In recent times, experts have been redefining the theory of evolution.
Darwin's theory-that evolution proceeds by a process of natural
selection-is being challenged even now, 140 years after the publication
of The Origin of Species. The recent emergence of the intelligent
design theory, which has received much attention, has raised further
doubts about Darwinism.
J. Scott Turner, associate professor of biology at the State
University of New York's College of Environmental Science and
Forestry in Syracuse, says that evolution is much more complex
than Darwinism or even neo-Darwinism makes it out to be. In his
essay in The World and I (July 2002) he writes:
The world seems perfused with "designedness"-a harmonious match
between structure and function-that could mean only one thing:
the world had a designer. The 19th-century logic prevailing
when Darwin introduced his radical alternative is embodied in
William Paley's famous simile: a watch implies a watchmaker,
Darwin cut the stays of this confining worldview. In his eyes,
designedness-what we now call adaptation-was not evidence of
an intelligent designer but of the perfecting power of natural
selection. In this view….there is no intelligence or purpose
guiding the process. To use another famous simile (that of Richard
Dawkins), evolution is the product of a blind watchmaker.
Darwin's assertions were controversial from the start. The
most serious criticisms came not from the conservatively religious
but from many of the most respected biologists of his day. Their
problem stemmed from Darwin's inability to explain how heredity-crucial
to his theory-actually worked….
Much of 20th-centuty biology was driven by the search for the
nature and structure of the gene, which culminated in 1953 with
the discovery by Francis Crick, James Watson, Maurice Wilkins,
and Rosalind Frankin of the double-helical structure of DNA…
In its obsession with genes as the centre of evolution, modern
biology has been led away from the phenomenon of adaptation-designedness-that
is evolution's foundation….Genes cannot be the whole show.
In other words, neither Darwin's natural selection, nor the
emphasis on genes that permeates neo-Darwinism, can offer a satisfactory
The challenging of old theories in the light of new evidence
is one of the distinct signs of the times. As in many other branches
of knowledge, so in the field of evolution, this trend is to be
seen. The Secret Doctrine stated that while the Darwinian
hypothesis is partially correct, as the Occultists are
ready to concede (I, 187), the true doctrine of evolution
will remain an enigma to the human mind "until metaphysical as
well as physical inquiries are much more advanced" (I, 600). What
scientists are now contending, The Secret Doctrine posited
as far back as 1888, that "natural selection," or the survival
of the fit and the elimination of the unfit in the struggle for
existence, cannot be credited with the power of originating species.
The Secret Doctrine (II, 648-49) states:
The truth is that the differentiating "causes" known to modern
science only come into operation after the physicalization
of the primeval animal root-types out of the astral. Darwinism
only meets Evolution at its midway point-that is to say when
astral evolution has given place to the play of the ordinary
physical forces with which our present senses acquaint us. But
even here the Darwinian Theory, even with the "expansions" recently
attempted, is inadequate to meet the facts of the case. The
underlying physiological variation in species-one to which all
other laws are subordinate and secondary-is a sub-conscious
intelligence pervading matter, ultimately traceable to a REFLECTION
of the Divine and Dhyan-Chohanic wisdom. A not altogether dissimilar
conclusion has been arrived at by so well known a thinker as
Ed. von Hartmann, who, despairing of the efficacy of unaided
Natural Selection, regards evolution as intelligently guided
by the UNCONSCIOUS (the cosmic Logos of Occultism). But
the latter acts only mediately through FOHAT, or Dhyan-Chohanic
energy, and not quite in the direct manner which the great pessimist
Organized religions started deteriorating a long time back, when
the Living Wisdom of the Prophet was forgotten and the priests
took over. Every religion that begins as a liberating agency ends
as a vast prison-house. Built on the renunciation of its founder,
it becomes a possessive institution in the hands of its priests,
and an active centre of schism and strife.
The need of religion in this troubled world is, however, keenly
felt by the masses, and new religious movements are springing
up everywhere, writes Toby Lester in his article in The Atlantic
Contemporary theories of social and political behaviour tend
to be almost willfully blind to the constantly evolving role
of religion as a force in global affairs. The assumption is
that advances in the rational understanding of the world will
inevitably diminish the influence of that last, vexing sphere
of irrationality in human culture: religion. Inconveniently,
however, the world is today as awash in religious novelty, flux,
and dynamism as it has ever been-and religious change is, if
anything, likely to intensify in the coming decades….
