[Advaita-l] On Darwin's Theory of Evolution

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Thu Sep 13 15:32:18 CDT 2012

The following question was posed to
Swamiji of CMWRC who asked me to address it.
Q. I shall appreciate if you can
throw some light where our scriptures stand with respect to Darwin's Theory of
Evolution. To my knowledge I have found the descriptions from the time when
humans began to question who are we and who brought us here and why?
on Darwin’s Theory of Evolution
Darwin’s theory of evolution is related to Biological
evolution from virus to unicellular to complex life forms ending up with human
beings or Homo sapiens with specialization of conceptual thought
process. Natural selection, survival of the fittest, and a major specialization
in a particular branch of evolution, etc., are all the process that can be
accounted based on the observations in the evolutionary ladder. Physics as well
as biology come to stand still when it comes to the origin of the universe or
the origin of life or consciousness.  In
terms of the origin of the universe we are left with the Big Bang, a
singularity which can only account what happened after the millionth of a
second after the bang, with space and time created with the bang. Therefore one
cannot ask questions like where did the bang occurred since where is a concept
of space; and what was there before the Big Bang since before is a concept of
time. One cannot also ask questions like – How did the bang occurred or what
are the laws governing the bang since even laws of bang were created with the bang.
Cause-effect relations breakdown when one wants to enquire further.  Singularity essentially means ignorance as we
do not know or it cannot be explained since explanations relay on logic or
deductive or inductive reasoning, which fail miserably as they are within the
concept of time.  In principle, the Big Bang
occurred everywhere, wherever the observer (conscious entity who is enquiring)
is. It is deduced by extrapolating the length-time scales of ever expanding
galaxies backwards, and the point of extrapolation meets with the observer who
is doing the extrapolation. Thus every observer becomes a center of Big Bang or
center of creation of this phenomenal world, wherever he is who is trying to
look into past by extrapolating the time-space.  In a way, Vedanta says same thing - the
observer is the center of the universe with ignorance covering factors beyond
the time-space, what a scientist conveniently calls it as singularity. From the point of origin of life too science ends up with
another singularity attributing to another accident. From the point of science
life originated when accidentally appropriate chemicals came into contact. In
essence according to current theories consciousness originated from matter. It
cannot explain how and why an unconscious entities or assemblage of chemicals
suddenly became conscious entities. Thus ignorance prevails before the Big Bang
or the origin of the consciousness. Investigations are still going on trying to
find out what exactly is consciousness and how does it arise in living being, again
trying to look within unconscious entities such as alpha waves or beta waves or
origin of neurons, etc. In essence, a conscious entity is looking for origin
for consciousness in the unconscious entities.  Vedanta says you can never discover the truth that way since the seeker
himself is the sought and any amount of seeking will never be successful since
in the very seeking one is objectifying the subject, which cannot be objected.
Thus, in essence, neither the origin of the physical
matter nor the origin of life can be clearly accounted by logic-based science,
using objective tools. It is to be noted that the Darwin’s theory of evolution
involves increasingly complex life-forms to meet the criteria of survival of
the fittest. It involves extensive order, and therefore requires forces beyond
human comprehension to maintain that order to counter the natural thermodynamic
forces to push the system into disorder.  
However, once we accept the laws governing the biological
evaluation such as natural selection, survival of the fittest, etc, then the
Darwin’s theory of Evolution could follow. From the point of Vedanta, the
theory is irrelevant may be taken to be valid within vyavahaara or transactional
reality like all other scientific theories. It has to be recognized that Darwin
theory of evolution pertains to the anatomical evolution at Biological level.
What exactly life means or consciousness means can never be understood.  It can only address how life forms evolved and
not what life means. This  aspect of
Darwin’s theory has to be clear.  In
essence, any evolution theory presupposes creation since something has to be
pre-existing for it to evolve further. Unlike other religions, Vedantins have
no conflict with Darwin’s theory of evolution since its application is only
relevant to vyaavahaarika like all theories of objective sciences, and therefore
cannot account spiritual evolution.
Existence of Spirit or soul: What makes the biological matter
to become dynamic and follow evolution process is not addressed in the Darwin’s
theory of evolution. That there is a spirit which is a conscious entity that
makes the matter enliven as the expression of life forms that wants to survive
cannot be known through any scientific or biological tools for evaluation. For
that religious scriptures alone form a basis for knowledge.  Hence Vedanta says each pramana is valid in
its sphere of application and extending beyond the range of its application
will only lead to incorrect conclusions.  That there is existence-consciousness which is limitless and alone
exists before creation and it it appears as many is the teaching of the
Vedanta. Thus Brahman itself appears as many. After creating verities of jiiva
according to their Karma performed in the last cycle of creation conscious
entity Brahman –as though enters into each jiiva and forgets that I am
all-pervading Brahman and takes itself into the local biological form
expressing itself as life activities.  Thus divisions are there at the level of creation and they are apparent
and not real. Jiiva due to ignorance takes the apparent differences as real and
