23 September 2011

New Book

About one year ago I started writing a post for this blog about evolution. I had just finished reading Keven Brown's Evolution and Baha'i Belief, and I had some thoughts in response.

It was to go something like this. `Abdu'l-Baha talked quite a bit about human origin, and in a way that seems contrary to the consensus of modern science, because he described humans as having evolved over many millions of years from a primitive form, but humans were not derived from animals. This is a serious subject, and one of those controversial topics that polemics like to discuss. Brown's is the only full length book on the subject, but there are tons of shorter articles floating around in various journals and online media. Basically all of them take the same view. They take the scientific consensus as fact, then they try reconcile the issue somehow.

Most of these take the same approaches. Either they redefine the term "human" to be something that shows human traits (i.e. the human line about 200k years ago), or they take `Abdu'l-Baha's statements as a whole as a refutation of the godless direction of society at the time, and then downplay the details. There are also attempts to retranslate the original texts to something that is more in line with science, and yet another approach was to simply say that `Abdu'l-Baha made errors and was not infallible in scientific matters.

After reading all these I became a little frustrated that nobody gave much thought to the possibility of a change in science over time. I think there is a fear of Baha'is being associated with creationists, but there is a huge difference between saying that the earth was created by a supernatural event six thousand years ago and saying that the branching pattern on the tree of life is a little different than first imagined.

I began to write out several things that would be discovered if the apparent meaning of `Abdu'l-Baha's statements was to be vindicated by changes in science. As I began to write, I realized that there was much more to write about then I first imagined. Pretty soon my "blog post" became ten, then twenty pages. I also began doing research, and several of the vindicating discoveries had already been discovered. Actually, in the last decade, and mostly in the last few years, there have been fundamental and significant shifts in the world of evolution and genetics. These have increasingly moved toward an agreement with what `Abdu'l-Baha stated 100 years ago. My post turned into a long paper outlining what has already been discovered, and the list of future discoveries kept shrinking as I kept doing more research.

I was also lucky enough to have Keven Brown review my work. He mentioned that the article is "an excellent, carefully researched, and ground-breaking work, unique for attempting to provide a scientific basis for 'Abdu'l-Baha's statements on human origin."

My attempts to get it reviewed by an evolutionary biologist have been unsuccessful, so if anybody has a lead for someone to provide review, I would appreciate the contact.

Now I have 93 pages (letter size) and I'll be sending it to the NSA's review office soon. After that I'm not sure what to do. I could send it off to the three Baha'i publishers and see if any of them will take it, but as everyone knows, print publishing is going out of style fast. I could try to self-publish and load it in the various e-book stores. I could build a website with advertising and make it available for free. I obviously didn't write it for money, but if I could get a few cents per hour that I put into it, that would be nice.

Any feedback on the subject or on the publishing process would be most welcome!

6 comments:

  1. I can't wait to read it! This has been a topic of interest to me for a long time. I hope you make it available as an ebook or a document sometime soon!

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  2. I have no advice about publishing, but I look forward to reading it!

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  3. Hi Byran, I have been interested in this topic for some time. I wrote to UHJ about the lack of science supporting the idea of parallel evolution that Abdul Baha seems to suggest in a frist glance reading. THey give an interesting response. I can send you my letter and the UHJ reponse. If i can get this comment box to work. I thought I had already posted to this site but it seemsthat it didnt work....here goes... press comment. cheers James Nicholls

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  4. James, I would definitely be interested in the letter. I only found one such letter in my search, here:
    http://bahai-library.com/uhj_infallibility_abdulbaha

    You can email bahaicoherence@gmail.com and I'll get back to you.

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  5. Thank you for this information. It is certainly an important area for our unfolding dialogue with friends. Will your explorations on the topic include the idea that Abdu'l-Baha was speaking not of organic evolution but rather of potentiality; that "human qualities" as we understand them were always latent in the universe and evolved and became visible and apparent as organic life evolved? This idea seems the most coherent to me and does not violate the fundamental problems that otherwise appear to conflict with modern science, such as relatedness on the tree of life based on nucleotide sequence similarity of certain genes, extinct humanoids, origin of the human species, and so on. All life on earth seems to originate from unicellular, anaerobic extremophiles but we have no idea how cellular life first emerged from nonliving matter on earth several billion years ago. I would also like to mention that the eventual discovery of life on other planets, including human life (sentience, consciousness, creativity, art, spirituality) will shake scientific thinking because it will reinforce the "potentiality" idea.

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    1. Hi Ned, I certainly incorporated the idea of potentiality by documenting what others have written on the topic. However, when you read all of `Abdu'l-Baha's authoritative texts on the subject, I believe it is clear that he was not speaking merely of potential. There is a conflict between modern science and the Baha'i tradition. Many authors have explored the context and language of the Baha'i tradition to see if there is a way to reconcile the issue by reinterpreting the Baha'i references, which to me is a perfectly valid approach. But nobody has seriously explored the details of the scientific conclusion to see if there could be a shift in science that reconciles the issue. I found that there already has been a shift in science, and that there is a very plausible theory that could validate the apparent meaning of `Abdu'l-Baha's comments.

      I expect every educated and reasonable person reading this to assume I'm wrong, but so far the majority of reasonable people have agreed with me after reading the book.

      I'm still waiting for the new translation of Some Answered Questions to become available, then it will be published.

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