Evolution


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Evolution has become a hot topic in the debate over God’s existence. The discourse on evolution is often caricatured as being between biblical creationists on one side, and staunch Neo-Darwinists on the other. This is a false dichotomy as there are many design theories between these two poles, not the least of which is the Qur’anic view of evolution: one guided by God in discrete stages, thus finding a balance between the two extremes.


Mirza Ghulam Ahmad

PEACE BE UPON HIM

(1835-1908)

 

Was the Adam of Genesis the first man?

Question: “In the Bible it is stated that Adam, or the first man, as he should be called, was created in the region mentioned in Gen., Chapter 11. Are we to understand that the various human races found scattered all over the globe are descended from the same common ancestor?”

Answer: “We are not of that opinion: we do not agree with the Biblical view that the world began, only about six or seven thousand years ago, with the creation of Adam, and that till then there existed nothing at all. This would imply a previous period when God, so to say, was inert and inactive and His attributes in a state of abeyance—a view which we can never accept. Nor do we hold that the different races found scattered all over the globe are exclusively descended from this one Adam. We believe that human beings existed even before the time of the Adam spoken of in the Old Testament. This view is clearly implied in the words of the Holy Qur’an where it says “I am about to place a Khalifa in the earth”. The word Khalifa (Caliph) means a ‘successor.’

This verse implies, therefore, that Allah’s creation existed before Adam. Consequently, with regard to the races found in America or Australia, we are not in a position to say whether they descended from this last Adam or from a different progenitor or progenitors. There is a saying of Hazrat Mohy-ud-Din Ibni ‘Arabi that bears on this question. He writes that when he went on pilgrimage to Mecca, he met there [in a vision] a man who, he thought, was Adam. On being questioned on the point, the man replied: “There have been thousands of Adams: which of them do you seek?””



Does Islam support the common descent of man?

Question: Do you believe in Evolution and hold that man has progressed by degrees from lower stages of life to higher ones, and that he evolved first into an ape and then became a man…

Answer: “We do not consider that man was formerly an ape of which the tail and the body hair have disappeared in the course of a long process of evolution culminating in a human being. That man is descended from an ape is a claim of which the onus of proof lies on those who put forth this view. They cannot prove the truth of this theory unless they can put their finger on an ape in the process of emerging into a human being. With us this view carries no more weight than a fanciful story devoid of substance. We observe that the reproduction of living beings does not overstep the bounds imposed by genus and species; the law of God in this respect is plain for any one who cares to see: the off-spring of an ass is always an ass, and monkeys produce only monkeys. As opposed to this unfailing universal law, if anyone claims that monkeys at one time gave birth to human beings, it behoves him to prove his case. Simply to say that perhaps it was so has no force, especially when the continuous observation of centuries definitely precludes any supposition of the kind.”

-Watch a talk by Paul Nelson on the growing evidence against Universal Common Descent.


Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmood Ahmad

MAY ALLAH BE PLEASED WITH HIM

Khalifatul_Masih_II

(1889-1965)

 

What does the Qur’an say about evolution?  

‘What is the matter with you that you expect not wisdom and staidness from Allah?

And He has created you in stages/different forms and different conditions

Have you not seen how Allah has created seven heavens, tier upon tier?

And has placed the moon therein as a light, and made the sun as a lamp?

And Allah has raised you from the Earth like the raising of vegetation,

Then will He return you therein and bring you forth in a special way.”

(Holy Qur’an, 71:14-19)

“What clearly emerges from this subject matter is that the Qur’an supports the opinion that Man was born through an evolutionary process, but not one that occurred by chance. In fact, it speaks of the birth of Man through stages without, however, approving of the idea that the particle destined to become human was at any point in time anything other than human. Rather, according to the Qur’an, at every point in time and in whichever form it took, the capacity to become human and to accept revelation was present. In all the periods it went through, it was marching forward towards a special objective and it wasn’t according to the theory of Darwin, in that some of its imperfect versions continuously branched off whilst other good versions continued to advance forward separately.” –Tafsir-e-Kabir, Volume IV    

– Read Science & Human Origins,  a short book exploring the evidence against common ancestry (courtesy of Discovery Institute)



What does Islam teach about evolution?

“Man was born after [going through] various periods. First, a small animal came into being, then a larger one, followed by an even larger one than that; and in the end man was brought into being. Therefore, Allah, the Exalted, says in the Holy Qur’an: What is the matter with you that you do not like Allah to show seriousness? And you say: “God, make it happen quickly.” Take a look at your initial origin, and observe over how long a period it [your development] took place.

