Evolutionary Biology and ‘God Speaks’

The Word of God And The Mind of Man
By SURENDRA BHATNAGAR

The House, where Meher Baba lived at Meherazad, Ahmednagar, India

I am a biologist, committed to view things in their evolutionary perspective. I joined teaching in a college in 1958 and met Meher Baba a year later. I read His ‘God speaks’ number of times and compared the subject matter with the scientific understanding of that time. Then came the book ‘Nothing and Everything’, a discourse of Meher Baba with explanations of several symbolic spiritual truths.

If not we, Indians, our friends from the West have reacted to e Baba books and a discussion I was keen on for years may take place now. Indeed, Keith Gunn has set the ball rolling. I thank him for the initiative. I also thank my friend Malladi Rama Rao for making South Asian Tribune (SAT) a forum for the exchange of views.

I consider these two books as a gift from God to the restless mind of the humanity. These books made the spiritual truth plain and demystified the mysticism. Perfectly original in concept and content these books came from the direct personal experience of the spiritual master, and are not a result of reading or learning from the Texts.

In 1958 itself, I came across another book, “The natural philosophy of plant form,” by Agnes Arber (1954). It left a lasting impression on my mind. It also introduced me to the Gestalt philosophy of a German philosopher, the analog of which is systems thinking in science today.

After seeing Meher Baba, I got more and more involved in His writings. He had explained the meaning of many mystic words and expressions. I desired to have a serious discussion on these subjects with Him but it would never be.

Baba himself asked people to read God Speaks. Most of His lovers told Him ‘Baba! God Speaks is beyond our understanding, our comprehension’. To this He replied: ‘Alright. Keep the God Speaks under your pillow and sleep’. Since then, over the years, God Speaks remained under my pillow as we were content with our daily puja, sankeertans, bhajans and aarati.

Other subject of interest for Baba lovers was miracles, which now and then happened; but Baba Himself denied the ownership of miracles attributed to Him. More over, He berated miracles.

I am happy that this situation is at last changing, changing slowly though. If not we, Indians, our friends from the West have reacted to e Baba books and a discussion I was keen on for years may take place now. Indeed, Keith Gunn has set the ball rolling. I thank him for the initiative. I also thank my friend Malladi Rama Rao for making South Asian Tribune (SAT) a forum for the exchange of views.

Now let us come to some basic postulates of God Speaks.

Postulate I- All existence, manifest as well as un-manifest, is truth, and that all manifest existence (creation) has come from an un-manifest existence. The sata as well asata are both states of Satya. This truth is not new.

Taittariya Upanishad says ‘Asato va idmagra asíta tato vai sad jayate’: Which had the same meaning. That is, from nothing came everything, from unconsciousness came consciousness, from air came fire (vayoragni), from fire came water (agnerapo), from the water came stable earth (adabhyaprithví) and from dead earth came life (prithvioshadhyah) then moving life, then finally man.

Cosmologist Karl Sagan says “we are all star stuff”. What he means we are all fire stuff because in every evolutionary stage, an opposite thing has come to manifest. For example, water from the fire, consciousness from the unconsciousness, life from a dead existence.

One can present all this as a magic of God. But, Meher Baba says God is not a magician.

We tend to belittle God’s majesty by associating Him with miracles and magic.

As a scientist, I am expected to know all the mechanisms and all the theories which explain how these physical attributes have come to be created, how they have come to stay- the evolutionary phases.

Biological science today explains the organic evolution of man through a long drawn process of selection for the survival. Key to the Darwin’s theory are concepts like over-population, competition, survival and fitness. It explains the how of a problem, but not the whys.

The question has bugged me for years. We all live and make a rat race for things which count for nothing in the end. We are told a pool of genetic diversity is created by several methods to allow natural selection of fit genes and individuals. If it is so, what for and why this maddening effort in which all life processes involve, just to increase the worthless new copies of genes, while 90 percent DNA, already present does not code.

The selection is not a basic question; the more fundamental issue is ‘the will to survive’. And of course, the question: where does the will reside, and why life struggles for survival. Also why the gene is selfish and what is this self for whose sake a gene competes with the other genes and eliminates them in the struggle for survival. If survival is so important, bacteria are immortal; they also survive all situations. If that is the case, what is the need for further evolution?

Science so far has not discovered a master neuron or a neural net for ego, which works for the self assertion, identity and creation. The seat, where ego sits, and governs, is still not known in the brain. It is described as non- local.

In the search for the king, it catches all those who discharge functions at the king’s command. But the real king is behind the curtain. Scientists try to intercept these chemical commands from various information carrying molecules and make a story, but soon they do realise that commands are specific to specific time space situations within changing micro-eco-spaces and functions.

The so called selfish DNA physically disappears and only its message remains.
These things happen not in our scale of time, but in the bio-chemical time space.

Related with ego is the problem of individuality and individual, space, time, satisfaction, fulfilment and perfection. We can club them all as existential questions, but can not resist terming them as them philosophical questions. These are real questions. Because these questions bring up front the one and only question of interest to all of us – what is the purpose behind our existence and evolutionary progresses?

As a scientist, I do not doubt the capacity of man to probe into the finer time and space scales of molecular structures and the related functions. I know one day man can certainly know them.

Because, the scriptures say, while other animals were created by God after there own kind, the man was created by Him in His own image and likeness. The God has given man the capacity to know anything and everything, including the knowledge of his inner-self and questions related with human existence.

Through scientific enquiry, man could answer all questions like how, where, what, and when, but is unable to answer why.

Take DNA, for example.

It stands for information carrying organic molecule; it works for the transfer of information from parents to children.

Where does this information reside/is stored?

It is stored in the sequences of four bases of nucleic acids (Adenine, Cytocine, Thymine and Guanine). How it works? Well, the answer is it woks through the process of Nuceo-synthesis and DNA polymerization.

Why do organisms fight for survival, employing means recognised as unethical by the human conscience? A more fundamental question is why the survival instinct? Also why this creation at all?

No surprise, Dawkins calls the God a blind watchmaker.

But Darwin identifies two types of selections. One where the will does not operate the process (natural selection). Two where the will plays a positive role (sexual selection in mate choice).

Things get a little more complicated when it comes to the phenomenon of kin-selection, where individuals having the selfish DNA of Dawkins make sacrifice for the survival of their kin.

The problem of scientific interpretation of creation- phenomenon is that it does not go deep beyond the classical frame of time- space relations.

It does not reach to the realm of consciousness, which it considers as an epiphenomenon.

It is only recently that neuroscientists have taken the job more seriously. The science of cognitive neuroscience studies single as well as group of neurons in relation to the changes in the environment.

Said noted neuroscientist Roger Sperry while accepting the Nobel Prize (1981): The events of inner experience, as emergent properties of brain processes become themselves explanatory causal constructs in their own right, interacting at their own level with their own laws and dynamics. The whole world of inner experience (the world of the humanities) long rejected by 20th century scientific materialism thus becomes recognised and included within the domain of science”.

The interesting finding of the neuroscience is that neurons themselves have no irreplaceable function tag, they simply serve as carriers of information and are replaced in all cases of damage ( to be continued).

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