From Muddy Waters

By Bhutatma dasa
Recently I watched the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed by Ben Stein. If you haven’t seen it, Stein interviews prominent academics regarding their views on the debate over evolution.

Recently I watched the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed by Ben Stein. If you haven’t seen it, Stein interviews prominent academics regarding their views on the debate over evolution. He focuses on how, through intimidation, the debate has been prematurely foreclosed. The film is engaging and well-paced, and Stein uses metaphor (the Berlin Wall), splices in lively clips, and further enhances the importance of the issue by adding a second, overtly moral, dimension by linking evolutionary theory to eugenics.
Without entering into the daunting task of reviewing the scientific merits of the evidence for evolution, I wanted to offer a more general point, one that came to mind as I happened to be reading Srila Prabhupada’s Teaching of Lord Chaitanya. In chapter three, “How to Understand the Lord’s Activities,” Prabhupada writes, “Foolish people say there is no brain behind the universe, but this is due to ignorance.” Prabhupada’s charge of Ignorance, rather than stupidity, is significant here, because the two terms are distinct, with ignorance deriving from the root “ignore”. One dictionary definition of “ignore” that is particularly well-suited is “to refuse to take notice”.
Indeed, the film is replete with examples of scientists who “refuse to take notice” of how flimsy their explanations are—you can see for yourself—but my favorite would have to be biologist Michael Ruse and his chat with Stein about the origins of organic life on earth. Dr. Ruse explains to Stein that organic molecules likely formed by “piggy-backing on crystals”. He claims that since crystals are complex inorganic molecular structures, by some form of osmosis a carbon-based globule “riding” on a crystal received the information it needed to create a living cell. When Stein registers some modest incredulity, and a mild query as to how this model would actually work in nature, Ruse retorts “I just told you how!” exhibiting the same sort of peevishness one might direct to a dull-headed child who can’t grasp why ice cream doesn’t stay frozen in a hot room.
Later in the same TLC chapter, Prabhupada observes that demons, being envious of God, “can’t understand how everything is being carried out perfectly” by God’s inherent energies.  He points to the narration of Prahlada Maharaja in the Srimad Bhagavatam, where he discusses how the attitude of asurika-bhava (the emotion of enmity toward a supreme being) fuels this “refusal to notice” the overwhelming evidence that intelligently directed energies create all forms of life.
All of this reminds me of a line from a book about the philosopher Spinoza, where the author, writing about the many visitors the philosopher engaged at his home in Denmark,  said Spinoza was able to “suffer modest fools, but not the other kind”. It always seemed that Prabhupada, with his full-frontal assault on foolishness, always reserved a special “transcendental scorn” for the ignorance of the academic world, who pose as experts and confuse others with their word-jugglery. (see footnote).
After viewing the film I found myself wondering, “What kind of world would make these evolutionists believe that the energies that give rise to incredibly complex organic structures must be intelligently guided? What could open them to the reasonable suggestion that this creative force flows from a living source?”  Nothing I suppose, which is the point of the film. When the honest pursuit of truth is high-jacked by scientism and materialism, we are left with closed minds and their instrument, power politics. Unfortunately, the prison-house guard is the principle that built the prison, and so the possibilities for reform are limited by the tenet that “the ideas of the ruling class are necessarily the ruling ideas.” Nevertheless, it is also true that whenever the mind breaks its chains, the liberty it gains surpasses what it knew before. Perhaps it is not too naïve to hope for just such an intellectual and spiritual evolution.

Posted in Editorials.