Friday, August 20, 2010

August 20, 1858 – Wallace's Theory of Environmental Government Published

One of the most important biological and philosophical ideas of modern society was published on this day in the The Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London. In this work, “The Father of Evolution” Alfred Russel Wallace outlined his ideas of the environment acting as a government for the directed control of the transmutation of species, an idea already old by the mid-nineteenth century. The body of the paper was presented while Wallace was away from London, still observing nature in Borneo, by biologists Charles Lyell and Joseph Hooker and had been recommended by Wallace's friend Charles Darwin, another biologist who died of scarlet fever just before the presentation.

The paper was not immediately recognized as significant, in fact it was said by Dublin's Professor Haughton that “all that was new in them was false, and what was true was old.” Despite the lack of immediate recognition, Wallace continued to determine speciation by means of “natural selection”, a term he borrowed from the late Darwin. He bundled data from his experiments and observations over decades to argue against the alternate view of “sexual selection” and instead explore the effects of environment on survival. In 1889, he published On the Origin of Species, a work that combined his biological data with many of his Spiritualist beliefs. The theory was expanded to include humans in The Origin of Human Races and the Antiquity of Man Deduced from the Theory of 'Natural Selection'. Though derided by biologists such as Hooker, other biologists such as Lyell picked up the ideas, which were to work their way into the public's general understanding of the world.

Taking into account the influence of nature, people were able to understand much of the social psychology that plagued poor living conditions. However, with such non-adaptive mental phenomena as music, mathematics, and art, it was proven that men were more than just advanced animals. The “the unseen universe of Spirit” (which was embraced as the Christian God, though has become more general in modern times) agreed with the story of Creation: cellular life on Day 3 (Genesis 1:10), animals on Day 5 and 6 (Genesis 1:20-25), and consciousness in higher animals (Genesis 1:26). Combining the two, science joined with religion to persuade the mind of man toward creating a beneficial governing environment for all humanity. On the political and economic front, many would also find similar ideals in the writings of the philosopher Marx, but the idea of communism would be superseded.

Social activists (one of whom was Wallace himself) campaigned for engineered societies to free the spirit of man rather than restrict it or sharpen the species by point of the lesser-known theory of eugenics. In the reshaping of Europe in the 1920s and the economic turmoil of the 1930s, many countries found their chances. Wallacism (a form of democratic socialism) rebuilt Germany, pervaded America and British beyond Progressivism, and served as the basis for revolution in Italy, Spain, and elsewhere. The Soviet Union under Stalin's rule put down several Wallacist uprisings while Japan continued its hold on regimented Imperialism.

With the Pacific War from December 1941 to May 1944, propaganda and public sentiment would shift Wallacism into a demand for paternalism. Recalling Woodrow Wilson's words that “the world must be made safe for democracy,” the Allies launched into a campaign to organize the “world environment” through the United Nations, formed after the Soviet Liberation of 1955-60. Enforced immunizations, guaranteed resource development and management, and environmental resettling camps for offenders (called by many as “brainwashing” camps) became required throughout the globe.

Though naysayers exist, high standards of living and technological development are proof that the Human Spirit is triumphing through Evolution.

In reality, Darwin did not die from scarlet fever, though his son did. Distraught, Darwin did not attend the conference but soon began work on his On the Origin of Species, which was published in 1859. Wallace would disagree with Darwin upon the abstract mental facilities of mankind, which Darwin argued could be described scientifically through sexual selection. Though often untrusted for his delving into spiritualism, Wallace stands as the “Father of Biogeography” as one of the greatest biologists of the nineteenth century. Named for Wallace are the Wallace Line (a separation of biodiversity through Indonesia between Australian and Asian influence) and the Wallace Effect of warning coloration in animals.

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