ISKCON Authors’ IQ Challenges Evolution Theory

By Madhava Smullen on 10 Oct 2009

After a volley of attacks at God in the past several years from prominent atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, God’s side is finally fighting back. And some of the most effective efforts are coming from the International Society for Krishna consciousness.

Written by Isvara Krishna Dasa (Istaván Tasi) and Bhagavat-priya Dasa (Balázs Hornyánszky) Nature’s IQ presents one hundred of the most amazing instinctive behaviors in the animal kingdom. (On a photo, from left to right: István Tasi, Balázs Hornyánszky, Zsuzsa Magyar – designer, Sándor Pusztay – Hungarian publisher).

After a volley of attacks at God in the past several years from prominent atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, God’s side is finally fighting back. And some of the most effective efforts are coming from the International Society for Krishna consciousness.

Coming soon from ISKCON’s publisher the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, Lalitanatha Dasa’s Rethinking Darwin launches a powerful intelligent design argument from the Vedic perspective—but for now, a Hungarian book originally published seven years ago is making some pretty impressive waves.

Written by Isvara Krishna Dasa (Istaván Tasi) and Bhagavat-priya Dasa (Balázs Hornyánszky) Nature’s IQ presents one hundred of the most amazing instinctive behaviors in the animal kingdom. Often highly complex, these behaviors are successful only if all elements in the chain are simultaneously present—any go missing, and the behavior is useless. The authors thus logically conclude that such animal conducts probably did not evolve over a long period of time, but appeared as a whole. This is their distinctly anti-Darwin take on life’s origin, backed up by the ancient Vaishnava perspective.

Nature’s IQ attracted plenty of media attention upon its Hungarian release in 2002. Some was positive—author Isvara Krishna had an article published in Hungarian Science, one of the country’s leading scientific journals—and some, unsurprisingly considering the book’s controversial subject matter, was negative. But it looks like it could do even better in the USA, where Darwinism is less popular. With its 2009 release landing in the wake of Darwin’s 200th anniversary, publisher and translator Torchlight already has the book selling at major outlets such as Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

It has also garnered many favorable reviews. “In scientific circles the theory of evolution is widely accepted as factual,” commented Christopher Beetle of the Ivy League school Brown University. “Books like Nature’s IQ remind us, however, that it is only a theory, and a theory with serious drawbacks at that… I recommend this book to anyone seriously interested in science and the origin and meaning of life.”

So where did it all begin?

Like many people, even Nature’s IQ author Istaván Tasi grew up thinking of Darwin’s theory as fact. His parents never questioned it, and, until the age of twenty, neither did he. This despite the fact that he was fascinated by the living world, reading many books on nature and animals.

But with the demise of communism in 1989, many different ideologies began streaming into Hungary. At first, Istaván was skeptical—critics of the evolutionist view he heard speak were weak and unclear. Even when he read Origins magazine from ISKCON’s Bhaktivedanta Institute, and understood the basic deficiencies in the theory of evolution, he still couldn’t completely reject the Darwinian way of thinking and accept a design-based worldview. “I simply could not believe that I had been mislead so deeply in the fundamental question of life’s origins,” he says today.

That all changed when Istaván met ISKCON devotees in 1990. Although at first he found their idea of God as a person “shocking,” he was drawn to the style with which ISKCON’s founder Srila Prabhupada delivered his message. “I loved his boldness and criticism of the modern world—it was perfect and refreshing,” he says. “Listening to him, I began to accept that God has personal features, and that although he has a form he is able to create the world through his expansive energies.”

ISKCON’s philosophy proved itself to be logical and highly consistent, and its followers seemed happy and content next to Istaván’s own dissatisfaction with life. Gradually, he reappraised his worldview according to Vaishnava philosophy, and finally in 1992, he was initiated by Sivarama Swami as Isvara Krishna Dasa.

On becoming a devotee, Isvara began to think back on all the study of nature he had done earlier in his life. “Perhaps I can use my knowledge to disclose the mistakes in materialistic thinking,” he thought.

Collaborating with Bhagavat-priya Dasa, a friend and colleague at Hungary’s Bhaktivedanta College, Isvara began to study hundreds of instinctive animal behaviors. It took two years to find one hundred of the best examples, discuss them deeply, structure the book, write it, and collect two hundred vivid color photos. Bhagavat-priya, a bio-engineer by profession, used his knowledge of biology to describe the astonishing instincts in the animal kingdom. Isvara Krishna used his degree in cultural anthropology—comparing ancient and modern civilizations—to analyze the modern explanation of inborn instincts’ origin and compare it to the Vedic perspective.

