As a nod to Darwin Day and Black History Month, today’s ID the Future spotlights the racist thinking of Charles Darwin and the scientific racism fueled by Darwinism and Darwinists. As guest and historian Michael Flannery notes, Darwin’s followers, including Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, took ideas found in Darwin’s work and used them to vigorously press the case for eugenics, a movement that came to have a horrifying impact for American blacks in the twentieth century, including for thousands who were subjected to forced sterilizations. Was Darwin’s racism purely a function of his time and place, Victorian England? Flannery says no, and on two counts. First, he says that the co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace, was far more progressive about non-Anglo indigenous races than was Darwin, arguing that they were very much the equals of Europeans, morally and intellectually. Such an outlook is dramatically different from Darwin’s, who saw them as far inferior and destined to be weeded out by the process of natural selection one day. Also, while Wallace came to embrace a form of intelligent design and to reject philosophical materialism, Darwin and many of his followers saw his theory as both rooted in, and supporting, a materialistic outlook on nature. Humans, in other words, were without an immaterial soul. This materialistic view of the human person, Flannery and host Jay Richards argue, vitiates the traditional theological understanding of humans as made in the image of God with inherent dignity and worth. As Richards further notes, Martin Luther King Jr. made precisely this point himself. Tune in as Flannery and Richards explore this oft-neglected corner of history.
On this ID the Future, science historian Michael Flannery continues discussing his newly updated Intelligent Evolution: How Alfred Russel Wallace’s World of Life Challenged Darwin. Wallace was co-founder with Charles Darwin of the theory of evolution by random variation and natural selection, but unlike Darwin he saw teleology or purpose as essential to life’s history, and a teleological view as essential to the life sciences. According to Flannery, Wallace’s views on the nature of the cell, the special attributes of humans, the irreducible nature of life, and the fine tuning of the universe hold up well today. He and Darwin disagreed on much of this, yet they maintained mutual respect. In this, Flannery says, the two are a great model for scientists who disagree today.
On this episode of ID the Future, science historian and host Michael Keas talks with fellow science historian Michael Flannery about the newly updated book Intelligent Evolution: How Alfred Russell Wallace’s World of Life Challenged Darwin. Flannery tells of Darwin’s involvement in the Plinian Society, a “freethinkers” group at Edinburgh University where he studied medicine as a teenager. It was there that he first encountered radical philosophical materialism, the worldview that laid the philosophical foundation for his work in evolution. Flannery also speaks of Alfred Russel Wallace’s “intelligent evolution” and how it differs from Darwinism and from today’s theistic evolution — what Flannery prefers to call “Darwinian theism.”