Our main objection to Darwinian evolution is that it sees consciousness as a product of matter. We cannot agree with this proposal, nor does it make much sense in terms of verifiable evidence. Where do we see consciousness arising from inert matter and what scientific experiment can prove that this occurs? Our theory is that matter evolves from consciousness--the supreme consciousness. Otherwise, we acknowledge the evidence for some kind of evolution.Hindus were evolutionists long before Darwin. Hindu scriptures teach that the various forms of life exist conceptually within God and evolve out of matter in conjunction with the desires of karmically-bound souls. In this way, the material body evolves on the basis of the jiva's [the individual soul or ego] desire or necessity. For example, when the desire or necessity to see arises in the jiva, the eye is manifest. Brahma is said to be the first soul and the repository of all the other jivas, who under his direction evolve upwards through aquatic life, to plant life, etc. Interestingly, Bhaktivinoda Thakura gave a lecture on the evolution of matter through the material mode of goodness at the British-Indian Society. He also analyzed the Dasavatara Stotram (Ten Incarnations of Visnu) in terms of evolution. In his view, the dasavatara conception almost parallels the Puranic notion of life's evolution from aquatic life upwards: Matsya (fish), Kurma (amphibian), Varaha (land animal), Narasinga (both animal and man), etc. I was wondering whether any Vedic texts make reference to the existence of dinosaurs on earth. It would seem that the existence of dinosaurs is irrefutable, yet I've never heard of any religious texts that make any mention of them.
The legends and lore of most pre-modern cultures contain descriptions of very large animals, and it seems that there is irrefutable evidence that very large animals did inhabit the earth in the distant past. Vedic scriptures mention this as well. For example, Srimad-Bhagavatam 8.7.18 speaks of large water elephants and whale-swallowing fish, timi-dvipa-graha-timingilakulat. The Bhagavatam also speaks of large birds compared to clouds, yatha meghah syenadayo vayu-vasah. Once the universe is again created, ...is it possible that souls who have the worst karma would be manifested first at the beginning of creation as single-celled organisms or bacteria and that other souls would be manifest later as suitable bodies were created to facilitate their karma? This would support evolution and scripture at the same time, but I'm not sure if it's right.
This idea may have some merit, as scripture says that souls at the dawn of creation begin at the bottom of the evolutionary ladder and gradually appear over a long period of time until the human form manifests. When humans appear, the world is complete. All these forms of life exist in potential within Maha Visnu and then in the mind of Brahma who puts the world together. But time, as it is conceived of in evolutionary theory, may be a problem here, given the relatively short duration and nature of the yugas (Vedic ages). Therefore, it is difficult to validate or unify both positions in all respects.
In brief, here is how creation occurs according to the scripture:
Visnu resides in the "causal ocean," consisting of innumerable jiva souls in seed form, all of whom are under the latent influence of their karmic desires left over from the previous world cycle. At this time, the modes of material nature (gunas) are in a state of equilibrium. At some point, a feeling arises within Visnu, followed by an infinite vibration. This develops into an abstract idea and then into an actual thought, "I shall become many." Thus, the undisturbed equilibrium state of the gunas is activated by Visnu's glance of life, consisting of many jivas. Material nature is then galvanized by time and another world cycle is manifest.This manifestation of the world is not technically a process of evolution in every sense, because the cause of the world itself (Visnu) never undergoes transformation. As matter develops, the jivas develop from gross to refined subtle expressions through 8,400,000 forms beginning with aquatic life and culminating in human life. At the time in this process that humanity makes its appearance on earth, everything is in order for the jiva souls to meet their maker. At this point, the world consisting of the jivas and matter--the marginal and external saktis of Visnu--becomes conscious of itself.Unfortunately, this auspicious moment in cosmic history can take a turn for the worse for some souls. These souls think away their chance for liberation with sophisticated theories that deny their ties to a supreme consciousness, as does Darwinian evolution. There may be some truth to Darwin's theory, but it has done at least as much to obscure the nature of the material reality as it has to reveal it.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.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.