One of the untruths told about the modern intelligent design movement is that it has no history to speak of. Science historian Michael Flannery corrects the record in his important new book, Nature’s Prophet: Alfred Russel Wallace and His Evolution from Natural Selection to Natural Theology (University of Alabama Press). Discovery Institute’s Rob Crowther caught up with Professor Flannery at the recent Insiders Briefing, a yearly private event organized by the Center for Science & Culture. This year’s Briefing was held in Tacoma, WA.
As the story goes, ID sprung up recently in order to pick up where fundamentalist “creationism” had failed in a plot to inject the Bible into public school science classrooms. This is the Darwinist conspiracy theory I wrote about here the other day. Even if you are sympathetic to ID or are a fair-minded critic, you may not realize that ID’s heritage in fact can be traced back long before the 1993 Pajaro Dunes meeting, or perhaps the 1966 Wistar Symposium.
Writing here, Flannery has traced the descent of ID to Anaxagoras, the pre-Socratic philosopher who lived in the fifth century BC. But why get greedy for history? It’s enough to say, as Flannery does, that the “godfather” of ID is Charles Darwin’s colleague and rival Alfred Russel Wallace. As Flannery notes, it was Wallace’s unexpected co-discovery of the theory of evolution by natural selection that, communicated to Darwin privately in 1858, compelled a panicked Darwin to rush to get his own version, in the Origin of Species, into print in 1859.
Wallace subsequently split with Darwin, moving toward a position of “intelligent evolution,” in Flannery’s phrase, first over the issue of human exceptionalism. Flannery details the momentous split, and Wallace’s subsequent intellectual evolution, in Nature’s Prophet. Get it at the Discovery Institute Store now.