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The purpose and destiny of our human life is shown to be compatible with the facts of biology and paleontology.
This book was originally published as an extended essay at the author's website (now offline, but archived here) in 1996 and updated in 1999. It was then revised for publication in 2001. The book here is the 1999 version, and is not identical to the published book.

See also: Keven Brown, Are Abdu'l-Bahá's Views on Evolution Original?; Brown, Evolution and Bahá’í Belief; Stephen R. Friberg, Commentary; von Kitzing, Is the Bahá'í view of evolution compatible with modern science?; and Courosh Mehanian and Friberg, Religion and Evolution Reconciled: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Comments on Evolution.

Origin of Complex Order in Biology:
Abdu'l-Baha's concept of the originality of species compared to concepts in modern biology

by Eberhard von Kitzing

published in Evolution and Bahá'í Belief, Studies in the Babi and Baha'i Religions vol. 12, pages 137-252
Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 2001
start page

All chapters


  1. Introduction
    1. Darwinism discussed by the early Bahá'í community
    2. About "some European philosophers"
    3. Recent evolution discussions in the Bahá'í community
    4. The organization of this essay
  2. Evolution of the Term "Species" in Occidental Biology
    1. Classical concept of the species
    2. "Species" in modern biology
    3. "Species" in classical and modern biology
  3. The Origin of Order in Our Universe
    1. Explaining complex order
    2. Order in modern cosmologies
    3. Order in modern biology
    4. Willful Design--assuming a complex origin
    5. Willful design--a proof of the existence of God
    6. The origin of complex order
  4. Originality of Species
    1. The theory of "some European philosophers"
    2. `Abdu'l-Bahá's critique of the "theory of the European philosophers"
    3. `Abdu'l-Bahá's concept of the human species
    4. Substantial evolution
    5. Compatibility of species essences with an evolving universe
    6. Parallel evolution
    7. The originality of species
  5. Discussion
    1. Origin of complex order in our universe
    2. Can species essences definitely be ruled out?
    3. A non-trivial origin of order
    4. The spiritual dimension of the human origin discussion
  6. Conclusions
  7. References


The author would like to thank especially Ralph Chapman, Kamran Hakim, Mark Towfiq, Viktoria Sparks-Forrester and Gerhard Schweter for their open discussions and valuable comments. The present essay owes a lot to Keven Brown's contributions. He made many constructive suggestions during the development of the essay, pointed my attention to the concept of substantial evolution, provided the still unpublished retranslations of the cited passages of Some Answered Questions and kindly retranslated certain passages from Promulgation of Universal Peace. The discussions with Ron Somerby clarified important points in this work.

An artist's view of the origin of life

© by Constanze von Kitzing 1997


During the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, Darwinism was discussed in the Occident, the New World and in the Orient. The public more populistic disputes were not very much concerned with Darwinism as a biological theory, but with its pretended and factual philosophical implications. What is the origin of order of our universe and the well adapted forms of life in our terrestrial biosphere? Is this order based on God's creation as widely believed before Darwin? Or is it the result of a blind mechanism, of the ad hoc formation of increasingly complex structures without purpose or goal, as claimed by many Darwinists and neo-Darwinists? If the natural order has no higher purpose, than social order would likewise be arbitrary, and the social institutions such as the monarchies or democracies would be merely human inventions!

A central concept which distinguishes Darwinism from most previously accepted ideas is that the complex order in our universe is assumed not to be the outcome of the design of a wise, caring Creator, but it is understood as the result of a self-organizing universe. `Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of the prophet founder of the newly developing Bahá'í Faith addressed the problem of evolution. Talks in Palestine with visitors from the West were recoded, as well as many speeches given by `Abdu'l-Bahá during His visit in Europe and the United states. There He presents evolution in the light of the Teachings of His father. He claims the principle compatibility of evolution with the existence of a wise, caring Creator. `Abdu'l-Bahá addresses the question of the origin of complex biological order by presenting a meta-biological species concept: the originality of species which occupies a central place in `Abdu'l-Bahá's teachings about the origin and evolution of the human species.

The existence of humanity is proposed to ground in non-trivial, time invariant laws of nature, in timeless species essences, in the reflection of the eternal names and attributes of God. Consequently, the potential to form human beings exists from the very beginning of our universe and is not created at some time point as suggested by literal interpretations of the Old Testament, nor were the human characteristics ad hoc self-created as for instance proposed by Monod. `Abdu'l-Bahá combines two arguments supporting the existence of a human species essence: the classical Platonic idea of a harmonious and perfect universe and the modern concept of the time invariance of the fundamental laws of nature. Thus, `Abdu'l-Bahá assumes the principle reproducibility of the results of nature. By means of these arguments `Abdu'l-Bahá rebuts the self-creational concepts of evolution held by "some European philosophers".

In classical as well as modern biology the concept of species essences is generally equated with static and unchanging biological populations and is considered to be incompatible with evolution. By means of the analogy between embryonic ontogeny and human phylogeny `Abdu'l-Bahá demonstrates, how timeless species essences can account for evolution, for an essentially dynamic biosphere, and how they are consistent with the concept of substantial evolution. The concept of cause and effect relates a substantially dynamic world to an essentialistic fundamental reality. The complex, timeless reality, created by God's Command, a mirror of His names and attributes, defines the "space" of physically and biologically possible worlds. The eternal reality unfolds it's potentials within time in a dynamic fashion. Evolution and development is the central theme of the world of being. The kind of essentialism proposed by `Abdu'l-Bahá, which applies to the whole contingent world, does not imply a closed formal system of accidental and necessary causes. To avoid the trap of the infinite regression `Abdu'l-Bahá postulates a kind of open cosmos where voluntary causes, particularly Divine Will, plays a crucial role.

Whereas the origin of the diverse biological strata represents a problem of mainly academic interest, the question of the origin of our moral values and our social order is certainly of general importance. If we believe in the unity of nature, that our universe does not split up into several unrelated pieces of reality, than the same fundamental driving forces should apply to the origin of our universe, to the evolution of the well adapted, complex and diverse terrestrial biosphere, to the development of the human society, and its social order, and to our moral values as well. If the universe, if biological evolution has no destiny, and if we believe in the unity of nature, we should not expect a purpose for our lives. Thus, the question of the origin of complex order in biology should not only interest some specialized biologists, but due the the far-reaching consequences of the answers of this question to our life, it is a question of general concern. The concept of the originality of species proposed by `Abdu'l-Bahá, presents an answer to the far-reaching question where the assumption of a purpose and destiny of our human life is shown to be compatible with the facts of biology and palaeontology.

Chapter 1


When Darwin published his book The Origin of Species in 1859 (Darwin, 1985) he presented the first consistent theory which explained the diversity of biological species by natural means. Until this date the majority of naturalists, including the most illustrious ones, were convinced that special Creation by God is the only reasonable explanation for the existence of complex order of life (Dawkins, 1986; Mayr, 1991). The central theme of Darwin's theory is the modification of species which stands in violent contrast to most previous theories in biology where the species was thought to represent a fixed, timeless entity. According to Mayr, Darwin replaced the classical creation as voluntary design by the concept of natural selection:
It dealt with the mechanism of evolutionary change and, more particularly, how this mechanism could account for the seeming harmony and adaption of the organic world. It attempted to provide a natural explanation in place of the supernatural one of natural theology. In that respect Darwin's theory was unique; there was nothing like it in the whole philosophical literature from the pre-Sokratics to Descartes, Leibniz or Kant. It replaced teleology in nature with an essentially mechanical explanation. (Mayr, 1991, p. 68)
The main challenge of Darwin's new theory was not that it presented an alternative origin of the complex forms of life, but it threatened commonly accepted world views of the 19th century. At least in biology, the picture of a God, caring for His Creatures, was replaced by the mechanistic and aggressive principle of the survival of the fittest. If biological characteristics are subject to natural selection, one should expect the same for the innate forms of instincts and social behavior. An if one does not believe that nature divides into a set of distinct, unrelated realities, thus, if one believes in the unity of nature, one should expect the same fundamental driving forces in the development of our cosmos, in the evolution of life and even in forming biological and social characteristics of humanity. In the 19th century until today, many people conclude from the concept of the survival of the fittest that our universe is driven by a blind mechanism, that at the bottom of our universe there exists no purpose, no plan, no goal.

Today, biological evolution is the widely accepted model to explain the appearance and development of life on this planet. Statements, similar to the ones given by Dawkins (Dawkins, 1986, p. 287) "No serious biologist doubts the fact that evolution has happened nor that all living creatures are cousins of one another", Howells (Howells, 1993, p. 4): "Evolutionary theory is now the center of the whole science of biology" and Mayr (Mayr, 1982, p. 626): "It is perhaps fair to state at the outset that no well-informed biologist doubts evolution any longer, in fact, many biologist consider evolution not a theory but a simple fact documented by the change of gene pools from generation to generation and by the changes in the sequence of fossils in the successive accurately dated geological strata" are common place. Nevertheless, even in the West there are still objections against the theory of evolution mainly from fundamentalistic Christian groups (Beardsley, 1995).

1.1) Darwinism discussed by the early Bahá'í community

The consequences of Darwinism were not only heatedly discussed in the occident, but also in the orient (for details see Keven Brown's essay /1/ ). They were also considered by a group of members of the newly emerging Bahá'í Faith who were exiled by the Ottomanian authorities to Palestine, and for many years were confined to the old fortress of Akká. `Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of the prophet founder of the Bahá'í Faith, in several talks spoke about the evolution of the human species claiming the originality of the species. Most of these talks were given at two different occasions: during the visit of Miss Barney in Akká /2/ and during `Abdu'l-Bahá's journey through the United States. /3/

In a compilation of talks published under the title Some Answered Questions (cited as SAQ), given in Akká during 1904-1906, `Abdu'l-Bahá explicitly mentions "some European philosophers", who believed in the "modification of the species." During the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th the concepts of the biological species experienced a drastic change. To understand `Abdu'l-Bahá's arguments a minimal knowledge is necessary about the concepts of evolution discussed during the second half of the 19th century and of the history of the concepts of biological species in the Occident and Orient. The classical concepts of species originate in the ideas of Plato and Aristotle. The biological species was thought to be determined by a timeless species essence. Due to its dependence on the eternal species essence the biological species was likewise assumed to be unchanging. A distinction between a species essence and its biological species, its actual representation in form of a population, was not necessary due to the close relation between both terms. During the 19th century evidence accumulated from fossil findings that this picture was no longer tenable. The early theories proposing biological evolution were firmly grounded in variants of essentialistic species concepts, e.g., the evolution theory of Lamark. In 1859, however, Darwin published his theory of biological evolution, in which he considered the random variation of the species and the consequential natural selection of the fittest to be the driving forces of evolution and the origin of the different species known today. This continuous change of the biological species was incompatible with the classical species concept. Consequently, in the hundred years following the publication of the Origins a concept of evolution was developed where the existence of species essences was understood to contradict evolution and consequently rejected. A widely accepted theory of evolution settled only during the first half of the 20th century. `Abdu'l-Bahá's remarks about evolution were stated while the discussion of the correct understanding of evolution and the species was still unsettled. Because of the general level of `Abdu'l-Bahá's statements, about evolution it is very likely that `Abdu'l-Bahá was not interested in details of evolution biology, but in the philosophic consequences of Darwinism. He was one of the few religious philosophers at the end of the 19th century who accepted the development of the biosphere as such, but He severely criticized the philosophic concepts of puposelessness and godlessness of evolution of our universe. Contrary to most contemporary scientists and philosophers, `Abdu'l-Bahá understood evolution as a support for the existence of God (Hatcher and Hatcher, 1996).

A second group which was explicitly mentioned by `Abdu'l-Bahá in the talks about evolution are the "philosophers of the East". Their species concepts are rooted either in Aristotle's or Plato's ideas. The discussion about the correct understanding of the origin of the diverse forms of life which took part mainly in Europe also spread into the near East. There the mayor interest concentrated on the impact of the theory of natural selection on philosophical and sociological questions. Apparently, `Abdu'l-Bahá took care to remain well informed about those disputes. The diverse species concepts of the islamic philosophers are not further considered in this essay. They are, however, carefully presented and discussed in an accompanying essay of Keven Brown (see Keven Brown's article).

1.2) About "some European philosophers"

In the Near East the evolution discussion addressed mainly philosophical and social issues. The early literature about evolution available in arabic were translations of popular representations of Darwinism (e.g., Büchner (Büchner, 1904) and Haeckel (Haeckel, 1984)). These authors wrote those books to spread a new world view, based entirely on the empirical sciences. They combined the theory of biological evolution with an atheistic, mechanistic philosophy. These concepts were presented as a direct consequence of the new finding of "modern" sciences. But still today Darwinism is often described to indicate a universe without purpose, without a plan or goal (Dawkins, 1986; Dennett, 1995).

Because `Abdu'l-Bahá's explicit reference to "some European philosophers" the views of Ludwig Büchner and Ernst Haeckel are presented and discussed in this essay. Ludwig Büchner (1824-1899) was one of those authors, who popularized Darwinism together with a materialistic world view in the West, but also in the Near East, by publishing many books and pamphlets about his philosophic ideas. He tried to base his world view on natural sciences. The first edition of his famous, and widely spread book Kraft und Stoff (Energy and Matter) (Büchner, 1904) was published in 1855, four years before Darwin's Origins. As early as in 1855, Büchner postulated the evolution of the species following the teachings of Lamark. The book Kraft und Stoff appeared in 21 editions and was translated into 15 languages. German and English edition were reprinted several times in North America, where he gave many lectures during his visit in the winter 1872-1873. In this book, Büchner severely criticizes the prevalent Christian belief as myths and childish ideas /4/ undermining the moral of the society, and presents his world view, apparently only based on the facts and discoveries of "modern" sciences, as the reasonable alternative. Büchner considered the Golden Rule as the foundation for human moral behavior. For him, solidarity is the essence of human ethics. Of course, such a view provoked the resistance of German conservative circles including the churches. As a consequence, Büchner had to give up his position at the Tübingen university.

When Haeckel published his Welträtsel (World's Mysteries) (Haeckel, 1984) in 1899, he was a famous scientist and professor in ordinary in zoology at the Jena university. He was one of the first supporters of Darwin's evolution theory. A major purpose to write this book was to overcome the "artificial and pernicious contrast between natural sciences and philosophy, between the results of experience and thinking." (Haeckel, 1984, p. 6) Haeckel insisted that empirical studies (natural sciences) must be guided by reason (philosophy): "An overemphasis of empiricism is a similarly dangerous error as the opposite one of speculation. Both paths of understanding are mutually indispensable." (Haeckel, 1984, p. 30) This book further polarized the heated public debate about evolution, particularly because he not only promoted Darwinism, but also claimed the principle incompatibility between Christian dogma and evolution. /5/ Haeckel tried to build his monistic religion on the classical ideals of truth, beauty and goodness: "Within the pure cult of the `true, good and beautiful', which is at the center of our monistic religion, we find suffcient reparation for the lost anthropomorphic ideals of `God, freedom and immortality'." (Haeckel, 1984, p. 480) He claims that the monistic religion is based of experience and rational arguments: "This monistic religion and ethics differs from all others that it is exclusively based on pure reason, that its world view grounds in the sciences, experience and reasonable faith." (Haeckel, 1984, p. 507)

1.3) Recent evolution discussions in the Bahá'í community

There are an increasing number of books and articles dealing specifically with the question of evolution in the Bahá'í writings. Anjam Khursheed (Khursheed, 1987) and B. Hoff Conow (Conow, 1990) propose a biologically distinct evolution of the human species parallel to the animal kingdom. Julio Savi (Savi, 1989) seems to leave this question open, whereas Craig Loehle (Loehle, 1990; Loehle, 1994) claims the principle compatibility of the Bahá'í writings with the today's commonly used scientific model of the evolution of life on earth: "In conclusion, in the context of the Bahá'í teachings it is possible to take both a religious view of evolution without altering science and an evolutionary view of religion without losing faith." These statements were criticized by Arash Abizadeh (Abizadeh, 1990). It followed a lively discussion about this article in the following issues of the Journal of Bahá'í Studies (Ayman, 1992; Brown, 1994; Hatcher, 1992; Loehle, 1992). Keven Brown (Brown, 1994) proposes that the writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá refer to the archetype of human species. More recently Hatcher (Hatcher and Hatcher, 1996; Hatcher, 1993) presented A Scientific Proof of the Existence of God where he carries out a short proof of the existence of God by `Abdu'l-Bahá using particularly facts of biological evolution in the argument.

The repeated statements of `Abdu'l-Bahá that "... from the beginning of man's existence he is a distinct species ...", that the human species does not descend from the animal, and similar ones, have lead several Bahá'í s to the conclusion that humanity as a biological species developed in parallel to the animal kingdom. This concept is designated in this essay as the parallel evolution model. Anjam Khursheed (Khursheed, 1987), B. Hoff Conow (Conow, 1990) and others apparently assume that there was a separate biological line for the human race running in parallel to the vegetable and animal lines. The line consisting of pre-human creatures are considered to be distinct from the animal world, but shaped like animal species. Anjam Khursheed (p. 91) writes : "At one stage it may have resembled a fish, at another an ape, but all the way through its evolution it was a distinct species undergoing a process of design." Very similar statements are given by B. Hoff Conow (Conow, 1990, pp. 59-60): "Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá say simply that the human being has always occupied a distinct evolutionary tier although his form and shape evolved and changed over millions of years... So even though in his first stage man was aquatic, and in a later stage may have appeared ape-like..." The present essay proposes an alternative interpretation of those passages, grounded on the understanding that `Abdu'l-Bahá explicitly refers to the discussion of the reality of the biological species in Europe. Those statements present convincing arguments in favor of the concept of the originality of the human species particularly rebutting the ideas of self-creation of complex biological order hold by some "European philosophers", or the mechanistic view that evolution is the necessary result of the mechanical laws of nature.

1.4) The organization of this essay

This essay contains five chapters. After this introduction, chapter 2 describes the development of the species and theories of evolution in occidental sciences. The classical term "species" distinguishes substantially from its modern use, particularly with respect to its philosophical background. Classical and modern concepts of the origin of complex biological order are presented in chapter 3. In chapter 4, `Abdu'l-Bahá's arguments in favor of the originality of the human species are presented. Finally, in chapter 5 various modern concepts of the origin of order in our universe are discussed and related to respective concepts from the Bahá'í writings. A possible relation between a created universe and modern sciences is discussed. The essay closes with the moral of the evolution story.


    /1/ Keven Brown: `Abdu'l-Bahá's Response to Darwinism: Its Historical and Philosophical Context, to be published. Originally, it was planned to discuss the views of the "philosophers of the East" and the "European philosophers" in a single essay. Because the material found to be relevant for discussing `Abdu'l-Bahá's originality of the human species was steadily increasing, it was decided to present two separate essays. The development of the species concepts beginning with Aristotle and Plato, through the medieval ideas to the islamic philosophers until the middle of the 19th century are presented and discussed by Keven Brown.

    /2/ The origin of the talks in Palestine is described in the foreword of the book Some Answered Questions: "The talks between `Abdu'l-Bahá and Laura Clifford Barney took place during the difficult years, 1904-1906, when He was confined to the city of Akká by the Turkish government and permitted to receive only few visitors. At the time He was under constant threat of removal to a distant desert confinement. As interlocutor, Miss Barney arranged for one of `Abdu'l-Bahá's sons-in-law, or for one of the three distinguished Persians of His secretariat of that period, to be present during the talks to insure accuracy in recording His replies to the questions asked Him. `Abdu'l-Bahá later read the transcriptions, sometimes changing a word or a line with His reed pen. They were later translated into English by Miss Barney. The original Persian texts are today a part of the Bahá'í archives of Haifa." (SAQ, from the publisher's foreword to 1964 edition). These talks were published by Miss Barney under the title Some Answered Questions (cited as SAQ). Therefore, the Persian original of SAQ belongs to the body of authentic Bahá'í scriptures. The English translation is being revised in the moment. In this essay quotes from SAQ were taken from the revised not yet authorized version, courteously provided by Keven Brown.

    /3/ During the visit in the United States in 1912 `Abdu'l-Bahá gave public talks at many occasions. Many talks were recorded in Persian and in English: "This treasury of His words is a compilation of informal talks and extemporary discourses delivered in Persian and Arabic, interpreted by proficient linguists who accompanied Him, and taken stenographically in both Oriental and Occidental tongue." (PUP, from the introduction to 1922 Edition) The English text of the Promulgation of Universal Peace (cited as PUP) is based on the English notes which in many places deviates considerably from the Persian, proofread manuscripts. In a letter to an individual, Shoghi Effendi explicitly mentioned the inaccuracy of the translations in Promulgation of Universal Peace: "Regarding your questions: The translations in Promulgation of Universal Peace are too inaccurate, in some places, to use them as an absolute basis for discussing some point, and he has not time at present to go over them, so the best thing is to put down any discrepancies as being due to this." (19 March 1946 to an individual, cited from a Memorandum of the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, dated 19 March 1995). In an other letter Shoghi Effendi emphasizes that only the Persian original may be considered as authentic: "Regarding the report of Promulgation of Universal Peace Ultimately the Persian originals must be the basis for authentic statements made by the Master, but this will require time, scholars and research work not available at the present time." (5 July 1950 to a National Spiritual Assembly) Consequently, important quotes from PUP were retranslated by Keven Brown.

    /4/ Büchner or Haeckel considered their ideas to be based on the facts of empirical sciences. Today, several of those ideas are themselves obsolete, according to the known facts of sciences.

    /5/ According to Haeckel, revelation consists either in "fiction, in deception or imposture." (Haeckel, 1984, p. 29) He caricatured the Christian view of God as being extremley antropomorphic: "This antropomorphism results in the paradox view of God as a gaseous vertebrate." (Haeckel, 1984, p. 366)

Chapter 2

Evolution of the Term Species in Occidental Biology

In chapters 46 and 49 of SAQ and pages 355-361 of PUP `Abdu'l-Bahá rejects the theory of the modification of the human species during the evolution of life on this planet developed by "European philosophers". /1/ To understand the arguments of `Abdu'l-Bahá in favor of the originality of the humans species some knowledge of the development of the theories of evolution, of concepts about the origin of complex biological order during the development of this planet, and of the meanings of the term species in Europe before and after Darwin is required. A comprehensive presentation of the Growth of Biological thought towards modern biology is given in Mayr's book (Mayr, 1982) about the history of modern biology.

Between the beginning of the 19th century until the middle of the 20th century the classical concept of the biological species, assuming that the particular members of a population derive their outer form, i.e., their phenotype, from timeless species essences, was replaced by a modern definition, where the biological species are defined by the population of particular individuals, i.e., a gene pool common to a group of interbreeding beings. A careful inspection of the evolution of the definition of the term species in biology indicates that the arguments of `Abdu'l-Bahá in in Haifa around 1905 and in the States around 1912 specifically address the European discussion which was known in the Orient by translations of popular books of Büchner, Haeckel or Spencer, and were discussed in few arabic journals (see Keven Brown's article).

In this section the development of the term species beginning with Plato and Aristotle is presented. Specifically, the evolution of this term in the occident is addressed, whereas the diverse concepts current with oriental philosophers are covered in the accompanying essay by Keven Brown (see Keven Brown's article). First the species concept of classical biology is considered, followed by the respective views in modern biology.

2.1) Classical concept of the species

The discussion about a correct understanding of the existence of stable and clearly distinct biological populations was initiated by Plato and Aristotle. These populations are stable, e.g., horses remain horses over many generations. And they are distinct, a cat can produce fertile offsprings only with other cats, but not with dogs. This stability and distinction suggests to consider cats and dogs as clearly distinct entities.

Plato was interested in the order on which our cosmos is built, in unchanging realities. He was looking for the reality behind all the particular events. He believed in the existence of ideas, of essences representing the true timeless reality behind our everyday experiences. For Plato the prototypes of essences were geometric objects such as triangles, squares, tetrahedra or cubes (i.e., the Platonic ideal bodies). These objects are clearly distinct and there exists no "smooth" way to transform a triangle into a square, or a tetrahedra into a cube. Because animals and plants form distinct classes, such as roses, cats etc., Plato assumed the existence of timeless essences for each of those classes, the species. These essences were believed to assure the stability of the species, i.e., that cats can give birth only to cats and not to cows or birds. Such species essences are assumed by Plato to represent the timeless reality of the biological populations independent of the existence of particular members.

In contrast to Plato, Aristotle was particularly interested in biology and invented many biological disciplines. Much of his work is still valid today. He did not believe in the existence of essences, but assumed that the existence of particular beings of a biological population is sufficient to maintain the existence and the stability of its kind. Because Aristotle had a static picture of the world and consequently assumed the eternal existence of the different species, he rejected any idea of biological evolution.

Plato's concept of essences and Aristotle views particularly of biology built the early foundation of occidental science and philosophy. Today the development of Western sciences is often presented as an emancipation from those concepts. In the 18th and 19th century the belief in essences was firmly established in nearly every branch of the sciences. Even today, physics is basically essentialistic, whereas in modern biology essentialism is discarded because species essences are assumed to contradict the facts of evolution (Dennett, 1995; Mayr, 1982).

2.1.1) Essentialism in physics and chemistry

The statement of Newton about the relation between God and Nature gives a good account of the general belief of his time about the origin of complex order in the biosphere:
We know Him only by His most wise and excellent contrivances of things, and final causes; we admire Him for His perfections; but we reverence and adore Him on account of His dominion; for we adore Him as His servants; and a God without dominion, providence, and final causes, is nothing else but Fate and Nature. Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and everywhere, could produce no variety of things. All the diversity of natural things which we find, suited to different times and places, could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being necessary existing. (Mayr, 1982, p. 141)
Nature was understood to be a realization of God's ideas, an expression of His eternal plan. According to Newton accidental and necessary forces cannot produce the diverse complex order found in biology, but can repeat only the same things again and again. The diversity found in Nature, therefore, was assumed to require a Creator. This type of argument remained nearly unchallenged until the establishment of Darwinian evolution. /2/

In physics and chemistry the concept of timeless essences is generally accepted until today with only few exceptions. They are, however, designated "natural laws" and their explicit form changed considerable throughout time. At the beginning the essences in physics were concrete, until today they became rather abstract. After the discovery of the chemical elements, these elements were considered to be the expression of time invariant essences. Chemical elements cannot be transmutated by chemical means. Within chemical reactions they would modify their properties, but one can always get them back afterwards completely unchanged. The smallest units of these elements are the atoms. Later Rutherford discovered that the atoms themselves were composed of a nucleus and an electron shell. Nuclear physics revealed that the nucleus is composed of subatomic particles. For some time those subatomic particles were considered to be elemental, designated elemental particles, i.e., direct representations of timeless essences. But the growing zoo of "elemental particles" and the possible transmutation of one type of particle into other ones questioned their elementary status. At present quarks (Gell-Mann, 1994) are generally considered to be the elemental subunits in the physical world, representing timeless units, essences, on which all the higher levels of existence depend.

In physics one often searches for conserved entities. In his famous treatise Über die Erhaltung der Kraft published in 1847 Hermann Helmholtz (1821-1894) formulated the law of the conservation of energy. This discovery parallels the findings of Lavoisier of the conservation of mass and elements. Energy may change its form, but it is not created nor eliminated in any physical process. Consequently, the search for timeless properties became essential in physics and dominates most of its branches. This is best documented in the fundamental assumption that physics should be the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. /3/ In other words, the general laws of physics have to be time invariant.

In the 19th century, physics and physical chemistry concentrated mainly on equilibrium and close to equilibrium systems. Such systems often are sufficiently simple to study their basic properties and to derive the necessary theoretical instruments for their proper quantitative description. Because living systems generally exist only far form equilibrium, 19th century concepts of physics and chemistry are with few exceptions rather inappropriate for the description of biological phenomena (Prigogine, 1979; Prigogine and Stengers, 1981). Therefore, the repeated attempts for the physicalization of biology, as for instance postulated by Helmholtz, generally failed and provoked counter reaction resulting in the development of vitalistic theories.

Only in the 20th century physics and chemistry became sufficiently mature that one can begin to study systems far from equilibrium (Land, 1991; Prigogine, 1979; Prigogine and Stengers, 1981). Today, the investigation of non-equilibrium systems, e.g., complex dynamic systems such as the weather, is at the fore front of modern sciences (Gell-Mann, 1994; Kauffman, 1995).

2.1.2) Essentialism in classical biology

Due to the introduction of biological evolution by Darwin the philosophy of biology changed drastically. In this sense one can speak about a pre- and post-Darwinian biology, here referred to as classical and modern biology.

The term species in classical biology was dominated by two concepts originating from Plato (Mayr, 1982): the phenotypes of the members of a population were assumed to be determined by their species essence; and the existence of a species requires a creative force, a demiurg. In Christianity and Islam (see Keven Brown's article) the origin of the creative force was equated with God, the Creator. These concepts were so firmly rooted in the scientific community that still in the middle of the 19th the biologist Louis Agassiz stated as a widely accepted view that "it is the task of the philosopher to reveal the blueprint of the creator." (Mayr, 1982, p. 305) The same author emphasized in his Essay on classification published in 1857:

All organized beings exhibit in themselves all those categories of structure and of existence upon which a natural system may be founded, in such a manner that, in tracing it, the human mind is only translating into the human language the Divine thoughts expressed in nature in living realities. (Mayr, 1982, p. 865)
According to Agassiz, discovering the order in nature is equivalent to translate the ideas of our Creator about nature into the human language. This credo was not a singular opinion of a somewhat obscure scientist; it represented the belief of a considerable number of his colleges.

Even in scientific circles it was widely assumed that the various species were directly created by God's command. The famous Swedish naturalist Carl Linné, who proposed in 1735 in his Systema Naturae a first attempt to systematize the manifold forms of life, stated: "Species tot sunt diversae, quot diversaes formas ab initio creavit infinitum ens." /4/ Also the influential french biologist Georges Cuvier, who for instance invented palaeontology as a branch of biology, assumed a creationistic concept of the biological species. According to him, all particular members of a single species root from the first couple of their species created originally by God:

We imagine that a species is the total descendence of the first couple created by God, almost as all men are represented as the children of Adam and Eve. What means have we, at this time, to rediscover the path of this genealogy? It is assuredly not in structural resemblance. There remains in reality only reproduction and I maintain that this is the sole certain and even infallible character for the recognition of the species." (Mayr, 1982, p. 257)
In particular cases, Cuvier considers it to be impossible to trace the genealogy of a member of a population back to its original couple. However, because only members of the same species can interbreed the ability to produce fertile offsprings is in itself a sufficient proof that both parents belong to the same species. What Cuvier thinks to be the consequence of Gods Creation is used today to define a biological species, i.e., the ability of its members to interbreed (see below).

