Darwinian Evolution

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    Sri Vasudeva Das

    Hare Krishna prabhuji
    I wanted to ask some question regarding darwinian evolution. Although we know that Vedic perspective on evolution is much different than the views held by the evolutionists still we find some statements which seem to support this in Srila Prabhupad purport to 4.24.29

    This verse gives an idea of the highest perfection of the evolutionary process. As described by the Vaiṣṇava poet Jayadeva Gosvāmī, pralaya-payodhi-jale dhṛtavān asi vedam. Let us begin tracing the evolutionary process from the point of devastation (pralaya), when the whole universe is filled with water. At that time there are many fishes and other aquatics, and from these aquatics evolve creepers, trees, etc. From these, insects and reptiles evolve, and from them, birds, beasts and then human beings and finally civilized human beings.

    Kindly help understand

    Ashish Dalela

    A similar question was asked earlier. You can read that answer. There are two different descriptions of species; one is top-down and the other is bottom-up.

    • The top-down description is from Brahma to various prajāpati and from them to various prajā, which are the many species of life. This is the order in which some type of body is more capable than another type of body. The more capable body is prior to the less capable body. The more capable body can control the less capable body. Thereby, the demigods can control human life, humans can control animal life, higher-level animals can control lower-level animals, etc.
    • In the bottoms-up description, from a lower to a higher form, the higher form is dependent on the lower form, like humans depend on plants and animals.

    Accordingly, there are two pyramidal systems of species. In the former, the top of the pyramid appears before the bottom. And in the latter, the bottom of the pyramid appears before the top. The specific system you are referring to here is the bottoms-up system, which is also employed by Darwinian Evolution. In this system, a lower life form appears before the higher life form and becomes the “food” of the higher form. If the “food” (i.e., the lower life form) doesn’t exist, then the higher life form also doesn’t exist. But for the higher life form to make a lower life form its food, the higher-life form has to be superior to the lower life form. Hence, the superior is conceptually prior to the inferior, and the inferior appears before the superior.

    In the above answer, I gave the analogy of an economic system. First, we start with food. Then when we have food, we progress into clothes. Then we progress into housing. Then we progress into an organized society. Then we get civilized society. This is a bottoms-up pyramid. As more and more layers are added, the base of the pyramid also broadens. For example, a primitive man will wear deer skin but when society is organized with farming and trade, then they will wear cotton. To wear cotton clothes, you need a field, irrigation system, weavers and their instruments, and at the minimum a barter system of trade. So, the initial stage of deerskin clothing will enable some semi-organized society which will lead to more intelligent human beings appearing in a society, which will then lead to the division of labor between farmer, weaver, and trader, which will then lead to cotton clothing. As we add a layer to the pyramid, the base of the pyramid broadens. Then we add another layer to the pyramid, and the base of the pyramid broadens even further.

    The example of an economic system expansion applies even to the ecosystem of species. First, you have a few primitive species at the bottom. Then you add some advanced species, and by their appearance, the variety in the primitive species increases. With this increased number of primitive species, the advanced species also expand, including the addition of more layers. The higher-level species come after the lower level, and depend on the lower level, and yet, they control the lower-level species due to higher ability. Since it is more capable than the lower species, therefore, it is superior. And yet, it appears after its “food” has appeared.

    This gradual appearance of species is just like building a pyramid by laying bricks. First, you lay the bricks at the bottom center of the pyramid. Then you add a layer on top of this base. But you cannot add many layers unless you broaden the base of the pyramid. Therefore, after adding a layer, you broaden the base, and the next layer broadens somewhat, and then you add another layer. In this way, you go on widening the base of the pyramid and simultaneously raising its height.

    But we have to remember that while constructing this pyramid, you are separate from the pyramid. You are already an intelligent and capable organism who is able to think of a pyramid and construct the pyramid brick by brick. The pyramid will not construct itself on its own. Similarly, even to construct the pyramid of species, some advanced species must already exist. They are called prajāpati. For them, trees, fish, birds, animals, insects, etc. are “prajā” and they are the “rājā” of the “prajā”.

