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darwin, wallace, tennyson and swedenborg - The Swedenborg ...

darwin, wallace, tennyson and swedenborg - The Swedenborg ...

THE NEW PHILOSOPHY,

THE NEW PHILOSOPHY, July–December 2009Lyell and Joseph Hooker (1817–1911), later Director of the Royal BotanicGarden at Kew in succession to his father, persuaded Darwin to have hismanuscript and Wallace’s read together at the meeting of the LinnaeanSociety 40 on 1st July 1858 and that is what happened. 41 Neither Wallace norDarwin was there. Wallace was on the other side of the world and Darwinwas attending the funeral of his youngest son who had been stricken withscarlet fever a few days after the arrival of Wallace’s letter and had died onthe 28th June.Although published in the Proceedings of the Linnaean Society of London,Wallace and Darwin’s papers made no great impact. It was not until thepublication of On the Origin of Species in November 1859, with its marshallingof an immense number of facts in support of the theory, that thethinking world was convinced of the reality of evolution. 42 Wallace wasonly thirty-five when he wrote his famous essay. Darwin was nearly 51when he published Origin of Species. In 1908 the Linnaean Society held ameeting to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Darwin-Wallace papers.Darwin had been dead over a quarter of a century, but Wallace was stillalive and he was there to assess their respective contributions. In thecourse of his address he said this:904The idea came to me as it had come to Darwin, in a sudden flash ofinsight; it was thought out in a few hours—was written down with such asketch of its various applications and developments as occurred to me atthe moment—then copied on thin letter paper and sent off to Darwin—allwithin one week. I was then (as often since) the “young man in a hurry”;he, the painstaking and patient student seeking ever the full demonstrationof the truth that he had discovered, rather than to achieve immediatepersonal fame. 4340The Linnaean Society of London was founded in 1788 after James Edward Smith hadbrought the collections of the great Swedish naturalist Carl von Linné (Latinized as Linnaeus)there. It is still active today and is Britain’s oldest biological society. Linnaeus (1707–78) isfamous for founding the binomial system for the scientific naming of animals and plants. Hewas professor of medicine and botany at Uppsala University from 1741. Linnaeus married SaraElisabeth Moraeus, daughter of Johan Moraeus, a cousin of Emanuel Swedenborg, in 1739:Lars Bergquist, Swedenborg’s Secret (London: Swedenborg Society, 2005), 62.41Hardy, The Living Stream, p. 65.42Ibid., p.66.43Ibid., p. 68.

DARWIN, WALLACE, TENNYSON, AND SWEDENBORGWhen Wallace published, seven years after Darwin’s death, his ownaccount of evolution by natural selection he called it Darwinism, thuscoining an expression that has entered our language. But Wallace’s acknowledgmentof the achievements of his senior should not lead us toignore his own role. The twentieth-century zoologist Sir Alister Hardywrote this:For all the patient labour in preparing the case and for its masterlypresentation Darwin must get the greater credit, but for brilliance ofinsight Wallace, I believe, should get the palm . . . When we think of thetheory of natural selection we must never forget the name of AlfredRussel Wallace. 44The originality of Darwin and Wallace’s theory of evolution by naturalselection has been demonstrated and, like so many new ideas offundamental importance, it is beautiful in its simplicity. It is often said thatit came like a thunderbolt to destroy the faith of pious Victorian Christianswho believed in the creation story in Genesis as literal historical truth and,in particular, that humanity was uniquely formed in God’s image. While itis true that the faith of some was shaken, the intellectual foundations of aliteral belief in the truth of the Genesis story had begun to crumble longbefore Darwin and Wallace. We have seen how evolutionary ideas wereabroad in the eighteenth century. We can pray in aid Swedenborg herewho, although, as far as I am aware, he was not conversant with evolutionarytheories, interprets the early chapters of Genesis, particularly chapter 1about the creation of the world, as myths embodying higher spiritualtruths about mankind’s intellectual and spiritual development.In his important book, Narrative, Religion and Science: Fundamentalismversus Irony, 1700–1999, published in 2002, the literary scholar ProfessorStephen Prickett says this:No intellectual revolution happens all at once, but the traditional belief inthe uniqueness of humanity was already being treated with great scepti-44Ibid., pp.66–7.905

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