This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a guest, and a disciple named Dr. Thoudam D. Singh (Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami) took place in December, 1973, during a morning walk at Venice Beach in Los Angeles.
Dr. Singh: The scientists say that at one point the earth was composed of dust particles floating in some gaseous material. Then in due course this colloidal suspension condensed and formed the earth.
Srila Prabhupada: That may be, but where did the gas come from?
Dr. Singh: They say it just existed. Srila Prabhupada: Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita [7.4],
bhumir apo ’nalo vayuh
kham mano buddhir eva ca
ahankara itiyam me
bhinna prakrtir astadha
“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego all together these eight comprise My separated material energies.”
Here Krishna explains that vayu (gas) came from Him. And finer than vayu is kham (ether), finer than ether is mind, finer than mind is intelligence, finer than intelligence is false ego, and finer than false ego is the soul. But the scientists do not know this. They understand only gross things. They mention gas, but where does the gas come from?
Dr. Singh: That they cannot answer.
Srila Prabhupada: But we can answer. From the Bhagavatam we know that gas has come from kham, or ether, ether comes from mind, mind comes from intelligence, intelligence comes from false ego, and false ego comes from the soul.
Dr. Singh: The scientists argue that before Darwin’s biophysical type of evolution could take place, there had to be what they call “prebiotic chemistry,” or chemical evolution.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. And the term “chemical evolution” means that chemicals have an origin, and that origin is spirit, or life. A lemon produces citric acid, and our bodies produce many chemicals in urine, blood, perspiration, and other bodily secretions. This is proof that life produces chemicals, not that chemicals produce life.
Dr. Singh: Scientists say that once the seed of life is present in the cells, then the living entity automatically develops and functions.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but who gives the seed? In the Bhagavad-gita [7.10] Krishna answers this question. Bijam mam sarva-bhutanam viddhi partha sanatanam: “O son of Partha, know that I am the original seed of all existences.” And later [14.4] Krishna says,
murtayah sambhavanti yah
tasam brahma mahad yonir
aham bija-pradah pita
“It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.”
Dr. Wolf-Rottkay: But in all humility, Srila Prabhupada, suppose the scientists actually succeed in artificially creating a living organism, or even a living cell. What would you say?
Srila Prabhupada: What would be their credit? They would only be imitating what already exists in nature. People are very fond of imitations. If a man in a nightclub imitates a dog, people will go and pay money to watch him. But when they see a real dog barking, they don’t pay any attention to it.
Dr. Singh: Srila Prabhupada, the idea of chemical evolution came from a Russian biologist in 1920. He demonstrated that before biochemical evolution, the earth’s atmosphere was in a state of reduction. In other words, it was mostly full of hydrogen, with very little oxygen. Then, in due course, the sun’s radiation caused these hydrogen molecules to form into different chemicals.
Srila Prabhupada: This is a side study. First of all, where did the hydrogen come from? The scientists simply study the middle of the process; they do not study the origin. We must know the beginning. There is an airplane. [Srila Prabhupada indicates an airplane appearing on the horizon.] Would you say the origin of that machine is the sea? A foolish person might say that all of a sudden a light appeared in the sea and that’s how the airplane was created. But is that a scientific explanation? The scientists’ explanations are similar. They say, “This existed, and then all of a sudden, by chance, that occurred.” This is not science. Science means to explain the original cause.
Perhaps the scientists can create imitations of nature, but why should we give them credit? We should give credit to the original creator, God; that is our philosophy.
Dr. Singh: When a scientist discovers some natural law, he usually names it after himself.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, exactly. The law is already there in nature, but the rascal wants to take credit for it.
Dr. Singh: They are actually fighting against the laws of nature, but often they take a certain kind of pleasure in the struggle.
Srila Prabhupada: That pleasure is childish. Suppose a child builds a sand castle on the beach with great effort. He may take pleasure in it, but that is childish pleasure. That is not a grown man’s pleasure. Materialistic men have created a standard of false happiness. They have created a gorgeous arrangement for maintaining a comfortable civilization, but it is all false because they cannot create a situation in which they will be able to enjoy it permanently. At any moment, anyone can be kicked out by death, and all his enjoyment will be finished.
Dr. Singh: That is why they say that God hasn’t given us everything because we are not able to live here forever.
Srila Prabhupada: But God has given them everything necessary to live peacefully, and everything necessary to understand Him. So why will they not inquire about God? Instead, they do things that help them forget God.