Some Shia Scholars and the Theory of Evolution Part 1

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Not all Shia clerics have rejected the theory of evolution. Actually it can be understood from their statements that some of them accept it. But I have yet to find any clear or apparent statement of acceptance from them that explains how it is consistent with religion in general, or with the religious scriptures, and more specifically the Quran.

At this point I will discuss the opinions of some of the opponents of evolution, and we will weigh the content of their statements on the scale of science and see what it is worth.

Shaikh Jafar Sobhani

In his book AI-Manhaj Al Tafsiriyya [Interpretive Methods], Sheikh Jafar Sobhani [1] says:

Charles Darwin published his book The Transformation of Species in 1908. Based on his investigations, he proved that the human being is the last in the evolutionary chain of species and that this chain traces back to an animal resembling an ape. So he referenced his fathers and forefathers in a special tree, reciting a poem that says:

Those are fathers, so show me their like…

When this theory was published, it was poorly received within religious circles among the Christians, Muslims and Jews. They had agreed that the human is a unique creature and that his chain traces back to Adam. the father of humankind, who was created in this form
without any link to other animals.

Furthermore, some naive people use that same hypothesis as an argument for the contradiction between science and religion, and to separate them from one another. They claim that the path of religion is different than that of science, sometimes intersecting with it, and other times diverging from it.

There were those who did not believe in separating science from religion, so they tried to subject the Holy Quran to that hypothesis. And in doing this, they interpreted various Quranic verses that refer to the creation of the human being in a way that fits that hypothesis.

The debate was intense between those in favor of taking the religious scripture literally and those in favor of interpretation. With time, the above-mentioned hypothesis—and that concerning the creation of the human being that followed it—were proven to be false” (Sobhani 2005, 45. Arabic source, translated).

It seems that Sheikh Jafar, may God guide him to the truth, loves to jest. He wrote, “Those are my fathers, so show me their likes,” without noticing that those “fathers”, as Sheikh Jafar called them, are physical ancestors that he undoubtedly shares with the biologist Charles Darwin. Therefore, if they are proven to be Darwin’s ancestors, then they are Jafar Sobhani’s ancestors, as well as the ancestors of every other human being on the earth. On the other hand, if they are not proven to be Sheikh Jafar Sobhani’s ancestors, or “fathers”, then they are definitely not Darwin’: either. Proving or disproving this is a matter of science that I doubt Sheikh Jafar and his fellow Shia authorities (marja) have the ability to delve into and discuss scientifically. This is especially true in view of the statement that Sheikh Jafar wrote about Darwin’s theory that is full of errors. He said that Charles Darwin published his book The Transformation of Species in 1908, but Darwin actually died in 1882, and he didn’t write a book titled The Transformation of Species. He did, however, wrote a book titled The Origin of Species, published in 1859, which did not deal with the origin of man. He addressed the origin of man and his relationship to the great apes in another book titled The Descent Of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex’. I truly do not know what to say. It is better for me to leave the reader to comment.Sayyid Ali Sistani

On the “About” page of the Center of Belief Researches Website that belongs to Sistani, and which represents the doctrinal front of the Supreme Shia Authority sponsored by him, it says:[2]

We find the Supreme Shia Authority of His Eminence, Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Husseini Sistani —may his life he prolonged—with its programs and projects, to he the most ideal model in this field to defend the Shia doctrine and to spread the knowledge of Ahl al-Bayt
pbut across the world.

The Center of Belief Researches is one of these blessed projects, as it was founded under the supervision and with the support of the Hujjat al~Islam [The Proof of Islam and Muslims] Jawad Shahristani.

The official opening coincided with the anniversary of the birth of Imam al-Ridha pbuh on the ninth of Dhu nl-Qidah [The 11th month of the Islamic Calendar], 1419 A.H. It was founded to defend the doctrine, to develop the correct concepts and to support the creed of Ahl Al-Bayt pbut through all of its various activities.