The species is not only defined as a population of offsprings from an original couple. But, in agreement with Plato's concept of ideas, each species is defined by a "prototype", an archetype, by it's species essence. In his Histoire naturelle Georges Louis Buffon explained:

There exists in nature a general prototype in each species upon which all individuals are moulded. The individuals, however, are altered or improved, depending on the circumstances, in the process of realization. Relative to certain characteristics, then, there is an irregular appearance in the succession of individuals, yet at the same time there is a striking constancy in the species considered as a whole. The first animal, the first horse for example, was the exterior model and the internal mould from which all past, present, and future horses have been formed. (Mayr, 1982, p. 261)

The species essence was considered to be the unchanging concept in the mind of God about the ideal form of the members of a biological population. /5/ Because the particular members of a population were thought to be the direct representations of their species essences, also the phenotypes were assumed not to change within time. Michel Adanson stated 1769 "that the transmutation of species [e.g., biological populations] does not happen among plants, no more than among animals, and there is not even direct proof of it among minerals, following the accepted principle that constancy is essential in the determination of a species." (Mayr, 1982, p. 260, the text in square brackets is added by the author) The invariability of species according to classical biology is clearly stated by Mayr (Mayr, 1982, p. 404): "Each species had its own species-specific essence and thus it was impossible that it could change or evolve." In classical biology the biological population was assumed to directly reflect their species essence. These populations, therefore, were assumed not to change and to remain a direct constant realization of their species essence.

Why did classical biology reject the existence of evolution? What was the origin of this static world view? Classical biology bases heavily on the concepts of Plato and Aristotle. Although Aristotle had a rather modern concept of the species as a population he insisted in a purely static world view:

... Not so with Aristotle. He held too many other concepts irreconcilable with evolution. Movement in the organic world, from conception to birth to death, does not lead to permanent change, only a steady-state continuity. Constancy and perpetuity are thus reconcible with movement and with the evanescence of individuals and individual phenomena.

As a naturalist, he found everywhere well-defined species, fixed and unchanging, and in spite of all his stress on continuity in nature, this fixity of species and their forms (eide) had to be eternal... There is order in nature, and everything in nature has its purpose. He stated clearly (Gen. An. 2.1.731b35) that man and the genera of animals and plants are eternal; they can neither vanish nor have they been created. The idea that the universe could have evolved from an original chaos, or the higher organisms could have evolved from lower ones, was totally alien to Aristotle's thought. To repeat, Aristotle was opposed to evolution of any kind. (Mayr, 1982, pp. 305-306)

This static view of the universe agreed with Plato's idea that our universe is harmonious and perfect from the very beginning (Mayr, 1982, pp. 305). The combination of Plato's timeless essences, his concept of a perfect, harmonious universe, Aristotle's static world view and the biblical cosmology taken literally led to a concept of species essences which was applicable only to a static world. In a perfectly harmonious world there can exist per definitionem no process which increases this perfection. Any change could only decrease the degree of perfect harmony.

Within such a concept, the appearance of a new biological form could only result from the creation of a new species essence. According to Mayr all theories of biological change before Lamark (see below) were more or less variants of this idea. Because the invention of the new species in this concept is not gradual, such theories are designated saltational evolution:

Saltational evolution is a necessary consequence of essentialism: if one believes in evolution and in constant types, only the sudden production of a new type can lead to evolutionary change. That such saltations can occur and indeed that their occurrence is a necessity are old beliefs. Almost all theories of evolution described by Osborn in his history of evolution, From the Greeks to Darwin (194), were saltational theories, that is, theories of the sudden origin of new kinds. (Mayr, 1991, p. 42)
To summarize, classical biology was rooted in the concept of creation and the assumption of a static world:
It had two major theses. The first was the belief that the universe in every detail was designed by an intelligent creator. This together with the other one, the concept of a static, unchanging world of short duration, were so firmly entrenched in the western mind by the end of the Middle Ages that it seemed quite inconceivable that they could ever be dislodged. (Mayr, 1982, p. 310)
According to Mayr, the erosion of these principles was required before a "real" theory of evolution could be developed.

2.1.3) The mechanization of biology

With the publication of the Principia Mathematica in 1687 Newton "unified" terrestrial with celestial mechanics. Newton's theory explains the falling of apples on earth as well as the path of the planet venus around the sun. That apples falling to the ground should suffer the same kind of forces than the venus circling around the sun was by no means self-evident at that time. This achievement and many others made mechanics a sciences par excellence. Until the beginning of the 20th century the quality of a science was often equated with the degree this science was based on mechanics.

In the renaissance the mechanization of Nature had by no means atheistic tendencies, as shown in the quote of Newton given above. Two opposing views about Nature were established. In the mechanistic world view the universe was considered to be created by God. It runs on the basis of a few natural laws, /6/ e.g., Newton's laws, with only minor inventions by the Creator. The living creatures were considered to be nothing but mechanisms.

The mechanistic view that the world is based on a few secondary causes was at variance with the abundance of life. A reaction on such mechanization tendencies was natural theology which considered nature to be the result of a direct, detailed providence and care from the Creator:

Everything in the living world seemed to be so unpredictable, so special, and so unique that the observing naturalist found it necessary to invoke the creator, his thought, and his activity in every detail of the life of every individual of every kind of organism... John Ray's The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation (1691) is not only a powerful argument from design but also a very sound natural history... Natural theology was a necessary development because design was really the only possible explanation for adaption in a static "created" world. Any new finding in this early age of natural history was grist on the mill of natural theology. The supposedly idyllic life of the inhabitants of the tropics, in particular, was seen as evidence for the providential design by the creator. (Mayr, 982, p. 104f)
In Britain natural theology was rather influential until the middle of the 19th century. No contradictions were found between biology and theology. Biology was considered to prove the Glory of its Creator. At that time most of the British biological scientists were theologians. In France and in Germany natural theology lost its importance much earlier, around 1780. In Germany in the 18th and 19th century various romantic movements determined the schools of thought. Those movements were in part reaction on mechanistic concepts. The names of Herder and Goethe are related with these schools, culminating in the Naturphilosphie as developed by Schelling, Oken and Carus.

The 19th century experienced an explosive development of the natural sciences. Mechanics as formulated by Newton and developed by Euler, Hamilton, Lagrange, Laplace and Poincaré (to name only a few) was considered as the natural science par excellence. Important discoveries of "modern" sciences were the conservation of matter in 1789 by Lavoisier (1743-1794) and the conservation of energy in 1842 by Robert Mayer (1814-1878) and 1847 by Helmholtz. The high esteem for the physical sciences and the influence of vitalistic schools gave rise to a strongly reductionistic physicalism in physiology in the middle of the 19th century in Germany. A considerable number of prominent scientists expected any good science to explain its phenomena by mechanistic causes, at least on the long run. One of the most prominent advocates of the physicalization of physiology was the German physician and physicist Helmholtz. /7/ During the opening lecture at the meeting of German naturalists and physicians in Insbruck 1869 he outlined his scientific program: "The ultimate objective of the natural sciences is to reduce all processes in nature to the movements that underlie them and to find their driving forces, that is, to reduce them to mechanics." (Basfeld, 1992; Mayr, 1982, p. 115). According to Büchner, the sciences more or less prove "...that the macroscopic as well as microscopic existences in all aspects of its growth, life and decay follow only mechanic laws, grounded in the things themselves." (Büchner, 1904)

The existence of independent higher qualities like free will was denied. Haeckel (Haeckel, 1984, p. 27) describes free will as a dogma consisting in delusion: "Free will is not an object of scientific investigation, because as a mere dogma it is based on illusion and does not exist in reality." The complexity of our universe including all levels of life was considered to emerge from the laws of physics and chemistry. Matter was thought to obey the laws of classical mechanics. /8/ Such ideas were popularized by Ludwig Büchner, Ernst Haeckel, Johannes Müller, Jacob Moleschott, /9/ Wilhelm Ostwald and Karl Vogt. These ideas became known as positivism (and should not be mistaken with neopositivism from the Vienna School (Kraft, 1968)). To develop and distribute a scientific view of life, Büchner cofounded in 1881 the Deutschen Freidenkerbund and until his death he was the head of this society. Haeckel promoted in 1906 in Jena the Monistenbund. Those movements did not have precise philosophies, many lines of thought were subsumed under the name of positivism. Their central goal was to develop a scientific view of life.

2.1.4) Orthogenetic evolution

Most early concepts of biological evolution were based on essentialism and mostly assumed a plan, a purpose of evolution "implemented" by the Creator. Such goal directed evolution concepts are sometimes designated orthogenetic evolution. Many of the early philosophical approaches to evolution such as proposed by the German Naturphilosophen were essentialistic and goal directed, they had, however, nearly nothing to do with biology. According to Mayr "Teleological thinking was extremely widespread in the first half of the nineteenth century. For Agassiz and other progressionists the sequence of fossil faunas simply reflected the maturation of the plan of creation in the mind of the creator." (Mayr, 1982, p. 528)

The first scientifically consistent theory of biological evolution was proposed by Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamark (1744-1829). From his studies of huge amount of living and extinct moluscs he drew the conclusion that biological systems are endowed with the ability to accumulate complexity. In his Philosophie Zoologique published in 1809, i.e., 50 years before Darwin's Origin, he stated: "Nature, in successively producing all species of animals, beginning with the most imperfect of the simplest, and ending her work with the most perfect, has caused their organization to become more complex" (Mayr, 1982 p. 353). For Lamark a central force for the evolution of life was the principle that animals are in perfect harmony with their environment. /10/ This principle goes back to Plato. Such harmony can be discovered nearly everywhere in Nature and was always emphasized by natural theologians. Because the findings in geology document drastic changes within the environment during geological history the animals must have evolved, i.e., adapted to the new situation, simply to maintain the harmony. This concept has parallels in the principle of evolution proposed by Gell-Mann (Gell-Mann, 1994) that adaption means to reduce the information differences between biological populations and their environment.

Especially in the first half of the 19th century the belief in orthogenetic evolution, i.e., Nature following the plan and goals given by our Creator, was widely spread. The belief in a force directing evolution towards increasing complexity was often the result of a teleological world view, the direct sign of Gods purposeful plan. For instance the embryologist von Baer stated in a review of Darwin's Origins: "My goal is to defend teleology... Natural forces must be coordinated or directed. Forces which are not directed--so-called blind forces--can never produce order... If the higher forms of animal life stand in causal relationship to the lower, developing out of them, than how can we deny that nature has purposes or goals?" (Mayr, 1982, p. 529). Von Baer argues very similar as Parley did in his watchmaker example. Accidental influences cannot produce order. For him the existence of orthogenetic forces creating increasing complexity was required by the fact of evolution and for him constituted a direct proof for the existence of purpose in nature.

Orthogenetic theories were defended until the middle of this century. In 1926 L. Berg wrote: "Evolution of organisms is the result of certain processes inherent in them, which are based upon law. Purposive structure and action are thus a fundamental property of living being." (Mayr, 1982, p. 530) A recent prominent advocate of orthogenetic evolution was Teilhard de Chardin with his omega principle (de Chardin, 1947). He considers evolution as the result of a goal directed plan which will eventually lead to the unification of mankind. Recently, Hatcher (Hatcher and Hatcher, 1996) and Ward (Ward, 1996) discussed concepts of orthogenetic forces (see below).

Since early human history our world was often understood to follow a final goal given by its creator. Such kind of directedness, however, is mostly rejected in modern philosophies related directly to natural sciences:

From the Greeks on, there was a widespread belief that everything in nature and its processes has a purpose, a predetermined goal. And this processes would lead the world to evergreater perfection. Such a teleological worldview was held by many of the great philosophers. Modern science, however, has been unable to substantiate the existence of such a cosmic teleology. Nor have any mechanisms or laws been found that would permit the functioning of such a teleology. The conclusion of science has been that final causes of this type do not exist. (Mayr, 1991, p. 67)
Even today, in presentations of biological evolution to the general public evolution is often depicted as a directed process. Invertebrates are followed by fishes, amphibian, reptiles, mammals, and finally homo sapiens. The existence of evolution directed from the simple towards the complex as a general principle would be a good argument in favor of orthogenetic theories. According to Gould and others (Mayr, 1982), however, no directionality can be found in evolution, if studied in detail:
Our impression that life evolves toward greater complexity is probably only a bias inspired by parochial focus on ourselves, and consequent overattention to complexifying creatures, while we ignore just as many lineages adapting equally well by becoming simpler in form. The morphologically degenerate parasite, safe within its host, has just as much prospect for evolutionary success as its gorgeously elaborate relative coping with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in a tough external world. (Gould, 1994)
Today orthogenetic theories are no longer accepted by most biologists because a clear overall tendency or direction cannot be detected in the development of or universe or the evolution of the various species.

2.2) "Species" in modern biology

Today, Darwinism is considered to be the central theory in biology. All concepts developed in modern biology have to be compatible with evolution as clearly stated in 1973 by Theodosius Dobzhansky in The American Biology Teacher: "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." (Dobzhansky, et al., 1977) The philosophical implications of Darwinism, of course, strongly influence the definitions in the biological nomenclature. This is particularly true for the term "species". But before modern species concepts are considered some background in neo-Darwinism is given.

2.2.1) Neo-Darwinian theory of biological evolution

The commonly proposed scientific model for the biological evolution of life on earth starts with the pre-biotic soup (Orgel, 1994). The soup is believed to have provided our planet with preliminary forms of life. The exact details of this process are largely unknown. The historical details may resist any attempt to become uncovered (Eigen, 1992; Orgel, 1994). The oldest fossils are between two and four billion years old, originating from single celled organisms (Alberts, et al., 1989; Barghoorn, 1971; Schopf, 1993). Multicellular organisms appeared at the beginning of Cambrium about 600 million years ago (Gould, 1994).

According to neo-Darwinian theory, which here is summarized for single celled organisms, the target of evolution is the genome, the genotype (Dawkins, 1989). It consist of a "program" how to run the cell, how to find food, how to react in difficult situations, how to interpret the program, to make it short, the genome is translated into a living cell, the phenotype. The genome consists of long polymer chains of RNA, for few primitive organisms, or DNA for all higher organisms using four different monomers, the elementary building blocks. The four elementary units, the nucleosides, are designated by the characters A, C, G and T (U for RNA). These four characters stand for the bases adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine (uracil for RNA). The whole genome is made up of these four letters and the precise sequence of these letters defines the genomic message and its translation product the phenotype, the particular living organism. The total chain length for bacteria is typically 5 million and for humans 3 billion nucleotides (Alberts, et al., 1989). DNA and RNA are the genetic material common to all known living system on earth (Orgel, 1994). Even the rules of translation are the exactly the same in all living cells with only rare exceptions.

For single celled organisms reproduction means cell division, a mother cell divides into two daughter cells. To provide both daughter cells with the necessary genetic information, the DNA must be copied. Although the fidelity in gene-reproduction is very high, /11/ occasionally errors occur, e.g., a single letter is replaces by one of the three others. Such a type of mutation is designated point mutation. But also deletions or insertions of parts of sequences are possible. After cell division there is a certain probability that the genes of the two daughter cells are different. Because the positions and directions of the mutations are unpredictable, they are considered to be random.

Many alterations in the genomic sequence will be lethal or will reduce the ability of the cell to face the needs of life. In rare cases, however, a mutation will improve the cell's capability to survive and to reproduce in its given or in a neighboring environment. Cells with the highest reproduction rates have a good chance to spread their genes also in future. This rule is often designated as natural selection or the survival of the fittest. Evolution in terms of neo-Darwinism can be considered as the "diffusion" of the DNA sequences through the space of possible sequences using a four letter code accumulating increasingly potent genes. In principle, very similar rules apply for multicellular, sexual reproduction (Dawkins, 1989; Sober, 1993).

In practice it is not possible to follow the evolution of higher forms of life like the human species (Gould, 1994). There are in vitro experiments, where important aspects of evolution can be studied (Biebricher, et al., 1993; Biebricher and Luce, 1993; Spiegelman, 1967). Also some viruses, like the influenza and the aids virus, utilize high mutation rates to outwit the human immune system (Dopazo, et al., 1993; Eigen, 1993). These examples indicate certain areas where biological evolution can be studied "at work" in nature.

2.2.2) "Natural Selection" as a two step process

Mayr and others describe natural selection as a two step process. During the first step mutations and recombination /12/ produce a wide range of variations. Random changes are of course a good way to achieve this goal. The second step consists in the selection for the most potent organisms which are best adapted for their particular environment. Mayr explains this view by contrasting it to his perception of the essentialistic view:
Selection, for an essentialist, is a purely negative factor, a force which eliminates deleterious deviations from the norm. Darwin's opponents, therefore, insisted in the spirit of essentialism that selection could not create anything new. By saying this, they revealed that they has neither understood the two-step process of selection nor its populational nature. The first step is the production of an unlimited amount of new variation, that is, of new genotypes and phenotypes, particularly through genetic recombination rather than by mutation. The second step is the test to which the products of the first step are subjected by natural selection. Only those individuals that can pass this scrutiny became contributors to the gene pool of the next generation. (Mayr, 1982, p. 591)
Mayr decomposes the process of evolution into two steps: (1) creating random variations in the genotypes and (2) selecting the phenotypes according to their ability to cope with the odds of their environment. But the question still remains how random changes in the genotype can lead to such "well designed" adaptions found in nature.

The chance to obtain the DNA sequence of an efficient enzyme within a few large mutation steps from scratch is by far too small that such an event can practically be excluded by simple probabilistic estimates. Only if it is possible to split up the few large evolutionary steps into many small gradual steps evolution becomes plausible. Dawkins designates this concept as cumulative selection (Dawkins, 1986):

We have seen that living things are too improbable and too beautifully `designed' to have come into existence by chance. How, then, did they come into existence? The answer, Darwin's answer, is by gradual, step-by-step transformations from simple beginnings, from primordial entities sufficiently simple to have come into existence by chance. Each successive change in the gradual evolutionary process was simple enough, relative to its predecessor, to have arisen by chance. But the whole sequence of cumulative steps constitutes anything but a chance process, when you consider complexity of the final end-product relative to the original starting point. The cumulative process is directed by nonrandom survival. The purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate the power of this cumulative selection as a fundamentally nonrandom process.
Dawkins particularly emphasizes the cumulative character of evolution. Small random favorable mutation steps are conserved in the surviving DNA chains. Each little improvement becomes subject to further gradual success. /13/ Only if evolution can be decomposed into a sufficient number of small gradual progresses neo-Darwinism becomes reasonable. /14/

2.2.3) Relationships between species

In classical biology the similarity between species was understood to result from a unique "construction" plan of God resulting in the appearance of similar kinds of design several times in nature. The scala naturae was considered to represent a continuous spectrum of increasingly complex species. Although there was this scale of species, each species was seen to be distinct from all others from the very beginning, e.g., from the time point of creation. Breeding was known to be possible only within species but not across species boundaries. Because in classical biology the species was defined by its timeless essence, the resulting populations were likewise thought to be unchanging in time. In the Darwinistic view the situation is radically different. Here species don't depend on timeless essences, they are uniquely defined by their respective population, and due to evolution populations change over time. If we go back in time two closely related species which are clearly distinct today at some time merge in their common predecessor. The scale of originally distinct species was replaced by a phylogenetic tree. At branch points species split up into two separate populations to become distinct in future.

We are not in the position to directly follow the tree of evolution down to its roots. But how can we infer the biological degree of relationship between putative cousin species? There are several levels on which the biological "distance" between species can be estimated. The classical method is to compare the morphology. The form, size and existence of various organs can be compared. For parts of the body preserved in fossil records such comparison can be made even through history. Darwin's theory was based on such kind of data. Comparing modern and ancient species relicts Darwin arrived at a treelike relationship. Species can also compared on the level of cellular organization. /15/ The most quantitative measure of biological relationships is RNA, DNA and protein sequence analysis. Different parts of the genome of an organism have very different mutation rates. Genes coding for fundamental processes inside the cell, such as translating the DNA into protein sequences, are generally well conserved (Dawkins, 1986; Dayhoff, 1969; Eigen, 1992). Because no cell can live without those fundamental processes they must have evolved very early during evolution. They are very similar through all organisms. Such sequences are used to estimate "long distance" relationships. Parts of the genome subjected to intermediate mutation rates are used to estimate relationships of intermediate distances, e.g., among mammals. /16/ Certain parts, such as mitochondrial DNA, have very high mutation rates. Those are analyzed to understand the relationships within species, e.g., between human races. /17/

Neo-Darwinism predicts a specific kind of relationship between the species: the "relationship distances" should clearly form a tree. If the sequence distances of many sequences are compared, one can distinguish mathematically (Dopazo, et al., 1993), whether this distance network forms a tree, as required for neo-Darwinian theories, a star, i.e., all sequences originated from a very early single origin and since then developed independently in parallel, or some arbitrary network, which would indicate no evolutionary relationship at all between the sequences. The comparison of t-RNA, RNA, DNA or other protein sequences generally leads to in a tree like relationships between distantly related species (Dawkins, 1986; Dayhoff, 1969; Eigen, 1992). This treelike form of sequence distances is a strong argument in favor of neo-Darwinism. /18/

2.2.4) Population thinking as the basis for modern species definitions

A major distinction between classical and modern definitions of the biological species is the apparently complete rejection of essentialistic concepts in modern views. According to Ernst Mayr (Mayr, 1991): "Essentialism was not the only ideology Darwin had to overcome." Consequently, a new fundament of a species definition was adopted which does account for evolution:
The old species concept, based on the metaphysical concept of an essence, is so fundamentally different from the biological concept of a reproductively isolated population that a gradual changeover from one into the other was not possible. What was required was a conscious rejection of the essentialist concept... The first [difficulty to apply essentialistic concepts to life] was that no evidence could be found for the existence of an underlying essence of "form" responsible for the sharply defined discontinuities in nature. In other words, there is no way of determining the essence of a species, hence no way of using the essence as a yardstick in doubtful cases. The second difficulty was posed by conspicuous polymorphism, that is, the occurrence of strikingly different individuals in nature which nevertheless, by their breeding habits of life histories, could be shown to belong to a single reproductive community. The third difficulty was the reverse of the second one, that is the occurrence in nature of "forms" which clearly differed in their biology (behavior, ecology) and were reproductively isolated from each other yet could not be distinguished morphologically. (Mayr, 1982, p. 271, Text in square brackets added by the author)
For the classification of the different life forms no clearcut feature could be discovered which defines a species and necessarily distinguishes it from all others if not only present populations are considered but also the ancestors of the present ones. In contrast, one can clearly give a set characteristics which uniquely defines an electron. If all those characteristics are found for a certain particle one can be sure that it is an electron. These characteristics are timeless. They would have applied a billion years ago and will be the same within billion years. Such unchanging characteristics are not found in living systems. This situation becomes even more complicated by the existence of species where members show an extreme variability of their appearance, and also by others where the members of morphologically indistinguishable individuals belong to different reproductive communities, i.e., to different species!

A characteristic of important physical features is their time invariance; e.g., the law of the conservation of energy, the time invariance of fundamental laws, etc. In contrast, most important biological characteristics are the product of a long history. The physicist Max Delbrück states: "A mature physicist, acquainting himself for the first time with the problems of biology, is puzzled by the circumstance that there are no `absolute phenomena' in biology. Everything is time-bound and space-bound. The animal or plant or micro-organism he is working with is but a link in an evolutionary chain of changing forms, none of which has any permanent validity." (Mayr, 1982, p. 69) Such a dependence of populations on their own particular history is alien to a concept of a static world. Species which in classical biology were assumed to have perfectly been created by means of a first original couple have no history. They are perfect from the beginning, living in a harmonious, perfect universe. Only minor adaptions within a population are possible in such a view.

The historicity of the fauna and flora clearly distinguishes most fields of biology from physics and chemistry. The phenomena of aging of materials and the behavior of non-equilibrium dynamic systems, however, require to introduce history into physics and chemistry. Only recently those subjects obtained specific interest in physics and chemistry (Gell-Mann, 1994; Land, 1991; Prigogine, 1979; Prigogine and Stengers, 1981; Ruthen, 1993). In biology, however, the reference to the history is the rule and not the exception:

There is hardly any structure or function in an organism that can be fully understood unless it is studies against this historical background. To find causes for the existing characteristics, and particularly adaptions, of organisms is the main preoccupation of the evolutionary biologist. He is impressed by the enormous diversity as well as the pathway by which it has been achieved. He studies the forces that bring about changes in faunas and floras (as in part documented by palaeontology), and he studies the steps by which have evolved the miraculous adaptions so characteristic of every aspect of the organic world. (Mayr, 1982, p. 69-70)
This explicit dependence of life on its own history makes it difficult to apply the classical concept of essences which assumes that the form of a particular cat is defined by a timeless reality independent of details of the particular history of the ancestors of this cat.

Instead of referring to a timeless species essence the concept of species in modern biology is related to actually existing populations. A species is defined by an existing community of interbreeding individuals. Only recently it was recognized that this concept of species has much in common with the respective ideas of Aristotle (Mayr, 1982). According to Mayr the major difference between essentialistic and populistic species concepts is the emphasis on the individual:

Population thinkers stress the uniqueness of everything in the organic world. What is important for them is the individual, not the type. They emphasize that every individual in sexually reproducing species is uniquely different from all others, with much individuality even existing in uniparentally reproducing ones. There is no "typical" individual, and mean values are abstractions. Much of what in the past has been designated in biology as "classes" are populations consisting of unique individuals. (Mayr, 1982, p. 46)
Modern definitions of a species are based on a group of individuals being able to produce common fertile offsprings (Mayr, 1982, p. 263): "A species is a reproductive community of populations (reproductively isolated from others) that occupies a specific niche in nature." Of course there also exist other modern species definitions. These differences in the species definitions, however, are irrelevant of the purpose of this essay.

2.3) "Species" in classical and modern biology

In classical biology the species were thought to be defined and maintained by their species essence. This concept parallels the modern idea that, for instance, the chemical characteristics of a molecule are solely defined by quantum mechanics independently from particularly existing molecules. The species present today were assumed to be the offsprings of the first couples originated from their Creator. In this view, only an intelligent Creator could have produced such a manifold of purposefully well adapted organisms. This view remained largely valid until the middle of the 19th century. Biologists such as Cuvier (1769-1832) easily won disputes about evolution in favor of this classical understanding of biology (Mayr, 1982, p. 363ff).

Because of the findings made in biology and palaeontology the classical concept of species became more and more questionable. The biological populations inhabiting the earth were not always the same. They changed drastically during the geological history of this planet (Gould, 1994). The increasing number of facts pointing towards evolution of life made it more and more clear that the classical concept of species essence cannot explain the fact of the development of various populations of living individuals.

This situation led to a complete rejection of the classical concept of species essences. Today, species are defined as reproductively isolated populations occupying an ecological niche. The ability to interbreed and produce fertile offsprings is a necessary condition to account two members of different sex to the same species. The particular characteristics of a species are thought to be entirely defined by its gene pool and are maintained by the high fidelity of gene reproduction. According to this definition, species in modern biology have no timeless, independent existence, they are names used by human scientists to classify an interbreeding population. Thus, the Darwin's theory of evolution not only changed the theory of the appearance of the different organisms on earth, but by replacing essentialism by a nominalistic school of thought, Darwinism modified the whole philosophy of biology.


    /1/ During the 19th century there was not much interaction between philosophers and biologists. The "philosophy of sciences" concentrated nearly exclusively on physics and chemistry. Metabiology, i.e., the philosophy of biology, accompanying the development of the theory of the evolution of life was therefore formulated mainly by biologists such as Ernst Haeckel or by interested physicians such as Ludwig Büchner or Hermann Helmholtz.

    /2/ Although Hume in 1779 criticized the design argument he could provide no mechanism for the generation of the diverse order of life (Dennett, 1995; Sober, 1993). But without such a mechanism the argument remains valid; the existence of the complex order of life requires an explanation. Dawkins states (Dawkins, 1986): "But what Hume did was criticize the logic of using apparent design in nature as positive evidence for the existence of God. He did not offer any alternative explanation for apparent design, but left this question open."

    /3/ Such time invariance of the "laws of nature" is required to reconstruct the past (e.g., in cosmology) and to make predictions for the future. A physical description of changing laws requires a metalevel of time invariant laws ruling the time evolution at the metalevel to maintain the ability of the theory for retro- and prospection. This question will be discussed more detailed below.

    /4/ Translated into English: "There are as many species as originally created by the infinite being."

    /5/ Today most biologists would reject such a concept. In other fields, however, similar views are still hold today. Many scientists, for instance, would assume that the chemical characteristics of a particular molecule are entirely determined by quantum mechanics (Dirac, 1929). Whenever this molecule is formed, it shows exactly the same physical and chemical properties. This means that in chemistry one assumes a time invariant reality in form of the quantum mechanical laws which defines "chemistry" independently from actually existing molecules. Consequently, the properties of a molecule potentially exist even before it is formed in this universe for the first time. In the same sense one can understand the existence of species essences as an independent timeless reality, defining the biological characteristics of populations of organisms independent of actually existing members.

    /6/ These natural laws were considered to be secondary causes. The Creator Himself was the Primary Cause, but by means of the secondary causes He was believed to rule the world. The mechanization of the world culminated in the concept of Laplace that the world started long time ago and is now following its world trajectory as predicted by Newton's laws such as a clockwork. In this picture, the only role God may have is that of a First Mover. Laplace thought that his model would work even without such a first mover.

    /7/ Hermann Helmholtz studied medicine as well as physics and mathematics. He made important contributions to physics, chemistry and medicine. In 1847 he wrote his famous treatise about the conservation of energy. 1850 he measured the velocity of neuronal excitation along nerve fibers. He therefore showed that the neurons work by material means and do not require some special vital substance for their functioning.

    /8/ The essential difficulties of mechanics as a universal theory are discussed by von Weizsäcker (von Weizsäcker, 1986).

    /9/ At a naturalist's meeting in Göttingen 1854 the Swiss physiologist Jacob Moleschott explained that thoughts are secreted by the brain, as urine is secreted by the kidneys. This statement provoked a comment from the philosopher Hermann Lotze: "Listening to college Moleschott, one gets the impression that he is right." (Bloch, 1972, p. 289)

    /10/ Today Lamark is mostly known for his assumption that learned characteristics can be inherited. This idea does not go back to Lamark, but is was generally accepted by the scientists of his time (Mayr, 1978; Mayr, 1982). Also Darwin did not exclude inheritance of learned characteristics. He considered them, however, not as important driving forces of evolution.

    /11/ The probability for replication errors in RNA viruses is approximately a single error per gene, in the case of DNA viruses and higher organisms it is in the order of 1 error in 1000 genes (Eigen, 1993)

    /12/ After conception, the male and female chromosomes are to some extend mixed up. Few genes on the male chromosomes are exchanged by those from the female chromosomes. By this mechanism of crossing over the different genes of a population are continuously mixed up (Alberts, et al., 1989).

    /13/ The huge effect of cumulative selection can be illustrated by throughing dice to get 100 times the 6. On the one hand, if I take 100 dice and try to get 100 times 6 in a single stroke, on the average I would have to through 6100 = 7x1077 times. If I through every second the time of the universe would not be sufficient to get the requested result only once. On the other hand, if I take each dice of the 100 individually, through it until it shows a 6 and keep it than, I would have to perform about 600 strokes. In the first case it was an all or none selection. Only if all 100 dice would show the 6 in a single stroke, it would be selected. In the second case, the 6's were sampled cumulatively, one 6 was accepted after the other. Although this game is certainly not a good example to show the evolution of complex biological order, it clearly shows the huge distinction between "all and none" and cumulative selection.