    So, there are two notions of “higher species”: (a) prior, superior, and controller, and (b) later, superior, and controller. The prajāpati who make the pyramid are the first category of higher species, and the humans who appear after the plants and animals are the second category of higher species. Thereby, a higher species can appear later although there is always an even higher species prior.

    Now we have to understand a little bit of cosmology. Garbhodaksayi Visnu lies in the primordial waters within a universe, and from Him, a lotus springs bottoms up. This lotus stem contains all the planetary systems eventually, but at this stage, these planets are not created. After creating the top planet, Garbhodaksayi Visnu creates Brahma within the top planet. Then from Brahma appear various prajāpatiEach prajāpati creates the next level of the planet and then numerous types of living forms within that planet bottom up. Therefore, the big picture of creation is top-down, while the detailed picture of creation within a planet is bottoms up.

    For example, in Satya-Loka, Brahma is the prajāpati or the pyramid maker, and he starts at the bottom of the pyramid to create a system bottoms up. That system is life in Satya-Loka. Then he creates Mahar-Loka, and its prajāpati who then creates his children. This prajāpati then creates Tapa-Loka and its prajāpati who then creates his children. Thus we descend from top to bottom, one level at a time, through 14 levels, until we reach Garbhodaksayi Visnu. There is always a superior living entity, a prajāpatior a pyramid maker, who creates life within a planet bottoms up.

    Since there are two alternating systems of bottoms-up and top-down creation, therefore, we often get confused. But these pertain to different things. You need a mason to make a house, and you need an occupant to pay for the house. Does the mason come before the occupant, or does the occupant come before the mason? This is just like a chicken-and-egg problem. The resolution is that there is a supreme mason (Garbhodaksayi Visnu) who creates a house (Satya-Loka), then creates its supreme occupant (Brahma), who then populates the house with his children (prajāpati). But the mason comes first, the house comes next, the occupant comes next, and the children come last. The children then go on to build another house and become their occupants, creating even more children, recursively.

    This process is described in Sāñkhya as ātmika (house), daivika (master of the house), and bhautika (children of the master). For example, the sun planet is a house (graha). The sun god is the master of that house. And the other occupants of the sun planet are like his children. To understand these “houses”, we have to think in terms of mind and its various thoughts. The mind is the house. The first thought in the mind is of the self. And then other thoughts expand from this self-thought. We can also say that there is a “set”, ideal object, and partial objects. For instance, there is a set of cows, an ideal cow, and then other cows that have traits of the ideal cow partially. The difference is that the “set” is not a physical collection. It is rather a house that produces its occupant. Therefore, I call these “houses” semantic spaces. They are like mind that creates thoughts. The “house” in case of Brahma is the lotus flower, and Brahma is the occupant in the house. He then has his own children.

    If you ask someone to describe themselves, they will generally start with the remotest things, such as which country they are born in, where they studied, and where they work currently. Then, as you become more intimate, then you will talk about your personal life, and the innermost reality is revealed only rarely. This is the outside-in presentation or description of the self. It is not how the self exists. However, it is how the self is manifested or presented to others. The inner reality is seen as dependent on the outer reality, rather than the other way around.

    This is also how a child develops after birth. For instance, when the child is born, it is underdeveloped mentally, intellectually, egoistically, and morally. The mind, intellect, ego, and moral sense are present but they are unmanifest. When the body develops more, then the mind starts manifesting. When the mind manifests more, then the capacity for judgment in the intellect is manifest. When the judgments are manifest, then one’s goals in life are manifest. This is outside-in manifestation. It is caused due to the presence of the soul, the master of the mind and the body. Thus, a child grows up into a thoughtful, judicious, purposeful, and moral individual.

    An ecosystem of species is just like an organism in which the soul is the prajāpati and he expands into layers of species bottoms-up or outside-in. The ecosystem organism thus gets advanced species later than primitive species. But it is not materialism because there is already a prajāpati, as the soul of the body.

