believe that existence, though in part nonphysical, is understandable on the basis of law, not intervention. Thus Wallace was neither entirely a Darwinian, nor at all an I.D. advocate.
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