    /14/ Neo-Darwinistic evolution requires the mutation rate, i.e., the number of mutations per generation, to obey certain limits. If it is too large, the genetic information defining a species will get lost within a few generations. If it is too small, only the locally fittest sequence of a given species will survive, but there will be no further progress. At the optimal mutation rate, not only the locally fittest sequence does survive, but also a large number of closely related ones. This set of sequences forms the socalled quasi species (Eigen, 1993). An other important property is that the sequence path between different but closely related species must not be too long. The probability to progress in the sequence space to increasingly complex biological forms of life must considerably above zero. The requirements of the fitness landscape to favor the progress of evolution in the sequence space are for instance studied by Kauffman. It can be shown from first principles that, if the fitness-sequence relation would be quasi-random, evolution would become impossible (Kauffman, 1995).

    /15/ There exist two types of cellular organizations: the primitive prokaryonts without a nucleus and the more complex eukaryontic cells where the DNA is packed into the cell nucleus (Alberts, et al., 1989; de Duve, 1996). The eukaryonts are assumed to have organized by means of the fusion of prokaryonts. There exist still some relicts of these ancient precursors, some organelles such as the mitochondria until today have their own DNA. All higher taxa, plants and animals, are formed by eukaryont cells. The agreement in the complex organization of all eukaryontic cells is understood to indicate that all eukaryontic taxa originate from a small group of eukaryontic cells.

    /16/ Between homo sapiens and chimpanzees about 98% of the DNA sequences are identical. This is commonly interpreted that the higher primates and homo sapiens share a common ancestor. There are biological essays available to estimate the distances between DNA or RNA sequences directly. According to such a measure of degree of relationship the closest living non-human relatives to homo sapiens are the chimpanzees (Sibley, et al., 1990).

    /17/ Mitochondria are organelles, the "organs" of the cells, which produce energy rich molecules designated ATP (adenosine triphosphat). This chemical energy stored in those molecules is degraded in many energy demanding processes inside the cells such as copying DNA or contracting muscle fibers. Those mitochondria have their own DNA. Because mitochondria lack the sophisticated proof reading machinery of its host cell the mutation rate of mitochondrial DNA is large compared to the mutation rate of the host's DNA. Recently mitochondrial DNA has been used to estimate the biological relationship between humans around the world (Wilson and Cann, 1992). According to this study modern homo sapiens originated about 200,000 years ago in Africa.

    /18/ There exist examples where we can study evolution "at work". The analysis of viral DNA, where the mutation rates are sufficiently large to make evolution visible, favors the treelike relationship (Dopazo, et al., 1993; Eigen, 1993). Because in this case the time point of the outbreak together with the virus is well documented, in this case it is clear that indeed evolution has occurred.

Chapter 3

The Origin of Order in Our Universe

One of the central questions in philosophy and religion has ever been the question of the origin of the universe in general and that of the complex order of life in particular. The nearly perfect adaptedness of living systems to their environment, their expediency and complexity cries for an explanation. Dawkins in one of his books (Dawkins, 1986) has the aim "to impress the reader with the power of the illusion of design. We shall look at a particular example and shall conclude that, when it comes to complexity and beauty of design, Paley /1/ hardly even began to state the case." For instance, the hawk's eye is able to see from a large distance a little mouse moving in the fields, bees can determine the position of the sun even in the presence of clouds to be able to relocate flowers rich of nectar, some crabs in the deep see are able to detect even single photons. One can fill series of books with examples were "nature" found solutions for survival under extreme conditions or in special situations.

It is an every day experience that all kinds of order have the tendency to disperse. Books, marbles and tools are only seldom at places we expect them to be! Keeping a certain level of order requires our attention, time and energy. This tendency of order corruption is very general, it holds for our desk as well as for nearly every aspect of life. In physics this tendency has been formulated as a fundamental law of nature: the second law of thermodynamics. Consequently, the origin, existence and maintenance of order requires an explanation, a cause. Modern representations of cosmology and evolution, however, often try to reduce the appearance of order to trivialities. Only a simple origin allows a "creation" without a creator. If, however, the order in our universe is substantially complex from the very beginning, the a priori existence of a Creator" becomes likely.

3.1) Explaining complex order

What does it mean to "explain" something and what is intended by the term "complex order". Does explaining always imply that the explained may be grounded in something else? But this would lead to an infinite chain of explanations! Are there things or events which are self evident? Complex order is particularly found in biology or in human artifacts. How can we recognize complex order and distinguish it from trivial order?

Three possible sources of the origin of order are generally considered: accidents, order as a necessary constituent, and order as the result of a willful design. Keith Ward describes these three kinds of explanations: "There are three main possible answers to these questions. One is that there is simply no explanation. The universe just came into existence by chance, for no reason, and that is that. Another is that it all happened by necessity. There was no alternative. A third is that the universe is created by God for a particular purpose." (Ward, 1996) In modern biology a combination of chance and necessity (Mayr, 1982; Monod, 1970) is proposed as some kind of forth alternative. A purely accidental origin of order in nature is generally rejected. There were several schools of thought proposing that the order in nature results as a necessary outcome of the laws of nature: for the mechanists order was the necessary outcome of the laws of motion; the adherents of orthogenetic evolution consider evolution as the result of a final goal inherent in nature. For the natural theologians nature was the obvious result of the Creator's willful design. In modern biology natural selection combining chance and necessity (Monod, 1970) is considered to be the source of biological order, Dennett (Dennett, 1995) even proposes the extension of this principle to the creation of the complete order in our universe.

3.1.1) Explaining things

It is one of the central messages of Dawkins book The Blind Watchmaker that life is complex and that this intricate order, so characteristic for living organisms, is in need of an explanation (Dawkins, 1986, p. xii): "The complexity of living organisms is matched by the elegant efficiency of their apparent design. If anyone doesn't agree that this amount of complex design cries out for an explanation, I give up." "Explaining" a particular event generally means to tell what causes that event to have occurred at that time. Apples fall to the ground because the wind shakes the tree. Such kind of explanation often leads to a chain of explanations, to a regression, because one can extend the question to what causes the wind to blow and the shake the apple tree, etc. "Explanation" can also mean that particular events can be described in terms of general rules. For instance Newtonian mechanics explain the paths of the planets and the falling of apples on earth by the same law of gravitation. But also this second kind of explanation may lead to a chain because Einstein's general theory of relativity "explains" Newton's particular theory. The temporal regression leads to the question of first cause (e.g., the Big Bang in cosmology), and the hierarchical regression leads to the question of the most general theory (e.g., Grand Unification theory in high energy physics (Gell-Mann, 1994)).

If those chains of explanations have always to refer to a previous or more general cause where does an explanation start? The origin, the possible starting points for both kinds of regression has been studied throughout human history. Early answers for such questions are found in the ancient creation myths. The greeks addressed this problem by rational means. That a regression cannot extend to infinity was postulated by Aristotle. In a letter to the Swiss scientist Auguste Forel `Abdu'l-Bahá uses this kind of argument:

As we, however, reflect with broad minds upon this infinite universe, we observe that motion without a motive force, and an effect without a cause are both impossible; that every being hath come to exist under numerous influences and continually undergoeth reaction. These influences, too, are formed under the action of still other influences... Such process of causation goes on, and to maintain that this process goes on indefinitely is manifestly absurd. Thus such a chain of causation must of necessity lead eventually to Him who is the Ever-Living, the All-Powerful, who is Self-Dependent and the Ultimate Cause. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, 1984, p. 76)
Here `Abdu'l-Bahá considers the alternative of necessary cause and willful design. /2/ The latter is presented as a kind of meta-cause with the ability to create new chains of causation without requiring a predecessor. This proof of the infinite regression for the existence of the Will of God is based on Aristotle's dictum in Metaphysics II.2 that causes are finite both in series and kind, and that in a series there must be a first cause. /3/ For Aristotle the regression automatically leads to the existence of an uncaused reality, because an infinite regression makes no sense. /4/

Of course, by stating the need for an explanation one implicitly assumes that such an explanation exists. All natural sciences depend essentially on such an assumption. Science would make no sense in a reality which has not a structure allowing for explanations, for a clear relation between cause and effect. For instance the writings of the Bahá'í Faith postulate such kind of reality. Many arguments in the Bahá'í writings about philosophical topics are based on a general application of the principle of cause and effect. The relevance of such a principle is repeatedly emphasized in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá. In the Lawh-i Hikmát Bahá'u'lláh states:

Every thing must needs have an origin and every building a builder... Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment. Nature is God's Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world. It is a dispensation of Providence ordained by the Ordainer, the All-Wise. (Bahá'u'lláh, 1988, 9:12 and 14)
A cause and effect relation is stated in this passage by claiming an "origin" for "every thing" and a "builder" for "every building." Such cause and effect relations are not only applied to individual instances, e.g. the sun as the cause and its rays as the effect, but used on a general level. "God's Will" is stated to be the general cause of our universe (i.e., the effect). "Nature" is considered to be the effect of the creative force of God's name "the Creator" and the expression of God's Will "in and through the contingent world." Similar statements are also found in the writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá: "Every cause is followed by an effect and vice versa; there could be no effect without a cause preceding it." (PUP p. 307) According to this statement every effect requires a cause, nothing may happen without a cause. A substantially complex outcome requires a respectably complex origin. This argument is analogous to the second law of thermodynamics. /5/ Only disorder occurs on its own, complex order needs a non-trivial origin.

Now the three causes, mentioned above, are reconsidered, and their explanatory power is analyzed: (1) necessary cause, (2) accidental cause, and (3) voluntary design. Necessary causes can be considered as intermediate steps, they shift the problem of an explanation to a meta-level. /6/ If one searches for a "first necessary cause" this kind of explanation leads to the infinite regression. Only accidental cause and willful design are considered as "first causes", as being able to initiate a chain of causes. But there is an important difference between chance and voluntary design: chance, on the one hand, is based on triviality, it comes from nothing, it leads to nothing, it does not require any further explanation, it is a cause practically without a cause. Design, on the other hand, involves complexity from the very beginning.

3.1.2) Complex order

The origin of our universe as well as the origin of life is closely related to the question of the origin of complex order. According to modern physics matter is made up of a combination of a few types of quarks (Gell-Mann, 1994). The different forms of matter therefore, show various kinds of order of those quarks. The existence of quarks as such is not sufficient to produce multiple kinds of matter, the order among the quarks is crucial.

One can distinguish two kinds of order: (1) regular patterns as in crystals, and (2) meaningful messages as in a text (e.g., hopefully this essay). The first kind of order is that of physics, its measure is entropy. It is subject to the second law of thermodynamics. /7/ The second kind of order depends of the specific context. Here not the order of the letters as such is important but the message those letters convey. Outside the specific context the order becomes meaningless. A sanscrit or arabic text would contain not much information for most Europeans. The entropy measure does not apply for such kind of order. /8/

A possible measure of complex order is the degree by which a system deviates from randomness. A repetitive pattern for instance deviates from randomness. The design of functional watches as well as the precise amino acids sequence of an efficient enzyme represents also a clear deviation from randomness. Something showing all signs of good design we would consider not to be produced accidentally. Accordingly, Dawkins defines complex order:

... a complex thing is something whose constituent parts are arranged in a way that is unlikely to have arisen by chance alone... The minimum requirement for us to recognize an object as an animal or plant is that it is should succeed in making a living of some sort (more precisely that it, or at least some members of its kind, should live long enough to reproduce)... The answer we have arrived at is that complicated things have some quality, specifiable in advance, that is highly unlikely to have been acquired by random chance alone. (Dawkins, 1986, p. 7 and 9)
Dawkins here uses probability and functionality as criteria to define complex biological order. According to this understanding, something is complex if it is functional and the probability to form it by chance alone is so small that its occurrence is unlikely during the existence of our universe.

`Abdu'l-Bahá presents a very similar definition of complex order. But like Paley `Abdu'l-Bahá concludes from the deviation of randomness that complex order must be the result of design:

Likewise every arrangement and formation that is not perfect in its order we designate as accidental, and that which is orderly, regular, perfect in its relations and every part of which is in its proper place and is the essential requisite of the other constituent parts, this we call a composition formed through will and knowledge. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, 1984, p. 78)
Proper design constitutes a clear deviation from randomness. Because an accidental formation of such order is highly improbable, chance cannot explain complex order. The major difference between modern and classical explanations is that modern theories often try to ground the order in trivialities whereas classical concepts often base on willful design.

3.1.3) Emergence of complex order

But where does complex order come from? In nature one finds that order sometimes appears spontaneously, as for instance, in the case of the Bénard instability. /9/ But what is the origin of such kind of order? The unexpected appearance of order is generally designated emergence:
Systems almost always have the peculiarity that the characteristics of the whole cannot (not even in theory) be deduced from the most complete knowledge of the components, taken separately or in other partial combinations. The appearance of new characteristics in wholes has been designated as emergence. Emergence has often been invoked in attempts to explain such difficult phenomena as life, mind, and consciousness. Actually, emergence is equally characteristic of inorganic systems. (Mayr, 1982, p. 63)
Today two major positions are uphold about the origin of the genetic information, of how the "knowledge" to form wings and eyes evolves. In positions, assuming ad hoc origination of order as for instance proposed by Monod (Monod, 1970), the information emerges, it is created de novo on the path of evolution. In more essentialistic positions, related to Plato's ideas, the information is considered to be implicitly hidden in the laws of nature and only "awaits" its unfolding. Emergent properties in this second view are the consequence of nonlinear interaction within complex systems. This position is often assumed by mathematical evolution biologists.

To discuss ad hoc origins of order and unfolding of inherent potentials it is helpful to introduce the distinction between potential and actual order. Actual order is the order we actually see around us; human artifacts such as houses, cars, book, and all kinds of biological organisms populating this planet. The complexity of organisms generally exceed several orders or magnitude the complexity of human artifacts.

A good example of potential order is the plan of a house designed by the architect. The workers than transform the potential order of the plan by skillfully assembling bricks, mortar, and the other necessary materials into the actual order of the house. A similar process takes place during the growth of fertilized egg cells. The original cell starts to repeatedly divide itself. The daughter cells than specialize and organize according to the genetic plan. In this case, the potential order encoded in the assembly of genes from the sperm and the egg cell, is transformed into the actual order of the organism. Other kinds of potential order are those directly implied by the laws of nature. If salt (sodium chloride) is dissolved in water and the water evaporates again, salt crystals are formed always according to the same pattern. These reproducible pattern result from the characteristic chemical interactions between sodium and chlor atoms.

An intermediate example between inanimate order, as found for instance in sodium chloride crystals, and biological order is the folding pattern of proteins. Water soluble proteins generally unfold above a certain melting temperature. They often refold automatically below this temperature. Here the folding pattern is uniquely defined by the sequence and chemical properties of the amino acids. The rules of protein folding are not yet well understood (Karplus and Sali, 1995; von Kitzing and Schmitt, 1995). The fact that those proteins always adopt the same folding pattern is taken as evidence that the folding is determined by some kind of potential order encoded in the chemical and physical properties of the constituting amino acids.

3.1.4) The origin of biological order

According to Plato, the actual order requires the existence of an essence, of some kind of potential order which serves as it's blueprint. The eternal potential order, the essences keep the actual order stable. According to this view, a cat is a cat, remains a cat, and produces only cats as offsprings, because it is defined, bound and guided by its species essence. In contrast to Plato, for Aristotle existing actual order is sufficient to maintain and reproduce the existing order. The form and structure of existing cats contains sufficient information to maintain cats and to ensure their reproduction. Because Aristotle had a purely static world view world view, for him the existing things were sufficient to "reproduce", to extend the existing order into the future.

Interestingly, the discussion about biological evolution which arouse in the occident during the 19th century has strong parallels with the dispute between Aristotle and Plato. In physics, chemistry and classical biology, the essentialistic view dominated. The unchangeable objects in these fields were thought to be defined by their respective essences. In biology it became increasingly obvious that the world was much older than expected from the genesis and that the populations of organisms drastically changed throughout history. Thus, the classical dispute whether the actual order is sufficient to maintain order or whether a timeless potential reality is required behind all existing things, arouse again. But this time it took place on a more general level by including the time dimension, by extending it to the question of biological evolution.

The findings in palaeontology reveal a substantially evolving biosphere. Species suddenly appear in the fossil records and later cease to show up. The flora and fauna 100 million years ago was very different from that what we find today. Early essentialistic interpretations of this situation assumed that God replaced those extinct earlier species, to maintain the overall harmony, by newer ones via anew creations. Even in these socalled saltational evolution concepts the biological populations of interbreeding individuals were thought to be bound by their respective newly created species essences.

Darwin and later the proponents of neo-Darwinism rejected the existence of species essences. The existence of a number of individual representatives of a species are considered to be sufficient to maintain the species. The gene pool common to an interbreeding population contains all necessary information to maintain the respective species. So far the neo-Darwinistic species concept is similar to that of Aristotle's that the existing population is sufficient to maintain and reproduce the species. In neo-Darwinism, in contrast to Aristotle, mutations and recombinations within the genome result in a variability of the genotypes. Overreproduction, always more offsprings are born than can survive, enforces the lesser qualified phenotypes to get eliminated by natural selection. Because there seems to be no species which keeps the genome constant, no mechanism to bind RNA or DNA sequences to some ideal sequence, the genome drifts in the sequence space and gradually cumulates adaptions to the actual environment. In this dynamic aspect, modern species concepts deviate fundamentally from that of Aristotle.

3.2) Order in modern cosmologies

As shown above most kinds of explanations lead to infinite regressions. Such chains of causation are not very satisfying because it always asks for further elements of the chain, for further even more fundamental explanations. The cosmological concepts of the 19th century were generally based on the conservation of energy and matter: "the conservation of energy and matter ruled at all times, as it applies today." (Haeckel, 1984, p. 308) The universe was thought to be infinite in space and time. Haeckel understood the laws of conservation as a proof that this universe was not created: "All ... forms of belief in creation are incompatible with the laws of the conservation of matter which does not know a beginning of the world." (Haeckel, 1984, p. 301) Büchner believes that by means of such a concept he can escape the problem of the infinite regression: "What cannot be destroyed could not be created. In other words: the world as such is without a cause, it is uncreated and everlasting." (Büchner, 1904, p. 11) Here, Aristotle's argument of the infinite regression is "solved" by assuming that the chain of temporal causes is indeed infinite and, therefore, does not need any "first" cause. Although the assumed eternity of the universe solves the problem of the temporal regression, the question of the hierarchical regress and the origin of order still remains. Consequently, Haeckel concludes that the only world mystery (Welträtsel), left unsolved by the monistic philosophy, is the existence of matter as such: "The monistic philosophy does accept only a single, allembracing mystery, the problem of matter". (Haeckel, 1984, p. 281)

Today the situation in cosmology is fundamentally different. The universe is considered to be finite in space and time. Thus, both kinds of regression, the temporal and hierarchical ones, have to be solved. Particularly in cosmology, modern materialistic authors try to ground the regression in an apparent self-evidence, claiming that complex order emerges from a trivial self-evident structure of matter:

... there is nothing that cannot be understood, that there is nothing that cannot be explained, and that everything is extraordinarily simple... A great deal of the universe does not need any explanation. Elephants, for instance. Once molecules have learned to compete and to create other molecules in their own image, elephants, and thing resembling elephants, will in due course be found roaming through the countryside. (Atkins, 1981)
or to a "non-linear transformation of the void" (Krueger, 1984). In those concepts the structure of our universe is reduced to an apparently self evident level. Ward (Ward, 1996) shows that the fundamental assumptions of Atkin's are purely based on faith, neither on facts, nor on science. Wheeler proposes a trivial origin of the universe as a result of "the boundary of boundary is zero":
So far as we can see today, the laws of physics cannot have existed from everlasting to everlasting. They must have come into being at the big bang. There were no gears and pinions, no Swiss watchmakers to put things together, not even a pre-existing plan... Only a principle of organization which is no organization at all would seem to offer itself. In all of mathematics, nothing of this kind more obviously offers itself than the principle that "the boundary of boundary is zero." (Wheeler, 1989)
Here Wheeler refers to the fact that fundamental laws in physics are often formulated or can be transformed into conservation laws: e.g., the conservation of energy, the conservation of electric charge, etc. These laws may be given in the form, that the change of the total energy of whole system (or the respective conserved entity) is zero during any time interval. Also the laws of motion can be given in such a form indicating the conservation of momentum. Wheeler apparently identifies the zero on the left hand side of those equations with nothing which in turn gives rise to the complex theory on the right hand side. /10/ The complexity of the equation is not found in the `zero' but in the right hand side, in the structure, in the algebra of the equations which are, therefore, non-trivial. /11/ Obviously, Wheeler only hides the problem of the infinite regression behind the phrase "the boundary of boundary is zero", but does not solve it.

Dennett proposes a kind of "Darwinian cosmology". He suggests Darwin's concept of natural selection as a means to produce order gradually in many small random steps not only for the origin of biological order but extends it to cosmology and consciousness (Dennett, 1995):

Darwin's idea had been born as an answer to questions in biology, but it threatened to leak out, offering answers--welcome or not--to questions in cosmology (going in one direction) and psychology (going in the other direction). If redesign could be a mindless, algorithmic process of evolution, why couldn't that whole process itself be the product of evolution, and so forth, all the way down? And if mindless evolution could account for the breathtakingly clever artifacts of the biosphere, how could the products of our own "real" minds be exempt from an evolutionary explanation? Darwin's idea thus also threatened to spread all the way up, dissolving the illusion of our own authorship, our own divine spark of creativity and understanding. (p. 63, emphasis by Dennett)
In his excursion about cosmology Dennett states that cosmological order is accidentally found without a need to explain its origin, a self evident, selforganizing system (Dennett, 1995):
What is left is what the process, shuffling through eternity, mindlessly finds (when it finds anything): a timeless Platonic possibility of order. That is indeed a thing of beauty, as mathematicians are forever exclaiming, but it is not itself something intelligent but, wonder of wonders, something intelligible. Being abstract and outside of time, it is nothing with an initiation or origin in need of explanation. (p. 184, emphasis by Dennett)
The only Platonic elements which Dennett thinks his system requires is "a timeless Platonic possibility of order". All the rest of the order we discover in our universe is proposed to be found by the "mindless, algorithmic process of evolution." But does to "find" something not always mean that this something existed before and I found it? According to Dennett this algorithm applies to biology, cosmology as well as to our consciousness. He does not explain why an element of order being "abstract and outside of time" does not require an "initiation or origin in need of explanation." He simply takes its existence for granted. Dennett's approach parallels that of Wheeler who similarly assumes "a principle of organization which is no organization at all." (Wheeler, 1989)

3.3) Order in modern biology

Whereas in cosmology the resulting order often appears to be the direct consequence of the laws of nature with little room left for alternatives, in biology the complex order often seems to be rather arbitrary with uncountable ways in which it could be different. In addition, the order in biology is always functional and generally extremely complex. How can such a complex order be explained? Most evolution biologists would agree that pure chance cannot explain the complex order of life: "The essence of life is statistical improbability on a colossal scale. Whatever is the explanation for life, therefore, it cannot be chance. The true explanation for the existence of life must embody the very antithesis of chance." (Dawkins, 1986, p. 317) Using the results of modern molecular biology it is clear that the origin of the diverse complex order present in the biosphere by pure chance can be excluded by means of a simple probabilistic argument. /12/ Consequently, a purely accidental origin of life is excluded from the list of possible origins of complex order in living systems. But what is the origin of biological order. In this section, modern concepts of the origin of complex order in the biosphere are discussed.

3.3.1) Forces deciding about life or death

If evolution is able to produce the complex order of the biosphere, the particular process, which creates this order, has to be identified. As explained by Mayr evolution consists in two steps: (1) creating random variations in the genotypes (i.e., the DNA sequences) and (2) selecting the phenotypes (i.e., the resulting organisms) according to their ability to cope with the odds of their environment. The random production of variability in the genetic information by means of mutations and recombinations needs not further explanation. It agrees with the second law of thermodynamics that the order stored in the DNA chains, as any other kind of order, has the tendency to get corrupted.

Certain seldom mutations in the genotype may produce a phenotype which is superior in some respect than the parental genotypes. But accidental improvements cannot result in evolution as long as they are not selected for. Natural selection decides which individual, and on the long run which species survives. It is the driving "force" of evolution. Consequently, to understand the origin of order in biology, this selection step must be understood, this force which creates the wonders of animated nature. What kind of force selects for survival? According to Mayr there exists no particular external force which decides over life and death:

There is no particular selective force in nature, nor a definite selecting agent. There are many possible causes for the success of the few survivors. Some survival, perhaps a lot of it, is due to stochastic processes, that is, luck. Most of it, though is due to a superior working of the physiology of the surviving individual, which permits it to cope with the vicissitudes of the environment better than other members of the population. Selection cannot be dissected into an internal and an external portion. What determines the success of an individual is precisely the ability of the internal machinery of the organism's body (including its immune system) to cope with the challenges of the environment. It is not the environment that selects, but the organism that copes with the environment more or less successfully. There is no external selection force. (Mayr, 1991, pp. 86-87)
In neo-Darwinism complex biological order is considered to be formed gradually by likely probabilistic causes (mutation and recombination) and accidental or necessary causes (natural selection). Because the successful information is kept and reproduced, repeated cumulation of order leads to the creation of complex biological order. Dawkins considers cumulative natural selection as the only possible explanation of complex life: "Cumulative selection, by slow and gradual degrees, is the explanation, the only workable explanation that has ever been proposed, for the existence of life's complex design." (Dawkins, 1986, p. 317) It should be clear, however, that the selection step is still assumed and not yet explained.

But where does biological order finally come from? Does it originate ad hoc during evolution, does it appear anew as if newly created? This would be the consequence of a modernized Aristotelian view. If the newly evolved characteristics are not the consequence of the present order, they must be new ad hoc creations. However, according to a modernized Platonic concept, evolution can also be understood as an unfolding of order inherent in the laws of nature, as a process to make implicit order visible, to transform potential order into actual order. In the first concept, order originates ad hoc on the path of evolution, whereas the second concept assumes a preexisting potential order, similar to Plato's essences. Both kinds of evolution are proposed by evolution biologists and theoretists.

Monod compares the essentialistic position with revelation, evolution as a revelation hidden realities. He contrasts essentialistic evolution with an ad hoc origin of order as creation. /13/ He considers newly developed biological characteristics as anew creations, originated by random processes:

Bergson, on s'en souvient, voyait dans l'évolution l'expression d'une force créatrice, absolue en ce sens qu'il ne la supposait pas tendue à une autre fin que la création en elle-même. En cela il diffère radicalement des animistes (qu'il s'agisse d'Engels, de Teilhard ou des positivistes optimistes tels que Spencer) qui tous voient dans l'évolution le majestueux déroulement d'un programme inscrit dans la trame même de l'Univers. Pour eux, par conséquent, l'évolution n'est pas véritablement création, mais uniquement révélation des intentions jusque-là inexprimées de la nature. D'où la tendance à voir dans le développement embryonnaire une émergence de même orde que l'émergence évolutive. Selon la théorie moderne, la notion de révélation s'applique au développement épigénétique, mais non, bien entendu, à l'émergence évolutive qui, grâce précisément au fait qu'elle prend sa source dans l'imprévisible essentiel, est créatrice de nouveauté absolue. (Monod, 1970, pp. 129-130)
Monod explains Bergson's ideas, for whom evolution is the expression of a life giving force, of an élane vital, with the only purpose of creation as such. Monod translates this concept, which for Bergson was a vitalistic one, into modern sciences. For Monod absolute new characteristics emerge during evolution as de novo creations. Monod contrasts his ideas with the position of the "animistes", considering evolution as the unfolding of inherent properties, as revelation. He compares this essentialistic view of evolution with ontogenesis; as the embryonic development represents the unfolding of potentials of its genome, essentialistic evolution represents the unfolding of pattern preexisting in the fundamental laws of nature. These two contrary positions about the origin of order are now studied more carefully.

3.3.2) Evolution as ad hoc creation of order

From the discovery that the DNA sequences are apparently random, i.e., they show only weak pattern of order, Monod derives a concept of evolution where order originates accidentally: /14/ "Lessage qui, par tous les critères possibles, semble avoir été écrit au hasard... D'un jeu totalement aveugle, tout, par définition, peut sortir, y compris la vision elle-même" (Monod, 1970, pp. 111-112). According to Monod the apparent randomness of DNA sequences exclude the possibility that life is the reflection of laws inherent in Nature. He than concludes that the appearance of life on earth as well as on other planets is an extremely unlikely event. Consequently, he expects that terrestrial life is singular in our universe:
L'hypothèse n'est pas exclue, au contraire, par la structure actuelle da la biosphère, que l'événement décisif ne se soit produit qu'une seule fois. Ce qui signifierait que sa probabilité a priori était quasi nulle... Nous n'avons, à l'heure actuelle, pas le droit d'affirmer, ni celui de nier que la vie soit apparue une seule fois sur la Terre, et que, par conséquent, avant qu'elle ne fût, ses chances d'être étaient quasi nulles. (Monod, 1970, pp. 160-161)
Monod interprets Bergson's creative force in a sense that during evolution new qualities are self-created. For Monod evolution is not the unfolding of preexisting potentials; it is the self-creation of new biological characteristics. This thought is also stressed by Mayr (Mayr, 1982, p. 487): "By introducing population thinking, Darwin produced one of the most fundamental revolutions in biological thinking... Adoption of population thinking is intimately tied up with a rejection of essentialist thinking. Variation is irrelevant and therefore uninteresting to the essentialist. Varying characters are `mere accidents,' in the language of essentialism, because they do not reflect the essence." Mayr and other evolution biologists (e.g. Wuketits (Wuketits, 1988)) obviously consider population thinking to be completely incompatible with essentialism, with the belief that evolution consists in the unfolding of inherent potentials implicitly encoded in the timeless laws of nature.

