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Elliot BenjaminElliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 150 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also:


The Darwin-Wallace Debate Continues

"Metaphysical" Intelligence Not Just For Humans:
My Response to David Lane

Elliot Benjamin

Alfred Russell Wallace
Alfred Russel Wallace

First off, I want to acknowledge the constructive, civil, and even appreciative tone of David Lane's reply: The Darwin-Wallace Debate: Natural Selection and its Implications: A Reply to Elliot Benjamin [1] to my essay Alfred Russel Wallace and “Evolution in Four Minutes”: Setting the Record Straight [2]. David gave a very good explanation for why he chose to use the title “4 minutes” instead of “5 minutes,” and much more importantly, I think he also gave a very good explanation for why it made sense to refer to both Darwin and Wallace as “co-founders” of natural selection, as opposed to considering Wallace to be the original founder—and David's point about neither one of them being the founders of evolution per se is well taken. I am also glad to see that David Lane is highly knowledgeable about Alfred Russel Wallace, which reinforces the respect I have always had for David's scholarship. However, I have a problem with David's perspective on isolating the “human” dimension to explain Wallace's metaphysical views about evolution.

Wallace was an active and public "Spiritualist"—meaning he believed in the main doctrines of the Spiritualist movement.

It is true, as David points out, that Wallace's main “metaphyscial” focus was on explaining the advent of consciousness in human beings. However, if one examines closely his metaphysical writings, such as those contained in his book Miracles and Modern Spiritualism [3], I believe the picture becomes much more complicated than David has conveyed. Wallace was an active and public “Spiritualist”—meaning he believed in the main doctrines of the Spiritualist movement [4]. The first two principles of the Declaration of Principles of the National Spiritualist Association of Churches (see The National Spiritualist in [4]) is an indication to me that Wallace believed in some kind of spiritual/metaphysical intelligence that guided the process of Natural Selection from its very beginning:

  • Principle 1: We believe in Infinite Intelligence.
  • Principle 2: We believe that the phenomena of Nature, both physical and spiritual, are the expression of Infinite Intelligence.

Furthermore, Wallace believed in the legitimacy of communications from mediums in regard to life after death, which is the whole basis of the beliefs of Spiritualism (cf. [4]). Although this certainly focuses upon human beings, from my interviews of mediums for my Ph.D. dissertation research [5] I have learned that the “infinite intelligence” described above in the first two principles of Spiritualism is very related to both the formation of the universe as well as to the alleged phenomenon of life after death.

The main point of my previous essay (cf. [2]) is that Wallace believed in an “intelligent” guiding force that set the universe into motion, and this is why I still think that his views fit into the category of Intelligent Design. And this is also why I still object to David Lane's inclusion of Wallace in his phrase “rich complications can arise naturally without any intelligent guidance whatsoever.” In my previous essay (cf. [2]) I gave a number of relevant quotes from Wallace, and I am going to now give brief excerpts from the ones that are particularly illustrative of why I do not believe that Wallace thought of pre-human Natural Selection as happening without some kind of “intelligent” guidance; most of these excerpts are taken from the last chapter of his seminal work on Natural Selection: Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection [6].

Natural not the all-powerful, all-sufficient, and only cause of the development of organic forms. (cf. [3], p. viii)
Just as surely as we can trace the action of natural laws in the development of organic forms, and clearly conceive that fuller knowledge would enable us to follow step by step the whole process of that development, so surely can we trace the action of some unknown higher law, beyond and independent of all those laws of which we have any knowledge. (cf. [6], p. 147).
It does not seem an improbable conclusion that all force may be will-force; and thus, that the whole universe, is not merely dependent on, but actually is, the WILL of higher intelligences or of one Supreme Intelligence. (cf. [6], p. 161)
The view we have now arrived at seems to me more grand and sublime, as well as far simpler, than any other. It exhibits universe, as a universe of intelligence and will-power. (cf. [6], p. 162)
The grand law of continuity which we see pervading our universe, would lead us to infer infinite gradations of existence, and to people all space with intelligence and will-power. (cf. [6], p. 162).
In reference to the origin of universal forces and laws have I spoken of the will or power of one Supreme Intelligence. (cf. [6], p. 163).

Undoubtedly Wallace's full views on evolution and Natural Selection are “abstruse,” as David Lane has said (cf. [1]). But I contend that to gain any kind of reasonable understanding of what Wallace's “full views” were, it is necessary to examine his “metaphysical/spiritual” writings as well as his “scientific” writings. However, Wallace made quite the courageous leap in actually including most of the above passages in his seminal scientific work (cf. [6]). Consequently, scientifically-minded people who are willing to take the time to research this can decide for themselves if Wallace falls into the category of one who believed in Intelligent Design, as well as the accuracy of David Lane's statement: “When Wallace describes how natural selection works he does not interject anything metaphysical whatsoever” (cf. [1]).

In conclusion, I will say that it is my hope that if David Lane makes a subsequent movie about the “Wallace Paradox” that he very carefully includes the full range of Wallace's “spiritual/metaphysical” beliefs that pertain to Wallace's beliefs about evolution and Natural Selection.


[1] David Lane (2013), The Darwin-Wallace Debate: Natural Selection and its Implications: A Reply to Elliot Benjamin. Retrieved from

[2] Elliot Benjamin (2013), Alfred Russel Wallace and “Evolution in Four Minutes”: Setting the Record Straight. Retrieved from

[3] Alfred Russel Wallace (1874, 1895, 2011), Miracles and Modern Spiritualism. Lexington, KY: Forgotten Books.

[4] See National Spiritualist Association of Churches (2009), History of Spiritualism. Retrieved from; and Spiritualist Church (2009). Retrieved from

[5] Elliot Benjamin (2012), An Experiential Exploration of the Possibility of Life after Death Through the Ostensible Communications of Mediums with Deceased Persons. Saybrook University Ph.D. dissertation; UMI 3509443.

[6] Alfred Russel Wallace (1870, 2010), Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection. Memphis, TN: General Books.

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