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Journey of Self Discovery 7.4:
Evolution in Fact and Fantasy
Los Angeles, June 1972: Çréla
Prabhupäda asserts that Darwin’s theory of evolution is inconclusive
and illogical. But Darwin’s is not the only theory of evolution. The Vedas
explain that an evolutionary process governs the progress of the soul.
“We accept evolution,” Çréla Prabhupäda says, “but not
that the forms of the species are changing. The bodies are all already
there, but the soul is evolving by changing bodies and by transmigrating
from one body to another.... The defect of the evolutionists is that they
have no information of the soul.”
Devotee: Darwin tried to
show how the origin of living species could be fully explained by the purely
mechanical, unplanned action of natural forces. By the process he called
“natural selection,” all the higher, complex forms of life gradually evolved
from more primitive and rudimentary ones. In a given animal population,
for example, some individuals will have traits that make them adapt better
to their environment; these more fit individuals will survive to pass on
their favorable traits to their offspring. The unfit will gradually be
weeded out naturally. Thus a cold climate will favor those who have, say,
long hair or fatty tissue, and the species will then gradually evolve in
question is that in the development of the body, is there any plan that
a particular kind of body—with, as you say, long hair or fatty tissue—should
exist under certain natural conditions? Who has made these arrangements?
That is the question.
Devotee: No one. Modern evolutionists
ultimately base their theory on the existence of chance variations.
That is nonsense. There is no such thing as chance. If they say “chance,”
then they are nonsense. Our question remains. Who has created the different
circumstances for the existence of different kinds of animals?
Devotee: For example, a frog
may lay thousands of eggs, but out of all of them only a few may survive
to adulthood. Those who do are more fit than the others. If the environment
did not favorably select the fittest, then too many frogs—
Yes, frogs and many other animals lay eggs by the hundreds. A snake gives
birth to scores of snakes at a time, and if all were allowed to exist,
there would be a great disturbance. Therefore, big snakes devour the small
snakes. That is nature’s law. But behind nature’s law is a brain. That
is our proposition. Nature’s law is not blind, for behind it there is a
brain, and that brain is God. We learn this from the Bhagavad-gétä
[9.10]: mayädhyakñeëa prakåtiù süyate
sa-caräcaram. Whatever is taking place in material nature is being
directed by the Supreme Lord, who maintains everything in order. So the
snake lays eggs by the score, and if many were not killed, the world would
be overwhelmed by snakes. Similarly, male tigers kill the cubs. The economic
theory of Malthus states that whenever there is overpopulation, there must
be an outbreak of war, epidemic, famine, or the like to curb it. These
natural activities do not take place by chance but are planned. Anyone
who says they are a matter of chance has insufficient knowledge.
Devotee: But Darwin has a
huge amount of evidence—
Evidence? That is all right. We also have got evidence. Evidence must be
there. But as soon as there is evidence, there should be no talk of “chance.”
Devotee: For example, out
of millions of frogs, one may happen to be better adapted to living in
But that is not by chance! That is by plan! He doesn’t know that. As soon
as one says “chance,” it means his knowledge is imperfect. A man says “chance”
when he cannot explain. It is evasive. So the conclusion is that he is
without perfect knowledge and therefore unfit for giving any knowledge.
He is cheating, that’s all.
Devotee: Well, Darwin sees
a “plan” or “design” in a sense, but—
If he sees a plan or design, then whose design? As soon as you recognize
a design, you must acknowledge a designer. If you see a plan, then you
must accept a planner. That he does not know.
Devotee: But the “plan” is
only the involuntary working of nature.
Nonsense. There is a plan. The sun rises daily according to exact calculation.
It does not follow our calculation; rather, we calculate according to the
sun. Experiencing that in such-and-such season the sun rises at such-and-such
time, we learn that according to the season the sun rises exactly on the
minute, the second. It is not by whimsy or chance but by minute plan.
Devotee: But can’t you say
it’s just mechanical?
