Abdu'i-Baha on Darwinism
identity has been defined in terms of categories like the color of skin, ethnicity, religion, race, language, social class, and nationality. However, such definition of human identity defines identity in terms of what separates us from each other. In this conception of identity, therefore, humans are either enemies of each other, or mutual strangers. Such a definition ignores the most obvious fact of life, namely, the interdependence and unity of all human beings and all things, and therefore, reduces identity to a specific group. In such a particularistic reduction of identity to a singular group, it becomes easy to degrade other groups to the level of objects, dangerous animals, or infectious disease. Consequently, such a perspective promotes avoiding others, perceives them as polluted and polluting, forbids communication and friendship with them, applies the standard of morality only t o one’s own group, and glorifies oppression and persecution of others as virtue. However, according to ‘Abdu’l -Baha, the time has come to define human identity in a new way. In this new definition, the true identity of a human being is the reflection and image of God which is manifested in different forms in all humans and all things. What defines the authentic identity of humans is that which unites them, emphasizes their unity, affirms the inherent beauty and sacredness of all, and calls human beings to leave the repressive prison of ignorance and prejudice, and to enter the bright and infinite kingdom of reason, spirit, and consciousness, namely, the domain of the oneness of humanity and universal peace and fellowship. The word used by ‘Abdu’l -Baha that is translated as prejudice is ta’assub. The complexity of this word is not fully captured by the English word preju dice. Ta’assub is derived from the word ‘usbah, meaning group. Ta’assub, therefore, implies reduction of identity to one group and perceiving other humans as strangers and enemies. This reductive and singular identity causes various prejudicial judgments, undermines one’s sense of justice and fairness, and leads to a moral double standard in relation to one’s own group and other groups. All conceivable kinds of oppression and violence against others can easily be justified because, in the mind of the prejudiced individual, the other is not defined as a human being. On the contrary, in the prejudiced imagination, others are converted to beasts or fatal diseases. Such avoidance and dehumanization of others paves the way for their persecution. Various kinds of prejudice not only alienate individuals from other peoples and cultures, they destroy one’s freedom and autonomy. Being captive to prejudice , the individual reduces himself to his own group, thinks and feels in terms of group feelings, and thus renounces his own freedom, independent thinking, rationality, and humanity. By submission to the prejudices of one’s own group, one exchanges a sense of humanity for a sense of group security. Such an individual not only avoids fellowship, friendship and communication with other groups, he is ready to commit all kinds of injustice, cruelty, and genocide against them. As we saw in this paper, ‘Abdu’l - Baha’s approach to Darwinism is different from many prevalent approaches. He confirms the principle of evolution in the realm of biology. However, he criticizes the arbitrary philosophical and sociological interpretations of biological Darwinism, rejects the social philosophy of the struggle for existence, and emphasizes the imperative of the cooperation for existence which is a reflection of the spiritual definition of human beings. His critique of the culture of struggle for existence is an invitation to freedom, rejection of all prejudices, and affirmation of universal peace and oneness of humankind.
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