May 17, 2017 CANADA (SUN) Conversations wtih HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, excerpted from Dialectical Spiritualism: A Vedic View of Western Philosophy.
VIII. EVOLUTIONARY NATURALISM
Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882)
Hayagriva dasa: Concerning the soul, Darwin writes: "A few persons feel anxiety from the impossibility of determining at what precise period in the development of the individual, from the first trace of a minute germinal vesicle, man becomes an immortal being, and there is no greater cause for anxiety because the period cannot possibly be determined in the gradually ascending organic scale." That is, it is impossible to know at what point the immortal soul inhabits these species.
Srila Prabhupada: The soul is the most important factor, and in order to understand the soul, education is required. It is the soul that moves the body, whether that body be that of an ant, bacteria, a human being, animal, or whatever. Nothing can move without the presence of the soul, and each and every individual soul is immortal.
Syamasundara dasa: As mentioned, Darwin doesn't accept the fact that there are a fixed number of species. Rather, he maintains that the species may vary at different times according to natural selection. There are new always evolving.
Srila Prabhupada: But what does he know of all the species? Does he have a complete list of all the species in the universe? From Padma Purana, we learn that there are 8,400,000 species. First of all, we must understand what all these species are. You may walk through a market and see many different types of people. As you walk, you continue to
see different types of people, but you cannot say that a particular type no longer exists because you do not see it anymore. The point is that you can neither see nor comprehend the beginning or the end.
Syamasundara dasa: Well, they claim that everything started with a one-celled animal.
Srila Prabhupada: But where did that animal come from?
Syamasundara dasa: From chemical combinations.
Srila Prabhupada: Then who supplied the chemicals?
Syamasundara dasa: Scientists are not so concerned with who, but with
the existing phenomena.
Srila Prabhupada: Mere study of phenomena is childish. Real science
means finding the original cause. Darwin may have studied this island
or that island, or he may have dug holes in this desert or that desert, but
he has not seen the other millions of planets that are existing in the
universe. He has not excavated and dug into the depths of all the other
planets. How, then, can he conclude that this is all? He speaks of natural
selection, but he has not perfectly studied nature. He has only studied
nature functioning in a particular place, and a very small place at that.
When we speak of nature, we refer to prakrti. We refer to the universe.
There are millions of universes, and Darwin has not studied them, yet
he is drawing all these conclusions. There is certainly natural selection,
but Darwin does not know how it is working. Darwin's defect is that he
has no information of the soul.
Syamasundara dasa: The fact remains that excavations throughout the
world prove the existence of species that no longer exist on this planet.
Srila Prabhupada: But nature is not confined to this one planet. When
you speak of material nature, you must include all the planets in the
Syamasundara dasa: But the scientists have no evidence that all the
species have been existing from time immemorial.
Srila Prabhupada: You cannot give evidence that the sun existed millions of years ago; still, we conclude that it did. The sun was not just
created this morning. Within the sun, everything is existing, and if the
sun is existing, other things must be existing also. Darwin draws conclusions about nature from a limited study of this one planet. This is not
full knowledge. If your knowledge is not perfect, why should we accept
your theories? Whether complex life-forms were existing on this planet
millions of years ago is not really the point. All these forms are existing
in nature. According to the Vedas, the species in nature are fixed at
8,400,000.' These may or may not be existing in your neighborhood, but
that is not important. The number is fixed, and they are simultaneously
existing. There may be an evolution from simpler forms to more complex,
but it is not that a species becomes extinct. Real evolution is the evolution
of the soul through the existing species. Now, we admit that with the
changes of seasons, or with extreme heat or cold, differences may arise,
but it is not that the species are new. If there is a great flood, and all the
men on earth are drowned, the human species is not extinct. Man may
or may not survive certain catastrophes; this does not affect the species.
We cannot say that the human species is extinct, but that under these
circumstances man has survived or not survived. Whatever the case,
human beings are existing somewhere else.
Syamasundara dasa: When the Padma Purana says that there are
400,000 species of human life, what does it mean?
Srila Prabhupada: There are differences in culture and in body types.
Scientists will say that human beings are all of one species, but when
they speak of species, they mean something different. The Vedas, for
instance, would consider the Negroes and Aryans to belong to different
species. As far as Krsna consciousness is concerned, bodies may differ;
it doesn't matter. Our classification is on the basis of the soul. The soul
is equal despite different types of bodies. The soul is one and does not
brahmane gavi hastini
suni caiva svapake ca
"The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dogeater [outcaste]." (Bg. 5.18) One who sees to the bottom, sees the soul. Because Darwin and other material scientists have no information of the soul, they have missed the whole point. On the material platform, one material form may be superior to another, just as one apartment may be better than another, but these are material considerations. Now, according to our position, we may evolve from lower apartments to higher, but it can also work the other way around. If we are not able to pay the rent or price for a higher apartment, we have to enter a lower one. It is not that the soul is necessarily progressing from lower to higher forms.
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust