Sunday, 21 September 2008
Malcolm Brown, a reverend at The Church of England, says that they owe naturalist Charles Darwin an apology. He states The Church of England misunderstand Darwin and "by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still". I find this as a sober insight, but I wonder why only Darwin gets an apology, and moreover when will natural science apologize to Alfred Russel Wallace.
Few people, biologist included, are familiar with Wallace and his great contribution to the field of evolutionary biology. He put forward his theory of natural selection together with, but independently of, Charles Darwin in 1858-1859. Additionally, it is said that it was Wallace who first introduced the terms "survival of the fittest" (taken from the economist Herbert Spencer's work) and "Darwinism" into evolutionary biology. The respect between Wallace and Darwin was also said to be mutual and vast.
Why is it than that The Church of England chose to just apologies to one of the two co-founders of evolutionary theory? Well it is probably due to the above depicted ignorance of Wallace significant contribution to this field of science. But what is the reason for Darwin becoming so famous and so tightly linked to evolution, whereas Wallace been completely forgotten? The answer may lie in Wallace inquisitive nature, which is said to have brought spiritualism, mysticism and alchemy into his life.
Wallace seems to never had ruled out a higher force (e.g. "God") from the equation of natural selection. I believe, based on my own experience, that this kind of thinking "outside the box" is the reason why natural science have refused to acknowledge his work to the levels of Darwin. Wallace's thoughts on evolution theory are simply regarded as less worthy to bring up, just because he was searching for answers to his questions outside the field of natural science.
I find it a bit tragic-comical when biologist complain of religious groups ignorance and intolerance to evolution theory. The situation is analogous to the ignorance and intolerance that natural science have shown Wallace during more than a century. Is it not time for an apology and reinstatement of Wallace as the co-founder of evolutionary theory?
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