Ask the Swami: Dharma vs. Darwin?

If you're bad enough, will you be reincarnated as an amoeba? Vedic perspectives on evolution, dinosaurs, Mars, and the Big Bang.

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Still, we agree with the part of Darwin's theory that says that the material world is a struggle for existence in which one living being is food for another (jivo jivasya jivanam)--survival of the fittest. But there is much more to the picture than this.

What about the big bang theory or the idea that the universe is contracting and expanding. Do the scriptures have anything to say about those theories?

The Hindu scripturally-based notion of the world expanding and contracting in perpetual cycles, with no beginning or end in time, does not contradict modern scientific thinking. The same observations that support the big bang theory also support the theory that the so-called bang has no beginning in time and results in an expansion of the universe over trillions of years--until it reaches a point of return and contracts, only to be expanded again ad infinitum. The astrophysicist Paul Steinhardt has put forth such a scientifically credible explanation called the cyclical universe theory, which seeks to explain recently uncovered flaws in the current theory of the origin and evolution of all known things.

Among other things, the big bang theory does not explain the "beginning of time," the initial conditions of the universe, or what will happen in the far-distant future. In Steinhardt's model, space and time exist forever, and the big bang is not the beginning of time but rather a bridge to a preexisting contracting era.

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The cyclical universe theory has roots in even more complex ideas like the so-called superstring theory, which suggests there are many spatial dimensions, not just the three we know of. Several theorists believe that the seemingly inexplicable physics of a big bang and a big crunch, or subsequent contraction of the universe, might be explained with the aid of these extra dimensions, which are otherwise invisible to us.

Such scientifically credible speculations about invisible dimensions leave room for rationally legitimizing the ontological reality of persons like Brahma and his lotus birth, who are otherwise thought of as merely mythological. Perhaps his chanting of the Gopala mantra can itself be construed as the big bang. After all, those in the scientific community who have embraced the superstring theory describe the world poetically as a concert of musical vibrations, a song in the mind of God.

Bhagavad-gita asserts that life is everywhere (sarva-gatah) and Vedic literature speaks of demigods and other beings enjoying life on other planets including the moon and Mars. Is there a Vedic explanation as to why science can find no evidence of life on the moon and Mars?

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