Friday, October 14, 2011

Debunking the 'Hindu evolution'

There is a lot of talk that goes on these days about how Hinduism is 'Scientific'. I also wrote a post a while back pointing out some similarities between the Nasadiya suktam in Rig Veda and the Big-bang theory but I also indicated that neither is a proof or evidence for the other and they run along different lines as to being sources of information on cosmos and reality. While we can compare, contrast and observe the similarities and differences, it is not very good to extend it beyond a certain measure and certainly not to the extent that Hinduism is 'Scientific'.

Now, I am pointing this out because if there is a revelation in any religion, which the Vedas are, then they do not come under the purview of science which only depends on pratyaksham(observation through the senses) and anumanam(inference) . Let us take up the dasavatharam, the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu and examine if they really have any connection with Darwinian concept of evolution. (It is an entirely different issue whether Darwiniam evolution is Science at all in the first place. This is because you have to have more faith to believe in evolution than in intelligent design)

The only feeble connection that we can observe superficially between the dasavatharam and evolution is that in the list of ten that is popular, the first is an aquatic creature(fish) followed by an amphibian(tortoise) and then by a land animal (boar). Then it is described further how the rest of the avatars typically represent an ascent and an evolution to man and beyond. I quote the following from another blog(as this presents the view that I aim to critique)


In fact in the study of the manifestations of Lord Vishnu, better known as the Dasha- Avatars, we find that the theory of evolution has been explained in a very subtle manner. They are
01. The first entry was made as The Fish (Macha-avatara). The life in water, as an amphibian, the earliest known life on the earth, from where the progress was chronicled.
02. Then came a life sustaining not only in water but progressed to some extent on land. The Lord took shape of a Terrapin (tortoise). (Koorma-avatara).
03. Amphibian became semi-amphibian, and then an animal in swamp or slush. Lord became a Boar (Varaha).
04. The animal progressed to half-human in the shape of Half lion + half-human (Nara-Simha)
05. Evolution, the path of progress took the half human to full human shape. The next avatar was that of a Dwarf (Vamana).
06. It is but natural that Dwarf will progress to a full human, but with a wavering mind, uncontrollable, and acting without reasons. Yes he came as Parasurama, a man without control.
07. Slowly the man became perfect. He was Rama. Always giving importance to the penance than the pleasure ever respecting the guru and the elders and remaining dutiful to others wherever he was.
08. And then the perfect human form emerged with cleverness and ability to think and win. A person of intelligence, taking decisions to suit the situation. He was Krishna. Ready to fight. Ready to mediate, and ready to love and ready to be loved.
09. Tranquility, submission, passion for peace is the next step from achieving everything. He was Buddha.
10. The cycle has to end, so that it can start again. Kalki, they say will come to destroy the world. So that evolution can take place again.

If the above had been presented as observations about these two pieces of information, then it is a fun comparison to read. However, there are so many inconsistencies in the way it has been presented especially with no mentioning of the various differences between traditional thought and Darwin's idea that we need to take a second look at it.

1. For this to be an evolutionary theory, the fish or the tortoise should not co-exist with any human beings or higher forms of intelligence like devas whereas we know clearly that a king named Satyavrata was the one who gave the fish a place in his palace before it grew bigger until reaching the size of the ocean. Similarly the tortoise. Lord Vishnu helped the Devas to get the amritakalasha by being a support for the mandara mountain while they churned the milk ocean.

2. These avataras all do not happen on earth. The matsya began its lila in South India while the kurma avatar happened somewhere in a non-human realm of milk ocean. The varaha avatara definitely did not happen on earth as it is Earth that he lifted out of another ocean.

3. The assumption that matsya is the first avatar of a cycle of creation is wrong. It is not supported by the Bhagavatha purana according to which it is the last avatar of the previous manvantara. The Lord takes the form of the fish to save the seed of all species so that they can start procreating after the end of the deluge. Hence even by this time cycle, it is not the first in the evolutionary line.

4. The Vaishnavas do not consider that the Lord's fish avatar is inferior to his varaha or narasimha avatara. They may have some differences but the lord usually comes with all his splendour everytime he appears to anyone in samsara lokas. Thus seeing an evolution into higher forms of life in the dasavathara is against the accepted traditional view of the nature of the avataras.

5. Elaborating on the previous point, it is not very intelligent to consider that Lord Krishna is more 'evolved' than Sri Ramachandra. In fact it is stupid. The choice of name and form and character of the avatara is in the hands of the Supreme almighty who is the all-knowing and all-observing consciousness. 

6. The important point that is overlooked by the avatar-evolution group is that these ten avatars are just a set that has been formed so that it is simple to handle even for illiterates. By no means do the puranas say that this is the exhaustive list. In fact, Bhagavatha purana lists 24 avataras.

One glance can tell us that it is not in an exclusive animal to man order. So, the complete account of the avataras by no means supports evolution.

7. Overlapping with some of the previous points is the fact that the timescales of puranas and current science do not correlate that well. If we consider the beginning of Brahma's day, then it is way shorter than science's estimate of 4.5 billion years for current age of earth. However, if we consider Brahma's birth as the beginning, then Vedic thought posits trillions of years to the universe whereas science has 13.7 billion years as its most recent estimate for age of the universe. Also, humans and all of creation has existed for all these years rather than being evolved from a single-cell organism upward.

