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'Evolution can't explain the soul' press cutting

'Evolution can't explain the soul' press cutting

Catalogue number: WP7/110


Press cutting of an article by Wallace entitled 'Evolution can't explain the Soul', dated November 1910.

This large, double-page article is full of sensational quotes designed to engage readers. The article is from The World Magazine, 19 November 1910 (page 7). The headline reads: 'Prof. Wallace, Who Formulated the Darwinian theory fifty years ago, now rejects it. There was, he claims, a subsequent act of creation that gave to man a spirit or soul --- the difference between man and animals is unbridgeable.' This is extremely interesting as Wallace strongly defended 'Darwinian evolution' but increasingly, due to his spiritualist beliefs, felt he could not relate natural selection to human evolution. The article is richly illustrated with Wallace's portrait, and a biblical scene depicting Adam and Eve.

Wallace describes his wonder at human development. He gives an example of the blood flowing through our bodies which 'becomes at one point a hair, at another nail [or]...bone [or]...tissue [or]...skin...' Wallace cannot believe this happens without consciousness or direction. He believes there is a guidance of beings superior to us in power and intelligence. 'Call them spirits, angels, gods, what you will; the name is of no importance'.

He muses at the beauty and wonders of the natural world - the complexity of a feather, a bird flying - and suggests that 'evolution can explain a great deal; but the origin of a feather, and its growth, this is beyond our comprehension, certainly beyond the power of accident to achieve'.

Wallace ends with a controversial paragraph: 'Materialism is dead for all intelligent minds. There are laws of nature but they are purposeful. Everywhere we look we are confronted by power and intelligence...'

The magazine takes the opportunity to sensationalise Wallace's remarks in a very non-scientific and inaccurate way. For example, a caption box explains to readers what evolution means, rather biased against Darwin: 'The Darwinian theory of Evolution (Originally formulated by Charles Darwin and Prof. Alfred Russel Wallace fifty years ago.) That all animate life sprang from a single primordial germ, from which all species have descended through the struggle for existence, through natural selection and survival of the fittest. That there was not, strictly speaking, a first man and first woman (the Adam and Eve of the Bible). That the structure of the human body leads to an assumption of an ape-like ancestor. That man originated from the same branch of the monkey family.'

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