    Once we understand all these basic principles, then we can apply them to the species of life. It is true that there is a bottoms-up creation like a pyramid being built by a mason. But the mason is prior to the pyramid. And this pyramid is built in a house that was built by another mason. That first mason created the house and then ordered the first member of the house to populate it with children. Once we understand this basic process, then the order of species manifestation (or what we call Darwinian Evolution) from bottom to top is not contrary to the existence of a superior living entity who creates the lower to higher species one by one.

    Srimad Bhagavatam describes how sage Kashyapa had two wives—Kadru and Vinita. Kadru gave birth to snakes and Vinita gave birth to Garuda. The fact that the prajāpati (Kashyapa) is human doesn’t mean his children have to be human. Snakes and birds are instead born of humans. Of course, they are lower than human life forms. And yet, the human life form produces the lower life forms. This is just like a mason building a pyramid bottom up. Of course, we cannot produce other species of life because we are not prajāpatiThis is the special privilege of the prajāpati.

    Similarly, Kashyapa had two other wives, named Diti and Aditi. The demigods (called Adityas) are born from Aditi and the demons (called Daityas) are born from Diti. Diti is narcissitic and cruel while Aditi is selfless and kind. Although Kashyapa is a sage, he accepts Diti as a wife to procreate for lower planetary systems. Hence, Kashyapa is the prajāpati who creates some species. Other prajāpati create other species. For example, Daksha is another prajāpati who created many other species. Prabhupāda writes in SB purports that Daksha was an expert in various types of sex.

    Therefore, there is a sense in which Darwinian Evolution is true, namely, that higher life forms appear after the lower life forms. But this theory is false because even the lower life forms are originally created by a far greater form, the prajāpati. As the prajāpati creates the higher life forms one after another, the pyramid automatically expands horizontally just like the market economy. Since there is an expansion of the pyramid both horizontally and vertically, therefore, we can say that the lower life comes before the higher life, and both lower and higher life forms diversify over time. But the cause of these forms is a prajāpatiEven the lowest life form cannot appear without the action of a powerful prajāpati. Hence, life comes from life.

    There is another sense in which Darwinian Evolution is false, which is that the prajāpati simply manifests the various species, while the species are eternal conceptual forms. Hence, Kashyapa doesn’t have to mentally design a snake or a bird. Those forms are eternally present. I’m saying this because the Intelligent Design argument talks about the species being designed by intelligence. There is no such design. Or, rather, the design is simply the mentality of the species. All these mentalities exist eternally, but they may not be any specific soul’s mentality.

    The Intelligent Design argument is tied to Christianity in which animals don’t have a soul or a mind. Therefore, their body doesn’t emerge from a mind. Rather, it has to be designed externally like a machine by some designer (presumed to be God). Humans, on the other hand, have souls, but to accomodate both, even the human body is supposedly designed by God. Thereby, the science of how body emerges from a mind is neglected. Many of those who debate evolutionism from a Vedic perspective rely on the same intelligent design argument, which means that their counterarguments completely bypass discussion of how the body emerges from the mind. Instead, God is assigned all the hard work of designing our body. But if the body gets diseased then God gets all the blame of creating a bad design.

    Sage Kashyapa knew how to inject varied mental forms during impregnation to produce a different species of life. This process was also used by Vyāsa when he impregnated Ambā, Ambikā, and Ambālika (one of them sent a maidservant out of shame) to produce Dhritarāshtra, Pāndu, and Vidura. A similar process is recommended for devotees as well even today; if they meditate on Krishna, then they will attract devotee souls as children. So, the mental state of the parents determines the child. The radical difference, in this case, is that the prajāpati takes on the mental state of a snake or a bird to produce these different species.

    Thereby, the central claim of Darwinian Evolution, namely “descent with minor modification” is rejected. The child of the parent can be of a completely different species than the parent. It is not random mutation followed by natural selection. The parent is smart enough to know what type of child will be adapted to the current conditions. And he creates that type of child by accepting the mentality of a certain kind of species during impregnation. No more randomness and selection.