It's tempting to conceive of the religious world-particularly
when there is so much talk of clashing civilizations-as being
made up primarily of a few well-delineated and static religious
blocs: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and so
on. But that's dangerously simplistic. It assumes a stability
in the religious landscape that is completely at odds with reality.
New religions are born all the time. Old ones transform themselves
dramatically. Schism, evolution, death, and rebirth are the
norm. And this doesn't apply only to religious groups that one
often hears referred to as cults. Today hundreds of widely divergent
forms of Christianity are practiced around the world. Islam
is usually talked about in monolithic terms (or, at most, in
terms of the Shia-Sunni divide), but one almost never hears
about the more than 20 million members of various schismatic
Muslim groups around the world….Buddhism, far from being an
all-encompassing glow radiating benignly out of the East, is
a vast family of religions made up of more than 200 distinct
bodies, many of which don't see eye-to-eye at all. Major strands
of Hinduism were reshaped in the 19th century, revealing strong
Western and Christian influences.
The fact is that religion mutates with Darwinian restlessness.
Take a long enough view, and all talk of "established" or "traditional"
faith becomes oxymoronic; there's no reason to think that the
religious movements of today are any less subject to change
than were the religious movements of hundreds or even thousands
of years ago. History bears this out….
Secularization of a sort certainly has occurred in the modern
world-but religion seems to keep adapting to new social ecosystems,
in a process one might refer to as "supernatural selection."
It shows no sign of extinction, and "theodiversity" is, if anything,
on the rise.
Whether called "cults" or "sects" or "new religious movements"
(the expression now in vogue), can their mushrooming in the modern
world be called the sign of a genuine religious revival? Are they
not rather the symptoms of a deep-seated psychic disorder which
is manifesting upon the surface? The remedy is to implant in people's
consciousness ideas of true religion and ethics. If there is to
be a genuine religious revival-and this is an urgent necessity-what
is required is a religion which preaches and shows the way to
practice the gospel of Universal Brotherhood; a religion which
recognize the inherent divinity of man and the possibility of
his growth to perfection without the mediation of salaried priests;
a religion which does not carnalize, anthropomorphize and caricature
the concept of God, who is in reality an Omnipresent, Eternal,
Boundless and Immutable Presence; a religion which does not depend
upon rituals or ceremonies, paraphernalia or pageantry, for its
existence; a religion which encourages and teaches man to face
the results of his own actions, and thus create a worthy future
for himself by letting the light of Spirit guide him in the present.
Paleontologists say that dinosaurs lived on Earth for some 160
million years. Why they perished has been a subject of investigation
in recent years, and the general belief is that an asteroid that
struck the Earth abruptly ended their reign. However, fossils
found in Montana's Hell Creek Formation, the graveyard of a host
of prehistoric reptiles, tell a different and more complex story.
(Discover, June 2002)
Jack Horner and other senior scientists exploring Hell Creek
are not only unearthing fossils but also re-creating the environment
in which the dinosaurs lived.
The events recorded in this suite of sedimentary rock suggest
that the common explanation for the extinction of the dinosaurs-a
massive asteroid impact-doesn't fully account for their undoing.
What's more, the Hell Creek Formation may tell us something
about the fragility of life today….
The extinction pattern that has emerged was not expected.
Whereas the last of the nonavian dinosaurs certainly perished
64.5 million years ago, many other animals survived….Frogs and
salamanders, crocodiles, turtles, mammals, and birds, survived
the asteroid impact, suggesting that the mass extinction at
the time may not have been as massive as previously thought….One
of the many insights that conservation biologists have gleaned
from their study of living ecosystems is that different organisms
respond differently to environmental stress. Certain fauna went
extinct while others evolved into new forms….
The project findings indicate that the Hell Creek Formation
represents a time of widespread ecological disturbance. "What
we're seeing," Hartman says, "is major environmental destabilization
before the planet got hammered with an extraterrestrial object."…The
asteroid may well have been the knockout blow in a fight the
dinosaurs had already lost.
Constraints of the environmental conditions is only one of the
factors on which the existence-or disappearance-of species depends.
There is more to it than mere physical causes. How did the dinosaurs,
or for that matter any other species, appear on Earth in the first
place? H.P.B. stated that "to draw any analogy between the highly
metaphysical teaching" of the Secret Doctrine and modern
theories of physical evolution "would, in itself, seem rather
a hopeless task." For, the esoteric teaching is that it is an
invisible intelligence outside the vast multiplicity of
forms which has guided the differentiation and evolution of species
in the lower kingdoms of nature. The process of differentiation
of species is explained by Mr. Judge in Chapter XV of The Ocean
Theosophically speaking, one could say that the same law of Evolution
that brings species into existence also causes their extinction-that
is, when they die a natural death and man is not responsible for
their extermination. No more than science does esoteric philosophy
accept anything outside the uniform and immutable laws of Nature.
