Evolution and Religion in India

What about evolution and religion? That intellectual honesty displayed by renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is far from universal within science. One area in which it particularly departs the path of provable facts into unprovable philosophical preconceptions masquerading as science is that of neo-Darwinism.

That is not to say evolution, per se. There is (or should be) a sharp distinction between evolution and neo-Darwinism. While evolution deals with a legitimate area of scientific inquiry, neo-Darwinism is more of a worldview. It is very nearly a faith-based philosophy, doggedly sticking to its guns regarding an unproven — and indeed, unprovable — account of how life began ... something that can cause problems between evolution and religion.

Faith in Science

Is neo-Darwinism’s geologically questionable account of life just happening from a “prebiotic soup” — maybe sparked by lightning, they don’t know — really any less a matter for faith than religious accounts of creation? Or that underwater creatures suddenly began developing mutations for lungs en masse ... a highly complex development that would confer no immediate conceivable evolutionary advantage in an unplanned system? To anyone with an ounce of objectivity, it should be clear that a measure of faith is involved.

Yet even the term evolution needs defining. It is often broadly used to refer to everything from observable changes within a species (microevolution) to hypotheses regarding the origins of species (macroevolution). To avoid this fuzzy, overly general sense, I will specify micro- or macroevolution, whenever it is germane.

But what does any of this have to do with religion in India?

Science and Religion as Means of Seeking

Science and religion are both a means of searching for truth about life and our universe. It’s necessary to remove preconceptions and deal with the facts as they present themselves ... to see the relationships between faith and science, evolution and religion, and how some of the major faiths react to points of science (and vice versa).

Legitimate Bailiwick of Science

It is interesting to me that science, when it sticks within its bailiwick — observable and/or provable facts — it causes much discussion, but far less controversy. It is only when it attempts to usurp the province of religion that it gets itself into trouble.

Religion is about faith and a different way of experiencing reality. It is what gives meaning to the mechanism that science attempts to explain.

And scientists dishonor the realm of science when they abandon the beauty of facts for a stubborn insistence on their own worldview in spite of where the evidence may lead. To doggedly insist upon a meaningless, random process despite huge gaps in evidence and compelling evidence for a designed process of some sort — simply because alternatives (such as God) are unacceptable possibilities in their worldview—crosses the line. It substitutes unproven philosophy ... masqueraded as science.

Micro- and Macroevolution

Microevolution is observable. Provable. Relevant. It is not a subject of widespread argument, regardless of which group you canvass. People of faith, in India and elsewhere, do not deny the reality of microevolution as a mechanism for change within a species group.

Macroevolution is a bit more iffy. Even hardcore neo-Darwinist atheists such as Richard Dawkins cannot pretend that there is a flawless chain of evidence (despite his elegant smoke screen). This point, however, is frequently downplayed when the subject is being taught — almost as if scientists seek to “protect” the common folk from thinking for themselves.

Evolution in Creation Accounts?

Writers like Raghuram Ekambaram find the continued controversy and open debate to be reassuring and healthy, rather than otherwise. He also points to a mythological chain of development in the Hindu Dasavatharam similar to that postulated by Darwin. This is, indeed, a connection that is made explicit in some schools within India — a marriage of science and religion.

Yet despite the lack of evidence and the enmity frequently seen between atheist neo-Darwinists and Christians, it is worth noting that the Biblical creation account also describes animals appearing in an order similar to that given by Darwin. That is not to say that the Bible even hints at all creatures arising from an original single species. But it is interesting that the order largely agrees.

Where Did Darwin Get His Ideas?

So which came first — the chicken or the egg? Was this a brilliant scientific insight on Darwin’s part? Or was he guided (perhaps in the back of his mind) by the learning of a religious faith that was also his (Christianity) until he rejected God following his young daughter’s death?

Regardless, it is worth noting that there are different schools of thought on the topic and meaning of evolution, even among devout Christians. While many reject macroevolution outright, others, including modern apologist Dinesh D'Souza find it likely that, divorced from its ascientific philosophical components, it is quite a likely theory for how God made the world. In short, that far from being a meaningless, random process, evolution is a highly complex process initiated and designed by God. Thus, there was no inherent conflict between evolution and religion.


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