Whereas Monod considers life to be the result of pure chance, for Dawkins evolution is the very opposite of chance. According to his view life evolves nearly necessarily:

... there is the familiar, and I have to say rather irritating, confusion of natural selection with `randomness'. Mutation is random; natural selection is the very opposite of random... This belief, that Darwinian evolution is `random', is not merely false. It is the exact opposite of the truth. Chance is a minor ingredient in the Darwinian recipe, but the most important ingredient is cumulative selection which is quintessentially nonrandom. (Dawkins, 1986, p. 41 and 49)
According to Dawkins, cumulative natural selection nearly inescapably leads to the evolution of a complex biosphere. Thus, cumulative selection appears to present a mechanism which produces complex order nearly out of nothing, by means of a series of very likely little accidents: "It took a very large leap of the imagination for Darwin and Wallace to see that contrary to all intuition, there is another way and, once you have understood it, a far more plausible way, for complex `design' to arise out of primeval simplicity" (Dawkins, 1986, p. xvi). Dawkins explanation of order emerging from a trivial origin is that death is a trivial event:
In nature, the usual selecting agent is direct, stark and simple. It is the grim reaper. Of course, the reasons for survival are anything but simple--this is why natural selection can build animals and plants of such formidable complexity. But there is something very crude and simple about death itself. And nonrandom death is all it takes to select phenotypes, and hence the genes that they contain, in nature. (Dawkins, 1986, p. 62)
Apparently, Dawkins considers the lack of virtues of those who die in the battle of evolution to be more important than the virtues of those who survive, who are the "fittest". But of course, evolution is driven by the biological characteristics of those who survive and not of those who die. /15/

Dennett recently elaborated a concept of evolution in his book Darwin's Dangerous Idea (Dennett, 1995). He considers natural selection to self-create new discoveries: "Darwin described how a Nonintelligent Artificer could produce those adaptions over vast amounts of time, and proved the many of the intermediate stages that would be needed by that proposed process has indeed occurred" (p. 47). After reformulating the process of evolution as an algorithmic process, he states:

It is hard to believe that something as mindless and mechanical as an algorithm could produce such wonderful things. No matter how impressive the products of an algorithm, the underlying process always consists of nothing but a set of individually mindless steps succeeding each other without the help of any intelligent supervision; ... Can it [the actual biosphere] really be the outcome of nothing but a cascade of algorithmic processes feeding on chance? And if so, who designed that cascade? Nobody. It is itself the product of a blind, algorithmic process. (p. 59, the text in square brackets was added by the author)
On the one hand, Dennett describes biological evolution as an ad hoc process of the origin of order. The complex forms of life are self-created by a stupid, mindless algorithm. Life has no purpose, no goal. According to him we are merely "the product of a blind, algorithmic process". If cosmology is included in this natural selection process, apparently order can originate from nearly nothing, from "a timeless Platonic possibility of order... nothing with an initiation or origin in need of explanation." (Dennett, 1995)

On the other hand, Dennett characterizes evolution as an algorithmic process as known from computers. Algorithms are formal systems were the "space" of possible states is defined a priori even in cases where it would be impossible to evaluate the complete space in practice, i.e., even if an infinite number of states exists. Such algorithms are, therefore, essentialistic par excellence; they represent a potential order by defining all possible states and the dynamics which determines time evolution through those states. His statement about a "timeless Platonic possibility of order" as a minimal requirement for his approach contradicts his description of evolution as an algorithmic process. The algorithm together with all possible particular states of the universe represents a gigantic, complex, timeless order. The algorithmic complexity of the resulting order cannot surpass the complexity of the underlying algorithm.

3.3.3) Natural selection as the unfolding of inherent potentials

In the second, the essentialistic view, emergent properties represent inherent properties of the system, which may be extremely difficult to predict. They are mostly derived a posteriori when their presence was discovered by accident. /16/ This second understanding of emergent properties is based on inherent potentials, i.e., related to some kind of essentialistic metaphysics. The apparently new properties often reveal completely unexpected characteristics hidden in the timeless laws of the universe.

Mathematical biologists (e.g., Eigen; Kauffman), studying evolution, generally have a different understanding of the origin of order compared to Mayr or Monod. Self-creation of essentially new, unpredictable and irreproducible characteristics cannot be modeled mathematically. Formal models of evolution are always essentialistic, in that they define a "space" of possible "biological states", e.g., DNA sequences of a given length. Possible transitions between these states, mutations and recombinations during the replication of these sequences, mimic the dynamics of evolution. By means of a fitness function, relating each possible sequence to a fitness value, the survival of the fittest can be simulated. Evolution within such a model means to find the sequence or a set of sequences with maximal fitness values for a given situation. Mathematical models of evolution mimic essentialistic evolution, the unfolding of inherent potentials determined by the specific form of the fitness function. Today's mathematical models of evolution are limited by the drastic simplifications necessary to keep the problem mathematically tractable. Nevertheless, even using highly simplified models helps to understand important aspects of evolution (Kauffman, 1995) and to address certain more simple subproblems theoretically (Eigen, 1993) as well as experimentally (Biebricher, et al., 1993; Biebricher and Luce, 1993).

Interestingly, Dawkins proposes a similar idea. He speaks about the DNA sequence space as a mathematical space which potentially contains all possible forms of life: "There is another mathematical space filled ... with flesh and blood animals made of billions of cells, each containing tens of thousands of genes... The actual animals that have ever lived on Earth are a tiny subset of the theoretical animals that could exist." (Dawkins, 1986, p. 73) Dawkins states here that there exists a space of all possible DNA sequences. The majority of DNA sequences would not produce any living organism. Consequently, only a small subset of this complete space of DNA sequences represents the space of all possible forms of life. Dawkins concept of evolution from a trivial actual origin requires a complex potential order a priori. If all possible life forms exists potentially a priori then, in principle, the universe is complex a priori. All potential forms of life are preexistent. Mutations, recombinations and natural selections provide the dynamics within this sequence space, in a stochastic sense they determine the time points of the appearance of the different populations, they unfold the potential forms of life into actually existing biological organisms. Thus, Dawkins has to assume potential complexity a priori to explain the appearance of actual order.

As stated above, in practice the fitness related to a particular DNA sequence can be estimated only for extremely simplified systems (Spiegelman, 1967). The fitness function directly reflects the reproduction rate, i.e., the ability of a system to produce as many qualified offsprings as possible. /17/ In "essentialistic" evolution models, the genotype is selected according to criteria which are at least in principle objective and reproducible. Consequently, essentialistic evolution represents the unfolding of potential forms of life preexistent in the known or unknown laws of nature.

A major advantage of concepts of ad hoc evolution is that it apparently solves the problem of the infinite regression. But as shown above, the origin of small gains of order is not explained in those theories, it is simply assumed to exist. In contrast to ad hoc evolution models, essentialistic concepts of evolution explain the appearance of order on a certain level, but they shift the problem of the origin of order to the assumed fitness function. But what is the origin of this fitness function, the "expertise" to distinguish between fruitful and fruitless phenotypes? Thus, essentialistic evolution models suffer from the problem of the infinite regression. A conventional as well as radical solution of the problem of the origin of order is voluntary design, where order is assumed to exist from the very beginning ensured by the existence of a Creator. In such concepts, the origin of order is considered to be inexplicable in the last analysis.

3.4) Willful Design--assuming a complex origin

It is a fundamental experience of human life that to maintain purposeful order requires our conscious efforts. All products of human culture and civilization support this experience. It is therefore only natural that for a long period the existence of order in our world was understood to be designed voluntarily by some creative force. The discovery of the breathtakingly complex biosphere during the 18th century and the first half of the 19th even enhanced this perception that the complex order of our planet must have originated from intelligent design.

A famous statement in favor of the design of nature by an intelligent Creator is the watchmaker argument (Dawkins, 1986; Sober, 1993). William Paley in his book Natural Theology published in 1805 (Sober, 1993) compares the fact, that all life forms have a complex functional order, with the design of a watch. Then suppose, someone finds a watch. From the purposefulness of the design and the high workmanship the finder would naturally conclude that the watch was made by a watchmaker and cannot have been assembled by accident. Paley than argues that it is also very unlikely that the complex order of life occurred by accident, and that it is much more reasonable to assume purposeful design by a Creator. Such kind of argument in favor of willful design was generally understood as a powerful proof against evolution by chance.

There is a significant difference between explanations by accident and willful design. Whereas in the case of accidental cause there might be a hope that complexity can be explained by simplicity. In the case of willful design the designer always needs to be more complex than the designed. Dawkins formulates this argument very bluntly:

But of course any God capable of intelligently designing something as complex as the DNA/protein replicating machine must have been at least as complex and organized as that machine itself. Far more so if we suppose him additionally capable of such advanced function s as listening to prayers and forgiving sins. To explain the origin of the DNA/protein machine by invoking a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer. (Dawkins, 1986)
Models, where the origin of order is assumed to result from willful design, presuppose that complex order exists from the very beginning, e.g., as the realization of ideas in the Mind of God. In the light of the problems of accidental and necessary causes to explain complex order shown above, however, this third possibility should not be neglected a priori.

3.4.1) Creation--Reflections of the Names and Attributes of God

Virtually every religion provides a picture of the origin of the world we inhabit. For instance in Judaic, Christianic, and Muslimic traditions the origin of complex order is believed to result from a creative act of God. It owes its existence to a Divine Order, being "complex" beyond human comprehension. This is in principle the kind of origin of order considered in classical biology, particularly in natural theology. As correctly stated by Dawkins, in such concepts complex order is not explained to result from a few simple principles, but complexity is assumed to exist from the very beginning. Many passages in the Bahá'í scriptures support that the Bahá'í Faith follows this tradition:
A drop of the billowing ocean of His endless mercy hath adorned all creation with the ornament of existence, and a breath wafted from His peerless Paradise hath invested all beings with the robe of His sanctity and glory. A sprinkling from the unfathomed deep of His sovereign and all-pervasive Will hath, out of utter nothingness, called into being a creation which is infinite in its range and deathless in its duration. The wonders of His bounty can never cease, and the stream of His merciful grace can never be arrested. The process of His creation hath had no beginning, and can have no end... From time immemorial He hath been veiled in the ineffable sanctity of His exalted Self, and will everlastingly continue to be wrapt in the impenetrable mystery of His unknowable Essence. Every attempt to attain to an understanding of His inaccessible Reality hath ended in complete bewilderment, and every effort to approach His exalted Self and envisage His Essence hath resulted in hopelessness and failure. (Bahá'u'lláh, 1971, 26:2,3)
Although our Creator reigns above human comprehension this universe uncovers the signs of His creative force, the traces of His revelation. Bahá'u'lláh describes creation as a mirror reflecting the names and attributes of God:
Know thou that every created thing is a sign of the revelation of God. Each, according to its capacity, is, and will ever remain, a token of the Almighty. Inasmuch as He, the sovereign Lord of all, hath willed to reveal His sovereignty in the kingdom of names and attributes, each and every created thing hath, through the act of the Divine Will, been made a sign of His glory. So pervasive and general is this revelation that nothing whatsoever in the whole universe can be discovered that doth not reflect His splendor. (Bahá'u'lláh, 1971, 93:1)
Each created thing or being in the universe is able to reflect the Light of God and to mirror forth His names and attributes to a certain predescribed degree. The creation as a whole is considered as a revelation of God's sovereignty. Nothing exists which does not reflect His splendor. Humanity is defined as the most complete reflection of God's bounty:
Upon the inmost reality of each and every created thing He hath shed the light of one of His names, and made it a recipient of the glory of one of His attributes. Upon the reality of man, however, He hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own self. Alone of all created things man hath been singled out for so great a favor, so enduring a bounty. (Bahá'u'lláh, 1971, 27:2)
This ability to realize the names and attributes of God is used in the Bahá'í writings to define human beings. This ability is, therefore, not necessarily limited to the biological species homo sapiens.

According to `Abdu'l-Bahá, God is independent from time, as a result, His names and attributes are likewise timeless. Consequently, the revelation of the inherent features of God's names and attributes is also time independent:

Consequently, just as the reality of Divinity never had a beginning--that is, God has ever been a Creator, God has ever been a Provider, God has ever been a Quickener, God has ever been a Bestower--so there never has been a time when the attributes of God have not had expression... So, likewise, if we say there was a time when God had no creation or created beings, a time when there were no recipients of His bounties and that His names and attributes had not been manifested, this would be equivalent to a complete denial of Divinity, for it would mean that Divinity is accidental. (PUP, p. 463)
This argument parallels Plato's argument of the perfectly harmonious universe where the universe is assumed to be perfect from the beginning. It is more carefully analyzed below. The eternal names and attributes of God represent the blueprints of all existing tokens in our universe. This concept shows similarities with Plato's concept of essences. A concise analysis of the relation between the names and attributes of God and Plato's essences is certainly beyond the scope of this work. Here these two terms are used more or less equivalently. The "essences" and the "names and attributes of God" are assumed to represent on a timeless level all possible states of this universe, all possible outcomes, and the dynamic relations between these states. By the term "species essence" the possible structure of biological organisms is indicated.

According to the Bahá'í writings the complex order of our material universe reflects the (unlimited complex) Divine Order by mirroring forth the eternal names and attributes of God: "And not an atom of all the atoms in existence, not a creature from amongst the creatures but speaketh His praise and telleth of His attributes and names, revealeth the glory of His might and guideth to His oneness and His mercy" (`Abdu'l-Bahá, 1978, 19:8). This position has parallels in the beliefs of the natural theologists who thought that nature everywhere reflects the presence of a benevolent Creator. Studying nature was considered to reveal the plans of God. The timelessness of the names and attributes of God as the blueprints for our universe shows similarities with Plato's harmonious universe which is timelessly perfect. "Complexity", which reveals itself all over the biosphere, is assumed to exist from the very beginning, to be a substantial part of this universe. But does such a concept not contradict the principle used in science today?

3.4.2) Hierarchical order--linking complex design and modern sciences

Many approaches to the origin of our universe based on physics try to reduce the fundament of this world to a few, apparently self evident, trivial rules. In the Bahá'í writings, however, the origin and foundation of this world is assumed to be substantially non-trivial, complex from its very beginning. In the present section, a concept of a hierarchical order is outlined where the more complex levels are not the result of complicated interactions of the more simple levels but, on the contrary, the complex levels represent a framework within which the simple ones can exist.

`Abdu'l-Bahá describes the structure of this world in form of a hierarchy. In a letter to the Swiss scientist Auguste Forel `Abdu'l-Bahá wrote:

As to the existence of spirit in the mineral: it is indubitable that minerals are endowed with a spirit and life according to the requirements of that stage... In the vegetable world, too, there is the power of growth, and that power of growth is the spirit. In the animal world there is the sense of feeling, but in the human world there is an all-embracing power. In all preceding stages the power of reason is absent, but the soul existeth and revealeth itself. The sense of feeling understandeth not the soul, whereas the reasoning power of the mind proveth the existence thereof. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, 1984, pp. 71-72) /18/
`Abdu'l-Bahá distinguishes between four levels of spirit: the mineral, the vegetable, the animal and the human kingdom. In modern biology the kingdoms, originally introduced by Aristotle, are used in a taxonomic sense, they designate distinct classes of organisms (see Mayr (Mayr, 1982) for a short history of taxonomy). `Abdu'l-Bahá is obviously not concerned with a taxonomic distinction of biological classes, but indicates a hierarchy of increasingly complex faculties. Each higher level includes all the lower ones, but not those above.

This hierarchical understanding of the kingdoms is explained in an other passage of the Letter to Forel where `Abdu'l-Bahá emphasizes the interrelation between the kingdoms:

All divine philosophers and men of wisdom and understanding, when observing these endless beings, have considered that in this great and infinite universe all things end in the mineral kingdom, that the outcome of the mineral kingdom is the vegetable kingdom, the outcome of the vegetable kingdom is the animal kingdom and the outcome of the animal kingdom the world of man. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, 1984, p. 73)
Thus, in this context, the `kingdoms' certainly don't designate taxonomic distinct classes but hierarchical levels. `Abdu'l-Bahá describes this hierarchy phenomenologically, by the essential characteristics related to each level, by "growth", the "sense of feeling" and "reason". /19/ But how do these levels distinguish in practice? Is there something added at each level, e.g., a kind of élan vitale? `Abdu'l-Bahá gives a rather atomistic view of those levels:
In its ceaseless progression and journeyings the atom becomes imbued with the virtues and powers of each degree or kingdom it traverses. In the degree of the mineral it possessed mineral affinities; in the kingdom of the vegetable it manifested the virtue augmentative, or power of growth; in the animal organism it reflected the intelligence of that degree, and in the kingdom of man it was qualified with human attributes or virtues... No atom is bereft or deprived of this opportunity or right of expression. Nor can it be said of a given atom that it is denied equal opportunities with other atoms; nay, all are privileged to possess the virtues existent in these kingdoms and to reflect the attributes of their organisms. (PUP p. 285, see also p. 350) /20/
According to `Abdu'l-Bahá, "no atom is bereft" of the virtues to reflect the respective names and attributes of God at the different levels. The emergence of the more complex characteristics, however, requires a respective environment, certain necessary boundary conditions. It needs a sufficiently complex organization.

A possible interpretation of these levels, which is compatible with findings of modern science, relates the different kingdoms to hierarchical levels of information processing. The lowest kingdom is the mineral kingdom. It describes an organization level of atoms found in stones, water, air, etc. The second level is the vegetable kingdom, represented by the plants. As explained by `Abdu'l-Bahá, there are no special mineral atoms or vegetable atoms, but the same atoms travel through all the kingdoms of life and observe the same laws of chemistry and physics. But the vegetable kingdom shows attributes not found in the mineral kingdom: growth, metabolism, and replication. Ernst Mayr (Mayr, 1982, p. 131) stresses the complexity of biological systems, /21/ the existence of a genetic plan and the ability to perform purposeful actions:

It is now widely admitted not only that the complexity of biological systems is of a different order of magnitude, but also that the existence of historically evolved programs is unknown in the inanimate world. Teleonomic processes and adapted systems, made possible by these programs, are unknown in physical systems.
Biological cells are able to reproduce themselves because of their genetic plan (Alberts, et al., 1989; Dawkins, 1989; Dawkins, 1995). This plan provides the cells with the knowledge to survive in their common environment. According to Kuhn and Waser (Kuhn and Waser, 1982), this innate knowledge distinguishes organic life from inanimate matter.

The third level in this hierarchy is occupied by the animal kingdom. The special properties of this level are the senses, mediated by a sufficiently complex neural network, e.g., the central nervous system. The central nervous system receives input from the environment and allows animals to react instantaneously to this external input. This ability distinguishes the animal kingdom from the vegetable kingdom. The animal kingdom encompasses both the mineral and vegetable kingdoms insofar as it depends at its own level on incorporating the structural and qualitative complexity of the kingdoms preceding it.

The fourth stage is the human kingdom. The main attribute distinguishing the human species from the lower kingdoms is the human intellect. This does not mean that other species do not show intelligence, but no other species has the capacity to develop speech, technology, culture, and civilization. Individuals of the human species share many attributes in common with the animal world, though the attribute of cooperation among human beings is stronger than in most other species. A comparable hierarchy of complex orders was recently proposed by Dawkins (Dawkins, 1995).

Each higher level in the hierarchy encompasses the lower ones, but is not the trivial outcome of them. The characteristics of each level are emergent properties in the best sense of the word. By the "spirit of growth" `Abdu'l-Bahá very likely refers to more than a complex grouping of atoms. `Abdu'l-Bahá makes this clear in the case of the human spirit. According to `Abdu'l-Bahá, the individual human soul is an emergent property of the special composition of the human body and the influence of other beings:

Moreover, these members, these elements, this composition, which are found in the organism of man, are an attraction and magnet for the spirit; it is certain that the spirit will appear in it... when these existing elements are gathered together according to the natural order, and with perfect strength, they become a magnet for the spirit, and the spirit will become manifest in them with all its perfections. (SAQ 52, old translation)
Because the "spirit" appears after the composition of the elements, it is likely that `Abdu'l-Bahá refers to the individual human soul in this passage and not to the "human spirit", i.e., the human species essence. `Abdu'l-Bahá clearly favors the essentialistic version of emergence. The human spirit is not the result of the particular composition of the atoms but the spirit is preexistent and only appears when the respective complexity in the atomic composition is is obtained. Using Monod's (Monod, 1970) terminology, the human spirit is not "created" during evolution but it is revealed, made manifest. /22/

According to the hierarchy of kingdoms there is no substantial difference between animal and human biology, no distinction between animal and human bodies with respect to sensations and feelings. As Bahá'u'lláh states in the Kitáb-i-Iqán: "The life of the flesh is common to both men and animals, whereas the life of the spirit is possessed only by the pure in heart" (Bahá'u'lláh, 1989, p. 120). `Abdu'l-Bahá also affirms that "in all physical respects, and where the animal spirit is concerned, the selfsame feelings are shared by animal and man". (`Abdu'l-Bahá, 1978, p. 158).

In contrast to the taxonomic understanding of distinct kingdoms in modern biology, `Abdu'l-Bahá uses the kingdoms to describe the complex order of the biosphere in form of a hierarchy. These levels represent degrees of increasing complex reflections of the names and attributes of God. Each higher level includes the lower ones, but not vice versa. This interpretation of `Abdu'l-Bahá's kingdoms as a hierarchy of levels of information processing has the advantage that very likely the same or at least similar concepts apply to extra terrestrial biology (see also Loehle (Loehle, 1994, p. 111)). At the lowest level, life requires "replicators" (Dawkins, 1995). Only systems which can reproduce themselves can evolve the respective higher levels of organization.

3.5) Willful design--a proof of the existence of God

As shown above, concepts which ground the origin of complex order in trivialities suffer from fundamental problems. Chance can be excluded as the origin because of the gigantic a priori improbability of life (Dawkins, 1986). Necessary concepts of the origin of order, including stochastic ones, generally have to assume the complex order they want to explain as potentially a priori. `Abdu'l-Bahá formulates a proof for the existence of a Creator, of God based on the consideration that explanations of the origin of complex order either give a non-explanation (chance) or shift the problem to meta-levels (necessity) leading to an infinite regression. Now the voluntary cause is considered.

3.5.1) Voluntary causes as a precondition of evolution

In a letter to the Swiss scientist Auguste Forel `Abdu'l-Bahá lists the three possible causes which may originate the order in our world:
Now, formation is of three kinds and of three kinds only: accidental, necessary and voluntary. The coming together of the various constituent elements of beings cannot be accidental, for unto every effect there must be a cause. It cannot be necessary, for then the formation must be an inherent property of the constituent parts and the inherent property of a thing can in no wise be dissociated from it... The third formation remaineth and that is the voluntary one, that is, an unseen force described as the Ancient Power, causeth these elements to come together, every formation giving rise to a distinct being. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, 1984, p. 75)
In this argument of the three causes `Abdu'l-Bahá considers the three possible origins of the complex order found in this world: accidental and necessary forces, and an origin of order by voluntary design (see also Loehle (Loehle, 1994, p. 101)). Accidental causes are not even considered as "real" forces, because the "coming together of the various constituent elements of beings cannot be accidental, for unto every effect there must be a cause." As shown above the "effect" of complex order requires an explanation (Dawkins, 1986), a "cause". The origin of complex order by chance alone is too improbable that such a possibility has to be taken into account in modern scientific theories of evolution.

`Abdu'l-Bahá rejects mechanistic theories for the evolution of life, because the existence of life is obviously not necessary. If the evolution of biological order would be necessary only "uphill" evolution would be found. According to Gould (Gould, 1994) such unidirectionality is not seen in nature. Thus, `Abdu'l-Bahá also rejects trivial forms of orthogenetic evolution, frequently assumed at the time He wrote this Letter to Forel. For instance, Büchner accepts only necessary causes in evolution. Consequently, he denies the existence of chance in the process of the development of life: "... but chance ... does not exist in nature, where at last everything occurs in a natural, necessary way (Büchner, 1904, p. 112). Complexification as a necessary natural process is the logical consequence of grounding a world view in mechanics. For Forel, who was well versed in the evolution discussion of his time, this argument may have been important to understand `Abdu'l-Bahá's position.

In principle, stochastic models of evolution, e.g., diffusion in a fitness landscape, shows the behavior found in evolution, if the fitness function is sufficiently well behaved (Kauffman, 1995; Kauffman, 1996). Stochastic models of evolution combine random elements (mutation) and necessary elements (the fitness function). The argument of the infinite regression, however, which is given by `Abdu'l-Bahá in the same letter, applies also to the origin of the fitness function. Thus, although stochastic evolution models are expected to explain evolution on a scientific level, they do not explain the origin of order as such, because the existence of the fitness function as the implicit source of complex order has to be assumed to exist a priori. Because chance and necessity have not qualified as a last cause of complex order, `Abdu'l-Bahá concludes that only voluntary creation is left over as the final source of the origin of order. A being, or a force which is able to create this universe by mean of free will is generally equated with the Creator (or it's female equivalent), with God.

3.5.2) Hatcher's interpretation of the "three causes"

In The Journal of Bahá'í Studies and in a recently published book William Hatcher presents an article entitled "A Scientific Proof of the Existence of God" (Hatcher and Hatcher, 1996; Hatcher, 1993). He starts with `Abdu'l-Bahá's argument of the three causes and provides a translation of this proof into the language of modern sciences. According to the second law of thermodynamics, closed systems on the average tend to evolve from less probable towards more probable states. Hatcher states that the appearance of order requires the input of free energy as the sun light in the case of plant growth of an external ordering force as in the case of human artifacts: "Those that exhibit evolution from more probable to less probable states cannot be the result of a random process. The cause of such growth pattern can only be some observable input of energy (e.g. plant growth on earth that is fueled by solar energy.) or else some nonobservable (invisible) force." (Hatcher and Hatcher, 1996, p. 54) But this list of possible sources for the emergence of ordered pattern is incomplete. There exists also inherent order in nature. If water steam is cooled it first becomes fluid an below zero degree (under normal conditions) it forms ice crystals as in the case of snow. But of course, how beautiful snow crystals can be they represent only a lifeless frozen order. Much closer to the situation of evolution is the case of protein folding. The a priori probability to obtain a correctly folded protein by searching through all possible states is much too low (Anfinsen, 1973) that even fairly small proteins could fold within a reasonable time. Thus, the folding reveals implicit order encoded in the particular sequence of amino acids. But of course, the folding does not imply the transition from a probable (unfolded protein) to an improbable state (folded protein). Because of the chemical interactions between the amino acids, within a certain environment, the folded protein (e.g. an active enzyme) represents the more probable state, the state of lowest free energy .

Hatcher adds the observation that evolution of life is an example of a development from simple towards complex life forms:

All these sedimentary layers show the same basic configuration, namely, that higher, more complex forms of life followed simpler, less complex forms. In other words, the process of evolution was a process of complexification, of moving from relative simplicity and disorder towards relative complexity and order. It was therefore a process of moving from more probable configurations towards less probable configurations. (Hatcher, 1993).
From this "movement" of evolution "uphill", i.e., against the directions which would be adopted automatically by nature, Hatcher concludes that there must be a special kind of force which causes this complexification during evolution of life on earth. Very likely, most evolutionists will follow Hatcher in this conclusion. Dawkins (Dawkins, 1986) for instance uses a similar probabilistic argument to show that the "... essence of life is statistical improbability on a colossal scale." They will, however, generally not accept his identification of this evolutionary force with "God": "It seem reasonable to call this force `God', but anyone uncomfortable with that name can simply call it `the evolutionary force' (or, more precisely, `the force that produced evolution and thus produced the human being')" (Hatcher, 1993). Mayr (Mayr, 1991), for instance, explicitly rejects the existence of a particular evolutionary force. And Dennett (Dennett, 1995) claims that evolution can be explained by a "blind algorithmic process".

Hatcher's rejection of the more conventional explanations of evolution may be influenced by his particular understanding of evolution: "This is why the currently accepted theory of evolution attempts to explain the upward movement (the movement towards greater order) in evolution as the fortunate coincidence of two random phenomena: the action of natural selection (essentially random environmental impact) on random mutations (spontaneous genetic change)" (Hatcher and Hatcher, 1996; Hatcher, 1993). Although most evolutionists will agree that the mutation step (and recombination according to Mayr (Mayr, 1982, p. 591)) is random, most of them will disagree that the selection step is random as well. Dawkins (Dawkins, 1986) for instance emphatically emphasizes that evolution, e.g., neo-Darwinism is not the result of pure chance. Hatcher's understanding of the selection step applies to the kind of evolution, where order is assumed to originate ad hoc, is the result of quasi anew creations, unpredictable and quasirandom. In mathematical biology the selection step is determined by the fitness function. In such theories, selection is not random but on the long run occurs according to the fitness values of the individuals. In this case the complexity found in life represents the unfolding of the potential complexity inherent in the laws of nature similar to the protein folding example. In his response to the Gordon Dick's (Dicks, 1994) comment about his article, Hatcher (Hatcher, 1994) claims that even neo-Darwinism cannot explain evolution:

Clearly and indisputably, this (narrow) process of natural selection could never, even theoretically, account for the progressive complexification of life forms in the evolutionary process... In any case, under the neo-Darwinian assumption, mutations favorable to increase complexity would, at best, only be sporadic (or sparse), i.e., insufficiently frequent to allow for any significant process of convergence. (Hatcher, 1994)
Unfortunately, Hatcher does not substantiate his claim. Of course the possibility of progressive evolution in a fitness landscape is not trivial and is subject to intensive mathematical studies (Eigen, 1992; Kauffman, 1995; Prigogine, 1979; Prigogine and Stengers, 1981; Ruthen, 1993). According to those studies, not every fitness function leads to evolution, but some do. Consequently, Hatcher's argument does not apply to evolution theories where a suitable, objective fitness function is assumed to exist. /23/

Hatcher apparently assumes that this kind of evolution can be rejected on the basis of `Abdu'l-Bahá's statement that evolution "cannot be necessary, for then the formation must be an inherent property of the constituent parts and the inherent property of a thing can in no wise be dissociated from it" (`Abdu'l-Bahá, 1984, p. 75). Hatcher concludes that "the clearly random element involved in the process of evolution utterly refutes the `inherent necessity' objection to the classical design argument" (Hatcher and Hatcher, 1996, p. 13). `Abdu'l-Bahá's argument and Hatcher interpretation of it certainly applies to the models of necessary evolution assumed in the second half of the 19th century where the element of chance was explicitly excluded. The dynamics of matter were considered to follow Newton's laws which are entirely deterministic and consequently can produce "only the results of strictest necessity" (Büchner, 1904, p. 84). Modern mathematical evolution theories explicitly include the "clearly random element involved in the process of evolution."

Hatcher obviously envisions a kind of temporal regression where chains of causation important for evolution are initiated be God's voluntary act: "The evolution-based argument thus establishes not only the existence of God but also provides at least one clear instance when God has intervened in (or interacted with) the ongoing process of the world" (Hatcher and Hatcher, 1996, p. 14). Such kind of God's invention is likewise proposed by Loehle (Loehle, 1994, p. 110): "... I postulate (the Bahá'í writings do not specify this) that divine Will may have operated at times to help guide the process towards humanity; it was God's intentions from the beginning that humanity should arise." Recently Ward made a similar suggestion. According to him, the physical laws of our universe represent idealizations which do not rule out the possibility of God's actions (Ward, 1996, pp. 132-133): "The element of indeterminism involved in the `freedom hypothesis' is simply that not everything that happens is the result solely of the operation of a general law, or combination of general laws, upon some previous physical state. Such indeterminism, or at least the appearance of it, is commonplace in ordinary human affairs." He discusses the proposed goal directedness in terms of human values, addressing the question of socio-biology, i.e., the source of human values: "Its biological origins would be a natural consequence of the grounding of the whole evolutionary process in a divine plan" (Ward, 1996, p. 183).

3.6) The origin of complex order

The existence of order, particularly the complex order of our biosphere, is by no means self evident. It needs an explanation. Three different kinds of origin of order are generally considered: (1) chance, (2) order as a necessary result of the laws of nature, and (3) order as the result of voluntary design.

Chance as the origin of order can be excluded by simple probabilistic arguments. There are too many less complex alternatives that purely random processes have any chance to form a complex biosphere. A necessary origin of order, i.e., the order as a necessary outcome of the laws of nature, suffer from the problem of the infinite regression. If the existent order is the result of the laws of nature what causes the existence of the laws of nature? Popular presentations of modern cosmologies generally tend to hide the regression behind an apparently self-evident origin, without a need for further explanations. Alternatively, modern evolution biologists often propose a stochastic process as the origin of order, a combination of chance and necessity. The problem of the "colossal improbability" of pure chance is overcome by cumulative selection. If selection is quasi random, as in models of ad hoc origination of complex order, the problem of the "colossal improbability" remains and Hatcher's argument applies. If selection is based on an in principle objective and reproducible fitness function the origin of this fitness function must be explained. This, again, leads to the problem of the infinite regression. In a letter to Forel, `Abdu'l-Bahá uses this situation to conclude that only the third alternative of causes of order remains, the origin of order by voluntary design. This approach, in contrast to many modern proposals in cosmology and evolution biology, assumes complexity from the very beginning.


