Scientific Views / The Bhaktivedanta Institute

D.J Webb earned his MA. in chemistry at Wadham College, Oxford, and his Postgraduate Certificate of Education at London University. He taught science at the secondary school level for four years. (He also spent two years as a novice and monk in Japanese Buddhist monasteries.) He has been a member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness since 1974 and has worked with the Institute since 1977.

A scientist must be able to explain the origin of natural phenomena. As soon as he denies the existence of God, he must answer the question "Then where has life come from?"

Since the Middle Ages, some of the greatest scientists have had firm faith in the existence of God. Sir Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, Louis Pasteur, and Max Planck come to mind. However, the majority of scientists today are explaining the phenomenon of life without reference to any supernatural power. Their chief weapon is the famous theory of evolution, put forward jointly by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace in their paper On the Tendency of Species to Form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection (1858).

Although the theory of evolution gives strong support to atheism, neither Darwin nor Wallace could completely dismiss the need for a guiding intelligence in the evolutionary process. In his Origin of Species, Darwin suggests that in the formation of the eye, a "power" is at work, "intently watching each slight alteration" and "carefully preserving" those which improve the image produced. ** (C. Darwin, The Origin of Species (Harvard University Press, 1964), p. 135.) (Modern cynics would say that Darwin never escaped the conditioning of his religious upbringing, and needed more careful "deprogramming.")

Wallace, for his part, later wrote The World of Life: a Manifestation of Creative Power, Directive Mind, and Ultimate Purpose. In this work he concluded that events we witness in nature are directed and guided by "a Mind not only adequate to direct and regulate all the forces at work in living organisms, but which is itself the source of all those forces and energies, as well as of the more fundamental forces of the whole material universe." ** (A. R. Wallace. The World of Life: a Manifestation of Creative Power, Directive Mind, and Ultimate Purpose (Moffat. Yard & Co., 1911), p.431.)

With the advancement of materialism, later thinkers have become more militantly opposed to any belief in such a creative power and guiding intelligence. They use the theory of evolution as a powerful device for containing and reducing the effect of religious belief. If they show that life has evolved from chemicals, then people need no longer believe in the existence of a personal God. If they show that talk of "the wonders of nature" is simply naive—that nature is no more than a conjuring trick played by chance and simple physical laws over an immense span of time-then people need no longer marvel at the wonderful potencies of God. And consequently they need no longer consider it necessary to obey His laws.

Thus, in the last hundred years, the spokesmen of materialism have been making a great effort to convince the public that life is the result of evolution, and that material experimental science is the torch of knowledge that is dispelling the darkness of ignorance caused by religious superstitions. "No matter how aesthetically moving, the pathetic efforts of all the religions and most of the philosophies in blindly denying the reality of the human condition produce only chaos and heroic yet absurd somersaults. Obscurantism has had its day. Let there be light!" ** (E. Schoffeniels, Anti-chance (Pergamom Press, 1964), p.108.)

Although the theory of evolution has proved a challenge to religious convictions, the validity of the theory is being challenged in turn. In "Chemistry and Consciousness" (BACK TO GODHEAD, Vol.13, no.9) Dr. Richard L. Thompson pointed out that consciousness cannot be

described in terms of chemical process or physical measurements. ** (See also: R.L. Thompson. Consciousness and the Laws of Nature, Bhaktivedanta Institute Monograph Series. No.3 (Boston; Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1977).) Yet the theory of evolution describes living organisms only in terms of increasing complex systems of interacting chemicals. While the theory attempts to account for the origin of the species, leaves aside the question of the origin consciousness—and consciousness is the most important common quality in living creatures.

This is not the only difficulty encountered by the theory of evolution, as Darwin himself was the first to admit. "Long before having arrived at this part of work, a crowd of difficulties will have occurred to the reader. Some of them so grave that to this day I can never reflect on them without being staggered." ** (C. Darwin, op. cit. p. 171.) Many of these issues are still unresolved. Much of the evidence for evolution has been exaggerated, a much of the evidence against it has be suppressed. We think that an impart person today will still be "staggered" that in the face of such difficulties, and on such a poor foundation of evidence and theoretical justification, eminent scientists can still claim, "Today theory of evolution is an accepted fact everyone but a fundamentalist minority, whose objections are based not reasoning but on doctrinaire adherence to religious principles." ** (J. Watson. Molecular Biology of the Gene, 3rd ed. (1977), p.2.)

The theory of evolution cannot plain the nature or development of consciousness. And since consciousness the prime symptom of a living being also seems the theory will not be able explain the origin and development life. Still, let us examine the theory evolution on its own terms and see w truth, if any, it offers.

If one denies the existence of a guiding power and intelligence, one is left with two alternatives. The first is that evolution has taken place purely by chance, and the second is that the evolution life and consciousness is the natural inevitable result of the laws of nature acting throughout the history of the earth.

"Chance" theorists admit that the probability of life appearing by accident is very small, but they claim that it happened anyway. In recent years the theory of chance formation of life has met with great opposition in the scientific community. Anti-chance theorists such as Schoffeniels protest, "It is one thing to ignore or reject the sentiment of a mystical destiny, inscribed in the impenetrable designs of a supernatural being. It is another matter to accept the idea that the origin of life and evolution were necessary because of the conditions on earth and the existing properties of the elements." ** (Schoffeniels, op. cit, p.18.)