Then who made it mechanical? If something is mechanical, then there must
be a mechanic, a brain, who made the machine. Here is something mechanical
[Çréla Prabhupäda points to a Telex machine]: Who made
it? This machine has not come out by itself. It is made of iron, and the
iron did not mold itself into a machine; there is a brain who made the
machine possible. So everything in nature has a plan or design, and behind
that plan or design is a brain, a very big brain.
Devotee: Darwin tried to
make the appearance and disappearance of living forms seem so natural and
involuntary that God is removed from the picture. Evolutionary theory makes
it appear as if combinations of material ingredients created life, and
then various species evolved one from another naturally.
That is foolishness. Combination means God. God is combining. Combination
does not take place automatically. Suppose I am cooking. There are many
ingredients gathered for cooking, but they do not combine together by themselves.
I am the cooker, and in cooking I combine together ghee, spices, rice,
däl, and so on; and in this way, nice dishes are produced. Similarly,
the combination of ingredients in nature requires God. Otherwise how does
the moment arise in which the combination takes place? Do you place all
the ingredients in the kitchen and in an hour come back and say, “Oh, where
is my meal?” Nonsense! Who will cook your meal? You’ll starve. But take
help of a living being, and then we’ll cook and we can eat. This is our
experience. So if there is combination, then who is combining? They are
fools not to know how combination takes place.
Devotee: Scientists now say
life arose out of four basic elements: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
If the basic principle is chemicals, who made the chemicals? That question
should be asked.
Devotee: Isn’t it possible
that one day science will discover the source of these chemicals?
There is no question of discovering: the answer is already known, although
it may not be known to you. We know. The Vedänta says, janmädy
asya yataù: the original source of everything is Brahman, Kåñëa.
Kåñëa says, ahaà sarvasya prabhavo mattaù
sarvaà pravartate: “I am the origin of everything.” [Bhagavad-gétä
10.8] So we know that there is a big brain who is doing everything. We
know. The scientists may not know; that is their foolishness.
Devotee: They might say the
same thing about us.
No, they cannot say the same thing about us. We accept Kåñëa,
but not blindly. Our predecessors, the great äcäryas and learned
scholars, have accepted Kåñëa as the origin of everything,
so we are not following blindly. We claim that Kåñëa
is the origin, but what claim can the scientist make? As soon as he says
“chance,” it means that he has no knowledge. We don’t say “chance.” We
have an original cause; but he says chance. Therefore he has no knowledge.
Devotee: They try to trace
back the origin by means of excavation. And they have found that gradually
through the years the animal forms are evolving toward increasingly more
complex and specialized forms, from invertebrates to fishes, then to amphibians,
then to reptiles and insects, to mammals and birds, and finally to humans.
In that process many species, like the dinosaurs, appeared, flourished,
and then disappeared forever, became extinct. Eventually, primitive apelike
creatures appeared, and from them man gradually developed.
Is the theory that the human body comes from the monkeys?
Devotee: Humans and monkeys
are related. They come from the same—
Related? Everything is related; that is another thing. But if the monkey
body is developing into a human body, then why, after the human body is
developed, doesn’t the monkey species cease to exist?
Devotee: The humans and the
monkeys are branches of the same tree.
Yes, and both are now existing. Similarly, we say that at the time the
evolutionists say life began, there were human beings existing.
Devotee: They find no evidence
Why no evidence?
Devotee: In the ground. By
excavation. They find no evidence in the ground.
Is the ground the only evidence? Is there no other evidence?
Devotee: The only evidence
they accept is the testimony of their senses.
they still cannot prove that there was no human being at the time they
say life originated. They cannot prove that.
Devotee: It appears that
in certain layers of earth there are remains of apelike men—
men or manlike apes are still existing now, alongside human beings. If
one thing has been developed by the transformation of another thing, then
that original thing should no longer be in existence. When in this way
a cause has produced its effect, the cause ceases to exist. But in this
case we see that the cause is still present, that there are still monkeys
Devotee: But monkeys did
not cause men; both came from the same common ancestor. That is their account.
