theory of evolution

The Dalai Lama talks about several holes in the theory of evolution:


As to what might be the mechanism through which karma plays a causal role in the evolution of sentience, I find helpful some of the explanations given in the Vajrayana traditions, often referred to by modern writers as esoteric Buddhism.  According to the Guhyasamaja tantra, a principal tradition within Vajrayana Buddhism, at the most fundamental level, no absolute division can be made between mind and matter.

Matter in its subtlest form is prana, a vital energy which is inseparable from consciousness.  These two are different aspects of an indivisible reality.  Prana is the aspect of mobility, dynamism, and cohesion, while consciousness is the aspect of cognition and the capacity for reflective thinking.

“So according to the Guhyasamaja tantra, when a world system comes into being, we are witnessing the play of this energy and consciousness reality.”  — Dalai Lama

Despite the success of the Darwinian narrative, I do not believe that all the elements of the story are in place.

“To begin with, although Darwin’s theory gives a coherent account of the development of life on this planet and the various principles underlying it, such as natural selection, I am not persuaded that it answers the fundamental question of the origin of life.”  — Dalai Lama

Darwin himself, I gather, did not see this as an issue.  Furthermore, there appears to be a certain circularity in the notion of “survival of the fittest.”  The theory of natural selection maintains that, of the random mutations that occur in the genes of a given species, those that promote the greatest chance of survival are most likely to succeed.

However, the only way this hypothesis can be verified is to observe the characteristics of those mutations that have survived.  So in a sense, we are stating simply this: “Because these genetic mutations have survived, they are the ones that had the greatest chance of survival.”

From the Buddhist perspective, the idea of these mutations being purely random events is deeply unsatisfying for a theory that purports to explain the origin of life.

“One empirical problem in Darwinism’s focus on the competitive survival of individuals, which is defined in terms of an organism’s struggle for individual reproductive success, has consistently been how to explain altruism, whether in the sense of collaborative behavior, such as food sharing or conflict resolution among animals like chimpanzees or acts of self-sacrifice.” — Dalai Lama

There are many examples, not only among human beings but among other species as well, of individuals who put themselves in danger to save others.

From the scientific view, the theory of karma may be a metaphysical assumption–but it is no more so than the assumption that all of life is material and originated out of pure chance.

From The Universe in a Single Atom: Convergence of Science and Spirituality by H.H. the Dalai Lama


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