G.G. Simpson, a noted and prolific writer in the field, states the case more concretely: "If atoms of hydrogen and oxygen come together under certain simple and common conditions of energy, they always deterministically combine to form water. Formation of more complex molecules requires correspondingly more complex concatenations of circumstances, but is still deterministic in what seems to be a comparatively simple way." ** (G.G. Simpson, Science (1964).) In other words, Simpson claims that just as hydrogen and oxygen inevitably form water under the right conditions, so complex molecules-and ultimately living structures-are alsoinevitably formed from simple chemicals, given the right conditions (which are presumed to have been present on "primitive earth'').

Such claims would be reasonable if anyone had ever observed that "under certain simple and common conditions of energy," simple chemicals "deterministically combined" to give some life form, such as a bacterium or a living cell. Of course, no such observation has been made. The nearest approach to the laboratory synthesis of living structures is the construction of genes and viruses. Admittedly, these are very complex molecules, but they are not of themselves alive. Their synthesis was made possible by the help of complex enzymes which, though lifeless themselves, were obtainable only from living cells. In other words, scientists cannot synthesize even lifeless genes starting from simple molecules alone. How, then, can statements that the origin and development of life are chemically inevitable be anything more than wishful thinking?

The evolutionists may have faith that the synthesis of life will be possible as the techniques of biochemistry improve, but even if it were possible, that still would not show that evolution could produce living organisms from nonliving matter. Laboratory synthesis takes place under the intelligent guidance of the scientist, but the evolutionist claims that evolution has taken place naturally, without such guidance. Mathematical analysis also shows that the faith of the evolutionist is ill-founded. The complex structures of living matter contain a vast amount of specific information. The theoretical treatment of the generation and properties of information is called "information theory," and it has been an accepted branch of mathematics for more than twenty years. Information theory shows that the probability of a specific, high information content arising by chance is negligibly small. One cannot get more specific information out of a system than has been put in.

For example, if one programs a computer with "Mary had a little lamb," or with a complete telephone directory of the United States, one could not expect the computer to then produce Shakespeare's Macbeth. Specific information must be available. Similarly, one may have a lot of information about the arrangement of bricks and pipes on a building site, but even more specific information is required to build a complete house.

In the case of complex living structures, with their high information content, either that specific information must already have been present in the starting materials, or else the laws of nature governing the development of the living forms must have been extremely complex. According to the theory of evolution, neither is the case. The starting materials are extremely simple molecules, and the laws of nature which are studied and accepted by the material scientists are also comparatively simple. Dr. Thompson ** (R.L. Thompson, Demonstration by Information Theory That Life Cannot Arise From Matter, Bhaktivedanta Institute Monograph Series. No.2 (Boston; Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1977).) shows that the probability of a living cell being formed by chance and simple physical laws, as the evolutionists claim, is not greater than 10-130,000. In other words, if the whole universe appeared out of nothing 10to130,000 times (10to130,000 may be written as 1 followed by 130,000 zeroes), one could not expect a living cell to be formed more than once or twice! Thus it is not possible that evolution could have taken place by chance, nor is it true that "we are here because about three million years ago conditions on earth and the properties of the elements were such as to ensure it." ** (Schoffeniels, op. Cit. p.108.)

The development of life seems to have two important aspects which must be explained: first, the inner development of consciousness, and second the outer development of the living form or structure. ** (See also:T.D. Singh and R.L. Thompson. What Is Matter and What Is Life?, Bhaktivedanta Institute Monograph Series, No. 1 (Boston: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. 1977).) As we have pointed out, the theory of evolution cannot explain either of these essential features. The evolutionist is scientifically bankrupt.

These difficulties of the doctrine of evolution are theoretical ones. What about the volumes of alleged factual evidence for evolution? Many interpretations of the fossil record have been made on the assumption that evolution has taken place. But a detailed examination of the evidence advanced by the evolutionists does not support their claims. The physical evidence is actually quite slender, and the popular impression that evolution is a "scientific fact" is due to misrepresentation.

Who would suspect from visits to museums, and from reading school textbooks, that the famous series showing the evolution of the horse was discredited long ago? ** (G. Hardin, Nature and Man's Fate (Mentor, 1961), p. 76.) Who would have deduced from the "Evolution" issue ofScientific American (September 1978) that the existence of the primitive soup, in which the first living cells are supposed to have formed by collisions of smaller molecules, is a proven impossibility? ** (D.E. Hull, Nature 186 (1960).) Who would have thought that the evolution of man from a "still undiscovered hominid" through A ustralopithecus and Homo erectus is specifically disproved by the fossil evidence? ** (Time, Nov. 7,1977, p.44 and H.S. Shelton and D. Dewar Is Evolution Proved? (Long; Hollis and Carter, 1947).) Who would suspect that, in contrast to the' sweeping claims of the popularizers, research workers are reduced to measuring insignificant features on fossils of molluscs, Forminafera, and other lowly forms of life, in an effort to prove that gradual evolution has taken place at all? ** (S.J. Gould and N. Eldrige, Paleobiology 3(1977), pp. 115-151.) When asked what evidence there is that one species an change into another, the famous anthropologist Richard Leakey replied that as far as he knew, there was no fossil evidence at all.

Of course, some of the opposition to evolution has been sentimental, unreasonable, and fanatical. But we are challenging evolution on the basis of reason, logic, and the ancient Vedic knowledge, which scientifically describes matter, spirit, and the controller of both. As Srila Prabhupada instructed some of his students, "It is not our business to condemn the advancement of knowledge. But to deny the existence of God by the 'advancement of knowledge' is a waste of time. Don't forget the real origin. Saying that life is coming from chemicals is nonsense. Life is coming from life-from Krsna." ** (From a talk given at Bhaktivedanta Manor, Watford, U.K., in August 1977.)


Comments and inquiries concerning this article or the Bhaktivedanta Institute program may be addressed to:

Bhaktivedanta Institute
3764 Watseka Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90034