Out Center has decided to take on the task to stand against the secular doctrine and to rebut its claims. This is in response to the instruction issued by the supreme religious cleric, His Eminence, the Grand Ayatollah, Sayyid Ali Husseini Sistani—may his life be prolonged —regarding the necessity of this endeavor (Sistani 2011. Arabic source, translated).

The following was also mentioned on the website:

The opinions mentioned on the website of the Center of Belief Researches do not necessarily represent the opinion of His Eminence Sayyid Sistani (Sistani 2011. Arabic source, translated).

This means that they may represent his opinion, or they may not. The following is what I have found on Sistani’s ldeological website concerning this important issue. If this is not his opinion then he can deny it and state his opinion, otherwise the opinions are his and he is bound by this response.

From Sistani’s Center of Belief Researches website:

A question regarding the falsehood of the theory of evolution:

May the peace, mercy and blessings of God be upon you.

I would like to ask you about Darwin’s scientific theory of evolution and development, which states that living organisms have evolved from simpler ones. For example, animals have undergone mutations throughout time and have transformed into more complex beings. What do you think of this theory? Does it go against Islam? Does it apply to humans?
Thank you, and we ask God to protect you and to always help us learn what is beneficial from you.

Mustafa, America.

Answer:

Respectable brother Mustafa,

May the peace, mercy and blessings of God be upon you.

It has been scientifically proven that this theory is false. Perhaps the simplest thing refuting this theory is that, based on the calculation of probabilities, it would take millions of years for a simple cell to transform into a more complex one. This is the case for a single cell, so what would it be for one animal transforming into another?!! It would take billions of years, and this has been proven to be false. This is one way to refute this theory. There are other ways as well, and all of them make the theory of evolution unable to withstand scientific criticism.

Furthermore. in our Islamic doctrine, we have a clear opinion about how the creation of man began. The Holy Quran states it here as the Almighty says: ([He] Who who perfected everything He created, and began the creation of man from wet clay.) [The Prostration 32:7]. Thus, the creation of man began from wet day, and not from another animal as evolutionists say. The Almighty says: (He created man from dry clay that is like pottery.) The Abundantly Merciful’ 55:14. He also says: (And We created you, then We formed you, then We said to the angels, “Prostrate to Adam.” So they prostrated, except for Iblis, He was not of the prostrating ones) The Heights 7:11. And the Almighty says: (Indeed, We created them from sticky clay.) Those Who Set The Ranks 37:11. The Almighty also says: (And when you: Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I will create a human being from the dry clay of formed mud.  So, when I have fashioned him and breathed into him of My Spirit, then fall down to him, prostrating”) The Rocky Tract 15:[28-]29. In addition, there are narrations from the prophets and successors pbut that explain how Adam, the father of humankind, was created.

Therefore, the theory of evolution is incompatible with the above.

May you remain under the protection of God.

Abu Hussain commented on the above answer and said: “We hope that you elaborate and we are very grateful. May God help you to do good deeds.”

[The Center of Belief Researches then responded as follows]

Answer:

Honorable brother Abu Hussein,
May the peace, mercy and blessings of God be upon you.

Quoting from Thimar AI-Afkar [The Fruits of Thoughts] by Sheikh Ali Al-Korani Al—Amili, 354-357:

The theory of evolution contradicts many modern sciences  placing it in an unenviable position. One of these contradictions concerns physical facts… Here is this contradiction: The sun and other stars burn and emit tremendous amounts of thermal, radioactive and light energy into the depths of the universe. But this massive amount of energy cannot be expected to spontaneously return to the sun and other stars. If you leave anything for a certain period of time, it will quickly decay… If you leave a piece of meat out, or a piece of fruit or food, you can see that it spoils after a certain period of time and you have to take certain precautions to protect it from spoiling, like refrigerating it. However, this precautionary measure only helps for a certain period of time. If you abandon a house or a palace, it will deteriorate after some years  and so on 

