Arabic precursors of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution

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Did you know that the theory of evolution did not only have precursors in our own scientific cultural environment, but also in the arabic world, dating back to the 9th century? – Now you know.

… the serious scientific discussions on evolution began at least a thousand years before Charles Darwin, mainly by Muslim scholars. Abu Uthman ‘Amr ibn Bahr, commonly known as Al-Jahiz, was the originator of the idea of evolution through his famous book entitled “Kitab al-Hayawan” (“The Book of the Animals”). Al-Jahiz was an Arab prose writer, the author of works on adab, philosophy, Mu’tazili theology, politico-religious polemics and scientific essays. He was born in Basra in 776 and learned various disciplines at different mosque circles.  Later he joined Mu’tazili circles and bourgeois saloons in Basra, Baghdad and Samarra, where conversations were animated by philosophical, theological and scientific problems.

In his “Kitab al-Hayawan”, Al-Jahiz introduced the concept of food chains and also proposed a scheme of animal evolution that entailed natural selection, environmental determinism and possibly the inheritance of acquired characteristics. In difference from modern evolutionary theory, for Al-Jahiz, the will of Allah served as the antecedent or originator for all mutation and transformations. As he suggested, inanimate elevates to plant level and animals are evolved from plants. Man, according to Al-Jahiz, was an evolutionary stage of animals. He also widely discussed the concepts of struggle for existence, adaptation and animal psychology, the concepts that make the pivot of Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

read more here: FROM AL-JAHIZ (776-868) TO CHARLES DARWIN (1809-1882) — HistoriaFactory

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Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928-2014)

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03.02.1983 Friedenskongreß der CDU im Konrad-Adenauer-Haus, Bonn.

[written in September 2014] On September 4, 2014, Wolfhart Pannenberg, one of the leading German Protestant theologians, died in Munich.

Some refences to his book “Confessions of a Trinitarian Evolutionist” caught my attention. Here is one:

“God always used creatures to bring about other things. Think of the function of the earth in the first part of Genesis. The earth is addressed by God to assist in His act of creation. First, the earth is addressed to bring about vegetation. So we may wonder, ‘How can the earth, an inorganic reality, bring about an organic reality, vegetation, and then bring about the  self organization of organisms from inorganic materials?’ Yet, this is the Christian creation story. The second address of the earth is even bolder than that! God addresses the earth to bring about animals. And the text means higher animals. Such boldness does not really characterize even Darwin’s theory of evolution. Darwin wouldn’t have dreamed to have higher animals spring immediately from the earth, from inorganic matter. Darwin is much more moderate than that. In criticizing the doctrine of evolution, our creationist friends among Christian theologians should read their Bibles more closely.“

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