Review: Nature’s IQ

456-9Istvan Tasi and Balaz Hornyansky, Nature’s IQ, Badger: Torchlight, 2009.

Reviewed by Gaura-vijaya dasa

Nature’s IQ is the first book about evolution released by practitioners of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Its publication coincided with the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin. As with many other religious approaches to the subject, the authors attempt to point out deficiencies in evolutionist explanations, specifically with regard to animal instincts. The approach is somewhat unique in that it limits the discussion to several complex mechanisms related to animal instinct, whereas many similar books in the past have tried to debunk evolution on any and all fronts—often at the price of clarity, focus, and authority. Tasi and Hornyansky do well by restricting their scope. The two hundred color photos in the book are illustrative and highlight aspects of nature that we are unable to completely understand and trace the origins of. One’s appreciation for the intricate structures in nature is enhanced by this presentation, and it can help one marvel at the beauty of nature’s creation.

Despite these positive features, there are some clear limitations in the text as well. First, the book is not clear about the audience it seeks to address: is the book meant to be a book of science or a book of philosophy, or both? Is it addressed to Gaudiyas only? Secondly, honest evolutionists admit that there are many things in nature that cannot be explained completely by basic Darwinian evolution, and they keep on adding new details into the basic structure to match the new empirical evidence. Apart from the basic evolutional mechanisms involving random mutations, genetic drift, and natural selection, new details (like epigenetic transmission of traits in species) have been introduced in recent times to account for complex behaviors. Any comprehensive address of evolution must include such additions. Even Michael Behe, one of the founders of the Intelligent Design theory, has conceded some ground to evolutionary theory in his new book, The Edge of Evolution.

The problem most scientists have with attempts to discredit evolutionary theory by books similar to Nature’s IQ is that while they do some good work in critiquing the existing explanations, they do not provide an alternative theory that can be tested according to the scientific method of empirical validation. And despite its intentions and some unique angles, Nature’s IQ’s basic premise is similar to all other attacks on evolutionary theory (i.e. complexity cannot be random) and therefore does not offer anything more for the scientific method to grab on to.

Some elements of the text just seem completely out of place. The book mentions that the jiva, or individual soul, leaves the spiritual world out of curiosity and the creation of material world follows from this reason. This theory is not accepted by most of the theistic Vedic sects and it is not clear to me how this theory can be taught as a science to the general public.

The authors argue that biblical creationism, intelligent design, and the Vedic creation theory outlined in the book should be taught to biologists and high school students as an alternative to evolution, but I am not sure these theories can be taught in a science class because they do not present a clear hypothesis that can be empirically validated. For example, verifying that Kasyapa Rishi populated the earth with various species of life under the direction of Brahma seems highly unlikely. It is very difficult to accommodate an unknown supernatural power—which is described differently by different religions—in a statistical validation test. That is why science leans towards the philosophy of naturalism, which helps them generate hypotheses that can be easily subjected to empirical tests. This does not mean that explanations given by Vedic or biblical scriptures are incorrect. They just cannot be subject to scientific testing. The scientific method in no way gives us absolute answers to origins in life; it is a particular approach to studying nature, but what nature is in itself will remain a mystery to science.

Ultimately, Nature’s IQ fails to clarify how its conclusion supports its objective: to bring out a new scientific theory that can replace evolutionary theory. While the introduction and conclusion are not tied together coherently, the middle portion of the book is the best, wherein the authors do a wonderful job of compiling captivating pictures and describing intricate and complex animal behavior prevalent in nature. If nothing else I think this middle portion makes Nature’s IQ a worthy purchase.

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6 Responses to Review: Nature’s IQ

  1. Is this site about Bhakti-yoga or mundane prajalpa?
    Would Srila Prabhupada approve of this topic?

    Playing up to mundane people with mundane topics will never advance the Bhakti movement.

    If you can’t keep this web site on topic and Krishna consciousness, I will just delete the link and stop wasting my time on this web site.

    Mundane book reviews have nothing to do with Krishna consciousness.

    • I do not know if you read the first line of the article, but the book is written by two devotees. You do not think the first attempt by Gaudiyas at a scientific book addressing evolution is relevant? Srila PRabhupada would certainly approve of such a book, and if it were not up to par, I would think he would approve of its critique.

      What websites you visit is your choice, but threatening to delete your bookmark is unlikely to change the editorial policy. Have you ever read the “About” page??

      The beauty (and detriment) of the web is that anyone can have a voice. You are free to start your own site for advancing the bhakti movement (assuming you do not consider your current site to be doing just that).

    • If our interface with the modern world is to be relevant and genuine then it behooves us to be familiar enough with current trends of thought that we can enter into intelligent discussion on them. Otherwise all we are left with is cultish commentary on and fundamentalist bashing of all that is “not spiritual” in the name of propagating the One True Gospel of Sri Caitanya. In my opinion if we are interested in Gaudiya Vaisnavism being recognized by people of discrimination as the subtle and beautiful path that it is then we have to do better than that.

    • Krishna consciousness is an attitude and emotional state, not just a content. Any topic can be approached with Krishna in mind. He is after all meant to be the absolute is he not? The way you talk about it makes it sound very narrow and limited. There is no need to threaten departure, just be flexible in content and approach with a devotional attitude.

  2. Here is what Druta Karma das has written about the book:

    The authors of Nature’s IQ give us good reasons to no longer accept Darwinian theories as actual explanations. They demonstrate to us that truly scientific explanations have not been given, and that in principle they cannot be given.
    — Michael A. Cremo, Co-Author Forbidden Archeology – The Hidden History of The Human Race

    The philosophy of the Goswamis’ includes discussion of the nature of nature. But I think that Gaura-vijaya’s review puts this devotee-authored book on this topic in perspective. It has interesting content but . . . . Too bad.

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