Editor of Awake (Magazine)
I am writing to protest your Awake Magazine article, “The origin of life – five questions worth asking”, dated January, 2015″, in which you have misquoted me by taking half a sentence out of context from my article on evolution. Contrary to what you imply, I do not support a creationist view, nor do I suggest that even a minority of scientists support such a view. Anyone who reads my article can see that I fully support the theory of evolution (Singh 2011).
In my article, I follow the paragraph from which you have misquoted me with material showing why the facts of evolution are hard to comprehend for many people. My article is meant for people who want to understand evolution but who do not have the expertise to do so, not for creationists like you who oppose evolution on religious grounds.
Your misquotation amounts to intellectual dishonesty and reflects on your character and dignity as editor as well as a man of God. I can understand that you do not accept evolution as an explanation for the biodiversity on this planet, but I cannot understand why you would knowingly misuse a scientist’s work to make him appear supporting the creationist point of view.
I have received inquiries from many evolutionists, atheists and former members of your organization (ex-JW) who brought the above misquotation to my attention. I agree with them that your misquotation of my work is deliberate and meant to convince your followers in the truth of creationism by perpetuating false support from scientists.
So I am asking you first to remove the misquotation from your article immediately and second print an unconditional apology for what I consider is a deliberate damaging action on your part to my reputation.
The goal of religion is to seek truth, to remove ignorance and fear, not to perpetuate myths and lies. As a man of religion you may have the need for God and as a man of science I may not. But we both should be on the same side when it comes to the pursuit of truth. Believers need truth as much as non-believers do.
If I may suggest, as an organization you should stop wasting your time in perpetuating lies against evolution. Religion and science need each other. As Einstein remarked, religion is lame without science, and science is blind without religion. Religion and science are both driven by reason but they operate in different domains. Religion seeks absolute truth, science proceeds through incremental steps. Religion is the reason to keep science marching.
The Catholic Church and its leaders, including Pope Pius XII, Pope John Paul II, and most recently Pope Francis, have albeit slowly but progressively accepted evolution and do not see conflict between religion and science. God is not a magician, as Pope Francis said, and it’s insulting to human intelligence to put everything at God’s door. Jehovah’s Witnesses should feel liberated in supporting evolution as it would free you from proselytizing false doctrine and allow you to dig deeper into the meaning and the mystery of life.
Accepting evolution does not bar you from believing in God and vice versa. This is exactly what many Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains do. All these religions came from the same trunk and yet Buddhism and Jainism were atheistic in their origins. Hindus’ theory of reincarnation making God progressively appear in the different eons in the form of fish, turtle, boar, lion, a small man, a full man, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and the future Kalki, represent an evolutionary ladder in higher organisms. According to Hindu texts, there are 8.4 million life forms (yoni/species) and the life (jiv) in all of them comes from the same source, implying a common origin. The literal theory of rebirth meaning life going through all 8.4 million life forms is obviously an evolutionary progression up the ladder if life. Hindus have no problem with believing in evolution and God at the same time.
Furthermore, not believing in religion and God does not mean that one has no interest in the origin and evolution of the universe and in the bigger questions of life. Atheists do not believe in organized religions or faiths, but atheists are as much interested in the bigger questions life and death as you are. Atheists too can be loving and kind. Let me give you an example:
“When Gandhi was developing his non-violent struggle movement for the freedom of India, he was also mounting a campaign against the social ills of the Indian society such as untouchability, child marriage, marriage dowry, women’s disempowerment, religious disharmony, etc. A social activist, by the nickname Gora, a Brahman from the State of Andhra, was doing similar social work with like-minded activists in his home area. The interesting thing is that while they were both doing social activists, Gandhi was a man of faith, a living faith, Mr. Gora was an Atheist. Gora loved Gandhi’s philosophy and wanted to meet with him. It took a while but finally he got his chance and Gandhi invited Gora and his group to his Ashram and gave them duties. Gandhi was interested in knowing how can a man as Gora show so much love and affection and do to so much good social work and still be an Atheist. Over the weeks the group was there Gandhi would take them, one at a time, to walk and ask them about their work and life. Finally one day Gandhi sat down and asked Gora why he was an Atheist. Gora broke into a long monologue summarizing the damage done to the country by the long held social and cultural practices of the religious organizations. Gandhi listened to all Gora had to say and then asked him: How can you do all this good work and still be an Atheist to which Gora replied: “Father, I am an Atheist, I am not godless (Singh 2009).” Religion cannot survive without reason, but blind faith can. A literal belief in the sacred texts is bound to put religion against reason. What are contained in the sacred books may be words of God, but these words were heard and put together by mere humans who are prone to err. It’s contrary to common sense to assume that what’s put in the sacred books by our great ancestors and religious leaders must necessarily be truth and nothing but truth. We must inquire and as St. Augustine said, reason must prevail over religion.
The sacred books guide us to seeking truth. Blind (unquestioning) faith in God can be a source of personal strength to some but it can never be a substitute for dialogues, discussions and engagements among fellow beings.
The world has changed and so should religion. A religion that does not change and adapt with time is doomed to become irrelevant. Rescuing religion from irrelevance is the dominant problem of today. Your organization has a large following and you can use them constructively to bring science and religion together. The great enterprise of science and religion is too important and too interdependent to be driven by a religious manual. Your love of God need not blind your reason.
In closing, I say to you what I say to my students: To understand other subjects you need to study them; to understand evolution you need to study and meditate on it.
Department of Biology
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Singh, R.S. (2009). Atheists too can be loving and kind. Hamilton
Spectator, July 23, 2013.
Singh, R.S. (2011). Darwin’s legacy: why biology is not physics, or why
evolution has not become a common sense? Genome 54: 1-6.
Rama S Singh <email@example.com>