    /1/ William Paley was one of the British theologians and naturalists who saw in the wonders of nature, and particularly biology, the best proofs of the existence of God. In 1805 Paley published his famous book Natural Theology. It contains several proofs for the existence of God using the argument by design. Those proofs were based on the complexity and adaptedness of life. He elaborated the watchmaker argument. As the existence of a well designed watch proves the existence of a watchmaker; the existence of the well adapted biosphere proves the existence of an intelligent designer (see Sober for a discussion (Sober, 1993)).

    /2/ During the 19th century chance was not considered to be important for evolution. For instance Büchner as well as Haeckel based evolution entirely on necessary causes.

    /3/ Hatcher (Hatcher and Hatcher, 1996; Hatcher, 1990) gives a careful formal analysis of Aristotle's proof of the existence of God.

    /4/ In the light of modern mathematics this argument to initiate this universe on voluntary acts may be understood as a reasonable way to escape the incompleteness theorem formulated by the Austrian mathematician Gödel (e.g., see (Hofstadter, 1979)). Formal systems are essentially incomplete, i.e., there are always true statements regarding the formal system which cannot be proven to be true within the system, but require a meta-system. Because the same incompleteness theorem applies to the meta-system, any formal system is necessarily incomplete. This purely mathematical theorem implies that there exists no complete formal theory to explain our universe. Because of the essential incompleteness of formal systems it is certainly not unreasonable to go beyond formal systems and include "free will" as the primary entity of causation.

    /5/ It is important to note that here we have only the analogy. The quantity which according to the second law of thermodynamics always increases is the entropy. It is a measure of statistical order, but cannot distinguish between meaningful and meaningless message. Entropy therefore, is not a measure for biological order.

    /6/ The apple falls from the tree because the wind blows. But what causes the wind to blow and to shake the tree?

    /7/ In modern physics, the second law of thermodynamics is formulated that locally entropy (i.e., disorder) is always generated but never destroyed. A decrease of entropy in a small volume element can be obtained by free energy influx which corresponds to an influx of "negative entropy", equivalent to an outflow of entropy. Systems which exchange energy with their environment are designated open systems. The planet earth represents such an open system. Light from the sun enters the geosphere, the surplus of energy is reemitted into the universe in form of thermal radiation. The resulting free energy difference drives non-equilibrium processes such as weather and provides our planet with the necessary means to develop life. Thus, the second law of thermodynamics does not contradict evolution, it defines necessary conditions for it.

    /8/ Kuhn (Kuhn and Waser, 1982) proposes a formal measure by which the "knowledge" of DNA/RNA chains is estimated.

    /9/ If oil is continually heated from below above a certain heat supply, a hexagonal pattern of convection cells appears (Prigogine, 1979).

    /10/ Here Wheelers idea is simplified. But the argument also holds for the more complex form of the idea proposed by Wheeler.

    /11/ If the understanding of the left hand side zero takes several years of dedicated studies of theoretical physics, also such a zero is certainly not trivial, not self evident.

    /12/ A small protein may consist in 130 of its building blocks, the amino acids. There are 20 different naturally occurring amino acids. The number of all possible sequences (20130 = 10170) of this small protein with 130 amino acids exceeds by orders of magnitude the estimated number of neutrons in our universe or the estimated age of it given in seconds (von Weizsäcker, 1986). Because changes in the sequence often result in the complete loss of the function of the protein, it is not likely that even a single small protein endowed with a highly specific and efficient function was generated by pure change during the existence of the universe. The probability to create a complete organism by accident is again many orders of magnitude lower than the probability to form a simple protein. Using such probabilistic arguments the accidental existence of life can be practically excluded.

    /13/ Throughout this essay the term creation is used in the sense that something essentially new appeared, unpredictable in principle, unforseeable, not preexistent in any form, not the unfolding of inherent potentials. In this sense the term creation is used by Monod (Monod, 1970) and Mayr (Mayr, 1982). Mayr, Monod and others obviously assume a type of creation without a cause, particularly without a creator.

    /14/ As shown by modern mathematics (Hofstadter, 1979) the randomness of a sequence of numbers or characters cannot be proven. Good counter examples are pseudo random number generators. Although the numbers of good generators fulfill nearly every test for randomness they are completely deterministic, reproducible, and therefore not random.

    /15/ Analogously, the excellence of those who pass an examination cannot be evaluated from the lack of knowledge of those who failed.

    /16/ A well known example is the Bénard instability of oil when heated from below (Prigogine, 1979; Prigogine and Stengers, 1981). Beyond a certain temperature gradient, the oil forms hexagonally ordered convection cells. Probably no one would claim that the Bénard instability was created during its discovery and did not potentially exist before in the laws of fluid dynamics.

    /17/ A good model to study evolution appears to be the problem of protein folding. Many small water soluble proteins melt above a certain temperature, i.e., they partly or totally unfold, and fold back into their native state after recooling. If the native state would have to be found by means of a random search through all possible protein conformations the required folding time would be longer than the age of our universe (Anfinsen, 1973). Experimentally one finds folding times in the range from milliseconds to hours. The folding path way of the protein is determined by the free energy of each of the possible states. Only if this free energy landscape satisfies certain requirements and prevents the protein to search the complete conformational space during folding (Baldwin, 1990) protein folding is possible. In the same sense evolution is possible only along those regions in sequence space where sequences with high fitness values neighbor a sufficient number of other sequences also with sufficiently high fitness values.

    /18/ A similar and more detailed description of the hierarchical structure of the kingdoms of nature can be found in PUP p. 258.

    /19/ In an email group Juan Cole posted: "`Abdu'l-Bahá accepts an essentially Aristotelian notion of a hierarchy of types of soul, where soul really means a set of abilities or faculties. Thus, plants have a vegetative soul, which is equivalent to the faculty of growth/reproduction. Animals have an animal soul which is equivalent to the faculty of deliberate movement. Humans have a rational soul, which is equivalent to the faculty of rational thinking. These `souls' or capacities are seen to exist apart from matter, perhaps in the World of Forms, but are `attracted' by matter when it is arranged in a certain way." (cited with permission of the author)

    /20/ Conow (Conow, 1990) extensively describes the journey of the atoms through the kingdoms.

    /21/ It is certainly no overstatement that a single living cell is more complex than the whole rest of the inanimate universe. A small protein consisting of 130 amino acids can form in the order of 4130 = 1080 different conformations, if 4 different conformations are assumed for each amino acid (Anfinsen, 1973). This number of conformations is of the order of the estimated number of neutrons in our universe (von Weizsäcker, 1986).

    /22/ `Abdu'l-Bahá uses the phrase that the composition attracts the human spirit. According to Newton's principle of actio equals reactio one can also assume the reverse: the human spirit attracts the composition which favors its manifestation. In this sense the human spirit may become an "attractor" for the atomic composition required for its revelation. The term attractor is originally used to describe certain types of solutions of complex dynamic systems. It `guides' many solutions of a system into a single domain of solutions or even a single solution. In this sense the "human spirit" define certain domains of stationary, dynamic atomic assemblies (human bodies) within which human life is possible. Such mechanism represents an essentialistic evolution concept.

    /23/ There is a method of simulating properties of molecular assemblies, the Metropolis Monte Carlo procedure (Metropolis, et al., 1953) which illucidates this concept of evolution. It also consists in two steps: (1) starting from an initial configuration the molecules are randomly move a bit; and (2) the acceptance of this random trial configuration depends on its "fitness", a measure of its physical feasableness designated free energy, compared to the fitness of the original configuration. Here the fitness function (force field) has to be provided by the programmer. The degree of realism of such simulation depends on the quality of the "fitness function". The challenging problem of such simulations is not the random step but to find reasonable force fields, reasonable fitness functions (e.g., approximations to the conformational free energy of a protein as a function of its coordinates). This method is known as a powerful method to explore complicated fitness functions.

Chapter 4

Originality of Species

In talks at several occasions given to a Western audiences, `Abdu'l-Bahá criticizes the theory of evolution of "some European" philosophers. A more careful analysis of His arguments reveals a clash between oriental and occidental variants of neo-Platonism, and modernized forms of the Aristotelian species concept. In this chapter, the arguments of `Abdu'l-Bahá are presented, analyzed and related to modern concepts of evolution.

At the beginning of this chapter a methodological issue must be raised. Why did `Abdu'l-Bahá spent so many talks and a considerable amount of space in His writings for the subject of evolution? He was certainly not much interested in the details of biological evolution, whether chimpanzees are biologically more closely related to gorillas or to orang utan, or whether mice, rabbits and guinea pigs belong to the same taxonomic family! This desinterest of `Abdu'l-Bahá in particular biological questions can be seen from the fact that only very few of His statements can be reasonably interpreted to address biological issues. But within their specific context, most of those few apparently biological statements can be understood as analogies, where `Abdu'l-Bahá uses facts and concepts about nature commonly accepted at the beginning of the 20th century to explain spiritual truths. In His particular interest in the social and religious consequences of Darwinism `Abdu'l-Bahá agrees with most oriental authors addressing the subject of evolution (see Keven Brown's article). In the talks and writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, the originality of species (asálat-i naw`) forms a cornerstone for a concept of the origin of complex biological order and the evolution of life. Most secondary literature covering the subject of evolution in the Bahá'í writings emphasize such a concept (Brown, 1994; Conow, 1990; Khursheed, 1987; Savi, 1989). In several chapters of SAQ and many talks in the United States as printed in PUP `Abdu'l-Bahá claims the originality of species . He contrasts the principle of the originality of species with the theories of the European philosophers that the human species is derived from the animal kingdom: "We have now come to the question ... whether man's descent is from the animal. This theory has found credence in the minds of some European philosophers, and it is now very difficult to make its falseness understood, but in the future it will become evident and clear, and the European philosophers will themselves realize its untruth." (SAQ 46:1-2) But, what particular aspect of the theory of the European philosophers is criticized by `Abdu'l-Bahá in SAQ and PUP?

As the spiritual leader of the Bahá'í community and as the authoritative interpreter of the Bahá'í scriptures, the social and spiritual consequences of Darwinism, which were propagated in the Western world, constituted a real challenge to the new Faith. The Darwinian concept that the complex biological order originates from a mindless, mechanical process, and does not follow ancient, God given laws of nature, would apply not only to the biosphere but as well to human social world. If the biological order is largely accidentally, the principles ruling the human society would be arbitrary. Such a position was certainly unacceptable to `Abdu'l-Bahá. An other reason to address the question of evolution is found in the particular Bahá'í teachings. In Paris `Abdu'l-Bahá presented the unity of science and religion as one of the central teachings of the Faith. This principle contrasts the explicit claim of several materialists, such as Büchner or Haeckel, that evolution and creation are two mutually excluding world view. To formulate a concept of evolution which accounts for the know biological and palaeontological facts, and which is compatible with the teachings of His father, would simply prove the modernity of the new faith in the West. These principles represent `Abdu'l-Bahá's answer to atheistic movements such as the German monists. Particularly the interpretation of Darwinism in terms of a materialistic philosophy must have been a point of serious concern for `Abdu'l-Bahá.

4.1) The theory of "some European philosophers"

During one of the talks in Akká, Miss Laura Clifford Barney asked concerning the theory of biological evolution: "What do you say with regard to the theories held by some European philosophers on the growth and development of beings?" (SAQ 49:1). `Abdu'l-Bahá reformulated the question and expressed the problem as an alternative between changing and immutable species: "Briefly, this question will be decided by determining whether species [naw`] are original or not--that is to say, has the species [naw`iyat] of man been established from its origin, or was it afterward derived from the animal?" (SAQ, 49:2). `Abdu'l-Bahá then presents the arguments of the European scientists which were used to support evolution:
Certain European philosophers think that the species [naw`] grows and develops, and that even change and modification are possible. One of the proofs that they give for this theory is that through the attentive study and verification of the science of geology it has become clear that the existence of the vegetable preceded that of the animal, and that of the animal preceded that of man. They believe that both the vegetable and the animal genera [jins] have changed, for in some of the strata of the earth they have discovered plants which existed in the past and are now extinct; in other words, they think these plants progressed and grew in strength, and that their form and appearance changed; and, therefore, the species [naw`] has altered. In the same way, in the strata of the earth there are some species of animals which have changed and become modified. One of these animals is the serpent. There are indications that the serpent once had feet, but through the lapse of time those members have disappeared. In the same way, in the vertebral column of man there is a vestige which proves that man, like other animals, once had a tail. They believe that at one time that member was useful, but when man developed, it was no longer of use; and, therefore, it gradually disappeared. As the serpent took refuge under the ground and became a creeping animal, it was no longer in need of feet, so they disappeared; but their traces survive. Their principal argument is this: the existence of traces of members proves that they once existed, and as now they are no longer of service, they have gradually disappeared, and there is no longer any benefit in or reason for these vestiges. Therefore, while the perfect and necessary members have remained, those which are unnecessary have gradually disappeared by the modification of the species, but the traces of them continue. (SAQ, 49:3)
At the time of `Abdu'l-Bahá, these were two major lines of argument presented in favor of evolution, emphasizing fossil records and atrophic organs. Lamark's studies of the existing and extinct moluscs showed clearly that their outer form changed throughout history. Some of them are now extinct others still living today have a clear relationship to earlier forms. The famous french biologist Cuvier "... clearly demonstrated for the Tertiary strata of the Paris basin that each horizon had its particular mammalian fauna. More importantly, he showed that the lower a stratum was, the more different the fauna was from that of the present. It was he who proved extinction conclusively, since the extinct proboscidians (elephants) described by him could not possibly have remained unnoticed in some remote region of the world, as was postulated for marine organisms" (Mayr, 1982, p. 363). These findings present a clear evidence that the biological populations living during earlier phases of our planet were different from those today. An other argument in favor of evolution is the existence of atrophic organs such as the blind eyes of the cave salamander or the relics of legs in the case of the serpent. Those organs very likely had a function in earlier times. Because they were no longer in use, they became stunted. `Abdu'l-Bahá does not deny the truth of those findings, but criticizes the philosophic interpretation of these data. `Abdu'l-Bahá's critique of the "theory held by some European philosophers" is now analyzed in detail.

4.2) `Abdu'l-Bahá's critique of the "theory of the European philosophers"

In chapter 46 of SAQ `Abdu'l-Bahá formulates two arguments in criticizing the theory of the "European philosophers" that the human species descends from the animal world. The first argument is based on Plato's concept that the whole universe is in perfect harmony and on concepts of modern physics that the laws of nature are time invariant. In the second argument `Abdu'l-Bahá grounds the originality of human species on the time invariance of the laws of nature, on the completeness of a timeless universal law. This argument can be understood as the rejection of Aristotle's concept that existing forms are sufficient to act as blueprints for future forms.

4.2.1) A harmonious universe

In the argument about the perfect harmony of the whole universe `Abdu'l-Bahá concludes that the missing of the human species during a certain period would imply a partly imperfect universe which violates the principle of perfect harmony:
When man looks at the beings with a penetrating regard, and attentively examines the condition of existences, and when he sees the state, the organization and the perfection of the world, he will be convinced that in the contingent world there is nothing more wonderful than that which already exists. For all existing beings, terrestrial and celestial, as well as this limitless space and all that is in it, have been created and organized, composed, arranged and perfected as they ought to be. The universe has no imperfection, so that if all beings became pure intelligence and reflected for ever and ever, it is impossible that they could imagine anything better than that which already exists.

If, however, the creation in the past had not been adorned with the utmost perfection, then existence would have been imperfect and meaningless, and in this case creation would have been incomplete... Now, if we imagine a time when man belonged to the animal world, or when he was merely an animal, we shall find that existence would have been imperfect--that is to say, there would have been no man, and this chief member, which in the body of the world is like the brain and mind in man, would have been missing. The world would then have been quite imperfect. This is a categorical proof, because if there had been a time when man was in the animal kingdom, the perfection of existence would have been destroyed; for man is the greatest member of this world, and if this world were without its chief member, surely it would be imperfect. (SAQ 46:2-3)

First `Abdu'l-Bahá describes a perfect universe. Then the argument concludes that if there would have been a time when the human species did not exist or would have belonged to the animal kingdom, the harmony, we see today, would not have existed, and the universe would have been imperfect. The perfection and harmony of our universe, according to `Abdu'l-Bahá, are based in the names and attributes of God, as described in the section about creation: "The effulgence of the divine perfections appears in the reality of man, so he is the representative of God, the messenger of God. If man did not exist, the universe would be without result, for the object of existence is the appearance of the perfections of God." (SAQ, 50:3) Here `Abdu'l-Bahá brings a slightly modified version of the argument of the harmonious universe. Because God cannot be imperfect and His names and attributes /1/ are necessarily always mirrored forth, the most perfect representative of God, i.e., humanity, needs to exist eternally. Perfect harmony, according to `Abdu'l-Bahá, is an essential attribute of the universe, consequently, humanity cannot have evolved from the animal kingdom and the human species must be original. Similar arguments are given in other places (`Abdu'l-Bahá, 1984, pp. 74 and 77).

Today, most biologist will consider such statements not a convincing argument against the modern understanding of Darwinism which grounds in the idea of change. This argument, however, shows that a very common philosophic understanding of Darwinism leads to an interpretation of nature and the evolution of life which contradicts `Abdu'l-Bahá's concept of creation and is often used to support atheism. This particular aspect of the evolution discussion is certainly a point of major concern to `Abdu'l-Bahá. It must have been a goal for `Abdu'l-Bahá in talks before a Western audience to specifically demonstrate the compatibility of the evolution of life on this planet and the existence of caring Creator.

4.2.2) A complete universal law

After the argument of the harmonious universe in chapter 46 against the human descent from the animal kingdom, `Abdu'l-Bahá uses the time invariance of the laws of nature to substantiate the originality of the human species:
In brief, the perfection of each individual being--that is to say, the perfection which you now see in man and apart from him, with regard to their parts, organs, or faculties--is due to the composition of the elements, to their measure, to their balance, to the manner of their combination, and to the interaction and influence of other beings. In the case of man, when all these factors are gathered together, then man exists.

As the perfection of man is entirely due to the composition of the elements, to their measure, to the manner of their combination, and to the interaction and influence of different beings--then, since man was produced ten or a hundred thousand years ago from these earthly elements with the same measure and balance, the same manner of combination and mingling, and the same influence of other beings, exactly the same man existed then as now. This is evident and not worth debating. A thousand million years hence, if these elements of man are gathered together and arranged in this special proportion, and if the elements are combined according to the same method, and if they are affected by the same influence of other beings, exactly the same man will exist. (SAQ, 46:4-5)

`Abdu'l-Bahá states that a certain composition of chemical elements leads to the same human being today, "ten or hundred thousand years ago," or in a "thousand million years". Thus, the originality of the human species is derived in this argument of `Abdu'l-Bahá from the time invariance of the laws of nature, from the assumed existence of a timeless universal law. This universal law rules the interactions between the chemical elements. Because human beings would materialize whenever the required conditions are met, the human species is potentially present in the universe even if no particular biological population exists. This concept parallels Dawkins idea (Dawkins, 1986) of the space of DNA sequences defining all possible forms of life a priori.

`Abdu'l-Bahá obviously considers the concept of time invariant laws to be self evident: "... exactly the same man existed then as now. This is evident and not worth debating." (SAQ 46:5) In a later part of the same quote `Abdu'l-Bahá uses the example of the lamp to illustrate the argument of the time invariance of the laws of nature: "For example, if after a hundred thousand years there is oil, fire, a wick, a lamp and the lighter of the lamp--briefly, if there are all the necessary things which now exist, exactly the same lamp will be obtained." (SAQ 46:5) According to this argument, the "essence" which "ensures" the burning of the oil lamp is not created nor did it originate at some time point of cosmology but exists from the very beginning.

That `Abdu'l-Bahá applies this argument to humanity as well as to oil lamps indicates that `Abdu'l-Bahá considers this argument as a rather general one. It applies to salt crystals, oil lamps, computers, myoglobin molecules, viruses, bacteria, mice and human beings, etc. According to this argument, whenever chemical elements are combined in the necessary order, the respective result is obtained. This result is independent of the time point, if the respective boundary conditions are met (e.g., the necessary environment for viruses, bacteria, ...). `Abdu'l-Bahá concludes from this argument that the order to form salt crystals, etc., contrary to Aristotle's proposal, exists a priori. It is not created as proposed by Monod, but it is unfolded.

`Abdu'l-Bahá distinguishes between natural (God given) and accidental order:

This composition and arrangement, through the wisdom of God and His preexistent might, were produced from one natural organization, which was composed and combined with the greatest strength, conformable to wisdom, and according to a universal law. From this it is evident that it is the creation of God, and is not a fortuitous composition and arrangement. This is why from every natural composition a being can come into existence, but from an accidental composition no being can come into existence. (SAQ 47:3)
Only when the composition and ordering of atoms follows the eternal organization, the plans defined by the Creator, i.e., forms according to the respective time invariant essences, a living organism can result. Only very particular combinations of pinions and gears lead to functioning clockworks, but not arbitrary ones. In the language of evolution biology, this statement would be formulated differently: Only those compositions of chemical elements, only those organisms which possess high fitness values can survive. Accidental assemblies of atoms, however, will produce no stable complex structures as found in the biosphere.

By this argument `Abdu'l-Bahá rebuts the Aristotelian concept of order where the present actual order is sufficient to maintain itself. In a universe, where evolution is substantial, not all possible forms of order are always realized. There has been a time in our universe without salt crystals or human beings. `Abdu'l-Bahá assumes that salt crystals and human beings are formed "automatically" under the respective combinations of the necessary chemical elements. If this idea is correct the order found in salt crystals and human beings exists independently from actually existing salt crystals and human beings. This idea is contrary to Aristotle's concept of order and more closely related to Plato's essences. According to `Abdu'l-Bahá, the human species essence accounts for the ability of chemical elements to from human beings.

This second argument `Abdu'l-Bahá is not only a strong rebuttal of Aristotelian concepts of order, it also uses concepts of classical and modern physics. /2/ Physicist generally believe in essences, i.e., they assume that there exists a unique set of time invariant laws of nature, a timeless universal law of nature. To find such a universal law (German: Weltformel) is/was one of the most cherished goals of generations of scientists. According to such a view the possible existence of human beings has its roots in the laws of nature from the very beginning, even though in the early phases of the universe there would exist not the required environment where human beings could live. This view appears to be the central idea of the second argument of `Abdu'l-Bahá in favor of the originality of the human species.

With the arguments of the harmonious universe and the complete universal law `Abdu'l-Bahá rejects theories which assume a completion of the laws of nature within time, a self-creation of principally new characteristics during cosmology and evolution of life on earth. These arguments reject the anew generation of species as considered by some naturalists such as Maupertius in classical biology /3/ as well as the ad hoc self-creation of new biological characteristics in modern biology. According to `Abdu'l-Bahá's argument, all particular possible forms of life exist potentially from the "begin" of our universe. Only particular assemblies of chemical elements produce living organisms, arbitrary compositions quickly desintegrate.

Thus, according to `Abdu'l-Bahá, life is possible only within particular predetermined boundaries. /4/ The argument of the harmonious universe and that of a time invariant universal law of nature favoring the existences of species essences /5/ are not really different. The same concept is formulated in different "cultural" frameworks. The first argument is based on the Platonic concept of a perfectly harmonious universe, the second refers to the more modern concept of a time invariant universal law of nature and its essential completeness. The central message of both ideas is that humanity exists potentially from the beginning of the universe. Thus, as shown above, `Abdu'l-Bahá assumes a kind of universe which is potentially complex from the very beginning.

4.3) `Abdu'l-Bahá's concept of the human species

In chapter 46 of SAQ `Abdu'l-Bahá argues in favor of the originality of the human species in referring to the harmonious perfect universe and to the time invariant laws of nature. According to this argument, the "species of man" exists eternally without change. But what concept has `Abdu'l-Bahá about the species? Is He referring to the modern population concept? Does this term indicate a biological population of individual organisms? In several places `Abdu'l-Bahá apparently use the term "species" in a biological sense. But does `Abdu'l-Bahá really claim that human beings live biologically from the beginning of our universe? What exactly `Abdu'l-Bahá says about the human species?

The analysis of `Abdu'l-Bahá's arguments against the modification of the human species in favor of the originality of the species leads to the conclusion that `Abdu'l-Bahá uses the terms human species or man certainly not in its modern meaning, where they would refer to a population of human beings. Instead `Abdu'l-Bahá uses the classical concepts of the human species essence. `Abdu'l-Bahá's repeated reference to Aristotle, Plato and the philosophers of the East (see Keven Brown's article) supports this conclusion. Also `Abdu'l-Bahá's claim in chapter 50 of that the human species exists eternally makes sense only within an essentialistic species concept:

... now we will adduce spiritual proofs that human existence--that is, the species [naw`] of man--is a necessary existence, and that without man the divine perfections would not appear... We have many times demonstrated and established that man is the noblest of contingent beings, the sum of all perfections, and that all beings and all existents are centers for the appearance of the divine effulgence--that is to say, the signs of the Divinity of God are manifest in the realities of all created things... The world, indeed each existing being, proclaims to us one of the names of God, but the reality of man is the collective reality, the general reality, and the center for the appearance of all the divine perfections--that is to say, for each name, each attribute, each perfection which we affirm of God there exists a sign in man... Consequently, the Divinity of God, which is the sum of all perfections, appears resplendent in the reality of man--that is to say, the Essence of Oneness is the possessor of all perfections, and from this unity He casts an effulgence upon the human reality. Man, then, is the perfect mirror facing the Sun of Truth and is its place of appearance: the Sun of Truth shines in this mirror. (SAQ, 50:1-3)
`Abdu'l-Bahá's concept of the "human existence", of the "species of man" is closely related to His previously outlined concept of creation. He describes our world as a mirror to reflect the names and attributes of God. According to `Abdu'l-Bahá, a missing of the "species of man" and indeed any species, would imply the non-existence of the respective names and attributes of God. In this context, the term "species" is certainly not used in a biological, but in an essentialistic sense. Together with `Abdu'l-Bahá's statements of evolution as a process of unfolding (see below), "species of man" here indicates the potential to form human beings. If the possibility to form human beings would have been absent during a phase of cosmology and developed later, an important potential of the laws of nature would have been missing.

`Abdu'l-Bahá's emphasis of the essential nature of the human species can be found throughout His writings. By means of: "When we speak of man, we mean the perfect one, the foremost individual in the world, who is the sum of spiritual and apparent perfections" (SAQ 46:3) `Abdu'l-Bahá confirms a usage of the term "man" in the essentialistic sense given above. Statements which emphasize the spiritual nature as a defining aspect of humanity are also found in many other places, for instant in Paris talks: "You cannot apply the name `man' to any being void of this faculty of meditation; without it he would be a mere animal, lower than the beasts." [Paris Talks, p. 175]

In various places `Abdu'l-Bahá emphasizes the time invariance of the species essences and in the same time the evolution, i.e., birth, development and death, of the particular representatives of those essences:

Therefore, all creatures emanate from God--that is to say, it is by God that all things are realized, and by Him that all beings have attained to existence... This emanation, in that which concerns its action in the world of God, is not limited by time or place; it is without beginning or end--beginning and end in relation to God are one... The existence of living things signifies composition, and their death, decomposition. But universal matter and the elements do not become absolutely annihilated and destroyed. No, their nonexistence is simply transformation. (SAQ 53, old translation)
The species essences of "all creatures" exist out of time, they are "not limited by time and place". In the language of modern sciences this concept can be translated that the potential to form the various organism is implicitly encoded in the laws of nature. These species essences determine the "space" of all possible organisms. The concept of species essences applies to all organisms: "All beings, whether universal or particular, were created perfect and complete from the first." SAQ (51:4)

The Guardian /6/ gave a few explanations concerning the originality of the human species: "The Bahá'í Faith teaches man was always potentially man, even when passing through the lower stages of evolution" (Effendi, 19??, p. 458). In a letter Shoghi Effendi wrote:

We cannot prove man was always man for this is a fundamental doctrine, but it is based on the assertion that nothing can exceed its own potentialities, that everything, a stone, a tree, an animal and a human being existed in plan, potentially, from the very "beginning" of creation. 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. (Effendi, 1982, p. 85)
Shoghi Effendi states that the originality of species is grounded on the principle that "nothing can exceed its own potentialities." This principle means that the ability of the human species to show forth intelligence was not developed during evolution, but was potentially present from the beginning of the universe. Here Shoghi Effendi applies the cause and effect law introduced above. The physical existence of the human species, the effect, requires a respective cause, the human species essence, which "existed in plan, potentially, from the very `beginning' of creation." The time invariant names and attributes of God represent a timeless origin for the human species essence. Humanity is not an accident in our universe as for instance proposed by Jaques Monod (Monod, 1970), but a result of the potentials built into this universe, the unfolding of the names and attributes of God. The human species is not a "haphazard branch of the ape family", but, to use the words of `Abdu'l-Bahá, "the human existence ... is a necessary existence" (SAQ 50:1). In a commentary to the article of Craig Loehle (Loehle, 1990; Loehle, 1992) in The Journal of Bahá'í Studies Keven Brown (Brown, 1994) also proposes a similar explanation. /7/

Whenever Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá defines "man" or "humanity" they stress the eternal existence of humanity, the human ability to mirror forth the timeless names and attributes of God. This fact supports the hypothesis that in the concept of the originality of the human species, the term "species" is not used according to its modern definition but in the sense that it refers to the human species essence. The lack of reference to the biological characteristics of the members of homo sapiens supports the idea that the human species essence is to a lesser degree defined by biological characteristics but mainly by spiritual virtues. This idea would allow the existence of "human beings" in this universe with an organism differing from that of homo sapiens, i.e., with a different metabolism and morphology.

4.4) Substantial evolution

According to `Abdu'l-Bahá, this universe, reflecting the names and attributes of God, represents a perfect harmony from the very beginning. All those perfections are implicitly encoded in the time invariant laws of nature. But how can the timeless species essence lead to the evolution of the biosphere? Mayr in his Growth of Biological Thought (Mayr, 1982, p. 305) describes the concept of a harmonious universe as one of the major obstacles for the development of Darwin's theory of evolution. The argument of a harmonious universe was considered a strong counterargument against Darwin's theory, especially by those biologists and theologists adhering to natural theology. In classical biology Plato's argument of a perfect universe was understood that God creates the universe perfect from the beginning, perfect with respect to its essences, in its potentialities, but also perfect in its outer form, in its actual realization. In such an outwardly perfect world evolution makes no sense, because all organisms are perfect from the timepoint of their creation and cannot be improved. In such a universe natural selection may have the task to remove outliners which deviate too strongly from its perfect form dictated by its species essence. Classical biology grounds on a static world view with biological populations more or less constant in their outer appearance. This interpretation of Plato's principle of a harmonious universe definitely excludes evolution. In this light Mayr's statement makes sense that the idea of a perfect, harmonious universe constituted one of the major obstacles for the development of a theory of biological evolution.

