(Krishna.org) – The Philosophy of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and Natural Selection
Darwin has no clear conception how the evolution is taking place, neither he has any idea about whose evolution. He simply takes account of the body. A body never evolves. It is the soul within the body–he evolves, transmigrates from one body to another.
Hayagriva: This is Darwin. Darwin’s conception of evolution rests on the contention that there is a real genetic change from generation to generation. In other words, Darwin rejects the platonic igos. Igos is the Greek for idea, type or essence. There is no human igos, human type or essence. There are no fixed species. This is in contradistinction to the platonic idea that the species exist in essence or, as Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita, bijam, “I am the seed of all existences.” Darwin would not recognize any bijam, or seed, particular type for any species. Rather, he sees shifting, evolving physical forms constantly changing.
Prabhupada: The different forms are already there. Just like the form of monkeys also there, the form of man is also there, other animals, other birds, beasts. So he has no clear conception how the evolution is taking place, neither he has any idea about whose evolution. He simply takes account of the body. A body never evolves. It is the soul within the body–he evolves, transmigrates from one body to another. Just we see that a child becomes a boy. The…, if the child is dead, it no more evolves. So it is the soul that is concerned. The soul is within the body, and he desires and evolves. That is Vedic conception and that is life. For example, if a man is within an apartment, the man desires to change the apartment to another apartment, it does not mean that the apartment evolves, but the man desires a change, and he goes to different apartment.
That is (indistinct). So Darwin has no such conception. He has described the idea of evolution from the Vedas in his own way.
Hayagriva: At first Darwin was a Christian, but his faith in the existence of a personal God dwindled, and he finally wrote, “The whole subject”–that is the subject of religion, or God–“is beyond the scope of man’s intellect. The mystery of the beginning of things is insoluble by us, and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic. I have steadily endeavored to keep my mind free, so as to give up any hypothesis, however much beloved, as soon as facts are shown to be opposed to it.” So he didn’t argue against Plato or Descartes or Kant or any other philosopher, but he simply presented what evidence he had amassed during a five…, only a five-year voyage, on a British freighter, oh, from 1831 to 1836. But what is considered important is that his book, The Origin of Species, marks what they call the emancipation of science from philosophy.
Prabhupada: What is that, emancipation?
Hayagriva: That is to say he simply presented what material he found–that is the fossils. He investigated certain life forms on these island during this trip and theorized about evolution.
Prabhupada: That is philosophic; that is not scientific. He found something and he based his thesis on that. He cannot find out all the bodies, because there are, at the end, some section, some sect they burn the body. So how he can get information of their body, burned? So his theory is not at all scientific. It is always defective.
Hayagriva: He spent the rest of his life writing about the material he gathered during this five-year voyage, which is a very short time. And according to his theory of natural selection, the best and the fittest survived. If this is the case, the race will necessarily steadily improve.
Prabhupada: What does he mean by survive? What is the meaning of his dictionary, “survive”? Nobody survives.
Hayagriva: Well, by that he means that the strong pass on their hereditary characteristics to their offspring, and that the race…, no individual survives, but that the race improves. But isn’t this contradicted by the Vedas? In the present Kali… For instance, Arjuna’s physical powers, prowess, was much greater, and that was, what, five thousand years ago. So isn’t, instead of improving, instead of the race improving in strength and other qualities, isn’t it actually…
Prabhupada: They are degrading.
Hayagriva: …degenerating. What is the cause of man’s physical, mental and spiritual deterioration in the succeeding yugas?
Prabhupada: That is education. Every individual person, he is a soul, and he has got a particular type of body. Especially in the human body he requires education. What is this animal and what is higher than human race, these are Vedic description. So there are 8,400,000 different forms of life, and the body is being evolved. The body is machine, and the individual soul desires and he gets a suitable body made by material nature under the order of God. This is Vedic idea, as it is said in the Bhagavad-gita, isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese arjuna tisthati. God is existing within the core of everyone’s heart, and the individual soul is desiring something, and upon the order God he is given a machine made by material nature. So this is evolution, and even a man, although he is human form of body, he can again degenerate to animal form of body according to his desire. Tatha dehantara-praptih. He has to change the body, and the body is changed according to his work and desire. In the animal kingdom they have also desires, but they are under the laws of nature changing body, and one is given the chance to become a human being, and then he may desire, and according to his desires he gets the next body. If he likes, he can go higher forms of life, and if he degenerates he goes lower form of life.
Hayagriva: But as the yugas progress, the human body itself, doesn’t it become more degraded?
Prabhupada: What do you mean by degraded? He has got human body, but by his work and by his desire he can get next life a demigod’s body or a dog’s body. That will depend on his activities. Human body is meant for understanding God and act accordingly to go back to home, back to Godhead. But if he does not utilize this human form of body properly, if he remains on the platform of animal propensities and degenerates, then he goes…, he can become next life a dog, a cat. There are two things: elevation or degeneration.