Ethology, the field of biology concerned with the origins of animal behavioral patterns, tends to give a Darwinian explanation to these behaviors—that they are inherited, and have been acquired through gradual changes as a result of environmental selective pressures. But in Nature’s IQ, Isvara and Bhagavat have taken ethologists’ own data on specific animal behaviors, and highlighted the problem with such an explanation.

For many key anatomical features found in nature, they point out, a necessary behavioral pattern must be present to fulfill its desired function. The protruding bioluminescent bulb of the anglerfish, for example, must carry out a slow, waving motion if it is to lure its prey. Any intermediate behavior on the way to becoming the creature we see today would have been inappropriate and insufficient for catching its dinner. Anglerfish are endowed with an IQ, therefore, that must have appeared at once and in parallel with its predatory anatomy in order to give it an advantage.

The same principle plays out in the trap-like lures of other creatures such as the decoy scorpion fish, the Argentine Horned frog and the copper-head snake. Most amusing is the New Guinean dung spider, who is able not only to assume the appearance of bird droppings, but also to produce their smell as a way of enticing and trapping insects that normally feed on the real thing.

In all these cases, say Isvara and Bhagavat, both the anatomical features and the accompanying behaviors must have arisen all at once if their functions were to have been achieved.

The examples in Nature’s IQ also point to a higher intelligence guiding every living being. In fact, Isvara says that his research has strengthened his own conviction in this intelligence, known in Vaishnava philosophy as Paramatma, or the Supersoul. “Through deeper analysis,” he says, “One can see that time, genetics, mutations and selection cannot explain the actual knowledge possessed even by lower species.”

One of the examples given in Nature’s IQ to illustrate this point is that of the small fish the Blue-streak Cleaner Wrasse, which voluntarily swims into the mouth of the predatory Coral Gruper to eat the worms and dead skin from between his teeth. Amazingly, although the Coral Gruper eats all other fish of the same size, he does not harm the Cleaner Wrasse.

When Isvara Krishna once asked an evolutionist university professor to explain this behavior, the man tried to write a long article in response but finally admitted that he couldn’t—at least not at that moment. “This is a typical response,” says Isvara, who has participated in several public newspaper debates with Darwinist scientists. “Usually they say: ‘We cannot explain these behaviors now, but maybe in the future.’

“School text books and mainstream media never mention the flaws of Darwinism,” Isvara adds. “With Nature’s IQ, we’re trying to show people the problems with it and give them the opportunity to make up their own minds. And for those who already don’t accept the theory of evolution, our book gives them the tools with which to point out its mistakes to others.”

As it always has, the debate on evolution will continue, and the numbers of supporters and opponents will fluctuate. “Darwinism will probably always remain on the stage,” says Isvara. “We cannot control that. But we will continue to inform others about its weaknesses, and about the other choices they can make.”

Today, Isvara Krishna does just that at the officially accredited Bhaktivedanta College in Budapest, where 250 students, most of who had never heard of Vaishnavism before enrolling, learn about every aspect of its philosophy and culture. Specifically, he heads up the College’s Vedic Research Center, which aims to answer modern scientific and social questions based on the Vaishnava understanding.

“For me, it’s amazing to see how dramatically the situation has changed,” he says. “When Krishna consciousness first appeared in Hungary, it faced a lot of opposition. Now we regularly appear on TV, in magazines, and at public events, often speaking about the Vedic approach to scientific subjects.”

The next thing Isvara wants to do is to make nature movies that don’t include the evolutionary statement ‘everything happened by chance.’ “In today’s ‘Youtube culture’ many people watch movies rather than reading books,” he says. “So I’m trying to show nature from the right point of view, so that we can think about its original source, rather than thinking, “I’m simply a hapless group of molecules, without any higher goal.”

Continuing along the same theme, Isvara’s latest book, “What if There Is No Evolution?” is a dialogue between himself and an an atheist biologist. He has also collaborated with Rethinking Darwin author Lalitanatha Dasa to edit the forthcoming November/December “evolution issue” of Back to Godhead magazine.

“The evolution theory often goes side by side with materialistic philosophy, and is strongly proposed by atheists,” he says. “So it is crucial that the Hare Krishna Movement contributes to the argument against the highly imperfect evolutionist paradigm. Evolutionary thinking has a negative effect on religion, morality, and other fields of society. So if ISKCON really wants to raise the spiritual level of humankind, then we have to show that biological forms have been given to us, and that we are conscious eternal souls transmigrating through these forms.”

“Evolution does exist,” he concludes cheekily, “But not on a material level. We, as conscious beings, are able to develop our consciousness from ignorance to the highest level of understanding the absolute truth. That is real evolution.”

Nature’s IQ is sold in most major bookstores in the USA , including Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com. It is also available for purchase at Krishna.com.

Posted in In the News.