I thought this was a very interesting article: http://www.time.com/time/health/article ... hsci-yahoo
Most of the world's religions hold that human life is sacred and special in some way. In teaching our common descent with animals, we also have to examine what is special about human beings, and why they deserve to be treated differently and granted certain rights.
(at http://www.time.com/time/health/article ... z0YDbT3CQA )
I think this article which questions not the theory of evolution, but its consequences, raises questions about the current insistence that a religious view of humanity is somehow incompatible with the scientific evidence of Darwinian evolution (as opposed to the dogma of materialism often unfortunately associated with it).
It brought to mind the idea of what Shoghi Effendi said 'Abdu'l-Baha meant on evolution:
"We don't believe man has always had the form of man, but rather that from the outset he was going to evolve into the human form and species and not be a haphazard branch of the ape family."
(On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Antipodes, at http://bahai-library.com/writings/shogh ... /1946.html )
'Abdu'l-Baha's insistence may have less to do with our physical development or even our origins and more about what is our foreordained higher station and purpose amidst the however correct process of Darwinian evolution.
This also brings to mind for me this wonderful quotation which speaks of the related consequences of thinking our souls are finite:
The conception of annihilation is a factor in human degradation, a cause of human debasement and lowliness, a source of human fear and abjection. It has been conducive to the dispersion and weakening of human thought, whereas the realization of existence and continuity has upraised man to sublimity of ideals, established the foundations of human progress and stimulated the development of heavenly virtues; therefore, it behooves man to abandon thoughts of nonexistence and death, which are absolutely imaginary, and see himself ever-living, everlasting in the divine purpose of his creation. He must turn away from ideas which degrade the human soul so that day by day and hour by hour he may advance upward and higher to spiritual perception of the continuity of the human reality. If he dwells upon the thought of nonexistence, he will become utterly incompetent; with weakened willpower his ambition for progress will be lessened and the acquisition of human virtues will cease.
('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 89)
This all being said, how do we explain, if it is a valid quotation, this statement attributed to 'Abdu'l-Baha:
"Between man and the ape, however, there is one link missing, and to the present time scientists have not been able to discover it....The lost link of Darwinian theory is itself a proof that man is not an animal. How is it possible to have all the links present and that important link absent? Its absence is an indication that man has never been an animal. It will never be found."
(Promulgation, p. 358, 359 passim)
The only way I can reconcile this (if it is an accurate quotation) with the fact that Darwin did not teach that there was a direct link between man and the ape is that by "Darwinian theory" is meant the ideas mistakenly associated with Darwin.
Also, I'm eager to see anyone respond to this article: http://bahai-library.com/?file=oskooi_d ... e_religion
While I haven't read it fully (concentration difficulties) and though it seems persuasive in parts, one quotation which does seem to challenge one of the points I saw in the thesis (e.g., in mentioning the purported emphasizing by 'Abdu'l-Baha of "separate roots of animal and human existences") is this one:
"In the world of existence man has traversed successive degrees until he has attained the human kingdom. In each degree of his progression he has developed capacity for advancement to the next station and condition. While in the kingdom of the mineral he was attaining the capacity for promotion into the degree of the vegetable. In the kingdom of the vegetable he underwent preparation for the world of the animal, and from thence he has come onward to the human degree, or kingdom. Throughout this journey of progression he has ever and always been potentially man."
(Promulgation, p. 225)
It doesn't seem to me that this can be arguing merely that the dust comprising a man had formerly been from a vegetable, since it mentions a progression from vegetable to animal. Although the context is man being "embryonic in the world of the matrix", in other places 'Abdu'l-Baha seems to indicate there are parallels with evolutionary development (even if He does not outright 100% endorse "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recapitulation_theory ).