Hayagriva: In The Descent of Man Darwin writes, “The belief in God has often been advanced as not only the greatest but the most complete of all the distinctions between man and the lower animals. It is, however, impossible to maintain that this belief is instinctive in man. The idea of a universal and beneficent creator does not seem to arise in the mind of man until he has been elevated by long, continued culture.”
Prabhupada: Yes. The culture is important. If he gets the chance of cultured association, then he elevates. That is explained in the Bhagavad-gita: yanti deva-vrata devan. If he, according to his cultural life, he can go to the higher planetary system, he can remain where he is, he can degrade, and he can go back to home, back to Godhead. Therefore culture is very important in human form of life.
Hayagriva: He further writes, “He who believes in the advancement of man from some low organized form will naturally ask, ‘How does this bear on the belief in the immortality of the soul?’ ” He says, “At what precise period does a man become an immortal being?” That is to say, he doesn’t know at what stage the immortal soul inhabits the species.
Prabhupada: Yes, soul is always important. He is put into different bodies. That is the defect of Darwin’s knowledge. He does not know about the soul. So the existence of soul, to understand this is the first education. One who does not know this, he remains animal, sa eva go-kharah, if one continues the bodily concept of life without any understanding of the soul. And it is very easy to understand that the child is becoming boy, a boy is becoming young man. So the soul is there, and we remember that “I was a child, I was a boy, I was a young man.” So I continue to exist, the bodily changes, and this is confirmed in every Vedic scripture, and that is the beginning of knowledge. If one does not understand how the soul is changing body, he remains on the level of cats and dogs.
Hayagriva: He does…, he says he doesn’t know at what point the soul enters, but the soul is in anything that moves. Is that correct?
Hayagriva: Even a…
Prabhupada: The soul moves.
Hayagriva: …bacteria for instance, or an ant.
Prabhupada: So ant moves because there is soul; the bacteria moves there because there is soul. Similarly, the man moves because there is soul. An animal moves because there is soul.
Hayagriva: And every soul is immortal.
Hayagriva: So that’s all, on Darwin. (break) This is an appendix to the Darwin. In 1925 the Tennessee legislature passed the Butler Act, forbidding the teaching of Darwinism, Darwinian evolution, in the public schools of that state. In May, John Thomas Scopes, a science teacher at Dayton High School, consented to be the defendant in a court test of the law. He was arrested and indicted by a Grand Jury and stood trial on July 1925.
Prabhupada: Why he was arrested?
Hayagriva: For teaching Darwinism. For teaching that man descended from the apes.
Prabhupada: So he was teaching, and the government arrested him?
Hayagriva: The government, the American government, arrested, yes. The Tennessee legislature arrested him. He was arrested and defended by Clarence Darrow, famous trial lawyer, and the prosecutor was William Jennings Bryan, who was a thrice defeated Presidential candidate. So they discussed evolution and religion and how they could co-exist, and Scopes, who was teaching Darwinian evolution, claimed, “All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship almighty God according to the dictates of his own conscience. No human authority can in any case whatever control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and that no preference should ever be given by law to any religious establishment or mode of worship.”
Prabhupada: This is, this worship and the concept of worship, if actually one believes or knows, so the real worship is that which pleases God. If you manufacture… Just like I want a glass of water, and if my servant gives me a glass of hot milk, is that worship? Worship means what I want, if you give me, then I am satisfied. But if I want a cold glass of water, you give me…, if you think, “No. Milk is better than water,” so that, will that satisfy me? So these concocted ideas of worshiping will actually satisfy God, that is wrong theory, that one can worship God according to his own dictation. That means his God is fictitious. He has no idea of God. And he can concoct ideas. But actually if there is God, one should worship according to the dictation of God. But if he does not know what is God, what is the dictation of God, then he is a rascal. What is the use of his so-called worship? It may be to some extent a sentiment, but that is not worship. If you want to worship God, you must worship God according to His dictation. That is real worship. How he can manufacture the way of worship?
Hayagriva: The prosecutor…
Prabhupada: What will be the answer? If you want to worship God, you must worship according to the dictation of God. If you have no such dictation, if you have no idea of God, then how you can worship God? You can worship a ghost, according unto you. If freedom is given to your conception, then you can worship a dog instead of God, because you do not know what is God and what God wants you to do. So without the conception of God, real, how one can worship God by whimsical ideas?
Hayagriva: This has always been a very touchy subject in the schools.
Prabhupada: This is the real subject.
Hayagriva: In the schools, now in the United States, the schools are not even allowed to mention God, not even allowed to mention God.
Prabhupada: That means that is frustration. They could not get the idea of God. This is frustration. This kind of conclusion means they try to understand God, but there was no proper understanding of God, so they have given up the idea of understanding God.