Thus, everything is moving in one direction toward deterioration, decomposition and putrefaction. Entropy: in order for scientists to explain the concept of order and disorder in the universe or in any system, they use the term “entropy”. Entropy refers to the amount of disorder, which means the amount of energy that is of no benefit. The second law of thermodynamics is known as the law of increasing entropy. Professor F. Bush says, all spontaneous changes occur such that chaos in the universe increases. This is simply the format of the second law applied to the universe as a whole.’ The American scientist Isaac Asimov says, ‘According to our information, all changes and transformations are toward increasing entropy, and toward increasing disorder and increasing chaos, and toward destruction.’ In the same article, he goes into more detail about this topic saying, ‘Another way of stating the second law then is: ‘The universe is constantly getting more disorderly!’ Viewed that way, we can see the effect of the second law all about us. We have to work hard to organize a room, but left to itself it becomes a mess again very quickly and very easily. Even if we never enter it, it becomes dusty and musty. How difficult to maintain houses. and machinery, and our bodies in perfect working order; how easy to let them deteriorate. In fact, all we have to do is nothing, and everything deteriorates, collapses, breaks down, wears out, all by itself—and that is what the second law is all about.’

We can sum up the First and second law as follows. Evolution scientist Jeremy Rifling says about the second law: ‘Albert Einstein says, ‘[This law] is the fundamental law for all science,’ and Sir Arthur Eddington referred to it as ‘the metaphysical law for the entire universe.’ Therefore, this comprehensive law confirms that all transformations and changes that occur in the universe move toward entropy, which means toward increasing disorder, decomposition, and disintegration 

In other words, the universe is moving toward death, and physicists say: ‘The universe is moving toward heat death.’ That is because the transfer of heat from hot bodies (the stars) to cold bodies (planets and cosmic dust for instance) will stop one day, when the temperature of all bodies in the universe equalizes. ..

In this case, the transfer of heat between bodies stops, which means that all activity stops. This means the death of the universe. We can put both the hypotheses of evolution and physics together

We can put both the hypotheses of evolution and physics together on 3 single graph. From this, we will see that there is a complete contradiction between the two. The hypothesis of evolution says that changes and transformations occurring in our world and in the universe lead to increasing complexity and order, which means that evolution is continuing at an ever increasing rate.

As for physics, it says that all current changes and transformations in the universe (and in our world) lead to increasing entropy, which means increasing disorder, decomposition and disintegration.

This means that the universe is not moving toward something better hut is instead moving toward something worse, that is, toward death. It also means that there is no spontaneous process that leads to increasing order, complexity and composition.

This shows that time is a factor of annihilation, not construction. Despite this, all evolutionists resort to the issue of time to explain all the objections and difficulties facing the hypothesis of evolution. Therefore, when you rule out blind coincidence producing all of this order, complexity and beauty that fills the universe, they say: ‘But this did not happen in a million years, it happened in hundreds or thousands of millions of years!’ It is as if when they mention a long time period they think they are solving all difficulties and providing a solution for all the miracles that fill the universe!

This is ignorance. Rather, it is compound ignorance. We encourage those people to read physics books so they will know time—that they think is a factor of construction and development—is actually nothing but a factor of destruction, decomposition and disintegration! So, with which view should we side?! Should we stand by a hypothesis (or theory, at best) that has not yet seen proven to be true and is opposed by many scientists?! Or do we side with a scientific law that has been proven by thousands of laboratory experiments (each device used testifies to the validity of this law) and is accepted by all scientists without any exception?

Therefore, the hypothesis of evolution opposes science to its core.

Evolution toward something better cannot occur in a world that moves toward disintegration and destruction in all its activities, movements, and changes, so evolution is scientifically impossible:

(Nay, but We hurl the true against the false, and it destroys it and it vanishes. And woe to you from what you describe) “The Prophets 21:8.

May you remain under the protection of God (Sistani 2011).

Response: the above represents Sistani’s opinion and response regarding the theory of evolution, or at the very least a response that Sistani is satisfied with. So there is no problem with making its value and quality clear.

1. He said:

It has been scientifically proven that this theory is false. Perhaps the simplest thing refuting this theory is that, based on the calculation of probabilities, it would take millions of years for a simple cell to transform into a more complex one. This is the case for a single cell, so what would it be for one animal transforming into another?! It would take billions of years, and this has been proven to be false.