To understand the arguments of `Abdu'l-Bahá, however, it is important to know that occidental and oriental neo-Platonic philosophies have different concepts about the effect of timeless essences in this material world (see the accompanying essay (see Keven Brown's article)). Mullá Sadra for instance formulated the concept of substantial evolution (lit. substantial motion) (see Keven Brown's article). `Abdu'l-Bahá describes this concept in one of the talks published in SAQ:

Know that nothing which exists remains in a state of repose--that is to say, all things are in motion. Everything is either growing or declining; all things are either coming from nonexistence into being, or going from existence into nonexistence. So this flower, this hyacinth, during a certain period of time was coming from the world of nonexistence into being, and now it is going from being into nonexistence. This state of motion is said to be substantial--that is, natural; it cannot be separated from beings because it is their essential requirement, as it is the essential requirement of fire to burn. (SAQ 63:1)
`Abdu'l-Bahá describes motion, or translated into modern terminology evolution, as substantial for the world of being. The objects of this world grow, decline and die. They are assembled by chemical elements which later are redistributed again. These continuous changes form a constituent aspect of this world. In an other place `Abdu'l-Bahá emphasizes the continuous change within the physical world together with the time invariance of the essences:
Physical bodies are transferred past one barrier after another, from one life to another, and all things are subject to transformation and change, save only the essence of existence itself--since it is constant and immutable, and upon it is founded the life of every species and kind, of every contingent reality throughout the whole of creation. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, 1978, p. 157)
Thus in this world, evolution and change is substantial. The transformation of the material objects, however, grounds in a fundamental time invariant reality. It is based on timeless species essences; its possible "trajectories" are determined by the laws of nature.

4.4.1) The evolving universe

Evolution and transformation are not limited to particular objects. The concept of substantial evolution rules cosmogony as well as the evolution of life. In this contingent world all things change, evolution is substantial and not accidental. Bahá'u'lláh presents cosmogony as a fundamental evolutionary process:
... God was, and His creation had ever existed beneath His shelter from the beginning that hath no beginning ... That which hath been in existence had existed before, but not in the form thou seest today. The world of existence came into being through the heat generated from the interaction between the active force and that which is its recipient (Bahá'u'lláh, 1988, 9:8-9).
In the context of this essay only two aspects of this statement are considered: (1) The existence of the universe is eternal. As already shown, time itself is God's creation and this universe is a mirror image of the eternal names and attributes of God. Eternal in this context does not mean an infinitely long duration, but independence of time. These names and attributes define the essences for our universe, its blueprints. (2) The universe as we know it today is a result of a long-lasting process. According to this statement the universe is not static but dynamic. Although it is eternal as a whole it's particular state evolves and changes within time, it is subject to substantial evolution. `Abdu'l-Bahá a gave the following interpretation of the second sentence of this quote from the Lawh-i Hikmát:
From this blessed verse it is clear and evident that the universe is evolving. In the opinion of the philosophers and the wise this fact of the growth and evolution of the world of existence is also established. This is to say, it is progressively transferred from state to state. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, Ma'idiy-i-asmani, 2, p. 68, provisional translation by Keven Brown)
In interpreting the statement of Bahá'u'lláh given above, `Abdu'l-Bahá explicates the dynamics of the universe. The terms "growth and evolution" indicate, that `Abdu'l-Bahá assumes considerable changes in the development of the universe and not only minor adaptions. The cosmology `Abdu'l-Bahá presents behaves essentially dynamic, changes are the rule and not the exception, evolution is a substantial aspect of this universe. In comparing the classic and modern views of biology, `Abdu'l-Bahá's cosmology fits much better to the historicity, emphasized in modern theories of the development of the universe, and found in the evolution of living systems, than the static universe proposed by Aristotle and accepted by Christianity until the 19th century.

As indicated at the beginning of this section, "substantial evolution" applies to all levels in this contingent world. As `Abdu'l-Bahá explained, everything in our universe stems from a single root. The physical appearance of the universe developed and proceeded from stage to stage:

It is necessary, therefore, that we should know what each of the great existents was in the beginning--for there is no doubt that in the beginning the origin was one: the origin of all numbers is one and not two. Then it is evident that in the beginning there was a single matter, and that one matter appeared in a particular form in each element. Thus various forms were produced, and these various forms as they were produced became permanent [istiqlal, lit. independent], and each element was specialized. But this permanence was not definite, and did not attain realization and perfect existence until after a very long time. (SAQ 47:2)
Following this quote, our universe undergoes substantial evolution. The whole material universe required an unimaginably long time (cosmological time scales, e.g., 10 to 30 billion years) to evolve to the state that we know today. During the development of the universe, stars and planets appeared. According to `Abdu'l-Bahá, the concept of substantial evolution applies to the whole universe. Matter, planets, stars, etc. evolved from a common origin. Obviously, `Abdu'l-Bahá envisioned not only minor modification, but substantial changes.

4.4.2) Biological evolution

The concept of substantial evolution applies also to the biosphere. Life unfolds on earth:
But it is clear that this terrestrial globe in its present form did not come into existence all at once, but that this universal existence gradually passed through different phases until it became adorned with its present perfection... In the same manner, it is evident that this terrestrial globe, having once found existence, grew and developed in the matrix of the universe, and came forth in different forms and conditions, until gradually it attained this present perfection, and became adorned with innumerable beings, and appeared as a finished organization... (SAQ 47:4).
The development of life on earth is explained as a long-lasting process (geological time scales, about 5 billion years). Life is not static or in a steady state as believed by Aristotle and in the "classical" Christian world, but it continuously changes:
Similarly, the terrestrial globe from the beginning was created with all its elements, substances, minerals, parts, and organisms; but these only appeared by degrees: first the mineral, then the plant, afterward the animal, and finally man. (SAQ 51:5)
First `Abdu'l-Bahá emphasizes that the laws of nature and species essences for the formation of planets and for biological development are eternal and do not evolve. The unfolding of the potential realities, of the eternal names and attributes of God into actual existences, however, has the form of an evolution. After a long time the universe evolved to the state we see today. In the matrix of the universe the terrestrial globe came into being and developed slowly until its present form. Similarly, biological life evolved over a long period of time. Representatives of the human species appeared after plants and animals.

The view of the evolution of the universe and life on earth presented by `Abdu'l-Bahá agrees with the findings of modern sciences. This universe is considered to be essentially dynamic, the development of life grounds in substantial evolution. In agreement with oriential neo-Platonism, `Abdu'l-Bahá proposes that the timeless reality unfolds within time resulting in substantial evolution. This tradition contrasts occidental neo-Platonism because the existence of timeless species essences is not equated with a static world. `Abdu'l-Bahá's concept of evolution differs from most schools of thought in modern biology in that it is based on an essentialistic fundament. Features evolved during evolution are understood to reflect the eternal names and attributes of God. They reveal the complex potentials built into this world by our Creator from the very beginning.

4.5) Compatibility of species essences with an evolving universe

For establishing the concept of the originality of the human species `Abdu'l-Bahá had to argue against the conviction of most classical and modern biologists that species essences and evolution mutually exclude each other. This position was clearly stated by Mayr:
Darwin was full conscious of the fact that the change from one species into another one was the most fundamental problem of evolution. Indeed, evolution was, almost by definition, a change from on species into an other one. The belief in constant, unchangeable species was the fortress of antievolutionism to be stormed and destroyed. (Mayr, 1991)
Nevertheless, `Abdu'l-Bahá's evolution concept is clearly essentialistic. In contrast to most European philosophers, Mullá Sadra formulated the concept of substantial evolution (lit. substantial motion) (see Keven Brown's article). In addition to the arguments described above in favor of an essentialistic evolution, `Abdu'l-Bahá presented a particular biological argument, the analogy between human ontogeny and phylogeny, to support the compatibility of the human species essence and human evolution.

4.5.1) Phylogeny resembles ontogeny

There are a series of passages in SAQ and PUP where `Abdu'l-Bahá explicitly addresses the problem how time invariant species essences can account for evolving biological populations in a dynamic world. In paragraph 47:5 of SAQ `Abdu'l-Bahá uses the analogy of human ontogeny (the development of the embryo) with human phylogeny (the human evolution on earth) to support a concept of species essences compatible with evolution:
... But it is clear that this terrestrial globe in its present form did not come into existence all at once, but that this universal existence gradually passed through different phases until it became adorned with its present perfection. Universal beings resemble and can be compared to particular beings, for both are subject to one natural system, one universal law, and one divine organization. So you will find the smallest atoms in the universal system are similar to the greatest beings of the universe. It is clear that they come into existence from one laboratory of might under one natural system and one universal law; therefore, they are analogous to one another. Thus the embryo of man in the womb of the mother gradually grows and develops, and appears in different forms and conditions, until in the degree of perfect beauty it reaches maturity and appears in a perfect form with the utmost grace. And in the same way, the seed of this flower which you see was in the beginning an insignificant thing, and very small; and it grew and developed in the womb of the earth and, after appearing in various forms, came forth in this condition with perfect freshness and grace. In the same manner, it is evident that this terrestrial globe, having once found existence, grew and developed in the matrix of the universe, and came forth in different forms and conditions, until gradually it attained this present perfection, and became adorned with innumerable beings, and appeared as a finished organization.
In this paragraph `Abdu'l-Bahá argues for the evolution of humanity on earth. First `Abdu'l-Bahá states that the planet earth once had a beginning and then developed. The situation we see today was obtained after a long evolution. Then `Abdu'l-Bahá formulates the argument for this position in three steps. (1) Because the universe is based on a single origin and is ruled by "one universal law", microcosm and macrocosm, small and large systems are comparable. (2) The human embryo develops from the time point of conception and passes through many different stages. The same is true for the growth of plants from their seeds. (3) Because of the relation between small and large systems due to their common origin the phylogeny, the evolution of life on earth, follows analogous rules as the ontogeny of a particular human being in its mothers womb.

The relation between ontogeny and phylogeny has long been discussed in occidental biology. Embryos of different biological species in their early phases of differentiation are often very similar. For instance bird embryos and mammal embryos become morphologically distinct only at a certain stage of development. Both form gill arches during their early embryonic life which disappear later.

In classical biology until the beginning of the 18th century, the animal world was thought to consist in a single scale of animal organization, the scala naturae, starting from the most primitive animals and ending in humanity as the apex of creation. In classical biology the parallel ontogeny was understood that the higher animals in their embryonic growth start on a primitive level of the scala naturae, go through the intermediate levels until they reach their own place. This concept should not be mistaken for evolution, it is designed to apply to a static biosphere. For instance the French anatomist Étienne Serrès considered "the whole animal kingdom ... ideally as a single animal ... here and there arrests it's own development and thus determines at each point of interruption, by the very state it has reached, the distinctive characters of the phyla, the classes, families, genera, and species" (Mayr, 1982, p. 472). Serrès considers the scala naturae as a continuous scale of increasingly complex organisms. The particular species simply got stuck at a certain point of this scale. This concept became known as the Meckel-Serrès law. Later Agassiz extended this law to the fossil records that the embryo not only has to go through the more primitive stages of life, but that it also reflects the extinct predecessors of its own class: "It may therefore be considered as a general fact ... that the phases of development of all living animals correspond to the order of succession of their extinct representatives in past geological times. As far as this goes, the oldest representatives of every class may then be considered as embryonic types of their respective orders or families among the living" (Mayr, 1982, p. 474).

In his Origin Darwin used the parallelism between ontogeny and phylogeny as an argument in favor of evolution. Here this parallelism is no longer thought to result from the general law of increasing complexification in the scala naturae as proposed by Meckel and Serrès but each embryo was considered to repeat individually the evolution of its own species. Ernst Haeckel reformulated the Meckel-Serrès law into the law of recapitulation: "ontogeny is a concise and compressed recapitulation of phylogeny, conditioned by laws of heredity and adaption." (Haeckel, 1984, p. 111; Mayr, 1982, p. 474) This law became popular and strongly influential in biology, especially in embryology. Around the beginning of this century this laws became more and more questionable and was shown to be wrong at least in its extreme variants (for instance see Gould (Gould, 1977)).

In the argument that, because of the common origin in a universal law human phylogeny resembles human ontology, `Abdu'l-Bahá uses only a very weak form of parallelism. For the sake of the argument only the development of the embryo as such is required. From this `Abdu'l-Bahá only concludes for the evolution of life on earth. Particular concepts such as the Meckel-Serrès law or Haeckels law of recapitulation are not involved. The appeal to those well known and widely accepted concepts, however, certainly helped to support `Abdu'l-Bahá's argument.

4.5.2) Human identity during ontogeny and phylogeny

In paragraph 47:6 `Abdu'l-Bahá reiterates on the comparison of the development of the embryo with the evolution of the human species on earth. In paragraph 47:7 `Abdu'l-Bahá formulates the major conclusion of this chapter that the human species remains original through the development of humanity on earth:
And in the same way, man's existence on this earth, from the beginning until it reaches this state, form and condition, necessarily lasts a long time, and goes through many degrees until it reaches this condition. But from the beginning of man's existence he is a distinct species [naw`]. In the same way, the embryo of man in the womb of the mother was at first in a strange form; then this body passes from shape to shape, from state to state, from form to form, until it appears in utmost beauty and perfection. But even when in the womb of the mother and in this strange form, entirely different from its present form and figure, it is the embryo of a distinct species [naw`], and not the embryo of an animal. Man's species [naw`iyat] and essence [mahíyat] have undergone no change [taghyí, also "modification"] whatsoever. Now, assuming that the traces of organs which have disappeared actually exist, this is not a proof of the impermanence and the nonoriginality of the species [naw`]. At the most it proves that the form, nature, and organs of man have progressed. But man was always a distinct species [naw`], a man, not an animal... For the originality of the human species [naw`] and the permanence of the essence [mahíyat] of man, is clear and evident. (SAQ 47:7)
This quote starts with the major conclusion drawn by `Abdu'l-Bahá in chapter 47 of SAQ. Although humanity undergoes an evolution on this planet, changes in all respect as the embryo does in the mothers womb, but "... from the beginning of man's existence he is a distinct species." Here `Abdu'l-Bahá extends the analogy between ontogeny and the evolution of humanity. The embryo is human from the time point of conception although during ontogeny it changes in all respect. In the same sense the human "species and essence" exists from the beginning of the universe and does not change during evolution, it remains original. A very similar statement is given in an other chapter:
To recapitulate: just as man in the womb of the mother passes from form to form, from shape to shape, changes and develops, and is still the human species from the beginning of the embryonic period--in the same way man, from the beginning of his formation in the matrix of the world, is also a distinct species--that is, man--and he has gradually passed from one form to another. Therefore, this change of appearance, this evolution of members, this development and growth, does not prevent the originality of the species [asálat-i naw`]. (SAQ 49:7)
The embryo in the womb of the mother starts single celled, passes through many states, until it obtains maturity and strength to survive in this world. Throughout all this development, beginning with a single cell, this embryo is human. The biological aspects of the embryonic growth depend necessarily on the DNA as a (more or less) constant, "time invariant" origin of development. The genome, the DNA guides the necessary formation of the organs and their mutual interactions. Changes, mutations or defects in the genome generally tend to ruin the new life. The embryo is human from the time point of conception, its DNA is human, not that of fishes, nor that of higher primates. It maintains its potential and actual "human characteristics", its particular genome, through all the stages of development. `Abdu'l-Bahá argues that in the same way as the embryo remains human, "Man's species and essence have undergone no change/modification" and "man, from the beginning of his formation in the matrix of the world, is also a distinct species". According to this view the human species essence is a time invariant, substantial characteristic of the laws of nature, it reflects the timeless names and attributes of God. /8/ The evolution of humanity, of every creature on this planet depend upon their essences.

4.5.3) Phylogeny, ontogeny and timeless species essences

At the beginning of chapters 47 and 49 of SAQ `Abdu'l-Bahá describes the arguments of the European philosophers in support of changing species. `Abdu'l-Bahá rebuts these arguments using the analogy between human ontogeny and phylogeny. Because of this explicit, detailed reference to the position of the European philosophers, it is reasonable to understand this analogy as a counterargument against the conviction of most classical as well as modern biologists that the concept of species essences excludes evolution. `Abdu'l-Bahá showed that His essentialistic evolution concept is internally consistent. The explicit statement of `Abdu'l-Bahá that "Man's species and essence have undergone no change/modification" in chapter 47 and the reference to the "originality of the species" in chapter 49 supports the interpretation of the analogy as an argument in favor of essentialistic evolution.

In classical biology the species essences were thought to be directly responsible for the inner and outer appearance of their particular representatives. Only minor variations from the "ideal" were thought to be tolerable. `Abdu'l-Bahá contrasts this view with the analogy of human phylogeny with the embryonic development. The embryo starts single celled and passes through very different states while it remains human. The same genome rules the development through these different forms. In the same way, biological evolution does not imply that the species essence must change to allow for all the different stages and developments during evolution. On the contrary, the existence of the species essences, the time invariant laws of nature, ensure that a development towards complex life forms is possible. Species essences define the "natural compositions" (SAQ 47:4), i.e., the requirements to form a functional, dynamic living system which does not immediately desintegrate. As the constant DNA "guides" the development of an individual the time invariant species essences "guide" evolution as a whole. The species essences ensure that a certain composition of chemical elements always leads to the same result, that a particular composition does not once produce a fish, later an ape and finally a human being.

The analogy between human ontogeny and phylogeny may also be used to get a first impression what `Abdu'l-Bahá means by species essence. In classical biology the essence was assumed to represent an ideal picture for the members of the species, e.g., an ideal horse. Such an essence definition is certainly alien to evolution. Species essences which are assumed to guide evolution have to be more general. What characteristic of the embryo remains constant during ontogeny? At least the biological side of the embryo's development depends on the genetic information content. This is largely constant from the time point of conception through birth until death. Analogously, one could understand the species essences as the information of which composition of chemical elements leads to a living being. `Abdu'l-Bahá's concept of species essences may indicate an equivalence with the assumption of the existence of an objective, reproducible fitness function. In mathematical evolution models, the fitness function guides evolution because it "decides" which members survives and which die. The strict link between the biological species as a reproductive community and species essences in classical biology is lost in such generalized concept of species essences.

4.6) Parallel evolution

The answer to the question, how to understand the analogy between phylogeny and ontology, depends critically on assumptions about the general purpose of these talks. If, on the one hand, they are understood to give an outline of the fundamental reality of the universe in general and the reality of humanity in particular, about the philosophical concept of the origin of complex order in our world and the purposefulness of our cosmos based on God's plan, than this analogy should be understood as a convincing argument that essentialism and evolution are not mutually exclusive. If biological evolution is based on laws inherent in nature, it is not unlikely that also social laws, are God given, ruling the interactions among human beings, their moral behavior. Because the "European philosophers", representing an important philosophical school of modern evolution, reject the possibility of essentialistic evolution, such argument becomes rather important in the discussion of the general fundaments and driving forces of evolution. If the evolution of life is arbitrary, if order appears ad hoc without a cause, the same arbitrariness applies to social laws. They would be ad hoc, accidental. There would be no preference for a certain frame of laws. Any frame would apply as well. It is very likely that `Abdu'l-Bahá is much more concerned about the spiritual consequences of the theories of "some European philosophers" than about the details of biological development.

If, on the other hand, these passages are thought to be not so much concerned with fundamental verities of the origin of life and human spiritual reality, but with particular concepts of how biological life evolved on earth, than this analogy could be understood to indicate parallel evolution. The analogy between human phylogeny and embryonic ontogeny particularly invites to interpret `Abdu'l-Bahá's arguments in terms of parallel evolution. In this case, utterances such as "But from the beginning of man's existence he is a distinct species ... But man was always a distinct species, a man, not an animal" (SAQ 47:7) and "man, from the beginning of his formation in the matrix of the world, is also a distinct species... Man from the beginning was in this perfect form and composition, and possessed capacity and aptitude for acquiring material and spiritual perfections" (SAQ 49:7) can be understood that `Abdu'l-Bahá refers to the biological evolution of humanity, and "beginning" indicates the time point of the first appearance of the human species on earth. In this case those statements formulate a picture of biological evolution radically different from the theories of modern evolution biology. In parallel evolution there would exist a biologically distinct line of the human species from the beginning of the existence of life on earth, i.e., at the stage of very primitive life forms, to modern homo sapiens sapiens. Because the originality of species is a rather general principle such distinct lines of parallel evolution would have to be assumed for each individual biological species: "All beings, whether large or small, were created perfect and complete from the first, but their perfections appear in them by degrees." (SAQ 51:4)

As indicated in the introduction, some authors indeed understand those statements to propose parallel evolution. This interpretation is at variance with the fact that the definitions of the human species given in the Bahá'í writings refer to the spiritual nature of humanity. There seems to exist no biological species definition in the writings. Without such a definition any biological interpretation of `Abdu'l-Bahá's species concept would contain a considerable amount of speculation. Philosophically it is not difficult to assume such a model of evolution, but because it claims to describe the biological reality, parallel evolution must be translated into applied biology. Otherwise such a claim would "begin with words and end with words". (Bahá'u'lláh, 1988, 5:15)

4.6.1) Practical problems with concepts of parallel evolution

If the analogy assumed to indicate parallel evolution it has to be taken as an authoritative statement and not as an argument. There exists no necessary relation between the human embryo being human from the time point of conception and the human phylogeny being biologically human all the way down. Such a concept is evident neither in the paradigm of classical biology nor in the paradigm of modern biology. Lamark, however, proposed a similar idea. According to Mayr "Lamark attributed it [i.e., the creation of new species] to a deus ex machina, spontaneous generation. Each evolutionary line, according to him, was the product of a separate spontaneous generation of simple forms which subsequently evolved into higher organisms." (Mayr, 1982, p. 403, text in square brackets added by the author), but this theory, although prominent at the end of the 19th century, cannot explain the known paleontological and biological data. /9/ It requires that continually new simple starting points of new species are created. Such a constant creation is not found.

If one prefers to understand `Abdu'l-Bahá's writings to imply parallel evolution one has to answer a series of questions if this concept is seriously taken:

  1. Parallel evolution requires at least a single branching point. Any biological species appeared at a certain time point for the first time on earth. Where did it come from? According to `Abdu'l-Bahá's "there is no doubt that in the beginning the origin was one: the origin of all numbers is one and not two." (SAQ, 47:2) All kingdoms originate from the same root. With respect to the chemical elements there is no distinction between the higher kingdoms, there are no vegetable, animal, or human atoms. If all kingdoms have the same roots, a model of parallel evolution require points to be defined where the vegetable, animal and human kingdoms branched from the mineral kingdom.
  2. A biological definition of the term species must be developed being compatible with the concept of parallel evolution, with the Bahá'í writings, and with the known facts of biology. In particular, the documented cases of speciation /10/ would have to be taken into account. Of course, speciation in that context means speciation according the modern species definition. The redefinition requires some care to avoid getting trapped in too unspecific species definitions which would be of little practical value for applied biology.
  3. Because all the species existed from the beginning the maximal number of species must have lived in the early phase of the earth being constantly reduced due to extinctions (Kerr, 1994). What was the distinction between all these species?
  4. Comparing the similarity between DNA sequences one definitely obtains a tree like form of similarities, compatible with neo-Darwinism, but neither a star as expected in the case of a single common origin nor a network which would indicate no phylogenetic relation at all. A concept of parallel evolution would have to explain why DNA sequence similarities among human beings (see the mitochondrial Eve above) reflects biological relationship whereas DNA sequence similarities between various species would not account for such a relationship.
  5. Apparently all multicellular higher taxa stem from very few eukaryontic cells. In a model of parallel evolution one either has to assume that all higher taxa branch from few eukaryontic cells or one would have to explain how the "wheel" of eukaryontic cell was invented millions or even billions of times for each existing species.
Parallel evolution would be plausible if the space of possible forms of living would be strongly bounded and the transition within these possible forms along the developmental line of a species very likely. Such type of evolution is generally designated convergent evolution. An astonishing case of convergent evolution is the extinct marsupalian wolf in australia which had much in common with the European wolf. /11/ To establish parallel evolution one would have to prove that due to bounds, within which life is possible, the reinvention of the same organs, of the same organelles, and often the same or very similar DNA sequences was inevitable. Without such a proof the model of parallel evolution would remain unsubstanciated. The assumption of parallel evolution produces more problem than it solves, therefore, it is considered in this essay to be the less likely interpretation of the analogy between phylogeny and ontogeny. /12/

4.6.2) `Abdu'l-Bahá's talk given in San Francisco

There is a statement in the records of the talks `Abdu'l-Bahá gave during His journey through North America and published in English in PUP, where a biological interpretation in terms of an parallel evolution model appears to be inevitable. Because Shoghi Effendi considers the translation of PUP as "too inaccurate in some places" (Justice, 1995), a revised translation is presented based on the Persian original for some passage of the talk presented San Francisco (PUP pp. 358-359). The reservations of Shoghi Effendi are understandable because certain statements given in the English text are absent in the Persian proof read original. For instance the passage "in the protoplasm, man is man" which most strongly supports parallel evolution has no counterpart in the Persian original:
Briefly, the evidences of the intellect of man are manifest and clear. Man is man by reason of this intellectual faculty. Therefore, the animal kingdom is other than the human kingdom. Notwithstanding this, the philosophers of the West have adduced evidences to demonstrate that man had his origin in the animal kingdom. /13/ ... In other words, he [man] was transferred from one state to another until he reached this human shape and form. They say that the manner of man's formation can be compared to the links of a chain, which are connected to one another. However, between man and the ape one link is missing. Great scientists and philosophers have searched for it, some even devoting their whole lives to solving this problem, but until now they have been unable to find that missing link.

... The philosophers of the East say: If the human body [haykal] was originally not in its present composition, but was gradually transferred from one stage to another until it appeared in its present form [as the philosophers of the West say], we would postulate that although at one time it was a swimmer and later a crawler, still it was human, and its species has remained unchanged. The proof for this is that the human embryo is at first a mere germ. Gradually the hands and feet appear and the lower limbs become separated from each other, and it is transferred from one form to another, from one shape to another, until it becomes born with this shape and appearance. But from the time it was in the womb in the form of a germ, it was the species of man and not like the embryo of other animals. It was in the form of a germ, but it progressed from that form to this most beautiful form. Therefore, it is clear that the species is preserved.

Provided that we assent [to this theory] that man was at one time a creature swimming in the sea and later became a four-legged, assuming this to be true, we still cannot say that man was an animal. Proof of this lies in the fact that in the stage of the embryo man resembles a worm. The embryo progresses from one form to another, until the human form appears. But even in the stage of the embryo he is still man and his species remains unchanged.

The link which they say is lost is itself a proof that man was never an animal. How is it possible to have all the links present and that important link absent? Though one spend this precious life searching for this link, it is certain that it will never be found. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, 1984, Vol. 2, pp. 304-307)

First `Abdu'l-Bahá emphasizes the distinction between the human and the animal kingdoms (see above). After explaining the theory of the European philosophers of the descent of homo sapiens from the animal world, `Abdu'l-Bahá stresses that no link has been found /14/ between homo sapiens and higher primates. The analogy between human evolution and ontogeny follows. Finally `Abdu'l-Bahá states that the link between apes and human species will never be found.

After a first reading of the position of the "philosophers of the East", which generally states also the position of `Abdu'l-Bahá, this quote might be understood to support parallel evolution. The sentence: "... we would postulate that although at one time it was a swimmer and later a crawler, still it was human, and its species has remained unchanged ..." obviously invites for such an interpretation. This view is strengthened by the comparison of the evolution of the human species with the development of the human embryo. As indicated above this analogy forms a conclusive argument that timeless species essences are compatible with evolution.

`Abdu'l-Bahá's reference to the missing link cannot be understood to support parallel evolution. Any fossil finding of an ancient human form, which should exist according to the parallel evolution model, would be interpreted as such a missing link. At the time, when `Abdu'l-Bahá was in the States the question of the missing link was heatedly discussed in scientific circles as well as in the public. It was a real challenge whether Darwin's theory of biological evolution applies also to the human species. The first missing link ever presented, the Piltdown Man, was bogus and it took nearly forty years to discover this forgery (Howells, 1993). Haeckel (Haeckel, 1984, p. 116) dicussed the Java Man, the finding of the Dutch military physician Eugen Dubois in 1891, as the missing link between apes and humanity. Today many fossil findings are known which allow to trace back human evolution. Putative predecessors of the human species lived about 5 million years ago in Africa (Clark, et al., 1994; Leakey, et al., 1995; Leakey, 1994; Tattersall, 1997; White, et al., 1994; White, et al., 1995; WoldeGabriel, et al., 1994). A direct link between modern higher primates and homo Sapiens expected by some scientists at the time of `Abdu'l-Bahá's visit in the States, however, was never found. Today it is assumed that homo sapiens and the modern higher primates have a common ancestor, but are not directly linked.

4.7) The originality of species

In several talks published in PUP and SAQ `Abdu'l-Bahá criticizes the "theory of some European philosophers" that the human species stems from the animal kingdom. He contrasts their theory of the modification of species with a concept of the originality of species. He bases this concept in a combination of two very similar arguments: (1) on the notion that this world grounds on the eternal names and attributes of God, on the classic Platonic argument of the perfectly harmonious universe, and on the (2) completeness of the time invariant laws of nature. Both arguments imply that a missing of the human species as a potential reality would render this universe imperfect and incomplete.

Particularly, the first of the two arguments is well established in occidental philosophy and was understood to represent a strong counterargument against evolution. In referring to the oriental neo-Platonic concept of substantial evolution `Abdu'l-Bahá formulates an understanding of Plato's harmony argument radically different compared to the philosophic concepts of classical occidental biology. `Abdu'l-Bahá does not deny the facts which are generally used to support biological evolution, but criticizes their philosophic selfcreationistic interpretation, that the order, which constitute the existence of human beings, represents not the unfolding of potentials inherent in nature, but should have evolved during evolution. Using the concepts of a harmonic universe and the time invariance of the fundamental laws of nature `Abdu'l-Bahá argues in favor of a complex origin of our world.

By the analogy between human ontogeny and phylogeny `Abdu'l-Bahá carefully illustrates how the existence of a timeless human species essence does not contradict substantial evolution, the development of a biological human population on earth. As the fertilized human egg passes through many very different phases, it is human since the timepoint of conception. Its "being human" does not prevent all those changes, the genetic information is even a necessary precondition for the unfolding of all the inherent potentials of this new member of the human society. Likewise, the existence of species essences may be understood as the necessary precondition that evolution from the simple towards complex biosphere is possible. Because of the conviction of many occidental philosophers and biologists that species essences and evolution are mutually exclusive, this analogy represents an important element in `Abdu'l-Bahá's arguments in favor of a timeless human species essence. Interestingly, the facts about the "constant genome", which were discovered by modern microbiology after `Abdu'l-Bahá gave those talks, even strengthens this argument of `Abdu'l-Bahá.