suffers as consequence of that misunderstanding. Thus we have jiiva-jiiva
difference, jiiva-jagat difference, jagat-Iswara difference, Jiiva-Iswara
difference and differences within jagat – all five aspects are due to ignorance
of one’s essential nature which cannot understood using the objective
scientific tools but to be understood using  as pramaana. 
In essence, the origins of the universe, origin of
various life forms are due to fundamental ignorance which cannot be removed by
the tools which are in the realm of ignorance alone. This is a true singularity
as per Vedanta. It relates to the existence-consciousness that I am which is
different from the apparent matter that is being analyzed by Darwin’s theory of
evolution. Anatomical evolution can follow the Darwin’s theory or any other
theory that can be better suited. Spiritual evolution of a jiiva is determined
at realm of vyavahaara by the karmas or vaasanaas that arise due to ego-centric
actions by each individual jiiva. Spiritual evolution need not follow the
anatomical evolution in the sense that a particular jiiva can be take in any
life forms depending on the karma it has done in the past. We have in Vedanta
and in puranas many stories that describe the jiivas taking different life forms
in the anatomical evolutionary ladder to exhaust their vaasanaas.  Story of Jadabharata is one well-known
example in Vedanta. Nahisha became a python due to his egotistical action to
evolve further. Gajendra is another story. Every life form is required for a jiiva
to evolve further.  Compassion to all
life forms therefore follows for those who understand the whole spiritual and
anatomical evolution involved.  Hence
Krishna says a jnaani will have compassion for all – sarva bhuuta hite rataaH;
since spiritual soul exists in every life form and its evolution is different
from the anatomical evolution as proposed by Darwin. 
Q: I am really happy to receive your
quick response. What you have written is too difficult for me digest. My simple
question was as the Darwin's Theory of Evolution suggests that present thinking
man evolved from lower one both in its thinking and size and shape, from
walking probably on four legs (two hands & two legs) to two legs as we are
presently observed. The spirituality is also considered as a part of thinking
process. This Darwin's Theory is after all called science of observation. The
physical science is the explanation of observations. The physical science that
we talk about is a truth to the extent that it can be repeated by others. Till
then it remains a theory or hypothesis. Is there any verse in our Vedic
literature that throws the light on this point. If yes, what is the reference?
Hari Om, We in
the service of Sanatana Dharma,
Sada: What I tried convey is all theories and Laws of
physical world – which is called vyaavahaarika satyam or transactional reality
are only valid in that frame of reference – in this, theories are arrived at by
observations of data and using logic involving deductive and/or inductive
reasoning. They are valid only in that frame of reference and therefore cannot
be extended to those facts that are beyond observations including what you
mentioned as thinking and what is life, is there a soul in the body, is there
God, etc. For these scriptures alone are pramaana or means of knowledge. Each
pramaana is specific in its field of operation. I cannot use scriptures to
arrive at theories of the physical world nor use theories of the physical world
to arrive at things beyond physical observations - is there a soul- is there
life after death or before birth, what life means, etc.,  since there are no physically observable facts
to deduce theories about it. Scripture does say that you cannot use logic to
arrive at truths that are beyond physical observations to arrive at the
absolute truth – naishaa tarkena matiraapaneya – says Kathopanishd. 
To answer your questions in simple terms - even looking
for support for an observation-based theory in the scripture is useless pursuit
since scriptures deal with apurusheya truth that cannot be deduced by
observations (pratyaksha), or logical deductions (anumaana) or any other means
of knowledge other than Shruti pramaana which is not written by a human being
No. There are no scriptural statements that I know of
either validating or invalidating Darwin’s theory of evolution since they are
not the means to understand the observation based physical world. Please note
that laws applicable in the waking state (vyaavahaarika) are not necessarily
valid in dream state (praatibhaasika) where human beings may be flying while
birds may be walking but perfectly valid within observational facts and one can
come with new theories based on consistent observation in each state. However,
all are relative and valid only in their realm and not valid at absolute level.
For absolute truth only shaastras become valid means of knowledge, since the
truth is not based on physical observations.
Hari Om!
Q: You may not be surprised that
being a Physicist I look with that point of view where the concept of God as
presently known and rebirth etc have no bearing. We scientist observe and try
to find out what observation tells us, how it came into the absorbable field
and how it is formed etc. You mentioned the Vedantic approach of thinking where
these ideas can be applicable all depending upon individual's thinking ability.
We got the answer what I was trying to confirm from a scholar like you and
Poojya Swamiji. Thank you very much.
We in the service of Sanatana
Sada:  Then you should know Schrodinger’s cat problem
that was analyzed and Wigner’s modification of it as well as Gödel’s
incompleteness theorem for axiomatic systems. Both science and math fail when
it comes to what is LIFE? When we do not understand what is current life which
itself not amenable to observations other than its expressions in terms
physiological functions, how Physics or Biology explain the life after or life
As a scientist I know
the limitations of the scientific thinking which involves objectification and
therefore cannot address the subject - the consciousness that I am.
Anyway, I have answered
to the best of my understanding.
Hari Om!

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