We say that we all come from God, the same ancestor, the same father. The
original father is Kåñëa. As Kåñëa
says in the Bhagavad-gétä [14.5], sarva-yoniñu kaunteya:
“Of as many forms as there are,...” ahaà béja-pradaù
pitä: “I am the seed-giving father.” So what is your objection to
Devotee: Well, if I examine
the layers of earth, I find in the deepest layers no evidence—
are packed up with layers of earth, that’s all. That is the boundary of
your knowledge. But that is not knowledge; there are many other evidences.
Devotee: But surely if men
were living millions of years ago, they would have left evidence, tangible
evidence, behind them. I could see their remains.
I say that in human society bodies are burned after death, cremated. So
where does your excavator get his bones?
Devotee: Well, that’s possible,
According to our Vedic system, the body is burned to ashes after death.
Where, therefore, would the rascal get the bones? Animals are not burned;
their bones remain. But human beings are burned, and therefore they cannot
find their bones.
Devotee: I’m just saying
that it appears, through layer after layer of deposits in the earth, that
biological forms tend to progress from simple and primitive forms to more
and more complex and specialized ones, until finally civilized man appears.
But at the present moment both simple and complex forms are existing. One
did not develop into the other. For example, my childhood body has developed
into my adult body, and the child’s body is no longer there. So if the
higher, complex species developed from the simpler, lower species, then
we should see no simple species. But all species are now existing simultaneously.
When I see all 8,400,000 species
of life existing, what is the question of development? Each species exists
now, and it existed long ago. You might not have seen it, but you have
no proper source of knowledge. You might have missed it. That is another
Devotee: But all the evidence
shows otherwise. Five hundred million years ago there were no land animals;
there were only aquatics.
That is nonsense. You cannot give a history of five hundred million years!
Where is the history of five hundred million years? You are simply imagining.
You say “historical evidence,” but where is your evidence? You cannot give
a history for more than three thousand years, and you are speaking about
five hundred million. This is all nonsense.
Devotee: If I dig far into
the ground, layer by layer—
By dirt you are calculating five hundred million years? It could be ten
years. You cannot give the history of human society past three thousand
years, so how can you speak of four hundred or five hundred million years
ago? Where were you then? Were you there, so you can say that all these
species were not there? This is imagination. In this way everyone can imagine
and say some nonsense.
We accept evolution, but not that
the forms of the species are changing. The bodies are all already there,
but the soul is evolving by changing bodies and by transmigrating from
one body to another. I have evolved from my childhood body to my adult
body, and now my childhood body is extinct. But there are many other children.
Similarly, all the species are now existing simultaneously, and they were
all there in the past.
For example, if you are traveling
in a train, you find first class, second class, third class; they are all
existing. If you pay a higher fare and enter the first-class carriage,
you cannot say, “Now the first class is created.” It was always existing.
So the defect of the evolutionists is that they have no information of
the soul. The soul is evolving, transmigrating, from one compartment to
another compartment, simply changing place. The Padma Puräëa
says that there are 8,400,000 species of life, and the soul evolves through
them. This evolutionary process we accept: the soul evolves from aquatics
to plants, to insects, to birds, to animals, and then to the human forms.
But all these forms are already there. They do not change. One does not
become extinct and another survive. All of them are existing simultaneously.
Devotee: But Darwin says there are
many species, like dinosaurs, that are seen to be extinct.
What has he seen? He is not so powerful that he can see everywhere or everything.
His power to see is limited, and by that limited power he cannot conclude
that one species is extinct. That is not possible. No scientist will accept
that. After all, all the senses by which you gather knowledge are limited,
so how can you say this is finished or that is extinct? You cannot see.
You cannot search out. The earth’s circumference is twenty-five thousand
miles; have you searched through all the layers of rock and soil over the
whole earth? Have you excavated all those places?
Therefore our first charge against Darwin is this: He says there were no
human beings millions of years ago. That is not a fact. We now see human
beings existing along with all other species, and it should be concluded
that this situation always existed. Human life has always been there. Darwin
cannot say there was no human life.
