All research or scholarship questions
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Postby TheCatLady » Sun May 10, 2009 8:18 pm

Hello all!

Here I am with yet another question. I am a strong believer in evolution, and from what I have read it seems like this could fit into the Baha'i Faith as well. But, in Some Answered Questions and The Baha'i Faith: The Emerging Global Religion it states that the human soul as been distinctly separate from the animal soul, even though we may have been alike in looks. I am so confused on this, is there any way someone might be able to explain this to me? If we evolved from animals, how could our souls be different. Was there just a distinctive line of animals... like a family, that God specially ordained with these human souls that enabled them to evolve or something? Any information on this would be much appreciated. Thanks!

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Re: Evolution?

Postby brettz9 » Sun May 10, 2009 9:31 pm

Hello TheCatLady,

Good question...

I think the most clear explanation is this one:

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.

(On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, at http://bahai-library.com/writings/shogh ... /1946.html)

Notice that this says "evolve into the human...species"--perhaps meaning, as the following article suggests, that 'Abdu'l-Baha's references were more about the Platonic ideal "man" not changing, rather than that he could not have originated physically and genetically out of lesser forms (and as you state, He explicitly allows for a change in form).

An excellent article, in my opinion, which deserves much more attention than at least I've been able to give it and digest it more adequately, is at http://bahai-library.com/unpubl.article ... ecies.html . This argues to the effect that 'Abdu'l-Baha did not mean that there was some kind of "parallel evolution" going on whereby the human species was always a distinct genetic line, which only appeared differently from primates--rather, he argues that it may be possible that 'Abdu'l-Baha was only denying that man had no different purpose than that of animals, and in fact may have been in agreement that we do share a common ancestor with apes (as science now asserts) (or possibly our common ancestor was even, for a while, a mix of ape and proto-human, as some research suggests), but that God had always ordained for this evolution to take place and create, at some point in time, the fruit of existence, a creature which could know Him--man. I think the quotation of Shoghi Effendi bears this out, and perhaps a deeper study of 'Abdu'l-Baha's Writings as well, though again I for one haven't studied this as carefully as I should. There is also a question as to whether some of the talks on this subject (e.g., in Promulgation of Universal Peace), are adequately translated or even in the original Persian transcript.

best wishes,

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Re: Evolution?

Postby BruceDLimber » Mon May 11, 2009 7:27 am

Hi, CL! :-)

In the Baha'i view science and religion are NOT in contradiction, but rather dovetail very nicely!

It should be pointed out that Baha'is have no problem with evolution; indeed, IOV religion evolves as well as creation generally! And it's worth noting that while our scriptures state that humans have always had immortal souls--this being what sets them apart from animals--, this is a spiritual condition not related to the physical world (which is what evolution addresses).

Science may be said to explain the "how" of things, whereas religion explains "Who" and "why." They thus address different, largely non-overlapping domains, but come together nicely to form a complete whole!

The quickest way to get into trouble is to use either one without the other!: Science without religion is gross materialism (bigger and better nukes); religion without science is superstition (witch-burning).

And the Baha'i scriptures also say (sorry: I don't have the citation handy) that if a religious doctrine disagrees with established science, then that doctrine is simply wrong.

There is also this marvelous quote from 'Abdu'l-Baha in the Baha’i scriptures:
“[E]ven in Europe it is admitted that religion is the opponent of science, and that science is the destroyer of the foundations of religion. While the religion of God is the promoter of truth, the founder of science and knowledge, it is full of goodwill for learned men; it is the civilizer of mankind, the discoverer of the secrets of nature, and the enlightener of the horizons of the world. Consequently, how can it be said to oppose knowledge? God forbid! Nay, for God, knowledge is the most glorious gift of man and the most noble of human perfections. To oppose knowledge is ignorant, and he who detests knowledge and science is not a man, but rather an animal without intelligence. For knowledge is light, life, felicity, perfection, beauty and the means of approaching the Threshold of Unity. It is the honor and glory of the world of humanity, and the greatest bounty of God. Knowledge is identical with guidance, and ignorance is real error.

“Happy are those who spend their days in gaining knowledge, in discovering the secrets of nature, and in penetrating the subtleties of pure truth! Woe to those who are contented with ignorance, whose hearts are gladdened by thoughtless imitation, who have fallen into the lowest depths of ignorance and foolishness, and who have wasted their lives!”
—(Some Answered Questions, page 137)

Best! :-)


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