But as well as being a founder of evolution, Wallace was an advocate of Spiritualism (a movement very popular at the turn of the twentieth century, where people believe that mediums can communicate with the 'spirits of the dead').
It has often been the case that history has interpreted Wallace’s interests in evolution and in Spiritualism as completely independent and Wallace’s Spiritualist beliefs are often ignored in favour of his work on evolution. However there is also the view that Wallace saw his involvement in Spiritualism as an extension of his work on evolution and that for Wallace, evolution did not end at death, but continued to some extent after. From Wallace (1892):
The universal teaching of modern spiritualism is that the world and the whole material universe exist for the purpose of developing spiritual beings-that death is simply a transition from material existence to the first grade of spirit-life-and that our happiness and the degree of our progress will be wholly dependent upon the use we have made of our faculties and opportunities here. (p. 648).
Where Darwin argued that man was subject to the same influences as the rest of nature, Wallace clearly believed that the evidence from Spiritualism showed that natural selection was a great deal of the answer, but not the whole answer.
But Wallace was just wrong. How can evolution occur once the organism is dead? It's an impossibility, with no evidence. Where is this land where spiritual evolution continues? That undiscovered country remains so, because it is a dream. And no amount of wishful thinking can make it so. So here's to Alfred Russell Wallace. Proof that great men can also believe great fictions!Go Top