He states here that the theory of evolution has been proven to be scientifically false. I truly don’t know where that has ever happened!! Perhaps only in their delusions. In fact, this theory has been proven to be scientifically correct, especially due to the advancements achieved in genetic research. The theory of evolution is currently being taught in the schools of developed countries and in all well-established universities worldwide. In addition to that, many vaccines and medical treatments are being produced and developed based on the theory of evolution.

He then presented his scientific evidence that is essentially just superficial words that reveal the author’s ignorance of the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution does not state that a mutation will transform one species into another or one animal into another, nor does it state that there is a sudden emergence of complex organs, like an animal without eyes suddenly having eyes, such that a problem of mathematical probabilities could exist from this and stand in the way of the theory of evolution.

Actually, evolution occurs through a tremendous number of very slow steps, and since they are cumulative, there is no mathematical problem with the probability of each of the evolutionary steps occurring individually. Moreover, the probability of each one following the previous one is very high due to variation, reproduction and natural selection being present along the course of this path. And if all three of these are present, evolution is definitely present as well. This is a scientific fact denied only by people who do not understand variation, reproduction and selection, and what these three terms mean. I advise Sayyid Sistani and the Center of Belief Researches to read what evolutionary scientists have written so that they might understand the theory of evolution before issuing such statements that only demonstrate their ignorance of the theory and its mechanisms.

2. Their quoting of ambiguous Quranic verses in order to refute a proven scientific theory has no scientific value for biologists, and it doesn’t have any religious value either. None of these verses conclusively oppose the theory of evolution so that someone could say, for example, that religion and evolution cannot both be simultaneously true. Their statement that the creation of man began with wet clay, and their use of Quranic verses regarding this, can be refuted simply by saying that these verses pertain to the creation of the soul. The wet clay creation occurred in heaven as stated by the same Quranic verses that mention the story of creation, and this was mentioned in religious accounts as well. Heaven is a world of souls, not a physical, material world like this one, as we shall explain later, God willing. Another response is that the creation of man began when God created the first genetic plans, or the first replicable protein, because this protein was created from the chemical substances available on this earth, in its dust, or from dry clay particles. Thus, it is true that God has created man from wet clay, dust, dry clay, and earth, because the human being is the purpose of creation that is intended to be reached. Therefore, the verses about the creation of Adam from wet clay and dust can be understood to be in complete agreement with evolution. We also find other verses that clearly support the theory of evolution. The Almighty said:

«(While He has created you in stages . Do you not see how God has created the seven heavens in layers. And made the moon a light therein and made the sun a burning lamp? And God has caused you to grow from the earth as a plant} Quran Chapter “Noah” 71:14—17

The verses are clear: “He has created you in stages …And God has caused you to grow from the earth as a plant.” A detailed explanation of these verses will come later.

3. The summation of what they quote from Korani’s book is that entropy requires complex systems to move toward collapse, and that the universe as a whole is moving in this direction, so then the earth and all that it encompasses is moving in this direction as well. According to them, there is relapse and regression, rather than evolution. They  conclude:

Therefore, the hypothesis of evolution opposes science to its core.  Evolution toward something better cannot occur in a world that  moves toward disintegration and destruction in all its activities,  movements, and changes, so evolution is scientifically impossible:  (Nay, but We hurl the true against the false, and it destroys it and it  vanishes. And woe to you from what you describe.) 21:18.

In fact, this argument was first raised by Dr. Henry Morris[3], who said  that the second law of thermodynamics states that everything tends toward disorder, making the process of evolution impossible (Morris 1974).’  The fundamentalist Christians in the United States and Europe  exploited this argument in order to respond to the theory of evolution.  Some Arabs also rehashed this argument after it was translated and  an associate of Korani’s had relayed it. If only he had left it as it was,  but instead he added words to it that reveal complete ignorance. In  the end, Korani snatched it and put it in his book. The Belief website  belonging to Sistani then took it from Korani and adopted it as fact  and evidence that refutes the theory of evolution.