Thus, man came into being after passing through different eras. And the animals [described above] come from these very same eras. Thus, all these animals are in fact steps leading to the rank of the human being, otherwise in and of themselves, they have no purpose. Now, whatever is led up ladders is liable to fall by the wayside. Therefore, all things which needed to be created for the progress of Man were also to be found in those animals. However, it is a confirmed fact that sexual urges are far more developed in Man than in animals. And it is a proven fact that sexual urges are deeply linked to mental faculties.” –Fada’il al-Qur’an, pt. 3, Anwar al-‘Ulum, vol. 11

 

Is universal common descent supported in the Qur’an? 

“Whatever the Holy Qur’an states about this development can be likened to the example of the mountains. Wherever one sees the mountains they appear to be arranged in the form of a series. First there are smaller hills, then higher ones and then mountains which are even higher. When altitudes reach their highest point the summits begin to gradually decrease thereafter to such an extent that heights reach a low level. After this, they begin to rise and then begin to fall. A similar sort of evolution also took place in the case of animal species, that is to say, there has definitely been contraction and expansion in chains of evolution. Every species was not created in one day, nor were individual species created one day at a time. In fact, every species underwent evolution and even individual species progressed to their own [evolutionary] completion.

Hence, it is true that different chains of life have progressed; first elementary ones, then ones of greater complexity and so on and so forth. However, all of these chains were independent from one another. A single chain did not evolve into multiple life forms. As such, initially very primitive forms of life came into existence and then more complex ones were followed by even higher life forms. However, this advancement took place separately and independently. It is not true that a single lower animal species evolved until it branched off into all the species that exist today.” -Hasti Bari Ta’ala

Science & Human Origins: an easy-to-read short book exploring the evidence for and debate over common ancestry (courtesy of Discovery Institute)

 

How does mental evolution indicate a Divine Guidance in evolution?  

“Nevertheless, we argue that irrespective of the view one subscribes to, the concept of evolution itself disproves atheism. Why? Because even those people who believe that lower animal species evolved into humans say that initially a few animals were born, then they developed and other animals came into being and along with this progress, the mind also continued to develop until finally the highest form of human life came into existence. At this point, physical evolution came to a halt but the human mind continued to evolve. We say that this very fact is proof of the existence of God. For if nature had been the creator of all things and not God, then physical evolution would have continued as well and something after humans would have come into existence. However, it is obvious that physical evolution has come to a standstill, while a system for the strengthening of the soul and its progress still continues. What mind could accept the fact that nature maps out an objective and then alters its course in the acquisition of that objective?

The fact that physical evolution came to a halt after the birth of humans, while mental and intellectual evolution still continues, demonstrates that the originator of this entire system of evolution is a Being Who has created this entire world with a specific purpose and objective. When that objective was fulfilled, He brought an end to these advancing waves of evolution. If God Almighty did not exist then various species should have continued to evolve after the birth of humans, and new and unique animal species should have continued to be born. However, we see that when that animal was born who was able to absorb the attributes of Allah the Exalted and spiritually advance, the wave of evolution took a turn and instead of physical evolution a purely mental evolution began. In other words, at this stage, the objective was fulfilled and physical evolution was no longer required to give birth to human beings.” -Hasti Bari Ta’ala

 

Does the length of childhood indicate Divine Guidance in evolution? 

“As such, as a result of this mutation the period of a human being’s childhood became extraordinarily long as well. Since the purpose of man’s birth was to attain knowledge, which requires a lengthy period of training, for this very reason, his childhood era was prolonged so that he should remain dependant on his mother and father for a longer period in time and be compelled to remain with them and learn from their knowledge and experience by staying in their company and benefit from their training. If, in accordance with the laws of unguided nature, humans had evolved from apes, then considering the fact that the infancy of apes and other higher animal species was so short and they began to walk almost as soon as they were born and grew able to save and protect themselves within a period of six to seven months, why then did a new phenomenon come about in the case of man? A human being cannot take a single step for six or seven months and slowly but surely develops whilst remaining in need of the support and assistance of his mother and father.” -Hasti Bari Ta’ala

American Scientist on the mysteries and benefits of long human childhood. 


Mirza Tahir Ahmad 

MAY ALLAH BE PLEASED WITH HIM

HKM4 with RRKT

(1928-2003)

 

Can ‘survival of the fittest’ account for the progressive evolution of life? 

“The issue of the survival of all living creatures is not as easy and simple as normally understood by the Darwinian cliché of the ‘Survival of the Fittest’. This term can only be understood in depth when applied to specific, concrete examples. Otherwise there is a danger that this popular cliché will mislead people rather than lead them to the truth. The snag lies in the word ‘fittest’. Without defining what it means, one cannot put this claim to test. As to its role in advancing life, invariably from lower forms to higher forms, it is certainly likely to fail the test.

