Alfred Russel Wallace, the Victorian Outsider

Over at Evolution News and Science Today, an Intelligent Design site operated by the Discovery Institute, Alfred Russel Wallace is receiving a great deal of attention in his bicentennial year. Professor Michael A. Flannery has written a book and several articles about Wallace.

A spell back, I wrote about whether or not we would have evolutionary theory if Charles Darwin had never been born. Since evolution is ancient, it would have been assembled and popularized in a "scientific" format. Alfie almost did that, but Charlie got to the publisher first.

An interesting individual and co-founder of evolution in Victorian times, Alfred Russel Wallace was an outsider. One reason is that he was not atheistic in his views.
Alfred Russel Wallace, ca. 1865
A.F. Wallace did quite a bit of science, but he was eclipsed by Darwin. A problem for him both then and now is that he dabbled in many areas, some of which seemed frivolous. Wallace seemed like an interesting individual. But the Bearded Buddha focused on his own specific areas, which was apparently applauded instead of the multi-faceted aspects of Alfred.

Also, Wallace was a kind of forerunner of the Intelligent Design movement. His version of evolution was not compatible with creation science by any means. Indeed, hisclaim that some things could only be explained by the evolution and intervention of an "overruling intelligence" may have been a considerable part of why he was an outsider in Victorian times. Methodological naturalism (an atheistic approach) reigns supreme. Wallace reached his conclusion by leaving God out of it and going only with evidence. That leads to deism, and those people are just as in need of salvation as any atheist — or anyone else.
Why is Alfred Russel Wallace today a comparatively little known figure next to Darwin? The literature is replete with examples — Darwin’s Moon, In Darwin’s Shadow, Darwin’s “neglected double,” Darwin’s “eclipse” of Wallace — all suggestive of a subordinate status in the annals of history. Michael Ruse has called him “a brilliant scientist” but “a crazy enthusiast for any silly idea floating by.” In comparing Darwin’s “single-minded devotion to his scientific cause,” Andrew Berry praised Wallace’s scientific accomplishments and brilliance but concluded that his “scattershot embrace of every needy underdog under the sun smacks of dilettantism.”

If you've a mind to, you can read the rest at "The Outsider: Alfred Russel Wallace’s Reputation in the Darwinian Era."  (If you click on the Michael Flannery link, there are several other articles about Alfie.) You may also like my article, "Alfred Russel Wallace and Evolution."