Generally speaking, the argument above is oversimplified, and it  is scientifically incomplete and incorrect. It will be shown later that observational findings that are now widely accepted by science have  demonstrated that the universe is flat, open, and expanding at an accelerating rate. Nevertheless, let us drop to their level and assume  that the physical universe is a closed system to which the second law  of thermodynamics applies—since entropy does not decrease within a  closed system—and let us assume that entropy is increasing in the universe. This does not mean that every part of the universe is moving in  a direction of increased entropy. It is possible for parts of the universe  (that we have assumed to be a closed system), such as the earth, to  head toward a more orderly state, at times, as long as it is balanced by  other parts heading toward increased entropy. What is key is that the  system as a whole does not violate the second law of thermodynamics.  This reveals that their argument is built on a weak foundation and a  superficial understanding of the second law of thermodynamics.

Also, the earth itself is not a closed system. There is actually more  than one energy exchange system existing within it, as well systems exchanging with it, as the sun gives heat and light to the earth. Parts of  the earth experience night and day successively, dividing it into several  systems that make it go through a variable and continuous process of  heat exchange. This is due to the existence of multiple systems, rather  than just one system. In addition to this, because the earth’s core is  hot and consists of magma, there are unorganized processes of energy  exchange between the core, crust and atmosphere of the earth.

Likewise, the space encompassing the earth is also a system, and  heat exchange occurs between this space and the earth.

The moon’s gravity also affects the earth, and this effect even  changes over time because the moon is continuously moving further  from the earth. [4]  Therefore, based on the earth’s conditions as described above, the  law of thermodynamics for two systems would be that the total entropy of those two systems will not decrease when heat exchange occurs between them. So increasing order on earth is possible due to  the energy exchange between the earth and the surrounding universe.  Similarly, increasing order in only some parts of the earth is also possible since several systems exchange energy with each other. What  matters is that the total entropy of both the systems—not just the  one—doesn’t decrease.

The earth itself is neither a closed system nor a single system, but  rather it is comprised of multiple systems. There is no problem with entropy increasing in one place on the earth and decreasing in another, nor is there a problem with the deterioration of life, demolition,  earthquakes and floods occurring in one place on the earth, while at  the same time construction, growth and the flourishing of life occur in another. This is something we witness every day, and it does not  violate the second law of thermodynamics.

Furthermore, the fact that the universe has not headed toward collapse in the past or present is a topic that has been settled. It has been  scientifically proven-by observing a type of supernova, cosmic back  ground radiation, and the Doppler effect—that the universe is flat, and that its expansion is accelerating, and that this will continue for a long time to come. We will address this issue later when we discuss  dark energy.  I believe that my explanation of entropy and the second law of  thermodynamics is sufficient to rebut the prior simplistic argument.  But to make it even more clear, let’s leave entropy and go to the conclusion that they depend on, that the universe has moved, and is still  moving, toward disintegration, decay, and collapse. This is incorrect.

In fact, it is actually the complete opposite. According to observations  and precise astronomical monitoring, taking into account the Doppler  effect, cosmic background radiation, and supernova observations, it  has been clearly proven that the velocity at which galaxies are moving  away from each other is accelerating. The material universe in which  we live has been, and still is, expanding, multiplying and being added  to. Even the galaxy that we live in still contains clouds of gas and dust  that bring about the formation and birth of new stars, and this will  continue for a long time to come. This scientific fact, proven beyond  doubt, is enough to refute what Korani claimed in his book.  In addition, according to the standard model, or the big bang theory, the universe did not begin as a compound, complex universe, but  rather began as a point of singularity, or quantum event, as proven by  scientific evidence such as the divergence of galaxies, and the cooling  of the universe over time. Then the big bang occurred, and matter  began to gradually form. It is clear that the universe is still young, still  expanding, and still being added to. According to precise scientific  calculations that depend on accurate observations, the universe is not  currently heading toward collapse, nor has it done so in the past, but is  being added to and expanding.

