Abdu'i-Baha on Darwinism

‘Abdu’l - Baha’s text that at an early part of the book he identifies it as the key for understanding various discussions: There is a point that is pivotal to grasping the essence of the other questions that we have discussed or will be discussing, namely that human knowledge is of two kinds. One is the knowledge acquired through the senses… The other kind of human knowledge is that of intelligible things; that is, it consists of intelligible realities which have no outward form or pl ace and which are not sensible… But when you undertake to express these intelligible realities, you have no recourse but to cast them in the mould of the sensible … These expressions are comparisons, analogies, similes, and figurative interpretations in the realm of inner meaning. 13 ‘Abdu’l -Baha frequently affirms in the same book that the temporal duration of the universe has no beginning and no end; that the planet earth has existed for millions of years; that the appearance of minerals, plants, animals, and human beings took place gradually and through millions of years; and that the form of the human body has gone through countless transformations. As we see, ‘Abdu’l -Baha emphasizes the law of progressive evolution in all aspects of human existence, both physical and spiritual. However, accepting the principle of evolution does not mean that the human being is only an animal like other animals, or that humans are devoid of a human spirit, or that human identity is merely material. These issues do not belong to the realm of empirical science. They are, rather, metaphysical and spiritual propositions. However, since some materialist authors used the empirical theory of evolution to deduce and justify their philosophical theory of atheism, ‘Abdu’l - Baha’s discourse in Some Answered Questions aims to refute such interpretations and affirm the spiritual nature of human reality. Arguments of ‘Abdu’l -Baha against philosophical and social Darwinism should not be understood as arguments against biological Darwinism. What may cause a misunderstanding of ‘Abdu’l - Baha’s discussions is the fact that he repeatedly emphasizes that the human species has always existed and that, whatever his form, he has always been a human being. For example, he writes: So if we were to imagine a time when man belonged to the animal kingdom, that is, when he was merely an animal, exist ence would have been imperfect… if there had been a time when man belonged to the animal realm, the completeness of existence would have been destroyed; for man is the chief member of the body of this world, and a body without its chief member is undoubtedly imperfect. 14 [M]an has been man from his very inception and origin, and that the essence of his species has existed from eternity. We will now present spiritual proofs that human existence — that is, the human species — is a necessary existence and that without man the perfections of Divinity would not shine forth … . If man did not exist, the universe would be without result, for the purpose of existence is the revelation of the divine perfections. We cannot say, then, that there was a time when man was not. At most we can say that there was a time when this earth did not exist. 15

13 Ibid, Chapter 16: 1-9. 14 Ibid, Chapter 46:4. 15 Ibid, Chapter 50: 1-4.

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