Evolution; Not As Recent a Theory As You May Think!

The Pagan Roots of Evolution: Be Prepared For Surprises!

"...The mythical view has grown that evolution is the product of great intelligence and high scientific skill and that it took a scientific genius (Darwin) to unravel it, but the truth is that the concept is very, very old and first developed among the pagans. All that is required is a highly-enquiring mind and a complete lack of knowledge of the true, Monotheist God, or, a determination to rebelliously turn one's back on Him; interestingly, in this regard, Darwin turned his back on God after initially commencing a theology degree and planning to be a vicar."

(This article is based on a Phil Holden lecture. I willingly acknowledge my debt to Phil's lecture).

I s it really true that there is 'nothing new under the sun'? (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Did it really take the (so-called) "genius of Darwin" to put together the theory of evolution? Or could it actually be possible that ancient Indian pagans held a very similar teaching, that it then spread to the Greeks who pretty much rounded off the teaching by the time of Christ? Did it not take a "scientific genius" to produce the teaching after all, just a society with a thirst for knowledge but having no knowledge of the True God? Of course, in this regard, Darwin's society were without excuse in turning their collective backs on the truth.

"The Hindus were Spinozas 2,000 years before the birth of Spinoza, Darwinians centuries before the birth of Darwin, and evolutionists many centuries before the doctrine of evolution had been accepted by the Huxleys of our time, and before any word like 'evolution' existed in any language of the world."

So wrote Sir M. Monier-Williams, Professor of Sanskrit, Oxford University, 1894 (source: M.L. Burke, Swami Vivekenanda in the West, Vol II, 3rd edition, p128, 1984).

This picture, produced by Phil Holden, comes straight out of Indian religion. It depicts a clearly evolutionary process as pertaining to humans. In this case, inferior-looking humans appear to go through a phase as lower creatures before emerging as stronger human beings.

Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677) was considered one of the great rationalist philosophers of the 17th-century, substantially laying the groundwork for the 18th century Enlightenment and 19th century rationalist biblical criticism. People like Spinoza prepared the foundation for Darwinism giving it a fertile soil in which to thrive. But it is frequently not realised that the central tenets of Darwinism stretch back to the ancient Hindu world. Many - steeped in the reverence of Charles Darwin - will be astonished at the true antiquity of the main points of evolutionary theory, although the actual word 'evolution' might not be very old in itself.

Frequently I tell people that Darwin was primarily the enthusiastic collector of the ideas of others much more than the genius of science which he is often held up to be. I often see the doubting look on their faces. Yet the evidence is strong that he poached ideas from his own grandfather, from Alfred Wallace and certainly from Edward Blyth in his own approximate time - but I am going back much further than that.

We will discover that evolution is not the genius of a 19th century naturalist at all but has clear links with paganism. Now, what is Paganism?

Paganism can be best described as a concept of "god" which is rooted (if you'll pardon the expression) in nature itself which receives the reverence due to God. It is the belief that nature itself, is in some way, a god, or a pantheon of gods and it/they are worthy of worship and adoration. In this schema such things as 'tree gods' and 'mountain gods' can be placated by certain 'sacrifices.' The related Pantheism is the belief that all of nature is part of god, or indeed, the total of god. It is a very old belief system but the reverence and worship of nature is always involved somewhere. In our day, the pervasive influence of New Ageism has quite blatantly re-introduced many pagan sensibilities.

In Hindu philosophy, we may recall, the state of 'enlightenment' is a state in which one finally comes to be 'at one' with god, or to realise that one is god; a 'oneness' with nature is part of that experience. Such 'enlightenment' is, of course, nothing short of the deification of man. Of course, the West also had an 18th century 'enlightenment' of an intellectual sort in which, it is said, modern man 'came of age.' From that point too, European men and women were told that they no longer needed any transcendent God for they themselves were now as 'intellectual gods' fully capable of advancing themselves by their own work and learning.

But to return to our main topic, Darwin himself had noted that 'natural selection' was more or less already represented in Aristotle (Aristotle, Physics, 2:8:2), but the really interesting thing is it's appearance in Hindu thinking. The 'big bang' too seems to make an appearance!

"He (Brahma, the creative principle) becomes the size of an atomic particle and...brings life to this whole universe." (Laws of Manu 1:56-57).

It is interesting that most branches of modern Hinduism are sympathetic to the teaching of evolution. This should not be so surprising because several ancient sanskrit scripts do appear to speak of evolution, of a fashion. Hinduism also always teaches that the world is many millions of years old - in complete contrast to the biblical testimony. There are also signs of evolutionary concepts in the Indian caste system. In this caste system, favoured ones might rise through the castes, eventually becoming 'god' (or, that was seen as the goal) but there is no doubt that some Hindu writers saw this in a biological evolutionary sense.

"Whatever creature is born is resolved once more...and is moved again by the merits and demerits acquired in that life (and) enters into another body resulting from it's deeds." (Mahabharata Mokshadharma Parva 275: 298-299).

