Abdu'i-Baha on Darwinism

Just as the spirit of man is the cause of the life of his body, so is the whole world even as a body and man as its spirit. If man did not exist, if the perfections of the spirit were not manifested and the light of the mind were not shining in this world, it would be like a body without a spirit … . Beyond this, the members, constituent parts, and composition that are found within man attract and act as a magnet for the spirit: The spirit is bound to appear in it. Thus, when a mirror is polished, it is bound to attract the rays of the sun, to be illumined, and to reflect splendid images. That is, when these physical elements are gathered and combined together, according to the natural order and with the utmost perfection, they become a magnet for the spirit, and the spirit will manifest itself therein with all its perfections. 20 Know that the people of the world are of two kinds; that is, they belong to two groups. One group denies the human spirit and say s that man is a kind of animal… . The combination of the elements in the body of man is more complete than in any other being … . It is not, they say, that man has a special power and spirit of which the other animals are deprived … . And so, after extensive research and armed with powerful arguments, they place man in the lineage of the animal … . But the divine philosophers say: No, this is not so. Although man shares the same outward powers and senses in common with the animal, there exists in him an extraordinary power of which the animal is deprived … . All things are subdued by the hand of man, who withstands nature itself. 21 The most important and most frequent discussion of ‘Abdu’l -Baha on Darwinism is directly related to the social interpretation of Darwinism, namely, the social concept of the struggle for existence. ‘Abdu’l - Baha ’s criticism of the social philosophy of the struggle for existence is intended to prove the historical, dynamic, and evolutionary nature of human reality. Unlike material phenomena which possess a relatively fixed and static nature, human beings are endowed with a human spirit and are constantly transcending their existing conditions and situations, and incessantly, through deliberation, transform the form and environment of their lives. Human beings are historical beings who are not limited to a static nature. Instead, as spiritual beings, they have various values, cultures, and social institutions like science, art, philosophy, and language, and thus reconstruct themselves and their environment. Unlike static animals, each generation of humans is different from the previous generation. In other words, biological evolution moves at a very slow pace compared to cultural and historical evolution. One of the most important aspects of this historical principle is the necessity of the evolution of religions. Consequently, no religion can be eternal and unchangeable. In fact, the belief in the finality of a religion amounts to the reduction of human beings to the level of objects and material nature. It implies negation of both the human spirit and the holy ghost whose nature is eternal progress, creativity, and reconstruction. However, the most serious problem with the philosophy of the struggle for existence is that, by its reduction of human beings to the level of animals and by degrading society to the level of the jungle, it affirms a static and dead approach according to which humanity is eternally condemned to a beastly culture of violence, war, colonialism, racism, slavery, and other forms of oppression. During the late 19 th Struggle for Existence or Cooperation for Existence?

20 Ibid, Chapter 52: 3-4. 21 Ibid, Chapter 48: 2-9.

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