Devotee: We don’t see any
You do not see because you have no power to see. Your senses are very limited,
so what you see or don’t see cannot be authoritative. So many people—the
majority of people—say, “I don’t see God.” Shall we accept, then, that
there is no God? Are we crazy for being devotees of God?
Devotee: No, but dinosaurs—
But simply by dinosaurs being missing you cannot make your case. What about
all the other species?
Devotee: Many, many others
are also extinct.
Say I accept that many are extinct—because the evolutionary process means
that as an earlier species gradually changes into a later species, the
earlier vanishes, becomes extinct. But we see that many monkeys are still
here. Man evolved from the simians, but simians have not disappeared. Monkeys
are here, and men are here.
Devotee: But still I’m not
convinced. If we make geological investigations all over the world, not
just here and there, but in many parts of the world, and in every case
we find the same thing—
But I say you have not studied all over the world. Has Darwin studied all
the continents on this planet? Has he gone down into the depths of the
seas and there excavated all the layers of the earth? No. So his knowledge
is imperfect. This is the relative world, and here everyone speaks with
relative knowledge. Therefore we should accept knowledge from a person
who is not within this relativity.
Devotee: Actually, Darwin
hit upon his theory because of what he observed on his voyage in 1835 to
the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of South America. He found there species
that exist nowhere else.
That means he has not seen all the species. He has not traveled all over
the universe. He has seen one island, but he has not seen the whole creation.
So how can he determine what species exist and don’t exist? He has studied
one part of this earth, but there are many millions of planets. He has
not seen all of them; he has not excavated the depths of all the planets.
So how can he conclude, “This is nature”? He has not seen everything, nor
is it possible for any human being to see everything.
Devotee: Let’s just confine ourselves
to this planet.
No, why should we? Nature is not only on this planet.
Devotee: Because you said
that on this planet there were complex forms of living beings millions
and millions of years ago.
We are not talking about this planet, but about anywhere. You are referring
to nature. Nature is not limited or confined to this planet. You cannot
say that. Nature, material nature, includes millions of universes, and
in each and every universe there are millions of planets. If you have studied
only this planet, your knowledge is insufficient.
Devotee: But you said before
that millions of years ago on this planet there were horses, elephants,
Devotee: But from hundreds
of different sources there is no evidence.
I say they are existing now—men, horses, snakes, insects, trees. So why
not millions of years ago?
Devotee: Because there is
That doesn’t mean... ! You limit your study to one planet. That is not
Devotee: I just want to find
out for the time being about—
Why the time being? If you are not perfect in your knowledge, then why
should I accept your theory? That is my point.
Devotee: Well, if you claim
that millions of years ago there were complex forms of life on this planet—
Whether on this planet or on another planet, that is not the point. The
point is that all species exist and keep on existing by the arrangement
of nature. We learn from the Vedic texts that there are 8,400,000 species
established. They may be in your neighborhood or they may be in my neighborhood—the
number and types are fixed. But if you simply study your neighborhood,
it is not perfect knowledge. Evolution we admit. But your evolutionary
theory is not perfect. Our theory of evolution is perfect. From the Vedas
we know that there are 8,400,000 forms of bodies provided by nature, but
the soul is the same in all, in spite of the different types of body. There
is no change in the soul, and therefore the Bhagavad-gétä [5.18]
says that one who is wise, a paëòita, does not see the species
or the class; he sees oneness, equality. Paëòitäù
sama-darçinaù. One who sees to the bottom sees the soul,
and he does not find there any difference between all these species.
Devotee: So Darwin and other
material scientists who have no information about the soul—
They’re missing the whole point.
Devotee: They say that all
living things tend to evolve from lower to higher. In the history of the
That may be accepted. For example, in an apartment building there are different
kinds of apartments: first-class apartments, second-class apartments, third-class
apartments. According to your desire and qualification, as you are fit
to pay the rent, you are allowed to move up to the better apartments. But
the different apartments are already there. They are not evolving. The
residents are evolving by moving to new apartments as they desire.
