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Wherever complex design exists, there must have been a designer; nature is complex; therefore nature must have had an intelligent designer. – Thomas Aquinas

Creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science. – The United States National Academy of Sciences

Come, let us scatter these roses, let us pour out this wine, Let us split the roof of Heaven and draw a new design. – Hafiz

For quite some time, ever since Darwin first proposed the theory of evolution in 1859, we’ve witnessed the ongoing and sometimes rancorous debate between those who believe in evolution—the Darwinists—and those who believe in creationism or “intelligent design.” That loud and often vociferous argument has raged for almost two hundred years, in one form or another.

Here’s a shorthand summary: the creationists, typically, attribute the beginnings of life to an omnipotent, miraculous God; while the Darwinists say life began as the result of chemical processes in the “primordial soup” of seawater that existed on Earth four billion years ago. Most people might be surprised to learn that neither group has any actual verifiable proof for their theories, since science has not unlocked the mystery of the origin of living beings, and “intelligent design” makes its arguments from a primarily religious point of view, saying that an omnipotent God intervenes in the evolutionary process to produce life.

Since the Baha’i teachings advocate the essential harmony of science and religion, Baha’is take a different approach. The Baha’i answer to this big question forges a third path, a scientific view of theistic evolution that fits more closely with Darwin’s idea of natural selection and the law of cause and effect. Darwin wrote that all living things evolved from “one primordial form, into which life was first breathed by the Creator.” The Baha’i teachings take a very similar but more nuanced approach, first by ruling out accidental and involuntary composition:

…the materialists are of the opinion that life is the mere conjoining of elemental substances into myriad forms and shapes. The materialist comes to the conclusion that life, in other words, means composition; that wherever we find single elements combined in aggregate form, there we behold the phenomena of organic life; that every organic composition is organic life. Now if life means composition of elements, then the materialist may come to the conclusion of the non-necessity of a composer, the non-necessity of a creator; for composition is all there is to it, and that is accomplished by adhesion or cohesion. In response to this we say that composition must needs be of three kinds: One form of composition is termed philosophically the accidental, another the involuntary, and a third the voluntary. As to the first, or accidental, composition: This would signify that certain elements through inherent qualities and powers of attraction or affinity have been gathered together, have blended, and so composed a certain form, being or organism. This can be proven to be false; for composition is an effect, and philosophically no effect is conceivable without causation. No effect can be conceived of without some primal cause. For example, this heat is an effect; but that energy which gives forth this phenomenon of heat is the cause. This light is an effect, but back of it is the energy which is the cause. Is it possible for this light to be separated from the energy whereof it is a property? That is impossible and inconceivable. It is self-evidently false. Accidental composition is, therefore, a false theory and may be excluded. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 423-424.

Contemporary science definitely agrees with this analysis. As far as we know no accidental composition has ever produced life; and every laboratory experiment designed to replicate accidental composition has failed to do so, as well. The chances of such accidental composition happening, theoretical mathematicians have calculated, are so enormous as to be virtually impossible.

But couldn’t life initially form, many scientists and creationists have asked, in an involuntary rather than an accidental way? Couldn’t the requisite elements for the creation of life have a natural affinity for one another, and combine in Darwin’s “primordial soup” to produce life? Both modern science and the Baha’i teachings rule out this possibility, as well:

As to the second form of composition — involuntary: This means that each element has within itself as an inherent property the power of composition. For example, the inherent quality of fire is burning, or heat; heat is a property of fire. Humidity is the inherent nature or property of water. You cannot conceive H2O, which is the chemical form of water, without having humidity associated; for that is an inherent quality of water. The power of attraction has as its function attractive, or magnetic, qualities. We cannot separate attraction from that power. The power of repulsion has as its function repelling — sending off. You cannot separate the effect from the cause. If these premises be true — and they are self-evident — then it would be impossible for a composite being, for the elements which have gone into the makeup of a composite organism, ever to be decomposed because the inherent nature of each element would be to hold fast together. As fire cannot be separated from heat, likewise the elemental being could not be subjected to decomposition, and this does not hold true because we see decomposition everywhere. Hence this theory is untrue, inasmuch as we observe that after each composition there is a process of decomposition which forever ends it. By this we learn that composition as regards phenomena is neither accidental nor involuntary. – Ibid., p. 424.

By logically ruling out both accidental and involuntary composition, the Baha’i teachings say, only voluntary composition becomes possible. In the final essay in this series, we’ll look at voluntary composition and try to understand what it means.

Next: The Case for God and Creation

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