But it teaches a cyclic law, a double stream of spirit and of
matter, which, starting from the neutral centre of Being, develops
in its cyclic progress and incessant transformations. The Secret
Doctrine speaks of "designers" and "builders," "working under
the impulse given them by the ever-to-be-unknown (on our plane)
Master Mason-the ONE LIFE AND LAW…That they work in cycles and
on a strictly geometrical and mathematical scale of progression,
is what the extinct animal species amply demonstrate." (S.D.,
Are some people inherently evil? Three experts discuss the question
in Psychology Today (October 2002). A point of agreement
among them is that to damn a person completely for some evil acts
is to falsely overgeneralize. This is what the experts have to
ALBERT ELLIS, Ph. D. (President, Albert Ellis Institute): No,
we cannot accurately say that some people are essentially evil.
Even those who commit many immoral acts would have to do so
all the time to be evil people….Invariably, those who steadily
commit some of the worst crimes, also do a number of good and
kind deeds. Humans are fallible-and changeable.
ELIZABETH RADCLIFFE, Ph. D. (Executive Director, The American
Philosophical Association): I believe that we develop good or
evil characters through our choices. While individual dispositions
and environmental factors influence our choices, we can only
make sense of our lives by rising above these features. We develop
vices, or virtues, by choosing. The more lies we tell, the easier
it becomes; and demeaning others becomes easier the more we
disrespect them. Those who develop a habit of choosing badly
may lose all sense of the good, and this is what we call an
PHILIP ZIMBARDO, Ph. D. (President, American Psychological
Association): It is easy to identify individuals who willfully
degrade and destroy other human beings as "evil." … However,
as a social psychologist I prefer to identify situational conditions
that can facilitate or seduce good people into becoming perpetrators
of evil, such as adherence to destructive ideologies, rules,
roles, group norms, along with processes of dehumanization,
deindividuation and moral disengagement.
"Painful is the accumulation of evil conduct," says the Dhammapada;
for, sooner or later, if not in this life then in the next, evil
deeds must ripen and bring their consequences to their perpetrator.
Nothing can annihilate deeds once they have been done. To seek
to have their consequences washed away by any magic or by any
prayers is merest superstition, but even so, no one is ever fettered
utterly. In everyone shines the free Atman, and where That
exists no bondage can be absolute. Always a person can
turn and climb the upward path, for the Divine Freedom that is
in his heart can never be annulled. (Cf. The Bhagavad-Gita,
The American Psychological Association says that even if people
are not aware of them, negative thoughts about ageing that they
pick up from society many be cutting years off their lives. A
study by Yale University's Department of Epidemiology and Public
Health found that older people with more positive self-perceptions
of ageing, measured up to 23 years earlier, lived 7.5 year longer
than those with less positive self-perceptions of ageing. (Journal
of Personality and Social Psychology)
According to the study authors, the effect of more positive self-perceptions
of ageing on survival is greater even than physiological factors
such as low blood pressure and cholesterol, no history of smoking,
average body weight, and a tendency to exercise, each of which
has been associated with a longer lifespan.
Negative views of ageing can operate without older people's awareness,
say the researchers, because they are thought to be internalized
at an early age and are unlikely to be consciously evaluated as
we get older.
The study carries the message: mental attitudes and positive
thoughts about life and living matter more to our health and well-being
than mere physiological measures. Although in the ultimate analysis
the quality of life lived counts more than its longevity,
yet it is the duty of each to keep the body in a good working
condition for as long as possible through appropriate measures.
For, death, we are told, "disappoints the soul."
SHOULD we be concerned about the current spasm of extinction,
which has been accelerated by the inexorable expansion of agriculture
and industry? Is it necessary to try to slow down a process
that has been going on forever?
I believe it is. We know that the well-being of the human race
is tied to the well-being of many other species, and we can't
be sure which species are most important to our own survival…
A major challenge for the 21st century is to preserve as much
of our natural estate as possible. Let us resist with all our
efforts any moves to reduce the amount of wild land available
for wild species. And let us call upon the world's richest nations
to provide the money to make that possible. That would not be
a contribution to charity; it would be an investment in the
future of humanity-and all life on Earth.