Should ISKCON Issue a Formal Statement On Evolution?
Posted May 29, 2009
Chakra has learned that a GBC proposal has recently been submimtted, requesting the GBC to make an official statement on evolution. This was submitted to coincide with the upcoming publication of a book on "Intelligent design", co-authored by Drutakarma prabhu (with Dr. Behe, a roman catholic, Dr. Wells of the unification church, and Dr. Dembski, an evangelical christian). This proposal is currently being fast-tracked through the GBC approval process, without the usual discussion period. A vote is expected within two weeks.
The Chakra board find it disconcerting that this proposal is being made without allowing the GBC - or the ISKCON membership - any opportunity for thoughtful deliberation. Instead, the authors have asked the GBC members to simply forward their personal concerns to them, so that they can incorporate any feedback that they wish into a final proposal, which will simply require a GBC vote. This rush appears particularly puzzling in light of the fact that the book has been in production for over a year and there would have been plenty of time for thoughtful debate. Instead, the proposal authors wait until the last minute and are now pressuring the GBC to make a quick decision on a very important doctrinal matter. What's the rush? Evolution is not a new issue and this decision is hardly a life or death matter. We do not understand why the GBC can not be allowed to take their time and seek input from ISKCON scholars and other members on this issue. Is there perhaps another agenda behind this process?
Chakra would like to see a debate among devotees, both on the content of the proposed statement and whether you think that the GBC should be adopting any statement on evolution. Anyone who has an opinion about the statement below is encouraged to write their GBC representative and to send a copy of their letter to Chakra for posting.
Proposed GBC statement:
Hare Krishna Statement on Darwin's 200th Anniversary
English naturalist Charles Darwin was born 200 years ago and his book "Origin of Species by natural selection" was published 150 years ago. In his book he put forward his theory of evolution, according to which the types of living beings gradually evolved from common ancestors, from the primitive to the more complex. Although the theory never gained universal acceptance, by now it has become a marked element of public thinking.
As we see it, however, the Darwinian hypothesis on the transformation of the living world is but one of several possible interpretations of the facts and, in spite of its being widely known, it has never been scientifically proven.
In their book "Forbidden Archeology" Michael A. Cremo and Richard L. Thompson give a detailed analysis of controversial archeological finds that cast doubt on the concept that species as we know them now emerged by transformation of earlier species by evolution. Mathematical statistical analysis of the discoveries made in the last few decades in the field of molecular biology point out that the spontaenous evolution of organic compounds forming the building blocks of life is so unlikely as would safely be considered impossible in any other walk of science except biology.
Similarly to hundreds of millions of Hindus, the Krishna-conscious devotees consider the ancient Vedic scriptures in Sanskrit language as the reliable source of knowledge related to the origins and ultimate questions of existence. These scriptures are some of the most ancient heritage of mankind and their followers accept them as divine revelation. According to the Vedic literature, our world and the species in it emerged by a process of creation. Living beings are eternal spirit souls who spend a determinate amount of time in the various bodily forms of different species.
Our civilisation is greatly influenced by the ideas about the origin of life and our species being in circulation. Because of the dominant evolutionary paradigm, many regard life and themselves a mere product of matter. This view has formed the basis for the emergence of the overheated, consumer driven attitude of modern society that has led to the present economic, environmental and food crisis looming over humankind. Darwin's theory is thus not only unproven, but, to a large extent, also responsible for the moral decline of modern culture.
According to a well-known approach the evolution theory should be integrated into religious teachings. Proponents of this idea say that, evolution is God's method of creation. We deem such a distortion of the tenets of monotheistic religions as unfounded, for, originally, all these religions professed the direct creation of both the living and inanimate worlds. We see no reason why the unproven, human ideology of Darwinism should be mixed with the wisdom of revelations - that would be a concession to appease the proponents of materialism. We are convinced that the role of religions in society is to consistently represent divine truth rather than to make unscrupulous compromises with the dominant (and ever changing) materialistic views of the day.
We find it important that those forming the opinion of society take steps to allow a more balanced discussion of life, broadening the dominant, practically exclusive, evolutionist approach in education and mass communication. The Darwinian thought should not be presented as "The Explanation" but, true to the facts, as a hypothesis that has its own problems and limitations, and to which divine creation is a justified and rational alternative. By presenting the subject without bias, we should leave the way open to the possibility of considering and accepting spiritual explanations.
Leaders of society - politicians, teachers, intellectuals - are supposed not only to look after the physical and cultural needs of the members of the society but it is also their responsibility to work towards the moral and spiritual advancement for the people. Favoring a theory based on philosophical materialism which is not proven, the validity of which is questioned by an ever increasing number of academics negatively affects the moral and ethical standards of society, promotes a recklessly wasteful model of consumption and spreads disrespect for life.