The essentialistic concept of the originality of species stands in vivid contrast to the occidental evolution concepts, where mostly essentialism and evolution were considered to be mutually exclusive. The concept of substantial evolution is compatible with an evolving universe based on a timeless, perfectly harmonious reality, representing the eternal names and attributes of God.


    /1/ In the Tablet to Forel (`Abdu'l-Bahá, 1984, p. 75) `Abdu'l-Bahá explains the meaning of the term "God's perfections": "As to the attributes and perfections such as will, knowledge, power and other ancient attributes that we ascribe to that Divine Reality, these are the signs that reflect the existence of beings in the visible plane and not the absolute perfections of the Divine Essence that cannot be comprehended. For instance, as we consider created things we observe infinite perfections, and the created things being in the utmost regularity and perfection we infer that the Ancient Power on whom dependeth the existence of these beings, cannot be ignorant; thus we say He is All-Knowing. It is certain that it is not impotent, it must be then All-Powerful; it is not poor, it must be All-Possessing; it is not non-existent, it must be Ever-Living. The purpose is to show that these attributes and perfections that we recount for that Universal Reality are only in order to deny imperfections, rather than to assert the perfections that the human mind can conceive. Thus we say His attributes are unknowable."

    /2/ Büchner and Haeckel based their world views on the conservation of matter and energy. Thus, the time invariance of the laws of nature was a fundamental assumption of their philosophies.

    /3/ Some pre-Darwinian approaches to evolution, which Mayr does not consider to represent "real" evolution, because they are still based on an essentialistic species concept, assumed saltations or "mutations" in the species essence, thus the appearance of a new species is accompanied by the anew generation of a new species essence. Maupertius in 1756 proposed the following concept of speciation: "Could we not explain in this way how from only two individuals the multiplication of the most various species could have resulted? Their first origin would have been due simply to some chance production, in which the elementary particles would not have kept the order which they had in the paternal and maternal animals: each degree of error would have made a new species; and by repeated deviations the infinite diversity of animals which we know today would have been produced." (Mayr, 1982, p. 403)

    /4/ The forms of life are virtually unlimited from a human perspective. The "space" of atomic assemblies corresponding to living organisms is only small, if compared to the space of all possible atomic assemblies.

    /5/ The argument supports the originality of any species essence.

    /6/ After the passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá in 1921, the leadership of the Bahá'í community entered a new phase, evolving from that of a single individual to an administrative order founded on the "twin pillars" of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice.

    This administrative order was originally envisaged by Bahá'u'lláh in his Book of Laws and was given further shape by `Abdu'l-Bahá, particularly in His Will and Testament. In that document He appointed His eldest grandson, Shoghi Effendi, as Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith and also referred to the future election of the Universal House of Justice, a legislative body of which the Guardian would be the "sacred head and the distinguished member for life." (see

    /7/ Keven Brown (Brown, 1994) writes: "`Abdu'l-Bahá makes it clear that he considers the human species to have existed from the beginning and not to be a modification of an earlier animal species. He says the same thing about all other species... Certainly, `Abdu'l-Bahá does not intend by the term species (naw`iyat) the external, physical forms of creatures, for these are constantly appearing and disappearing. Many species have died out, and others are in danger of extinction. Rather by `species and essences' he is probably referring to something akin to preexisting `laws of form' that determine all the possible modes in which creatures can appear."

    /8/ It is interesting to note that Monod used the same example to explain that human evolution should not be compared with ontogeny, because the embryo develops according to its inherent genetic potentials and evolution, according to Monod, consists in anew creations.

    /9/ `Abdu'l-Bahá certainly is not a Lamarkian. `Abdu'l-Bahá proposes that the less complex species appeared first: "first the mineral, then the plant, afterward the animal, and finally man." (SAQ 51:5) For Lamark the sequence is reversed. He assumed an evolution towards increasing complexity and perfection. Each species started simple and slowly accumulated perfections. For him speciation, i.e., the appearance of new species, is a continuous process which would occur even today. Humanity is the result of the evolution of "ancient worms" whereas "modern worms" appeared only recently, had not much time to acquire perfections and are still at the beginning of their evolution to develop elaborate morphologies.

    /10/ In the World Wide Web link "" from the Talk.Origins Archive a long list of articles is presented, reporting discovered speciations.

    /11/ On the australian subcontinent there existed a marsupalian wolf. This wolf was morphologically very similar to the mammalian wolf. Nearly identical forms have here evolved independently without close biological relationship. The requirement to hunt certain type of prey was independently answered by very similar solutions (Riedl, 1976, p. 162).

    /12/ The alternate assumption that `Abdu'l-Bahá simply could have erred in the question of biological evolution is not considered, because the interpretation of the analogy between phylogeny and ontogeny as an argument supporting the compatibility between species essences and evolution fits into the evolution discussion at the turn of the century. Today this analogy can be taken as a cornerstone for developing a philosophy of a non-trivial origin of complex order in our universe.

    /13/ Only passages where `Abdu'l-Bahá explains the position of the "philosophers of the West" are omitted in this quotation. They are similar to those quoted above.

    /14/ This talk took place in 1912.

Chapter 5


Today it is commonly accepted that the introduction of general relativity by Albert Einstein and quantum mechanics by Max Planck led to and still requires a reorganization of our philosophical concepts about the universe as a whole and our understanding of space, time and matter (Gell-Mann, 1994; von Weizsäcker, 1986). That the consequences of modern biology may bring about an even more drastic reformulation of our understanding of our existence is the central theme of Dennett's recent book Darwin's Dangerous Idea (Dennett, 1995). According to Mayr (Mayr, 1991), Darwin changed not only the science of biology but our complete way of thinking: "for no one has influenced our modern world view--both within and beyond science--to a greater extent than has this extraordinary Victorian. We turn to his work again and again, because as a bold and intelligent thinker he raised some of the most profound questions about our origins that have been asked, and as a devoted and innovative scientist he provided brilliant, often world-shaking answers." The far reaching, but often neglected implications of natural selection for philosophy are emphasized by Dawkins (Dawkins, 1989, p. 1): "Today the theory of evolution is about as much open to doubt as the theory that the earth goes round the sun, but the full implications of Darwin's revolution have yet to be widely realized... Philosophy and the subjects known as `humanities' are still taught almost as if Darwin had never lived."

The time, `Abdu'l-Bahá spent on the subject of evolution, indicates that He was aware of the far-reaching consequences of this new approach. As the spiritual leader of the Bahá'í Faith, He explained cosmological and biological evolution in the light of the teachings of His father, as the actualization of complex order encoded in the God given laws of nature, as the unfolding of the names and attributes of God within time. In this essay it is assumed that the statements of `Abdu'l-Bahá presented above do not formulate detailed sentences about cosmogony and biological evolution but establish an open framework for a "Bahá'í" philosophy to be developed by future generations. Based on those corner stones defined by `Abdu'l-Bahá, some speculations are presented in this discussion how a non-trivial origin of our universe and life on earth may be formulated in the language of modern natural sciences. In this work, fundamental concepts are considered about the origin of actual complex order. It is important to note that the question of particular mechanisms of evolution as such is not addressed.

An important aspect of the discussion of biological evolution is the question of the origin of complex biological order. How can such well adapted, highly balanced biosphere come to existence? Is the order in our universe trivial? Than the resulting order should be likewise trivial! Is it the outcome of an ad hoc, self-creative system? In this case, the order should be characterized by arbitrariness on the physical, biological and social level. Or could it be created by means of an "outer", inherently complex force? As shown above `Abdu'l-Bahá addresses these questions in many of His writings, e.g., in SAQ and in several talks recorded in PUP. The ultimate origin of complex order, proposed by `Abdu'l-Bahá, differs considerably from those often suggested in popular scientific texts from the 19th as well as from the 20th century. It also distinguished characteristicly from more traditional, creationistic approaches. According to `Abdu'l-Bahá, the complex order found in our universe reflects the eternal names and attributes of God. Our universe is essentially complex from the very beginning, a complex order encoded in the time invariant laws of nature, in timeless essences. In contrast to most classical approaches from the time before Darwin, the order considered by `Abdu'l-Bahá is not static, but it is dynamic, it is substantially evolving.

This chapter is organized as follows. First several concepts about the origin of complex order are discussed. The question is addressed whether the findings of modern biology definitely rule out the existence of species essences. Speculations about a non-trivial complex origin are presented. And finally, the consequences of the different concepts of the origin of complex order on social laws and moral value systems are considered.

5.1) Origin of complex order in our universe

Concepts of the origin of complex order in this universe generally try to avoid to get trapped in the problem of the infinite regression described above. The classical solution for this problem is to assume the existence of a willful Creator Who designed this order. A similar conclusion was drawn by `Abdu'l-Bahá that accidental and necessary causations are insufficient to explain the order in this world and that, consequently, Will is required to root the chain of causation of a timeless essentialistic order. Within the Bahá'í faith, the creative will of God is considered to dwell beyond human powers of explanations.

Today this kind of solution of the problem of the infinite regression is rather unpopular. Alternative, often self-creative solutions to the infinite regression problem are proposed. In this essay ad hoc self-creation of complex order is contrasted with essentialistic dynamics, i.e., the unfolding of inherent complex order encoded in the time invariant laws of nature. In this section several ideas concerning such selforganizing universes and evolving biospheres are presented and critically discussed. First, the argument of the three causes is reconsidered.

5.1.1) The argument of the three causes

`Abdu'l-Bahá postulates in accordance with many traditions that the origin of order must depend on one of the three possible driving forces: chance, necessity or will. That the origin of order in our universe could be purely accidental is generally no longer claimed by the scientific community. Dawkins conclusive arguments that the "essence of life is statistical improbability on a colossal scale" make such an assumption rather unlikely. Thus, the necessary and voluntary causes are left.

But can we definitely rule out necessary laws of the evolution of our universe? Because Büchner and Haeckel lived before the discovery of quantum mechanics they accepted only necessary causes as the fundamental driving forces of evolution. Consequently, for them evolution was the necessary outcome of the fundamental laws of nature. Would such a concept not solve the problem of evolution without inventing external forces or creative design? In the Letter to Forel (`Abdu'l-Bahá, 1984), `Abdu'l-Bahá refutes this necessary evolution model by two arguments. In the argument of the three causes He concludes that if evolution would be a necessary characteristics of our universe one should see only upward development. The other counter argument is based on the hierarchical version of the infinite regression. The inherent complexity of a set of laws which is able to produce a particular form of order, e.g., the particular universe we live in, is certainly not smaller than the complex order it produces. Now the question for the origin is iterated one level. What is the origin of the natural laws ruling our universe and implicitly coding for the complex order produced by these laws? In principle one can assume a set of meta-laws which rule the origin of all possible universes and which once originated the particular laws ruling our universe. Because these meta-laws have to be more general, more encompassing than the laws of our universe, which they ground, they cannot be less complex. I.e., the iteration from laws to meta-laws to meta-meta-laws etc. simply does not solve the problem of the origin of the universe and the order therein. /1/ Such an iteration only "shifts" the problem of the origin from a level to a meta-level, where this problem does not become simpler but even more complex. This kind of argument applies to deterministic laws, but for stochastic rules as well.

The problem of the infinite regression severely challenges concept proposing necessary causes as the fundamental origin of order in our universe. `Abdu'l-Bahá (and others long time before Him) concludes from this situation that the origin of this order must come from an external source, i.e., something outside of such a ladder of formal iterations from a certain level to a meta-level to a meta-meta-level, etc. In this situation, the origin of order due to a mixture of random mutations and natural selection may appear as a way out of the "dilemma" to have to choose voluntary design as the fundamental cause of this universe. This kind of "solution" was first proposed for the origin of biological order, Dennett extends this concept to cosmology. Now, this "fourth" kind of origin is analyzed in greater detail.

5.1.2) Cosmological order

Dennett tries to escape the problem of the infinite regression not in a single step as Atkins or Wheeler do, but in many small gradual steps. As the biological order is obtained via natural selection, he considers the cosmological order to be generated by cosmological selection. In biology the concept of natural selection is explained by random variation of the genotype and selection by means of survival or death of the phenotype. Dennett does not explain what is varied and which are the criteria for selection. In principle his concept implies the existence of a meta-universe where meta-genotypes (the laws of the different cosmosses) are varied and meta-phenotypes (the different cosmosses themselves) survive or die according to rules of meta-selection. Thus, Dennett adds only an element in the hierarchical regression without explaining the existence of the meta-universe and the origin of the meta-selection rules.

Apparently, Dennett proposes a type of self-creative laws of nature as envisioned by Monod for the self-creation of biological characteristics. In this sense, the laws of nature are not preexistent but selected for during cosmology. This at least appears to be the message of the minimal requirement of his cosmology: "a timeless Platonic possibility of order." Accordingly, the laws ruling the existence and interaction of elementary particles must have been selected for at some time, because the selection step always needs some time. The launching of the chemical laws must have taken place at a very early stage of the universe. Otherwise one would expect that the chemistry of the early phase of the universe would have been different from today. If the form of the laws are not predetermined by any kind of essentialism, or any kind of timeless reality, one would expect different chemistries in different parts of the universe. In addition, without some "essentialistic binding" of the laws of nature, anew creations may change them at any time point and at any place within our universe. Dennett would have to explain why apparently the chemical laws are the same everywhere and all the time in the known universe. /2/ As pointed out correctly by Ward, the gradual appearance of order begs the same level of explanation as it's sudden emergence:

It is false to suggest that is is somehow less puzzling to have a long step-by-step building up of complexity than to have an instantaneous origin of complexity. If lots of bits of metal slowly assemble themselves on my doorstep by simple stages into an automobile engine, that is just as puzzling as the sudden appearance of an automobile engine on my doorstep... If complexity needs explaining, it needs explaining, however long it took to get there! (Ward, 1996, p. 18)

5.1.3) An ad hoc origin of complex biological order

The concept of the modern biological species, which is based on population thinking, parallels Aristotle's species concept, where the species is defined and maintained by the actually existing members of it's population. In the same sense, Mayr and others consider species to be not an implicitly preexisting entity, not a revelation of an implicit order, and certainly not the product of a purposeful plan. But the biological species is thought to be defined only by actually existing members of the species, by a living reproductively related community occupying an ecological niche, by a common gene pool (Mayr, 1978). As this gene pool changes due to the stabilization of favorable mutations, the species changes accordingly. The fidelity of gene reproduction keeps most species virtually constant over a time long compared to human life and human written history, such that we human beings generally perceive species as universal, time invariant entities. Mutations in the genome induce small changes in the DNA sequence. Cumulative selection omits unfavorable mutations, and preserves neutral and favorable changes. On the long run, those gradual changes drives the evolution of our biosphere.

Mayr (Mayr, 1982) describes natural selection as a two step process: (1) random variation and (2) the selection step. Many evolution biologist assume that the selection step requires no further explanation, and that no particular selective force is necessary to explain evolution. If this step is trivial, selection would be an elegant name for the tautology of the survival of the survivor (Popper, 1972). If this step is non-trivial, as indicated by mathematical evolution models (Kauffman, 1996), than proponents of self-creative evolution have to explain the rules for selection. If, on the one hand, those rules can be given they would define a kind of essentialistic evolution, where the fitness function is defined by timeless laws. Any evolution theory, where selection designates not only the tautology of the surviver of the surviver, requires some essentialistic input. Selection can work only on actually existing organisms, only after they appeared on this planet. Thus, selection does not have any "creative" role in evolution. If, on the other hand, selection is assumed to be essentially unpredictable and irreproducible, /3/ self-creative evolution would introduce a concept of the origin of complex order which resists any scientific investigation and which, therefore, would be no scientific explanation at all. The self-creative concept of the evolution thus claims that a scientific explanation does not exist! /4/ For such kind of evolution it appears to be reasonable as well to assume an external force, such as the creative force of a willful Creator (Hatcher and Hatcher, 1996; Ward, 1996).

There is an other problem related to self-creative evolution. If the selected biological characteristic are created anew, if life exists more than once in our universe, and if these anew creation are not the unfolding of inherent potentials hidden in the laws of nature, then one should expect essentially different biologies in different parts of the universe. With "essentially different biologies" it is not meant different biological solutions, but essentially different laws ruling different life forms. Consequently, similar as in the case of self-creative cosmology, the same biological systems, the same composition of chemical elements would have different biological characteristics in different parts of the universe. /5/ This strange behavior is a simple consequence of assuming anew creations. If this evolution theory is true, we should expect future anew creations of biological characteristics. Thus in future, myoglobin may perhaps preferably bind nitrogen instead of oxygen.

If a consequent self-creative concept of evolution would correspond to reality, a scientific theory of evolution would be impossible. Essential unpredictability cannot be the foundation to formulate laws to predict certain outcomes. An irreproducible reality does not allow to formulate statements about reproducible experiments. Reproducibility is, however, one of the essential requirements for modern scientific theories (Popper, 1972). Even if one does not accept the strict rules set up by Popper for a scientific theory, the unpredictable change of essential characteristics during evolution severely restrains our ability to reconstruct the past. If a certain composition of chemical elements which today produces a human being in the past would have produced something else, we have no way to know what this composition in the past actually was. Or to use a simpler example, since when could myoglobin bind oxygen and what function had it before, if it had any? In this situation, we would have nearly no means to reconstruct the past from the present, because we do not know which of the biological laws relevant today are applicable to past organisms. For those rules which did change we would not know their "ancient" forms. /6/ In such a world palaeontology would be impossible.

5.1.4) Chance and necessity

Monod designated his famous book Chance and Necessity. This title formulates a phrase for the two steps of evolution, as explained by Mayr (see previous section): (1) mutation and random recombination and (2) natural selection. Often the natural selection step is presented as a trivial one in that one has only to look for the survivors. But the survivors are the result of selection and, consequently does not explain the process of selection. The selection step can be compared with the final examination of students at the university. The distinction between better and lesser qualified students requires skillful examiners and cannot be done by a "blind, mindless algorithm". The examiners must encompass the students in knowledge if they want to give a fair judgment, if the outcome is supposed to reflect the students knowledge. Analogously, the selection for complex biological order requires a respective complex fitness function. Biological evolution is possible not because many die, but because there exist particular complex assemblies of chemical elements which form well adapted organisms. /7/ In other words, evolution can be described as the revelation of this complex order defined by a time invariant fitness function which is implicitly encoded in the laws of nature. Because in this model the fitness function is a timeless entity it may be a good candidate for `Abdu'l-Bahá's species essences. Thus, at a fundamental level, the appearance of biological order is not a problem of probability, as for instance discussed by Hatcher (Hatcher and Hatcher, 1996) or Ward (Ward, 1996), but a question of the genuine source of this order.

Thus, even the "forth" alternative provides no way out from the problem of the infinite regression. If the selection step is considered to be objective and reproducible in a statistical sense, than one introduces a timeless reality defining the laws of nature and particularly the laws of selection. In such a model the fitness function is defined from the "very beginning". In principle, Dennett proposes such a concept in describing evolution as an algorithmic process. A typical mathematical evolution algorithm consists in a mutation step ("chance") and in a selection step where the members of populations are selected according to predefined fitness functions ("necessity"). Also Dawkins model of the sequence space representing all possible forms of life, refers to such kind of evolution models. Consequently, the apparently gradually and cumulatively appearing order exists potentially, but complete in form of an in principle objective and reproducible fitness function. This complex and complete order, however, does suffer from the infinite regression, and from Gödel's incompleteness theorem. To escape this conclusion one has to introduce a "back door", some creative principle in addition to pure chance and necessity: ad hoc creation, élan vital or God's creative power. Independent of the name given to this process, it is not based on chance and necessity alone. Thus, we are back to `Abdu'l-Bahá's argument of the three causes, that accidental and necessary causes alone are insufficient to explain life. `Abdu'l-Bahá designates this third alternative voluntary cause, implying God's creation.

5.2) Can species essences definitely be ruled out?

As shown above, the classical concept of species essences was designed to fit into a static world. As explained by Cuvier, the species essences were thought to account for a particular biological population forming a reproductive community (see page pageref{CuviersSpecies}) and remaining virtually unchanged in their outer appearance since their original creation. This particular view was increasingly challenged by the findings of biologists and paleontologists, and finally it became clear that this particular understanding of species essences is untenable, resulting in a complete rejection of any kind of species concepts based on essences. Of course, the classical species concepts cannot explain the known facts in biology! But do these facts definitely rule out any kind of essence based species concept?

5.2.1) Essentialistic concepts in modern evolution biological

Those biologists trying to formulate mathematical models of biological evolution generally favor essentialistic concepts. In the essentialistic position it is assumed that there exists an independent reality behind our every day experiences. The time invariant laws of nature formulated by human scientists are considered to approximate at least parts of this eternal reality. In the case of evolution it is unlikely that humanity can ever design a theory which reproduces all the details of biological evolution on this planet (Gould, 1994). One can, however, study the principles, the general rules which are necessary for biological evolution. In recent years mathematical models of evolution became the target of intensive, rigorous analytical and numerical research (Eigen, 1992; Kauffman, 1995; Prigogine and Stengers, 1981; Ruthen, 1993).

Concepts of essentialistic evolution agree with ad hoc evolution with respect to the variation step. Mutations are considered to be purely random, to be irreproducible in a stochastic sense. /8/ Both concepts differentiate in the selection step. The fitness of a certain DNA sequence in a given environment is described in mathematical biology by an objective function. At least in average the DNA sequences which produce the best adapted phenotypes wins the competition against lesser qualified competitors. In principle at least in an gedankenexperiment, this situation is thought to be reproducible. Because the physical, chemical and biological properties, which define the fitness functions of the diverse forms of life, are understood to be determined by objective and reproducible laws of nature, such a concept of evolution describes the unfolding of inherent, timeless potentials of nature and, therefore, is designated essentialistic throughout this essay. Within particular evolution experiments, one can produce a situation where even the classical species definition becomes applicable. /9/

5.2.2) The originality of the human species

At the time of `Abdu'l-Bahá there was nearly no mathematical modeling of evolution and consequently the dominantly accepted philosophy of evolution biology discussed in the general public was either the concept of self-creative evolution, or mechanistic evolution as a necessary outcome of the mechanic laws of nature. The German Naturphilosophen, proposing species essences as the form giving entities in biology, considered concepts with nearly no relation to the problems of practical biology and had no exchange of ideas with the scientific community of biologists. Many biologists, by various reasons, were kept by the classical concept and could not support their view by the body of biological facts and theories. Thus, the concepts of self-creative or mechanistic evolution won the competition among possible alternatives. Later, also the mechanistic evolution concepts were abandoned as an emancipation of biology from physics. `Abdu'l-Bahá during His talks in Palestine, Europe and the USA criticizes these ideas. In support of the concept of the originality of the human species `Abdu'l-Bahá presents two arguments which rebuts specific objections certain "European philosophers" would raise against an essentialistic concept of evolution.

In support of the existence of timeless species essences `Abdu'l-Bahá refers to the arguments of a perfectly harmonious universe originating from Plato, and a timeless universal law of nature which was firmly accepted in physics and chemistry in the second half of the 19th century, and which represents one of the most fundamental concepts in classical as well as in modern physics. The two arguments address the same idea, they are two sides of the same coin formulated within two different conceptual backgrounds, that of neo-Platonism and that of modern physics and chemistry. The concept of the perfect harmonious universe implies that all possible forms of life exist from the very beginning. As God is timelessly perfect, His creation, reflecting His names and attributes, is eternally complete. Consequently, the origin of the universe is presupposed to be essentially complex. `Abdu'l-Bahá's argument of the perfectly harmonious universe differentiates from from it's classical variant in that the perfections needs to exist only potentially. Thus, `Abdu'l-Bahá generalized this old concept to include evolution. By referring to the time invariant laws of nature `Abdu'l-Bahá severely criticizes the philosophy of creating absolutely new biological characteristics and discloses some strange properties of those theories. `Abdu'l-Bahá considers it evident that a certain composition of chemical elements which today results in a human being (or a myoglobin molecule) some time ago would have produced the same human being (or the same kind of myoglobin molecule) and nothing else.$^{ref{TimeInvariantChemistry}}$ But the concept of anew self-creations of biological characteristics during evolution implies that the composition which today leads to a human organism some times ago (e.g., 10 or 100 million years) would have produced something different because those characteristics essential for human beings were not yet self-created at the previous time point. If one accepts the idea, however, that the same composition under the same boundary conditions always produces the same outcome then evolution of humanity is not a principally unpredictable, irreproducible outcome of haphazard self-creations, but the unfolding of implicit potential characteristics inherent in the laws of nature. In the neo-Platonic language, evolution translates the timeless species essences into reality, and in the Bahá'í terminology, evolution realizes mirrors reflecting the names and attributes of God.

With the argument of the three causes `Abdu'l-Bahá also rejects evolution concepts based on classical physics as proposed by Büchner or Haeckel. Because Newtonian mechanics knows only necessary causes, within such a model evolution would be the necessary result of the laws of nature. According to `Abdu'l-Bahá, if evolution would be necessary, decay and retrogression as frequently found in nature would be impossible.

In Platonism the species designates the form giving principles of biological populations. For clarity, this Platonic "species" is annotated "species essence" throughout this work. In the classical view, in the West as well as in the East, the world was thought to be static, and biological populations were assumed to directly reflect their respective species essences. In Western forms of neo-Platonism, which influenced the evolution of concepts in modern biology, this static concept of species dominated until the middle of the 19th century. Because this picture is at variance with the biological facts, in modern biology the concept of species essences is rejected altogether. In the East, however, Mullá Sadra developed the concept of substantial evolution. He considered eternal species essences which unfold their time invariant potential within time. /10/

`Abdu'l-Bahá explicitly supports the concept of substantial evolution in SAQ chapter 63. To overcome the prejudice hold in classical and modern biology, that timeless species essences are principally incompatible with evolution, `Abdu'l-Bahá presents the analogy between embryonic ontogeny and human phylogeny. Starting from a single cell the embryo passes through very different biological stages and forms, but all the way through it is human, its development is determined by the same genome, by the same chromosomes, by the same DNA chains. Analogously, timeless species essences can be assumed to guide evolution on earth and to rule its dynamics. Without the translation of the information stored in the genes no complex, living organism could develop. Analogously, the species essences does not account only for the actual appearance of a population, but it must define all possible directions of its evolution as well, such as the DNA directs ontogenesis. Thus, such a species essences is not only related to a single biological species, according to modern species definitions, but it must represent a whole spectrum of forms, of possible biological shapes. The analogy between ontogeny and phylogeny may help to shed some light on `Abdu'l-Bahá's view of the species essence. The information stored in the DNA chains determines the biological development of the embryo. Analogously, the species essences may be understood as representations of the information of which life forms are possible and which are not, of which composition of the chemical elements leads to living organisms. Indeed, non-arbitrary transformations describing the evolution of a system within time can be formulated mathematically only within a time invariant framework.

The material from the writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá accessible to the author and partly presented in this essay is not sufficient to develop a unique picture how `Abdu'l-Bahá may have understood the relation between biological populations and their respective species essences. Even the possibility that `Abdu'l-Bahá proposes a concept of parallel evolution, as some Bahá'í understand the respective Bahá'í writings, cannot be excluded if only the Bahá'í writings are considered. The objection, raised by the author, against parallel evolution originate from difficulties to translate parallel evolution into applied biology.

5.3) A non-trivial origin of order

One of the central arguments of natural theology against the physicalization of biology is the manifold diversity of life: "Here [i.e., in biology] such a diversity of individual actions and interactions is observed that it becomes inconceivable to explain it by a limited number of basic laws." (Mayr, 1982, p. 103, the text in square bracket is added by the author). Mayr concludes from this findings that evolution cannot be the result of the unfolding of the potential order encoded in the laws of nature. In contrast, the Bahá'í writings propose a non-trivial origin of our universe: the names and attributes of God. In this section a model is outlined which relates a complex origin of our universe to modern sciences.

The Bahá'í writings describe the universe and particularly humanity as mirrors of the names and attributes of God. These names and attributes can be considered as the "eternal building blocks", the "elementary units" of our universe. According to this view, this universe is a mirror image of the eternal reality and depends on the emanation of God's grace: "There can be no doubt whatever that if for one moment the tide of His mercy and grace were to be withheld from the world, it would completely perish". (Gleanings 27:6) This means that the fundamental order of this universe is complex from the very beginning. Cosmological and biological evolution realizes this preexisting order. In this view, evolution means the unfolding of possible complex order into actual complex order.

5.3.1) The kingdoms: a hierarchy describing increasing complexity

If this assumed non-trivial origin of order in our cosmos and in biology is thought to correspond to reality one should expect practical consequences for our physical world. The kingdoms introduced by Aristotle and considered in the writings and talks of `Abdu'l-Bahá may serve as a model of how reality may have a non-trivial origin without being in conflict with the laws of modern physics (see also Conow (Conow, 1990)).

`Abdu'l-Bahá describes the order in this material universe in form of a hierarchy, consisting of the mineral, vegetable, animal and human kingdoms. The higher kingdoms build upon the lower ones. One should bear in mind that the classification into the kingdoms as presented by `Abdu'l-Bahá was introduced by Aristotle. Their use by `Abdu'l-Bahá does not follow the common nomenclature in modern biology where the kingdoms designate different taxa. In this essay a concept is proposed that relates the kingdoms as they are used by `Abdu'l-Bahá to hierarchical levels of information processing. The mineral shows no processing at all. The vegetable kingdom represents information processing on the molecular level; the genetic plan regulates the molecular organization in the cell. Replication transfers the knowledge encoded in the genes from one generation to the next. The process of natural selection results in adaptations to the environment, to "learning" on a molecular level. The animal kingdom consists in information processing on the intra cellular level; the central nervous system (or other forms of neural networks or biological information processing systems) enables the animal to take advantage of the sensual input and to react instantaneously to it. It also provides the means for learning and simple forms of tradition.

Then, in the human kingdom reason appears. The human mind constructs an intellectual model of the surrounding environment. Speech provides the means to live and work in large, complex human societies. Learned traditions and later writings transfer knowledge from one generation to the next. Knowledge is not only stored on the cellular level in the genes (vegetable kingdom) or in the pattern of neuronal connectivity (animal kingdom), it became largely independent from it's individual biological carrier in the form of stories and myths in earlier history and more recently in form of scriptures, films and disks. The human intellect supports sophisticated interactions among individuals resulting in a complex global society.

Wheeler (Wheeler, 1989) and Weizsäcker (von Weizsäcker, 1986) propose to base physics not on energy as what is the case today but to ground it on information. /11/ With information as the fundamental entity of our universe where energy and matter are only it's derivatives, the concept of the kingdoms offers a model for a non-trivial, hierarchical, fundamental order of our universe. Whereas today's physics refers mainly to the level of the mineral kingdom, the "influence" of the higher levels of the hierarchy would become detectable only in complex biological systems. /12/

If the kingdoms are understood to refer to levels of information processing than the kingdoms provide a hierarchy of increasing complexity. Each higher level build on all the lower ones. The human body is ruled by the animal kingdom, the principal organization of its cells compares to the vegetable kingdom and its atoms belong to the mineral world. There is no distinction in principle between human, animal, vegetable, and mineral atoms, between human, animal, vegetable cells, or between human and animal bodies. Humanity, however, is not defined by vegetable nor by animal characteristics. The human kingdom is distinct phenomenologically from the animal world through the human intellect, an attribute of the human soul.

