Alfred russel wallace’s intelligent evolution and natural theology

Academic Article


  • Alfred Russel Wallace’s conception of evolution and its relation to natural theology is examined. That conception is described as intelligent evolution—directed, detectably designed, and purposeful common descent. This essay extends discussion of the forces and influences behind Wallace’s journey from the acknowledged co-discoverer of natural selection, to include his much lesser known position within the larger history of natural theology. It will do so by contextualizing it with an analysis of Darwin’s metaphysical commitments identified as undogmatic atheism. In this sense, David Kohn’s thesis that Darwin was the “last of the natural theologians” is revised to suggest that Wallace deserves to be included within the larger context of the British natural theologians in a surprisingly Paleyan tradition. As such, an important object of this essay is to clear away the historical fog that has surrounded this aspect of Wallace. That “fog” is composed of various formal historical fallacies that will be outlined in the penultimate section. Once described, explained, and corrected, Wallace becomes an enduring figure in carrying the British tradition of natural theology into the twentieth century and beyond.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Flannery MA
  • Start Page

  • 1
  • End Page

  • 19
  • Volume

  • 11
  • Issue

  • 6