To declare a character of life to be better than another is a complex problem which may vary from situation to situation. Many a time it happens that a superior, far more highly placed species of life is far less capable of surviving the challenge of a given crisis than a species of life which is placed at a much lower order. As such, nature would automatically give its verdict in favour of the latter at the hour of struggle and inclement conditions.

At the time of a severe drought, many animal species of the lower order survive easily, while man perishes unable to withstand the pressures. Natural calamities such as sudden unexpected changes in temperature, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes and typhoons, wild fires, floods and earthquakes are seldom partial in their treatment to various species of life.

It is not at all unlikely for them to take away in a few seconds, minutes or hours what it took hundreds of millions of years for evolution to create. Yet, under the same devastating conditions many lower forms of life will flourish and multiply unhindered. The question as to who is the fittest and by what yardstick it could be declared the fittest, remains unanswered.

It is a simple case of survival and no more. It is not the fittest who always survive and whoever survives is not always the fittest. All that we can sensibly conclude is that there are certain species of life that are fittest to survive under certain conditions, and there are some other species of life which are fittest to survive under essentially different conditions.

Hence mere survival is no competitive test between the species for judging their respective values. Now we analyse the case of struggle for existence which occurs within a species when members of the same species are put to various trials of natural calamities. Many of them are eliminated, overwhelmed by the dangers they confront. Many others display an innate strength against the befalling calamities; some fare so well as to treat them with scant respect. They happily outlive such trials as had destroyed their fellow members. Consider for example a severe epidemic of dysentery. It is likely for it to kill an eminent naturalist while it may altogether spare a farm labourer with only strong guts to his credit, without any other faculties of head and heart to be proud of. Again the same people who survive a specific epidemic may not be able to survive other contagious diseases. Some may die during a spread of cholera while survivors from it may be despatched to death by the yearly recurring disease of influenza or even lesser diseases.

Such are the trials of life. The survival is only relative to the context of a precise situation which does not always adjudge the survivors to be fittest in all qualities of life. The real reasons why natural selection prefers some animals as against others who are apparently doomed by it are unknown to scientists. There is no single yardstick by which every case can be equitably adjudged. Unconscious natural selection could not take into account all the positive and negative points before it could pass judgement in favour of some or against some others. The most important thing to note is that the laws of life and death are not directly governed by natural selection in the ordinary course of the phenomenon of survival and destruction. The final outcome is influenced by innumerable factors which spare or kill an animal for reasons which are in fact governed by a universal Divine scheme of things. This scheme of things could not have served the cause of evolution without the conscious role played by a Supreme All-Knowing Creator Who governs everything in accordance with His Divine Plan. Those who deny this have to be predetermined in their denial. It is tantamount to the denial of evolution itself, if they honestly recognize the problems involved in believing in evolution without believing in the Creator.” -Ch: Survival by accident or design? Part V of Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth.



How can blind laws create living complexity if they cannot create dead complexity?

“…[W]e reaffirm that the naturalists’ denial of purpose in the design of the living is only because it would invariably lead to God. They would much rather prefer a deaf, dumb and blind agent to have created everything. They are purposefully deceitful because the blind principles of Darwinism are not creators. These principles only begin to operate when the creation is performed by other hands. They are powerful principles like the laws of physics. Yet all the laws of physics, chemistry and dynamics put together could not have created even a single poor man’s shack complete with plumbing, a small kitchen and a toilet. Of course these laws are employed for such construction, but the employer has to be a conscious person with a brain. The brain is the master which employs the laws of nature…

The laws of nature run independently if there is no mind to operate them. It is they who operate and govern everything that exists. The living are not exempt from this all-pervasive principle. The absence of a conscious mind to manipulate these laws completely does away with the imaginary line which is said to separate the living from the dead. If the brain of the living cannot design itself and cannot play any conscious role in the making of the body which possesses it, then the living and the dead are governed exactly alike by the same laws of nature. It has to be only these mindless laws which are responsible for the cumulative building of the bricks of life. If they are capable of building the bricks of life, they are far more likely to build a mere Empire State Building through the same cumulative bit by bit process. Yet the naturalists contradict themselves and refuse to believe the bit by bit piling up of the Empire State Building by cumulative random steps, however small tiny and insignificant they may have been. Here they artificially create a divide between the laws of nature at work on dead matter and the laws of nature at work on the living. In reality no such divide should exist if there is no conscious operator of natural laws on either side. Naturalists confess that there is no conscious operator in the case of the living, hence they must admit there is no difference between the living and the dead. All that remain are the free laws of nature, working on the living as well as the dead. If they by themselves could create things as complex as the bricks of life, then for them to create the Empire State Building should have been much less difficult than the building of a molehill by a mole. The only objection, which in fact is no objection at all, may relate to the time available. But the time available to nature at work on the dead is far greater than that available in relation to the evolution of life. Forget for a while the existing Empire State Building because it is a known fact that it was created by a conscious mind… Remember that the laws remain exactly the same in the case of the living as well as the dead, and remember that the existence of a conscious mind is ruled out by naturalists in both cases. Hence no divide between the two can exist if sanity must prevail. As such, the bit by bit creation of complexities and order must be evident in both cases alike….” -Ch: The Blind Watchmaker Who Is Also Deaf and Dumb, Part V of Revelation Rationality, Knowledge and Truth.

