Abdu'i-Baha on Darwinism

So if we were to imagine a time when man belonged to the animal kingdom, that is, when he was merely an animal, existence 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. We regard man as the chief member because, among all created things, he encompasses all the perfections of existence. Now, what we mean by “man” is the complete human being, the foremost person in the world, who is the sum of all spiritual and material perfections, and who is like the sun among all created things . 18 [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. But from the beginning that has no beginning to the end that has no end, a perfect Manifestation has always existed. This Man of Whom we speak here is not just any man: That which we intend is the Perfect Man. 19 Therefore, the actual eternality of the human species that precedes everything including the emergence of planet earth refers to the holy ghost and the truth of the Manifestations of God. Such a proposition has nothing to do with biological Darwinism. Furthermore, since the purpose of creation is the realization of spiritual perfections, divine creation requires the advent of the biological and physical human beings as well. However, this earthly human being who emerges through the process of evolution and after the appearance of minerals, plants, and animals is no longer an animal, or an altered animal. The reason is that the emergence of the earthly human being requires not only the emergence of a specific biological evolution from animals, but also the attachment of the human spirit to this biological body. Consequently, from its inception, the human species is human due to their spiritual reality, regardless of whether the human body is similar to other animals. Explaining this point, ‘Abdu’l -Baha argues that, although the earthly human species and all other mineral, vegetative, and animal species have existed, in potentia, since the inception of the universe, when the inception of the actual earthly human species took place there was a specific combination of various elements that came into existence and attracted and received the revelation of the human spirit. Therefore, the biological evolution creates the conditions for the attachment of the human soul to a specific form of organism. The qualitative distinction between human beings and other animals is this human spirit, and not merely the particular organic composition which becomes receptive to the spirit. For example, clearing away the dust from the mirror will not by itself lead to the revelation of the rays of the sun from the mirror. Rather, such reflection requires the facing of the mirror towards the sun. If it is night or there exists no sun, then no mirror, however pure, can become shining and resplendent. This is the point that has been ignored by the materialist interpretations of Darwinian theory. In order to understand this idea, two statements of ‘Abdu’l -Baha are quoted below:

18 Ibid, Chapter 46:4-5. 19 Ibid, Chapter 50: 1-5.

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