8. The puranas, though differing in their account of creation, agree on the fact that after the creation of panchabhutas, tanmatras, indriyas and manas, Brahma was created by Lord Sriman Narayana. Brahma then created plants, animals and humans in that order. Nowhere is it said that he dropped a single cell onto the earth which then by itself evolved through random mutation and natural selection into millions of species found on the planet today.

So, the stupidest thing anyone can say is:

Thus Darwin didn't propound anything new, but we presume that he studied our scriptures deeply, and came out with his theory. He had to win the laurels, because his name is such. Daar in Sanskrit (also in Arabic) means Doorway. So standing at the doorway to win, he won.

There is actually another view that Darwin can be somehow made to be a spokesperson for Vedanta. This is also not a tenable view because he neither talked about rebirth nor spiritual evolution through different species in different births. His theory was more or less materialistic, though explicitly he did not negate god. Also, a man can be reborn in the animal or plant kingdom according to his karma. Therefore evolution has nothing in common with vedanta. Individuals who can see into the actual concept conveyed in different texts must burst this myth of Darwinism in vedic scriptures. This has been written, rewritten and regurgitated so many times that it has become an accepted truth (similar to 'vedic mathematics' which is marketed as being present in the Vedas while it is not). It is time we stop imagining things and start making progress in our respective fields, be it sciences/humanities/interdisciplinary ones.

We must analyse the assumptions and premise of each view(evolution or dasavathara) before coming to any conclusions about one being the same or derived from other. In short, it is the same people who point out that Krishna's life history is very similar to Christ's story, propagate this ridiculous idea of 'Hindu' theory of evolution.

Two more posts advocating the idea of dasavathara-evolution:

Note: The author of the second article is hopelessly entangled by the idea of everything in science is already present in Hinduism and tries to present some quote or the other from the scriptures trying to bend it to some concept in science. It is better to ignore him while studying both Science as well as scriptures.


  1. This is a welcome read for the very reason that I am going to talk about.
    Religion (any) & scriptures have its foundation on belief & there by, a lot of assumptions.
    Science on the other hand which seems as though full of logic & rational thinking is also based on lots & lots of assumptions. The very things that we all take for granted in science is still being investigated for its authenticity in the LHC, Geneva (obviously in other places as well).
    So when comparing religion & science, one does tend to keep the two, each on a weighing plate in a weighing scale & change the variables to be compared. This I feel is incorrect as we are trying to compare two sets of beliefs that are logical to a limited extent within the narrow frame work of human imagination (Yes, this is limited as well, is my belief :) ).
    All these comparisons tend to create an acrimonious relationship within the human brain (making him/her confused), between the humans following the two.

  2. What is your education level? Have you ever studied science? Did you ever pass science class?

    1. Of course, I have passed my science courses. Now, if you dont mind can you point out the flaw in the points listed above rather than open ended questions? That would be a mature way of discussion and help better in understanding the issues.

  3. That's an excellent rebuttal. If you don't mind, I have taken the liberty to share this post in Quora as an answer to a similar question. I have duly credited you as well:

    Again, thanks for this!

    1. Thanks for your comment.
      More people should know these things instead of mindlessly parroting senseless comparisons.

      All these people who boast endlessly about hindu science firstly do not know much about it or the language in which it is written , samskritam.
      Secondly, they do not contribute anything to advancement of our knowledge in any field and just are content in being weekend "vedic soldiers" who suddenly wake up every saturday and start pointing out how everything was already discovered by Ancient Indians.

    2. An excellent example of such an idiot is the above poster chennakesava who cannot bring forth any valid arguments but just keep trolling people who point out inconsistencies.

    3. Okay Anand, I guess you took the statement literally that the human [king Satyavrata ] existed along with the fishes and tortoise which is not possible , correct and I agree but don't you think that those are just the way of recording the data. People have recorded the data in terms of stories not as scientific log. I guess it is totally stupidity to just consider everything literally. The way you put your argument is called Adhomen fallacy. [google it]

    4. Thanks for your comment. Even if we agree that we abstract it so much that only a list stays on without any of its other ideas, the idea here still holds good.

      When the puranas talk so much about srishti (It is one of the 5 lakshanas sarga, pratisarga, vamsha, manvantaras, vamshanucharitam of puranas), they have ample time to describe this kind of evolution. However, they do not. They never mention the earth being empty of humans for a very long time in every creation cycle.

      Natural selection and survival of the fittest are two non-compromised tenets of darwinian evolution. This nowhere find any place in our pool of ideas be it puranas or any other literature when it comes to how the species got differentiated.

      The list of 10 is again a convenient number for a list and in many places, the avataras are mentioned to be infinite.

      With all this, imagining that something "secret" was coded in a list to represent evolution, which otherwise has no support (nor opposition) in our shastras is our own wish to say that we had everything they say now.

      There are many serious scientists who actually do not agree with macro-evolution. Hence let us not become jesters trying to suck up to western theories at different stages (only to get toppled by new research later)