Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
Discussion of a Paper on Belief in God and
a Future State (S99: 1864)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: Third party rendering of words Wallace offered in discussion of the paper 'On the Universality of Belief in God, And in a Future State,' read by Rev. F. W. Farrar at the Anthropological Society of London's meeting of 5 April 1864, and later printed on page ccxx of the second volume of the Society's Journal series. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S099.htm


    Mr. Wallace said that when he was among the wild tribes of the Moluccas and of New Guinea, he endeavoured to ascertain what were their ideas respecting the Creator of the universe, but he could only get from them a confession of total ignorance of the subject. It was difficult to distinguish the real opinions of those savages from the opinions that they had heard. If they were told by any traveller that there was an invisible Creator of the universe, so far as they were capable of receiving such an idea they would receive it, and repeat it afterwards when questioned on the subject; but so far as he was able to ascertain, they had no such idea whatever. They had no desire for knowledge, but were contented to go on in their own ways. They have, indeed, some vague ideas of the existence of unknown powers; diseases, for instance, were supposed to be unnatural, and to be caused by some supernatural agency, but that was very different from the belief in a God. The intellectual capacities of those tribes were so feeble, that he doubted whether they could be made to appreciate or understand what was meant by a God. They were unable even to comprehend the simplest relations of numbers, such as the adding of four and five together, or even less quantities, without putting stones before them and showing them the amount visibly. In the same manner, their language contained no general terms. They had names for particular things, but for no classes of things. They had names for particular trees or plants, but they had no names to express the meaning of trees or plants in general.


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