Part I: Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design: A Three-Pronged Approach to Answering the Big Questions of the Universe for Theosophists by Clare Goldsberry
In the ongoing battle between religionists and scientists, Christian fundamentalists and Biblical literalists pit themselves against what they perceive as scientific atheists and agnostics. The debate rages over what we should teach our children about the Universe and particularly about the Earth on which they live. To those on the various sides of the now three-pronged debate, belief and faith still appear to trump scientific proof.
In adding the third leg to the either/or debate of evolution vs. creationism, Intelligent Design is seen by its detractors as an approach to teaching religion without overtly calling it “creationism.” Whatever it is, Intelligent Design has added a complexity to the debate that some see as an “all or nothing” war, now with three mutually exclusive schools of thought. Yet, what if there is a “middle way,” an inclusionary view of these three prongs?
Unlike our Christian brethren, Theosophists have nothing to fear from these three schools of thought. In THE SECRET DOCTRINE, HPB explains the three and their relationship to each other. She removes the misunderstandings surrounding Darwinian evolution, the misperception that the term “creation” causes, and looks at the intelligent designers of the Universe. She wrote this long before these three prongs became a lightening rod for Christian Fundamentalists.
Evolution is a theory. Yes, scientifically speaking, it is a theory that has many provable points, but they exist alongside many gaps that scientists cannot quite fill in. Nicholas DiGiacomo of Telluride, Colorado, in a guest commentary written for the Denver Post in August of 2005, notes:
“Theories weave facts, observations, ideas, and hypotheses into coherent explanations by a pains-taking process of analysis and synthesis. They are fluid — always subject to revision as more is learned about the world. In everyday life, however, people expect to be true and final. To avoid confusion on this important point, scientists and educators should stop calling evolution a fact, and take the time to explain just what it means for something to be a theory.”
Mr. DiGaicomo knows whereof he speaks, being a scientist who worked for a number of well-known companies including the European Center for Particle Physics. He continues,
“Scientists and educators should avoid saying that we’ve proven the theory of evolution, and patiently explain how remarkably well evolution has held up to everything that’s been thrown at it.”
Remember that evolution is a theory. James Q. Wilson, in a Wall Street Journal editorial entitled FAITH IN THEORY writes, “The theory of evolution has not been proved as fully as the theory of gravity. There are many gaps in what we know about prehistoric creatures.” (12/24/2005)
As such, evolution does not have to exclude the involvement of a God or some type of Intelligent Designer or architect. In fact, scientists are more willing to include such in their hypothesis of evolution that religionists are to include the possibility of evolution in their creation theory. Mr. Wilson writes, “[Evolution] . . . literally the only scientific defensible theory of the origin of species, does not . . . rule out the idea that God exists.”
Sharon Begley, a science writer for the Wall Street Journal,in her column “Despite Appearances, Science Doesn’t Deny the Existence of God,” notes “it’s easy to get the idea that science starts with an atheistic, or at least agnostic, presumption.” (01/27/2006) Begley points to a report by the National Academy of Sciences that says science “is limited to explaining the natural world through natural causes” and another statement by the National Science Teachers Association that science “cannot use supernatural causation in its explanations.” Yet, it is not a foregone conclusion that a scientist cannot includ some sort of deity in the hypothesis.
In Letters to the Editor responding to an article on Intelligent Design that appeared in Chemical & Engineering News (02/07/2006), Tina M. Masciangioli of Arlington, VA, writes “Evolution provides a framework for understanding how organisms appear and change through modifications in genetic composition during successive generations subjected to natural selection. Absence of a creator is not requisite for this development to occur.” (08/29/2006)
Brian Amos of New York City also responds in the same Letters section, “I noticed that not one of these letters [to the editor] decrying evolution observed that a belief in God is not incompatible with believing in evolution, any more than a belief in gravity is. The ultimate source of gravity may be a diving finger pressing down on us, but the theory of gravity still holds fine.”
Still another reader writes, “As to evolution, for the sake of discussion, why could it not be the tool of the intelligent designer?” (William S. Durrell, Palm Harbor, Florida)
Why not indeed! I think HPB would concur completely! THE SECRET DOCTRINE makes it clear that evolution plays a key role in the development of the Universe, the Earth, Mankind and all the flora and fauna upon the Earth. Blavatsky points out that since there is not anything can be created EX NIHLO (from nothing); the use of the world “creation” is incorrect. Rather, she says, “we believe in evolution out of preexisting materials.”
Some preexisting materials may be beyond the scope of what can be seen — in the range of quantum possibility, the “strings” of string theory — and therefore are so transparent and minute as to be beyond the five temporal senses. For Blavatsky, Cosmic Evolution is the very act of bringing “into existence all the various states of being int he manifested solar system [in] obedience to the Ideation of the Universal Mind.”
Likewise, man is not created from nothing. “Hence the esoteric teaching is absolutely opposed to the Darwinian evolution, AS APPLIED TO MAN AND PARTIALLY so with regard to other species,” Blavatsky says. Theosophy is opposed to the idea that all things came from a single-cell, and Blavatsky sees many problems with pure Darwinism as the answer to how everything on the earth came to be. She speaks of the Seven Creations, which she says are in actuality seven periods of Evolution. There are six periods of “active evolution” followed by one “passive period” or day of rest, the Sabbath Day of the Old Testament. She questions the “Scientific brain of a materialist,” and asks, “What is Evolution?” She then challenges the scientists of her day to define evolution, and says they would not be able to define it better than Webster in his dictionary: “the act of unfolding; the process of growth, development, as the evolution of a flower from a bud, or an animal from the egg.” (II, 652-653)
Mr. Wilson’s editorial in the Wall Street Journal notes that,
“Issac Newton was a deeply religious man. No doubt, he thought that the Newtonian laws he discovered existed because of God’s handiwork. Charles Darwin, thought he started his adult life as a deep believer and a student intending to enter the ministry, abandoned any belief that God has created animal species and replaced that view with his extraordinary, and largely correct, theory of evolution.”
Blavatsky would disagree. She sees the benefits of evolution and indeed acknowledges the evolutionary progress of Man through the various ages and stages from the transparent beings of eons ago to the dense creatures we are today as we continue to move toward “evolutionary perfection.” Even so, she disagrees with the Darwinians. She notes, “Neither Occultism not Theosophy has ever supported the wild theory of the present Darwinists — least of all the descent of man from ape.” (I, 186) She is quite adamant about that fact, and repeats again that Man was NEVER an ape “in this or any other Round.” (I, 187)
She does state that “Every Round repeats on a higher scale the evolutionary work of the preceding Round,” thus acknowledging that evolution plays a critical role in the continuing development of Man as well as other sentient beings. How did our physical body get to the state of perfection it is found in now? “Through millions of years of evolution, of course, yet never through, or from, animals as taught by materialism.” (I,211) While our bodies continued through the state of evolution and reached the form that we recognize as Man, the mind’s evolution is another matter. Evolution of the “mind is a slower and more difficult evolution that the physical frame.” (I,188)
[End of Part I — Part 2 will discuss the Second Leg — Creation]