Natural selection can only select what genes have already created

“Naturalists claim that both the function of creation and the function of selection are performed by forces which are separate yet work in perfect unison. They would have us believe that the mindless genes create, and a formless, impersonal law of natural selection selects. At the same time however, they dismiss the issue of genes as though taken for granted and subjugate them to the authority of natural selection. Thus they unite the two functions which have to be treated as separate, combining them in a most absurd manner. If genes recede into an inconspicuous position as creators, what is left into the bargain is merely a selector which admittedly has no mind with a conscious decision-making faculty. Genes thus pushed aside, natural selection is the only factor which remains in the field. In this sense the separate functions of creation and selection are moulded, without justification, into one…

The Holy Qur’an presents a completely different picture fitting perfectly into the slot of the problem. The Quran declares that the realities of evolution require that the creator and the selector cannot be two separate persons. Whoever creates, it is only He Who can select from His own creative works. What He does not select as the next advanced character is not wiped out of existence but remains to widen the base of His creation at every such level playing a meaningful role in the scheme of things. Thus every time a step forward in evolution is taken, the base of evolution is simultaneously broadened to support what has been added to its rising column… 

… [H]ere we wish to point out that to attribute creative factors to genes and to simultaneously deprive them of conscious know-how is inherently contradictory. It is absurdity supreme to begin the evolutionary journey from genes without resolving the factors which created genes themselves. It is impossible for a proponent of Darwinism to demonstrate how natural selection could have played any role in the creation of genes. How and why genes create without possessing the creative faculties of a conscious mind is the question which should have been addressed first. In a nutshell, a conscious creator of genes has to be identified or it has to be admitted that unconscious genes created themselves as though they were highly competent and conscious creative faculties. It is intriguing to visualize any mindless thing creating itself with masterly dexterity. The naturalists begin their journey without investigating this most essential prerequisite. Their failure to address this question is because it is impossible for them to answer it without disrupting their own evolutionary scheme.” -Ch: The Blind Watchmaker Who Is Also Deaf and Dumb, Part V of Revelation Rationality, Knowledge and Truth.



The Holy Qur’an on creation & selection

The Holy Quran has a straightforward answer to resolve this riddle by declaring:

“And thy Lord creates whatever He pleases and selects. It is not for them to select. Glorified be Allah, and far is He above all that they associate.”

(Holy Qur’an, 28:69)

The main thrust of this verse is that the task of selection is primarily the prerogative of the Creator and the two cannot be separated.

God proclaims Himself to be that Creator Who selects from His own creation. This is how it should be and this is exactly what it is. No naturalist can alter this and replace Him with a mindless Creator of his own choice. In a desperate attempt to do so, they try to combine in natural selection the additional role of a creator. Thus they would much rather believe in a know-nothing mindless principle both as a selector and a creator—lacking consciousness either way. They prefer to be fathered by a mere nothingness.

All they are left with is a mindless, non-personal, deaf, dumb and blind principle which they believe must have created them. Incidentally, this brings to mind the saying: like father, like son. They may take pride in this, but we beg to strongly differ. We much rather prefer to be the work of a Creator Who possesses a supreme mind and the power to implement what He designs. We have to believe in Him or we must deny ourselves the faculties of head and heart which we seem to own. If the non-believers have any option to select, it is here they must exercise that option. Which of the two creators will they select for themselves, is a matter for them to decide.” -Ch: The Blind Watchmaker Who Is Also Deaf and Dumb, Part V of Revelation Rationality, Knowledge and Truth.


Further Resources

  1. The 2nd Caliph: Review of Religions: the Creation of Man
  2. The 4th Caliph: Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth, Part V: a ground-breaking account on the origin of life and organic evolution from an Islamic perspective.
  3. American Scientistthe benefits of a long childhood.
  4. Not by Chance by Stephen Meyer: explaining the design perspective
  5. Evolution News: miscellaneous resources related to the origin of life/evolution debate
  6. Science & Human Origins: an easy-to-read short book exploring the evidence and debate for common ancestry (courtesy of Discovery Institute)
  7. What happened to the Tree of Life? Paul Nelson on Common Descent

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