Devotee: As they desire.
Yes. According to our mentality at the time of death, we get another “apartment,”
another body. But the “apartment” is already there, not that I’m creating
And the classes of “apartments”
are fixed at 8,400,000. Just like the hotel-keeper: he has experience of
his customers coming and wanting different kinds of facilities. So he has
made all sorts of accommodations to oblige all kinds of customers. Similarly,
this is God’s creation. He knows how far a living entity can think, so
He has made all these different species accordingly. When God thinks, “Come
on, come here,” nature obliges. Prakåteù kriyamäëäni
guëaiù karmäëi [Bhagavad-gétä 3.27]:
Nature is offering facility. God, Kåñëa, is sitting in
the heart of the living entity as Paramätmä, and He knows, “He
wants this.” So the Lord orders nature, “Give him this apartment,” and
nature obliges: “Yes, come on; here is your apartment.” This is the real
Devotee: I understand and
accept that. But I’m still puzzled as to why there is no geological evidence
that in former times on this planet there were more complex forms.
Why are you taking geological evidence as final? Is it final? Science is
progressing. You cannot say it is final.
Devotee: But I have excavated
all parts of the world, and every time—
No. You have not excavated all parts of the world.
Devotee: Well, on seven continents.
Seven continents is not the whole world. You say you have excavated the
whole world, but we say no, not even an insignificant portion. So your
knowledge is limited. Dr. Frog has examined his three-foot-wide well, and
now he claims to know the ocean.
Experimental knowledge is always
imperfect, because one experiments with imperfect senses. Therefore, scientific
knowledge must be imperfect. Our source of knowledge is different. We do
not depend on experimental knowledge.
Now you see no dinosaurs, nor have
I seen all the 8,400,000 different forms of life. But my source of knowledge
is different. You are an experimenter with imperfect senses. I have taken
knowledge from the perfect person, who has seen everything, who knows everything.
Therefore, my knowledge is perfect.
Say, for example, that I receive
knowledge from my mother: “Here is your father.” But you are trying to
search out your father on your own. You don’t go to your mother and ask;
you just search and search. Therefore, no matter how much you search, your
knowledge will always remain imperfect.
Devotee: And your knowledge
says that millions of years ago there were higher forms of life on this
Oh, yes, because our Vedic information is that the first created being
is the most intelligent, the most intellectual person within the universe—Lord
Brahmä, the cosmic engineer. So how can we accept your theory that
intellect develops by evolution? We have received our Vedic knowledge from
Brahmä, who is so perfect.
Dr. Frog has studied his three-foot
well, his little reservoir of water. The Atlantic Ocean is also a reservoir
of water, but there is a vast difference. Dr. Frog cannot inform us about
the Atlantic Ocean. But we take knowledge from the one who has made the
Atlantic Ocean. So our knowledge is perfect.
Devotee: But wouldn’t there
be evidence in the earth, some remains?
Our evidence is intelligence, not stones and bones. Our evidence is intelligence.
We get Vedic information by disciplic succession from the most intelligent.
It is coming down by çruti, hearing. Vyäsadeva heard from Närada,
Närada heard from Brahmä—millions and millions of years ago.
Millions and millions of our years pass, and it is not even one day for
Brahmä. So millions and billions and trillions of years are not very
astonishing to us, for that is not even one day of Brahmä. But Brahmä
was born of Kåñëa, and intelligent philosophy has been
existing in our universe from the date of Brahmä’s birth. Brahmä
was first educated by God, and His knowledge has been passed down to us
in the Vedic literature. So we get such intelligent information in the
But those so-called scientists and
philosophers who do not follow this system of descending knowledge, who
do not accept knowledge thus received from higher authorities—they can’t
have any perfect knowledge, no matter what research work they carry out
with their blunt senses. So whatever they say, we take it as imperfect.
Our method is different from
theirs. They are searching after dead bones, and we are searching after
living brains. This point should be stressed. They are dealing with dead
bones, and we are dealing with living brains. So which should be considered
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