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

Comments on 'Natural Laws' and 'Universal Mind' (S703c: 1913)

Editor Charles H. Smith’s Note: Late in life, Wallace sent these remarks to James Marchant, who later incorporated them into his 'Life Story of the Author' introduction to Wallace's The Revolt of Democracy in late 1913. To link directly with this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S703C.htm

     [[p. xxxiv]] "Thus," as he himself writes (letter to the present writer), "the completely materialistic mind of my youth and early manhood has been slowly moulded into the socialistic, spiritualistic, and theistic mind I now exhibit--a mind which is, as my scientific friends think, so weak and credulous in its declining years, as to believe that fruits and flowers, domestic animals, glorious birds and insects, wool, cotton, sugar and rubber, metals and gems, were all foreseen and foreordained for the education and enjoyment of man."

     At a later date, in May, 1913, in another letter to the writer, Dr. Russel Wallace writes upon the possibility of a living organism being some day produced in the laboratory of the chemist from inorganic matter. He declares it to be impossible, because unthinkable, while even were it supposable that it should happen, it could not in any way explain Life, with all its inherent forces, powers and laws, which necessitate "a constantly [[p. xxxv]] acting mind power of almost unimaginable grandeur and prescience, in the co-ordinated motions, action and forces of the myriad millions of cells, each cell consisting of myriad atoms and ions, which cannot be supposed to be all acting in harmonious co-ordination without some superior co-ordinating power.

     "Recent discoveries demonstrate the need of co-ordinating power even in the very nature and origin of matter; and something far more than this in the origin and development of mind. The whole cumulative argument of my 'World of Life' is that, in its every detail it calls for the agency of a mind or minds so enormously above and beyond any human minds, as to compel us to look upon it, or them, as 'God or Gods,' and so-called 'Laws of Nature' as the action by willpower or otherwise of such superhuman or infinite beings. 'Laws of Nature' apart from the existence and agency of some such Being or Beings, are mere words, that explain nothing--are, in fact unthinkable. That is my position!

     "Whether this 'Unknown Reality' is a single Being, and acts everywhere in the universe as direct creator, organiser and director of every minutest motion in the whole of our universe, and of all possible universes, or whether it acts through variously conditioned modes, as H. Spencer suggested, or through 'infinite grades of beings' as I suggest, comes to much the same [[p. xxxvi]] thing. Mine seems a more clear and intelligible supposition as stated in the last paragraph of my 'World of Life,' and it is the teaching of the Bible, of Swedenborg, and of Milton!"

     But in the very last paragraph of his "World of Life" he puts it as "a speculative suggestion," not as a definite scientific conclusion--"though it does seem to me to be one."

     He concludes (in the letter to the writer) with this definite declaration:

     "I write all this to show that, to me, if the chemist does some day show that living, developing 'life' was, and is now produced from inorganic elements, by and through 'natural laws,' it would not alter my argument one iota. 'Natural Laws' of such range and power are unthinkable, except as the manifestation of Universal Mind."

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