Even if we assume that the universe has a positive curvature, like  the surface of a ball rather than being flat, and will eventually head toward contraction and collapse, it wouldn’t be scientifically possible  until the universe reaches its maximum expansion point, then heads toward contraction and collapse when the positive energy within the  universe—the energy pushing it to expand—is unable to resist the gravity of matter.  The universe hasn’t reached the maximum possible expansion  point. Actually, its rate of expansion is accelerating.

Therefore, their claim that the universe has been, and still is, heading toward collapse, based on the second law of thermodynamics, is  scientifically incorrect. It is also inconsistent with the facts provided  by accurate astronomical observations and mathematical scientific  calculations. What’s more, according to the Doppler effect and the  presence of cosmic background radiation, the universe is not currently heading toward collapse. And it did not begin as a complex, compound  universe, then head toward decrease and collapse. On the contrary, it  began as a simple universe, then headed toward augmentation, structure, and complexity, and it continues on this course now.

If we apply what has happened, and what is still happening, in  the universe as a whole—just as Korani, his associate, Sistani, and his  center wanted us to do—considering that it started out from zero, then  was augmented to include the earth and its inhabitants, then the idea  of evolution on the earth, and the trend of life or organisms toward  multiplicity and additional structure and complexity isn’t a problem.

It actually completely corresponds with the general course of the uni-  verse, past and present, toward expansion and multiplication. Even though I responded with the above answer, and I demonstrated the mistake that Korani made in his book, and that was presented by Sistani on his ideological website, and I have shown that the  universe was, and still is, adding and expanding, and this will continue for a long time to come, it would have been enough to say to them that  growth, being added to, multiplication, and movement from simplicity to complexity and multiplicity, and toward an optimal state and improvement, are occurrences that we see every day in life on the earth.

So if evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics, then the  growth and multiplication of plants violates it as Well. And if evolution isn’t possible for this reason, then the growth and multiplication  of plants isn’t possible either.  A plant starts as a seed—genetic plans—that then grows and is  augmented with the passing of time. This applies to the growth of the  fetus and the baby animal as well. There is no difference between the  growth of a fetus, plant, or child, and evolution. They all demonstrate multiplication, augmentation, and a trend from simplicity to complexity over time. If evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics—as they claim—then the growth of fetuses, plants, and children  violates the law as well, yet we see fetuses, plants, and children grow,  augment, and multiply.

Note: I do not know how Korani, Sistani and his “Belief Center”-  all having adopted the statements above—can make physics an axis on  the graph that they mentioned. In fact, it is the first time I have heard that physics, with all that it is, can even be an axis on such a graph. I hope they don’ t keep their genius all to themselves. I hope they send  this graph to well-established universities around the world so these establishments can learn how physics can be an axis on a graph like that in order to share the benefit. If they don’t know what physics is,  then there is no problem with giving them a simple definition. Physics  is the branch of science that deals with the behavior of matter, energy,  and dimensions (such as the three spatial dimensions and the dimension of time), as well as the interactions and associations between them  and the laws that connect them.  I am not ridiculing those people and the ignorance that they have  presented, because we have too much on our plate to be concerned  with ridiculing anyone. I only wish to draw the attention of the deceived and oppressed followers of Ah] al-Bayt to the great lengths  these people will go to in order to do what they do best: shamelessly  preach without knowledge.

This is the reason why any believer, who believes in Muhammad  and the progeny of Muhammad pbut, and who fears for their faith and  their hereafter, should not trust such people to make a decision regarding their hereafter for them.


[1] Shaikh Jafar Sobhani, born in 1929, is a Shia Scholar who received his education at the Islamic Seminary in Qum. He established the Imam Sadiq Institute in Iran and has written several books on the Islamic sciences.

[2] “About” page,The Center for Doctrinal Research Website. (1433 AH /2011).
[3] Henry Morris (1918-2006) was a professor of civil engineering and a practicing  American Christian. He was also the president of the Institute for Creation Research  and he published a number of scientific and religious books.
[4] The moon is distancing from the earth at a rate of about 3.8 centimeters per year  (NASA, Accuracy of Eclipse Predictions, 1994)
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