    Similar descriptions are present all over Vedic texts. In the Mahabharata, there is a description of a sage named Kindama and his wife who are ashamed of sex as humans. So, they take on the body of a deer which is when Pāndu shoots them with an arrow, and Kindama curses Pāndu to die while engaging in sex with his wife. So, people knew how to change their bodies by changing their mentality. Thereby the process of one species producing another species was not a strange thing. The human did not evolve into a deer and then back to human. Both human and deer are potential states accepted or rejected by the soul. Likewise, Shankarāchārya entered the body of a dead king and enjoyed it with his wives. This science of mind and body is the most essential knowledge required to understand species.

    Finally, when a partial annihilation occurs (which can be due to water, fire, or air) the prajāpati recreates them in some order. That order is based on the type of annihilation prior. The example used here is that of creation after a flood annihilation. Prabhupāda uses the example of pralaya-payodhi-jale for this case, where the sages sit in a boat and are protected by the Lord, and when the flood is over, they recreate the population. These sages in the boat are the new prajāpati. If everything is destroyed in the flood, then the prajāpati have to recreate them. This means from water to land to air and so on, in some order which is suitable to the situation at that time. That order need not be used always, but it has been used after the last destruction so it is described like that. But it can be different.

    While discussing Darwinian Evolution we don’t go into so much detail. We just point out that the body manifests from the mind, and that the mental form of the species is eternal. It is just applied to a soul to create a body. Hence, all the species are conceptually eternal, and one species does not evolve into another species.

    However, the species do appear one after another, and even that order is not due to one species evolving into another. Rather, there is a prajāpati who manifests them in order so that they can live comfortably. Finally, these species also diversify over time, but even that is not the evolution of one form into another, just like the cotton shirt is not evolved from deerskin. Rather, cotton shirt manifests automatically after a certain level of economic development. Of course, there is a weaver and a tailor who will prepare the cotton shirt. Likewise, one species can give birth to a radically different species just like the prajāpati. This is because the species are developed based on a mind, and new species manifest when conditions are appropriate for them to manifest, and the parents enter a certain mental state triggered by nature and time. Hence evolution is a fact but evolutionary theory is incorrect. That theory has to be replaced by a more sophisticated theory as described above.

    In a sense, we accept “descent with modification” because a human can give birth to a snake and a bird. But it is not minor modification. It is chosen voluntarily by the parent accepting a new mentality. All these mentalities constitute a semantic space in which the soul can roam. The more capable soul can roam to more mentalities. They know what it is to be like a bat. Thereby, there can be a Cambrian Explosion of species because a parent can give birth to a large variety of species. Such an explosion is due to the prajāpati giving birth to many species quickly.

    This was Prabhupāda’s program on evolution. It was not merely rejecting Darwinian Evolution as a theory, but also explaining the theory of how the soul takes birth into a body based on its mentality, without rejecting appearance of species. Prabhupāda himself talks about the gradual appearance of species, and yet, he rejected evolutionary theory. Hence, unless we understand the science of how the body appears based on the mind, we cannot fulfill Prahbupada’s program on evolution.

    If we don’t focus on the mental aspect of the species, then we can never accept Brahma or prajāpati and how one species is born from another species. Therefore, I lay the greatest emphasis on the mental aspect. It doesn’t mean that the species don’t appear one after another. Of course, if our bodily concept of life is strong, then we cannot grasp the mental aspect of life, and how it is the cause of the body.

    The situation at present is that most people either blindly reject Darwinian Evolution or blindly accept it because they don’t know the full process and they are not interested in it. They want a simple true/false answer and there is no room for nuance. They also gloss over the narrations in Srimad Bhagavatam, where parents and children are not from the same species because our conception of procreation is the sex of the body rather than of the mind. Therefore, all these problems in understanding evolution are due to glossing over the books by casual reading.

    Sri Vasudeva Das

    This was very thorough and very deep explanation. I could very well understand this and appreciate the statements regarding the evolution.

    Thank you very much

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