Of course, there is reincarnation here, but do we not see evolutionary thought as well? For our proposition is that evolutionary doctrines thrive within paganism. A sort of cosmic evolution can also be found here:

"These (creative processes) in succession acquire the attributes of the immediately preceding ones from which they have originated. Each has not only it's own special attribute but each succeeding one has the attributes of all the previous ones." (As earlier source: 8:239:179).

So we see here the principle of things being gradually built up from the very simple over long periods of time - evolution in all but name!

Okay, now what about the Greeks?

Pythagoras got much of his learning from the Hindus, for he travelled very widely,

"Pythagoras travelled widely, studying esoteric teachings of the Egyptians, Assyrians, and even the Brahmins." (Lamblichus, Biography of Pythagoras).

According to Professor H.G. Rawlinson,

"It is more likely that Pythagoras was influenced by India than by Egypt. Almost all the theories, religious, philosophical and mathematical teachings of the Pythagoreans were known in India in the sixth century BC."

'Natural Selection' has been detected in Pythagoras and, as is well known, Plato built upon Pythagoras:

"These are the principles on which living creatures change and have changed into one another, the transformation depending on the loss or gain of understanding or folly." (Plato, Timaeus 49: 80-108).

This is Brahmin evolutionary thought - now occurring among the Greeks, and many hundreds of years before Darwin!

So Aristotle (384-322BC) already held a form of evolutionary theory.

Anaximander (610-540BC) believed that people had evolved from fish! (Hippolytus, Refutation of all Heresies, 1:6;1-7)

Empedocles (490-430BC), stated, "The greater part of the members of animals came but by chance."

We now move much further toward our own day. Voltaire, in his 'Dictionary of Philosophy', 1764, 1st edition, wrote,

"When I first read Plato and came upon the gradation of beings which rises from the lightest atom to the supreme being, I was struck with admiration."

Voltaire was, of course a major leader in the enlightenment's persistent undermining of Christianity.
Around the same time, James Burnet (Lord Monbaddo) was active. He was later called the 'Scottish Father of Evolution' and he lived 1714-1799. All the essentials of Darwinism were already present in Burnet. He believed that humans had developed from orang utans, and that they were a link between men and monkeys. Again, this was over 60 years before Darwin's 1859 book, Origin of Species. Burnet wrote,

"There are, I know, many who will think this progress of man, from a quadruped and an orang utan to men such as we now see them, very disgraceful to the species. but they should consider their own progress as an individual in the womb, man is no better than a vegetable..." (Burnet, Metaphysics, Vol. IV, p32, 1795).

Let us be sensible about this: Darwin drew on many such sources! He was not the scientific genius who first stumbled upon evolution in any sort of "Eureka!" moment. So many Darwin admirers think that it all came to him like a flash of lightning when he visited the Galapagos Islands, but that is just not the way it was.

Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) already had pretty much developed a full theory of evolution. Here was Charles' main and most assessible influence, but there were many other helpful sources as we have seen. Erasmus had written a book, Zoonomia in 1794 - it's all there, but the difference was that Erasmus gave credit to God; he was probably the first supporter of theistic evolution. Of course, Alfred William Wallace also developed his own study of origins just shortly before Charles Darwin, again, it was just about the same thing. Wallace, by the way, also seems to have been a spiritualist medium.

In Romans, Paul the Apostle discusses mankind's foolish intellectual dreams to explain away the creation without God, he makes it plain that atheism is just foolishness in view of the obvious grandeur and design of the natural world. It is, of course, understandable that men would have noted selection and variation, often according to environment, within all the kinds of Creation, but to extrapolate from this that mankind itself had originally risen from lowly life is shown again to be inexcusable and simply rebellion against God. But what is so often forgotten is that evolutionary teaching effectively brings mankind back to a form of Paganism with a respect for nature which it comes to see as all-important and - effectively - 'god.' Modern, rabid, activist environmentalism produces the same results.

So whereas the mythical view has grown that evolution is the product of great intelligence and high scientific skill, the truth is that the concept is very, very old and first developed among the pagans. All that is required is a highly-enquiring mind and a complete lack of knowledge of the true, Monotheist God (or, a determination to rebelliously turn one's back on Him; interestingly, in this regard, Darwin turned his back on God after initially commencing a theology degree and planning to be a vicar).

Rom 1:18: For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
Rom 1:19: because the thing which may be known of God is clearly revealed within them, for God revealed it to them.
Rom 1:20: For the unseen things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being realized by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, for them to be without excuse.
Rom 1:21: Because, knowing God, they did not glorify Him as God, neither were thankful. But they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Rom 1:22: Professing to be wise, they became fools
Rom 1:23: and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, and birds, and four-footed animals, and creeping things.

UK Apologetics, March 2009.

You can see the video of the original lecture from Phil Holden here.