5.3.2) Possibility of goal directed evolution

Now the question is considered whether the known body of biological data definitely excludes goal directed evolution. Today, teleological evolution is generally considered to be incompatible with the known facts of biology and the evolution of life. This is one the central messages of Monod's famous book Le Hazard et la Necessité that evolution has no purpose, no goal: "Message qui, par tous les critères possibles, semble avoir été écrit au hasard... D'un jeu totalement aveugle, tout, par définition, peut sortir, y compris la vision elle-même" (Monod, 1970, pp. 111-112). This leads him to his conclusion that life is a strange phenomena in our universe and we are the strangers:
S'il accepte ce message dans son entière signification, il faut bien que l'Homme enfin se réveille de son rêve millénaire pour découvrir sa totale solitude, son étrangeté radicale. Il sait maintenant que, comme un Tzigane, il est en marge de l'univers où il doit vivre. Univers sourd à sa musique, indifférent à ses espoirs comme à ses suffrances ou à ses crimes. (Monod, 1970, pp. 187-188)
Gould explains that for the evolution of the individual species no directionality in its development can be detected. One finds complexification as well as drastic simplifications, e.g., in the case of some parasites (Gould, 1994). Dawkins suggests that evolution is absolutely blind, without any final goal. He formulates this position rather drastically in his Blind Watchmaker (Dawkins, 1986, p. 50):
Evolution has no long-term goal. There is no long-distance target, no final perfection to serve as a criterion for selection, although human vanity cherishes the absurd notion that our species is the final goal of evolution. In real life, the criterion for selection is always short-term, either simple survival or, more generally, reproductive success... The `watchmaker' that is cumulative natural selection is blind to the future and has no long-term goal."
Those statements indicate that there is at least no obvious trend in evolution, no final goal which is necessarily implied by our biological knowledge. Consequently, at least on the scientific level there is no obvious need to introduce finality into biology. Apparently, deterministic and probabilistic processes (necessity and chance) are sufficient to model all those aspects of reality which are known to a reasonable degree of precision. The problem of first causes is generally neglected at this level.

Now the question is addressed whether the obvious absence of a clear directionality implies that evolution definitely excludes any directionality, any finality which could represent a Creator's purpose. The fact that the apparent randomness of a sequence of numbers does not imply that they are created randomly /13/ makes any conclusion questionable which deduces from the apparent randomness of evolution that evolution as a whole must be random, without any direction, lacking finality. If each mutation step would be random indeed, even than the directionality of evolution as a whole cannot be excluded. An illustrative counterexample is the diffusion of a spoon of crystalline sugar from the bottom to the top in a glass of tea. /14/ Here the random thermal motion directs sugar molecules towards the upper part of the glass. An other excellent example for evolution is the refolding of denaturated proteins into their native state. The thermal motion of the folding protein is restricted by the form of the conformational free energies to only a very small subspace of the whole conformational space (Baldwin, 1990). The important aspect of protein folding in this discussion is that even random driving forces can effectively result in directedness if there is an additional guiding force, e.g., the free energy of folding. In the case of evolution the random mutations and recombinations may be guided by the structure of the selectivity of the mutations, by the landscape of the fitness functions, by the species essences.

The question whether cosmogony and evolution follow a pregiven plan may be further obscured by the problem of how to evaluate the directedness. To detect a direction in evolution one needs a measure for the direction, some kind of "compass". For instance increasing the complexity could be a possible direction of evolution. But what means complexity in terms of a clear unique definition? Is it the number of nucleic acids required to code for the organism? Is it the degree of adaptedness of an organism to a certain environment? As noted by Gould, on the average the complexification grows simply due to the fact the non-artificial inanimate systems are generally simpler than living systems and consequently they can evolve only towards complexity. Such "diffusion" into "empty" complex regions, however, requires that those "regions" of sophisticated forms of life actually exist that complex organism may be at least equally equipped to face the needs of our world as the simpler ones.

What happens if the purpose of our universe is something completely beyond our imagination? Are we sure that we understand the "language of nature"? Why should our understanding of progress agree with the direction our universe may possibly be designed to follow? What measures do we have to evaluate progress if we do not know the final purpose of this universe, if such a purpose exists? Perhaps we discover some intermediate achievements obtained during evolution still far away from their intended goal?

Of course complex finality in evolution is rather unlikely, if one assumes a trivial self-creative origin. If the origin is assumed to be essentially complex other options become possible. The "complexity" of the origin may for instance by far exceed any level of complexity to be obtained by any particular organism or civilization at any time point during evolution. Such situation is stated in the Bahá'í writings:

For whatever such strivings may accomplish, they never can hope to transcend the limitations imposed upon Thy creatures, inasmuch as these efforts are actuated by Thy decree, and are begotten of Thine invention. The loftiest sentiments which the holiest of saints can express in praise of Thee, and the deepest wisdom which the most learned of men can utter in their attempts to comprehend Thy nature, all revolve around that Center Which is wholly subjected to Thy sovereignty, Which adoreth Thy Beauty, and is propelled through the movement of Thy Pen. (Gleanings 1:3)

The complexity of the final goal of evolution may simply surpass the imagination of all evolving civilizations. In such a situation directionality in cosmogony, evolution and even history might remain undetectable for humanity because we have no measure to evaluate the direction of the development and to detect possible progress. Of course this line of argument does not prove that finality exists in our universe but it shows that the claim for the absence of directionality is not well founded, it is a statement of faith. The argument proposes that finality even, if it exists, might remain indiscernible due to inherent limitations of the human mind, as stated by Bahá'u'lláh:

O Son of Beauty! By My spirit and by My favor! By My mercy and by My beauty! All that I have revealed unto thee with the tongue of power, and have written for thee with the pen of might, hath been in accordance with thy capacity and understanding, not with My state and the melody of My voice. (Hidden Words, Arab. 67)

5.4) The spiritual dimension of the human origin discussion

Since the publication of Darwin's Origins it was obvious that his concept of evolution undermined the classical, largely biblical world view in the Occident. The widely accepted concept of Creation based on a literal biblical interpretation was severely challenged by this new theory. In natural theology, the well adapted complex forms of life were considered to directly support the biblical picture that the world was created by a potent and benevolent Creator. Because Darwin reduced creation to a "mindless, algorithmic process of evolution" (Dennett, 1995, p. 63) the philosophy of modern biology together with other influences destroyed the foundation of natural theology and concepts of creation. Mayr clearly sees this situation:
Biology has an awesome responsibility. It can hardly be denied that it has helped to undermine traditional beliefs and value systems. Many of the most optimistic ideas of the Enlightenment, including equality and the possibility of a perfect society, were ultimately (although very subconsciously) part of physico-theology. It was god who had made this near-perfect world. A belief in such a world was bound to collapse when the belief in god as designer was undermined. (Mayr, 1982, p. 80-81)
Thus, this new theory revolutionized not only biology but it challenged whole world views, particularly the concepts of the purpose and destiny of humanity. These far-reaching consequences were seen and discussed soon after the publication of Darwin's Origins. Many of the more popularized publications about Darwin's theory very directly addressed religious and philosophical issues, and often claim that those new world views are the direct consequences of the "new facts" in biological sciences.

Why should particular biological results challenge world views and "threatened to leak out, offering answers--welcome or not--to questions in cosmology (going in one direction) and psychology (going in the other direction)"? (Dennett, 1995, p. 63) This challenge is a direct consequence of the idea of the unity of nature. To escape the consequences of materialism, many protestant theologians divided the world into disconnected parts: in a materialistic and a spiritual one. By this separation religion was thought to become immune against the attacks of materialistic philosophy (Albert, 1991; von Kitzing, 1997). Haeckel bases his concept of the unity of nature in the agreement of the physical and chemical forces in the inorganic as well as organic world. From this he concludes "the unity of natural forces or alternatively the `monism of energy'." (Haeckel, 1984, p. 325) Weizsäcker (von Weizsäcker, 1986) formulates this principle in more traditional physical terms, whereas Dennett applies the concept of evolution to cosmology as well as to psychology "going in one ... and ... in the other direction." (Dennett, 1995, p. 63) Thus, if we have such a unity of nature, the rules which bring forth the complex order of our biosphere should be relevant in all "directions". Consequently, if we assume that our universe does not divide into many disconnected parts of reality, than we should assume a unity in the fundamental principles ruling this universe. Also the Bahá'í Faith proclaims the unity of our reality. In SAQ `Abdu'l-Bahá explains that everything in our universe stems from a single root: "for there is no doubt that in the beginning the origin was one" (SAQ 47:2). In monotheistic religions the unity of nature is considered to be a direct consequence of the unity of God: "Regard thou the one true God as One Who is apart from, and immeasurably exalted above, all created things. The whole universe reflecteth His glory, while He is Himself independent of, and transcendeth His creatures. This is the true meaning of Divine unity." (Gleanings 84:1) Thus, if the unity of nature is assumed, the fundamental driving forces should be the same in particle physics, evolution of life, or cultural and scientific development.

5.4.1) Self-creative evolution and human values

Since Laplace, mechanics were considered to be "atheistic" as formulated by Haeckel (Haeckel, 1984, p. 331): "Once Laplace based the fundamental laws of our world in mathematics, all inorganic natural sciences became mechanistic and consequently purely atheistic". The complex order of the biosphere, however, still required an explanation which could not be given by mechanics alone. The complex forms of life still were understood as a good argument to support the existence of a benevolent Creator. Darwin's natural selection filled this `gap'. It apparently provided the means to explain complex biological order on mechanistic grounds.

Thus, many of Darwin's contemporaries understood Darwinism such that also the complex biological order no longer needs some external origin: "Neither does nature know a supernatural beginning, nor a supernatural continuation; as all begetting and all devouring, she is in herself origin and end, birth and death. On her own resources, she procreated the socalled creation and humanity as its apex, ..." (Büchner, 1904, p. 178). For instance, Haeckel presents atheism as a direct consequence of Darwin's discovery, although he himself preferred the term monism for his new belief. Explaining the concept of atheism he states that "this `kern -2ptgodless world view' essentially agrees with the monism and pantheism of our modern natural sciences; emphasizing its negative aspect, it is only an other expression for the non-existence of an outworldly, supernatural deity." (Haeckel, 1984, p. 369) From the very beginning Darwinism was understood to challenge the foundation of the classical world views. This consequence of this new theory was seen by friend and foe alike. Societies were founded to support and distribute these new, "scientific" ideas. In 1881, Ludwig Büchner cofounded the Deutschen Freidenkerbund. To spread his monistic religion Haeckel promoted the Deutschen Monistenbund 1906 in Jena. He himself considered the "new faith" as a competitor against Christianity (Haeckel, 1984, p. 429): "It is obvious that the Christian world view must be replaced by the monistic philosophy." According to Büchner (Büchner, 1904, p. 411), "science must replace religion, faith in a natural and absolute world order substitute the belief in spirits and ghosts, natural moral overcome artificial dogmas." In Great Britain similar campaigns were supported by Huxley and Spencer.

The existence of final cause, of a plan, goal or destiny of evolution has been denied by many Darwinists, such as Büchner (Büchner, 1904, p. 76). But not only in the past, also today Darwinism is often presented to imply deep religious (un)beliefs. Dawkins formulates the rejection of interpreting nature as a gift of our Creator rather drastically. He claims that only "scientifically illiterate" (Dawkins, 1989) would assume a purpose in nature:

... Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This lesson is one of the hardest for humans to learn. We cannot accept that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous: indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose... In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference. (Dawkins, 1995)
According to modern (meta)-biology, life and finally humanity is the "product of a blind, algorithmic process" (Dennett, 1995). It has to escape the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in a tough external world." (Gould, 1994)

If all biological characteristics did develop on the path of evolution, this should also be true for instincts and social behavior. Following Herbert Spencer, Haeckel considers human social behavior as the consequence of instincts: "Social duties ... are only highly developed forms of social instincts which we found with all higher animal living in social groups." (Haeckel, 1984, p. 446-7) Similar positions are also formulated by Büchner (Büchner, 1904, p. 407). Haeckel applies the rule of the survival of the fittest to human history. From the obvious lack of morality in most historical events he concludes that no higher moral order exists.

In the case of special characteristics of a myoglobin molecule it is certainly only of academic interest whether this particular characteristic is the result of ad hoc self-creation or whether it reveals the timeless properties of the chemical elements. But in the case of social laws it is certainly important for everyone whether those laws are arbitrary, mere conventions introduced by powerful groups within our society to serve their particular interests, or whether they reflect some objective, perhaps God given order. If social laws and concepts are not grounded in a fundamental structure of nature or some higher order, but are arbitrary ad hoc creations, than "anything goes" as formulated by the German philosopher Paul Feyerabend (Feyerabend, 1980). On the one hand, social norms are than partly based on social instincts inherited from our predecessors. In this case, a "natural social order" would be determined by our social instincts adapted to an environment which was inhabited by human beings several million years ago. For instance, the ability of humanity to address the problems of racism, environmental pollution or war is often evaluated on the basis of our animal heritage: "... uncritical assent is given to the proposition that human beings are incorrigibly selfish and aggressive and thus incapable of erecting a social system at once progressive and peaceful, dynamic and harmonious, a system giving free play to individual creativity and initiative but based on co-operation and reciprocity." (Peace Message 1:8) On the other hand, the part of our norms which are not bound by archaic pattern of behavior are absolutely arbitrary and very likely serves the interests of certain influential groups. Than the deconstructivists (Derrida, 1970) are correct in stating that any concept of our world has the same level a validity. Some are not better than others. Alan Sokal (Sokal, 1996) caricatured such a view by considering the situation that even the laws of nature are the result of social agreements and lack objectivity.

The problem of morality within a materialistic Darwinism was seen rather early. Many of the 19th century materialists, however, assumed that reason would be sufficient to formulate generally accepted moral values: "This monistic religion and ethics differentiates from all others in that we base it exclusively on pure reason. It is a world view grounded in science, experience and reasonable beliefs." (Haeckel, 1984, p. 507) Büchner considers the Golden rule as the fundament of any ethics. For him, solidarity is the quintessence of morality (Büchner, 1904, p. 411). Also Mayr suggests human values based on Darwinism:

If, instead of defining man as the personal ego or merely a biological creature, one defines man as mankind, an entirely different ethics and ideology is possible. It would be an ideology that is quite compatible with the traditional values of wanting to "better mankind" and yet which is compatible with any of the new findings of biology. If this approach is chosen, there will be not conflict between science and the most profound human values. (Mayr, 1982, p. 81)
Ward, however, severely doubts that "metaphysical Darwinism" is sufficient to ground human values:
Only a theory that is completely certain should be allowed to undermine this moral sense. Metaphysical Darwinism is far from being such a theory. Indeed, its inability to account for the moral consciousness in a satisfactory way is one of the strongest arguments for its incompleteness as a total explanation of human behavior, and therefore of the evolution of life. (Ward, 1996, p. 178)

5.4.2) "At home in our universe"

But what if moral values are not arbitrary? There are certainly moral values which are constructive and others which destabilize a society. Within an essentialistic world view /15/ this may be understood that some value systems are more appropriate for a given situation than others. In a reality, which is the mirror image of the names and attributes of God, human behavior is not captured by the achievements of the past, but it can change according to human destiny, to be realized during evolution. If evolution serves a God given destiny, the evolutionary achievements not only reflect the history of evolution but also its goals. Than our behavior is not only determined by our animal heritage, which undoubtedly exists according to the Bahá'í writings, but also by our evolutionary destiny.

But do we really have an alternative? Does such an approach helps us to formulate social concepts and moral value systems which solve the actual problems of our time? Provides the recourse to mostly traditional religious value systems, as proposed by the leading body of the Bahá'í Faith, /16/ any definitely new insight and solution for the question of the "natural social order"? Whereas the interactions between electrons or planets are fixed by the laws of nature, laws of social interactions are (at least to some extend) not fixed, apparently they can be willfully modified and they are known to have changed throughout history. What freedom do we have to choose our values compatible with a peaceful, progressive society? Are there objective sources for human values? It is certainly difficult if not impossible to study a possible purpose or destiny for humanity by scientific means. Our social concepts, however, create facts in this real world by means of our deeds /17/ and in this real world we have to manage our lives.

But if such a natural social order exists how can we know about it? Should we simply trust in our "traditional values"? This solution may work locally, but world wide there are too many traditional value systems that each one could apply to a world society. Thus, lastly, we have to refer to some kind of trial and error, to an evolutionary strategy. If social interactions are dependent on a timeless reality, the success of a community depends on the particular social laws prevalent in the society, on their "fitness" to foster a lively community. In this case, the social laws are subject to the "survival of the fittest" where the fitness would be set by an unknown, but objective "function". Thus, the multiple value systems which are offered on the market of the world have to be tested whether they serve their purpose. Christ proposed to measure the truthfulness of prophets according to the "fruits" of their teachings (Matth. 7:16-18, 20). According to the Bahá'í Faith the purpose of religion is to educate humanity: "The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying Their revelation hath been to educate all men..." (Gleanings 81:1) and similarly: "The purpose underlying the revelation of every heavenly Book, nay, of every divinely-revealed verse, is to endue all men with righteousness and understanding, so that peace and tranquillity may be firmly established amongst them." (Gleanings 101:1)

Teachings about the purpose and destiny of life is one of the central subjects of every religion. For instance Bahá'u'lláh, the prophet founder of the Bahá'í Faith states:

O Son of Man! Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty.

O Son of Man! I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life. (Hidden Words, 3-4)

If mankind has a non-trivial destiny, and if we believe in this destiny, we may be able overcome archaic pattern of aggressive behavior, the destructive aspects of our "social instincts" inherited from our predecessors. The conviction of a destiny of a peaceful future invests us with the necessary means of understanding and the consequential necessary actions to establish a peaceful society. Perhaps we are not the gipsies at the edge of our universe (Monod, 1970, pp. 187-188), perhaps we really may feel "At Home in Our Universe" (Kauffman, 1995). The future will demonstrate whether the "meme" /18/ of the "selfish gene" or the meme of "All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization" (Gleanings 109:2) will enable humanity to create a "progressive and peaceful, dynamic and harmonious" society.


    /1/ This situation may be elucidated by the watchmaker argument: the existence of a watch requires the existence of a watchmaker. The opponent may reply that his particular watch was not made by a watchmaker but by an automatic appliance. This appliance would be able not only to produce watches automatically, but would contain a mechanism to improve the design and function of the produced watches. This appliance certainly would have to be much more complicated than a single watch. It would require designers more skillful than common watchmakers. In a similar way one can argue, natural laws which can produce highly complex systems have a higher need of explanation than the particular complex structures they produce.

    /2/ The chemistry of different galaxies can be studied by means of optical spectra of atoms and molecules. These spectra indicate the chemical properties of the atoms and molecules. If the chemical laws would be different in distant galaxies, which also means early galaxies due to the limited speed of light, one would expect to find absorption and excitation spectra different from those we find today. But according to those studies to the best of our knowledge the chemistry is the same within the know universe. A similar argument is given by Haeckel (Haeckel, 1984). From the experimental work of Kirchhoff and colleges that the atomic and molecular spectra are the same all over the known universe, he concludes the unity of the laws of nature within our universe.

    /3/ Ad hoc self-creation of complex order cannot be understood as a stochastic process because stochastic events can be predicted on statistical grounds. Such a statistical predictability would in turn lead to some type of essentialism, rejected by the adherents of ad hoc origin of order.

    /4/ Ward (Ward, 1996) argues similarly: "To say that such a very complex and well-ordered universe comes into being without any cause or reason is equivalent to throwing one's hands up in the air and just saying that anything at all might happen, that it is hardly worth bothering to look for reasons at all. And that is the death of science." Self-creative evolution of biological characteristics invents a similar kind of irreproducible forces as done in the concepts where these characteristics are the result of some élan vital or created by God or a demiurg during evolution. The major difference would be that the self-created characteristics would be accidental, whereas in vitalistic and theistic evolution the created characteristics could be goal directed. Also the creative force of a searching human mind could be the origin of order such as proposed by Rudolf Steiner. For Steiner truth is "a free creation of the human mind, a truth which has no existence if we do not bring it forth. The purpose of understanding is not to repeat by abstract reasoning something existing in any form, but to create a new concept which together with the obvious world reveals the full reality". (Basfeld, 1992; Steiner, 1980, 1892, the translation from German was done by the author)

    /5/ Alternatively, one could assume that once a new characteristic has been "created", this solution would hold for the whole universe. Such a concept, however, would require that the information of this new "creation" would travel faster than light with infinite speed. Otherwise, mutually exclusive characteristics could be created in different parts of the universe.

    /6/ In principle, self-creative evolution makes the current interpretation of fossil findings doubtful. These interpretations ground on the assumption that the physical, chemical and biological laws and principles, we know today, apply in exactly the same way to those ancient forms of life. Self-creative evolution, however, assumes the creation of essentially new characteristics.

    /7/ Selection can be compared with learning. Nobody can understand mathematics by eliminating non-mathematical thoughts, but only by learning mathematics. A removal of non-mathematical ways of thinking is of course necessary, but certainly by no means sufficient for a good mathematician.

    /8/ This means that the outcome of a single mutation cannot be predicted a priori. A large number of mutations, however, follow the rules of the appropriate statistics.

    /9/ By means of the viral enzyme Qß replicase, DNA chains can be replicated using energy rich nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA chains. The replication process has a low fidelity, it's rate depends critically on the particular DNA sequence and on the environment, e.g., salt concentrations. This system is used to simulate evolution in vitro. For a given salt concentration a certain set of DNA sequences wins the competition (Biebricher, et al., 1993; Spiegelman, 1967). This effect is reproducible, i.e., repeated experiments bring forth the same winning sequences. These experiments are certainly good examples to study fitness functions. At least in these model studies, evolution is not arbitrary, but the competition reproducibly favors certain DNA sequences. Thus, these DNA "species" exist a priori, they do not change. They reproducibly reappear under the respective conditions. For such kind of experiments, even the classical, pre-Darwinian species definition would make some sense. In this model, the "species" would remain unchanged; the populations, however, during evolution move from one "species" to the next.

    /10/ An other example for eternal laws describing continuous changes can be taken from physics. For instance, Newton dynamics unify time invariant laws, defining all possible motions of the planets, with a substantially dynamic system, representing the actual changing positions and velocities of the planets. The laws themselves don't change in time, but they describe the motion of the planets within time.

    /11/ In nonrelativistic mechanics formulated by Newton, mass points were the central objects of consideration and kinetic and potential energy were certain characteristics of these mass points. Einstein reversed this relation. Energy became the central entity and matter one possible form of energy. Today information is considered to be a form of matter. But according to the expectations of Wheeler (Wheeler, 1989) and von Weizsäcker (von Weizsäcker, 1986) one can consider an analogous reformulation of physics similar to the transformation from nonrelativistic to relativistic physics: information may become the fundamental entity of our universe, its substance, and energy and matter only particular aspects of it, it's forms.

    /12/ The deviation of relativistic physics from Newtonian mechanics are measurable only at velocities not small compared to the speed of light. Analogously, in a hierarchical order of nature, certain types of characteristics would only be detectable in sufficient complex systems, but not necessarily at the atomic or molecular level.

    /13/ Gödel proved that the randomness of a sequence of numbers cannot be ascertained. Perfect pseudo random number generators, for instance, are purely deterministic, even if they meet nearly every test for randomness.

    /14/ If one puts crystalline sugar in a glass of tea the sugar dissolves and after some time it becomes distributed all over the volume of the tea in the glass. On average the sugar performs a directed motion, from the bottom to the middle of the glass. If one would follow the path of a single sugar molecule, however, one would detect a random Brownian motion. The molecule would go up and down without preference of any direction. Only when looking at many molecules with the respective average a directionality of the sugar motion can be seen.

    /15/ Essentialism may be understood to infer a rigid system of deterministic (as in mechanics) or stochastic (as in quantum mechanics) natural laws. In the past such kind of universe was often compared with a clockwork which once was initiated by the Creator, but then the gears only follow their predetermined path. Such a view is the consequence of considering only a trivial origin. If one takes into account a substantially non-trivial origin not only necessary and random causes may rule our universe, but also free will can be included. This would also help to escape Gödel's incompleteness relation. Such a view includes God's action in this universe. Because of the finite capacity of the human mind, such action might generally not be understood as such. Ward (Ward, 1996) discusses the question whether God's action in this universe would violate the laws of nature. He concludes that these natural laws leave sufficient room for God's intervention.

    /16/ In the Peace Message, published during the UN year of peace, the Universal House of Justice stressed the importance of religious value system for the solution of the burning problems of our world: "No serious attempt to set human affairs aright, to achieve world peace, can ignore religion." (Peace Message 2:2)

    /17/ Although there exists apparently no direct way to appraise moral values, one can study the impact of certain values on human behavior. For instance, what practical consequences has the faith in a purpose of life? Ward (Ward, 1996) discusses the relation between moral values and evolution.

    /18/ Dawkins (Dawkins, 1989) proposes "memes" as entities which correspond to genes. Memes are the ideas which form our culture and which similarly to genes struggle selfishly for their replication and survival.

Chapter 6


The question of the origin of our world and complex biological order has always fascinated mankind. Within this essay some philosophical aspects of the origin of order are discussed using the example of our biosphere, the origin of the different, well adapted forms of life, the appearance of manifold species. Three different meta-physical species concepts are considered: that of classical biology, modern biology and the proposals given by `Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of the prophet founder of the Bahá'í Faith.

In classical biology the biosphere was considered to be static. It was once created by God, and since its origin the fauna and flora was considered to have remained more or less unchanged. The various species were assumed to be defined by their respective timeless species essences, by archetypes which keeps them unique and distinct. These concepts are rooted in the ideas of Plato. Complex order is considered to represent God's creation. In contrast to Plato and the neo-Platonists, Aristotle considered the existing order to be sufficient for it's own maintenance and reproduction. His species concept agrees well with many modern species definitions. Today, a species in considered to be defined by their actually existing population, by the gene pool common to an interbreeding community. Together with Aristotle, most modern biologists don't believe in species essences. Because Aristotle considered this world to be static, for him, the populations were fixed entities. All modern species definitions, however, are based on evolution, designed to explain the findings in biology and palaeontology indicating a changing world. Today, the existence of species essences is generally thought to be incompatible with evolution.

Impressed by the astonishing progress made in physics and chemistry during the 19th century, there was an important fraction of scientists who tried to reduce biology to physics and chemistry, to mechanics. For these people, evolution is the necessary result of a few fundamental laws of nature. The universe was assumed to exist eternally, thus a "first cause" was not required and the temporal regression was assumed to be infinite indeed. The hierarchical regression is not solved in such models. The question for the origin of the universe as such is left open. For representatives of this view, such as Büchner, evolution is the necessary result of the mechanical laws of nature.

More biologically oriented scientists were convinced that the well adapted complex biosphere cannot originate from a few mechanical laws. For them, evolution is not the unfolding of potentialities encoded in these laws of nature, but consist in "créatrice de nouveauté absolue" (Monod, 1970, p. 130), in the emergence of absolutely new characteristics. In such ad hoc creations of complex order, a new kind of creative force is introduced, because evolution is considered not to represent the unfolding of some in principle objective and reproducible, but actually hidden, potential order. Being principally unpredictable and irreproducible, this postulated creative force is rather similar to an élan vital in a different disguise. These concepts assume the creation of biological order, but don't explain it. In such concepts, the complex order of our universe remains inexplicable in principle.

In contrast, modern mathematical biologists again consider (often perhaps unconsciously) more essentialistic models of evolution. A reality which is grounded in unpredictable and irreproducible characteristics cannot be modeled by mathematical equations. In mathematical evolution models, selection is based on an in principle objective fitness function. Because the existence of the fitness function is not explained, such concepts suffer from the problem of the infinite regression. They are certainly suitable as a scientific theory on an intermediate level. But they cannot provide their own philosophical fundament, the origin of the fitness function.

As shown in the accompanying essay by Keven Brown (see Keven Brown's article) Darwinism was extensively discussed in the Near East during the second half of the 19th century. In the Arabic speaking world, Darwin's work was mainly accessible through the translations of popular books, written for instance by Büchner, Haeckel or Spencer, about their philosophic interpretation of Darwin's theory of evolution. These authors generally equated Darwin's biological theory with mechanistic concepts of the origin of complex order in our universe. Consequently, the main interest in the Orient addressed these philosophic consequences of Darwinism. `Abdu'l-Bahá was very likely well informed about the disputes of evolution in the Near East. With Western visitors and during His visits to Europe and the United States He extensively discussed evolution and formulated philosophical concepts of the origin of complex order presented in the light of the teachings of His father. In the talks published in PUP and SAQ explicit reference is made to the "philosophers of the West" and to "some European philosophers". Thus, these arguments specifically address those ideas formulated, published and widely distributed in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century.

With the combined argument of Plato's classical concept of the perfect harmonious universe and the modern time invariance of the elemental laws of nature, `Abdu'l-Bahá argues in favor of the existence of a timeless human species essence. With the reference to the time invariant laws of nature `Abdu'l-Bahá discloses a strange characteristic of the concept of self-creative evolution: If the biological characteristics are created anew during evolution, a certain chain of amino acids would have had certain characteristics until a certain time point of cosmological evolution and different newly created ones after this time point. The problems of changing laws of nature become even more severe if they are extended to cosmogony. Such changes have not yet been discovered in our universe. They would prevent to disclose the past of our universe.

In classical biology the timeless species essences were considered to preserve the biological populations. Although there were few attempts to combine essentialism with evolution, those theories rejecting essentialism succeeded among competing approaches. This led to the widely accepted conclusion that essentialism and evolution are mutually incompatible. With the analogy between human phylogeny and embryonic ontogeny `Abdu'l-Bahá demonstrates that essentialism and evolution are not contradictory. As the information stored in the DNA chains regulate the development of growing organisms and unfolds their hidden potentials during their life, the species essence "guides" evolution on the geological time scale. The cosmogony `Abdu'l-Bahá proposes builds on a non-trivial, essentially complex origin. "Chance and necessity" (Le Hazard et la Necessité (Monod, 1970)) are shown to be insufficient to explain the universe and to bring forth a complex biosphere, a third category is added: free Will. I.e., the universe is considered to be indescribable by a closed set of few fundamental laws, but it is presented to be substantially complex from the very beginning, to be essentially open!

`Abdu'l-Bahá's major interest in the subject of evolution did certainly not address particular mechanisms of the evolution of different forms of life. As the head of the young Bahá'í community, He clearly saw the tendency of Darwinism to "leak out" and to give answers in cosmology and social evolution, as pointed out by authors such as Büchner, Haeckel, Spencer, Dawkins or Dennett. In their widely distributed books, Büchner and Haeckel claimed that the results of 19th century's science and particularly evolution biology explicitly excludes the existence of a creator. According to the understanding of the author of this essay, `Abdu'l-Bahá mainly concentrated on the philosophical question whether our cosmological, biological and social order is arbitrary, accidentally or trivial, or whether it is based on a potential complex order existing from the beginning. `Abdu'l-Bahá formulated several arguments in terms of the particular scientific background at the beginning of the 20th century, showing that species essences, that a world view based on the eternal names and attributes of God absolutely makes sense in the light of the findings of modern sciences. His arguments are still valid today.


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