So frustration, rejection by frustration is not success. The best thing is they should learn about God from God and do accordingly. That is success. So we are preaching the message of God, and people should take to it to understand God and worship Him. That is success.
Hayagriva: Bryan, the prosecutor, chastised the Darwinists for not telling us where life began and at the same time speaking of evolution. He says, “They do not dare to tell you that it began with God and ended with God. Darwin says, ‘In the beginning of all things is a mystery insoluble by us.’ He does pretend to say how these things started.” And he goes on…
Prabhupada: That means imperfect knowledge. We say that material world is creation, and within the material world the living entities are allowed to act. So the living entities coming from God; therefore He says bijo aham. So God… Just like our life begins from the womb of the mother, but the father gives the bija. The mother’s womb cannot produce itself; then there was no need of father. The father gives the bija and the mother gives the body. Similarly, the living entity, part and parcel of God, is put into the material nature, and according to his desire the material nature gives him a body. That is the beginning. Very simple thing. But these people, on account of insufficient knowledge they cannot understand what is the beginning, either Darwin or the opposite. This is the beginning. The material nature is created by God, and the living entities, who are part and parcel of God, desire to enjoy this material nature, so God impregnated material nature with the living entities. This is the beginning.
Hayagriva: Bryan had the…
Prabhupada: Who can say against this statement of Vedas? This is the beginning of life. But none of them, both the contending parties, had clear idea what is the beginning. This is the beginning.
Hayagriva: Yes. Bryan had difficulty in attacking Darwinism because he based his arguments…
Prabhupada: Darwin says he does not know the beginning.
Hayagriva: He based his arguments strictly on the Bible, Bryan. This is not Darwin, but the prosecutory.
Prabhupada: What they… What is the beginning of Bible?
Hayagriva: And he, he was ridiculed, Bryan, for his fundamental…, for his fundamentalism. The Bible says, “And God said let us make man in our image,” etc. “God created man in His own image, and the image of God created He him,” etc., and the Bible fixes the creation at about six thousand years ago, but science fixes, oh, ancient civilizations of China and India, oh, six thousand, seven thousand years ago, much… And the Vedas deal with a much, much broader time span.
Prabhupada: So it is not the question of…
Hayagriva: …it was extremely difficult for Bryan to maintain any kind of prosecution with these…
Prabhupada: But because both, we say that both of them are ignorant about the beginning. So if both of them are ignorant, so either you say six thousand, seven thousand, or six million, this is all imagination. It is not fact. But the six thousand or seven thousand, that is not the fact–millions and millions of years. But the fact is this, that God created this cosmic manifestation, and He impregnated the living entities to appear in different types of body according to the soul’s desire. That I have already explained. The soul… “Man proposes; God disposes.” Not only human form of life but all the animal forms of life, they are also from the very beginning. Not like Darwin’s theory that there was no human form of life in the beginning. That is a wrong theory. All the forms of life were there, and the, actually the body is external; within the body there is the soul. So the body is created by material nature and the soul is part and parcel of God. This is the real idea. So how they can refute this idea if they have no idea about the beginning of life?
Hayagriva: It was very difficult on the basis of the Bible. The Vedas date the creation back, oh…
Prabhupada: That it is a question of time, and it is the beginning.
Hayagriva: The beginning of the creation was when? No…
Prabhupada: No. There is no question of when. It may be seven thousand years or seven millions of years, but the beginning should be taken like this, that God created this cosmic manifestation. And wherefrom the living entities came? That also came from God. That is explained clearly in the Bhagavad-gita, that this material creation is composition of earth, water, air, fire…, like that, that this is also God’s energy. The ingredients of this material world coming from God, that is called prakrti and pradhana. He is the creator. And then the living entities, they are also coming from God. So this material energy is explained as inferior energy, and the living entity is explained as superior energy, both of them coming from God. So the beginning of life simultaneously. It is not that matter later on developed to become life. That is a wrong theory.
Hayagriva: So, so much… It’s the end of Darwin. (break) …Thomas, Thomas Henry…
Prabhupada: In that case, all defect is that nobody could ascertain the beginning of life, but here is the solution. The beginning of life is from the very beginning of creation.
Hayagriva: Simultaneous creation.
Prabhupada: Simultaneously. That we see practically. That pregnancy, in the beginning of the body that is the beginning of life also. No that first of all one becomes pregnant and then the life comes. You have got a daily experience. Rather, the life is there, therefore the pregnancy is there. Is it not? But they say, modern rascals, that the, the body develops to a certain extent and then the life comes. So before the life coming, if the body is destroyed there is no killing. Is not that the theory at the present moment, they are killing child?
Prabhupada: But these foolish persons, they do not know that the body grows provided there is life; otherwise it does not grow. So life and body together. (end)
HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada