The Descent of Man


The latest L’Oreal TV ad goes like this: A beautiful female model pouts, “I believe in science, I don’t believe in miracles.” It’s a statement of faith. Odd, as they have a product called Revitalift Miracle Blur. So I don’t think L’Oreal know quite what they think.

When you look at the wonder of the seamless universe of vast infinite space and the enormous galaxies and suns around which planets orbit effortlessly and on whose surface vast lands, mountains and oceans contain unending varieties of teeming vegetable, animal and aquatic  life concealing subatomic worlds mirroring the outer worlds in which tender mercy is manifest every moment every time new life is born and nourished and in which men and women of knowledge and intellect contemplate and worship, openly and in secret, the incomprehensible power of its creator and sustainer…don’t you just groan when scientists reduce it all to a two dimensional TV programme with the inevitable catechism…”but science tells us…”…!! Thank you Professor Brian Cox.

One scholar rightly describes this as the tyranny of modern empirical science in which the wonders of life and the universe, of cosmology, mathematics, astronomy, biology, zoology, physics and chemistry and so on, are reduced to a random accident in some kind of primordial deadly molecular olympic games of survival of the species. Where is the awe? Where is the wonder? Where is the humility? Where is the truth?

CERN, the 28km diameter hadron collider is the way that the modern scientific mind approaches the mysteries of the universe. Smash it to pieces and see what it tells us and squander a vast fortune in the process. Almost a metaphor of how modern man deals with the feared unknown –i.e. blow it to pieces. Rather like the Manhattan project when an atomic bomb was first exploded at Los Alamos in New Mexico in 1943, they didn’t really know what would happen but they just had to do it. I’m not diminishing what the incisive scientific mind can discover and intellectual brilliance when it produces some good, but sorry, it is not the same as the great spiritual adepts of history, who tasted and experienced realities and knowledges that the scientists of this time couldn’t begin to imagine. Nor did their knowledge unleash destructive technologies on the scale of the industrial world that we all know. Anything not visible or ascertained by scientific method is written off as hokum and non-existent….which is hardly scientific if you think about it. Which allows them to posit anything they feel like. But then science has raised itself to quasi-religious status nowadays which no-one is allowed to challenge, which I don’t think was the intention of the enquiring minds of the renaissance. Scientists, from their scientific institutions, with their pulpit of BBC science programmes, hand down their interpretation of reality to the masses as religious doctrine — and often aired on Sundays appropriately. Anything of a religious nature is presented as a superstitious fiction if mentioned at all.

I am currently reading Rupert Sheldrake’s excellent book, The Science Delusion, which puts some some flesh on these ideas and supplies the history of how science made itself into a religion. It’s a factual and rational explanation of how materialism has come about and how people like the atheist evangelist high priest Prof. Richard Dawkins have reduced existence to its lowest common denominator…molecules. The trope Sheldrake uses to debunk Dawkins is of someone grinding a computer down to dust and then trying to discover what that sophisticated machine was in the first place by analysing the raw materials. I’m only a little way into the book and it looks promising, though Sheldrake is a microbiologist himself and sees things from a trained scientist viewpoint. To him, there just seems too much that modern science cannot explain. Too much of how but not enough why. Since the time of Sir Francis Bacon in the 17th century the science establishment has seen itself as an augury of a future world in which scientists controlled, understood and guided everything in the world like high priests and it’s pretty much what has happened.

Underpinning this notion that everything is progressing to some future utopia is the Darwinian idea of endless evolution in which might is right and the only deserving beings are the ones who can destroy the competition and survive. The shocking subtitle of Darwin’s famous treatise the Origin of the Species was “or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” Already a kind of racism had crept into the scientists’ theology and maybe how and why Darwin’s ideas were at the root of the Nazis’ Third Reich philosophy and probably all racist doctrines. This idea is symbolised by the drawing – pinned on many a school room wall and which has brainwashed generations – of man evolving from an ape into man. (and then in this example below descending into a manual worker with a road drill and finally a computer operator – quite a telling and pessimistic conclusion really)


Many have written that technology is the next phase of evolution. This is delusionary in my view. I want to suggest a different idea from the ascent of man concept. It’s called the descent of man…here it is below (excuse my drawing which I will improve on dv). This idea is well substantiated in both Quran and Prophetic Traditions and is self-explanatory and makes much more sense to me. Without going too deeply into it here, so-called  progress and technological innovations were merely a crutch which replaced what were God given faculties and skills. I’m not talking of craft tools and so on but things like mechanisation, printing, radio, television, smart phones!….modernity in other words, which Tim Winter describes as “what filled the hole that came with the loss of religion.”The Descent of ManI also want to suggest a much simpler approach to Professor Sheldrake, whose book is as far as I have got, spot on, but which I believe will leave a big question mark by its end. That is, if you begin with a premise that all knowledge is with the Divinity who created it and then work backwards you will arrive at something true. i.e. from revelation. The Dawkins approach is like groveling around in the primeval swamp by comparison and clearly mistaken like an insect trying to weave a beautiful carpet. Don’t doubt this approach before giving it a whirl, but explore where it leads. All your queries will be answered, you will be surprised. What is required is not a Hadron collider to smash matter apart and to find a ‘god particle’ (the word matter comes from the word mother incidentally) but what will smash this illusion of the self, the great idol. With professor Sheldrake’s timely book we can now understand the delusions of science but not yet see our own delusions and the great illusion of perceived metaphorical reality which all of us humans are saddled with. •

About Ian Whiteman

This entry was posted in language, miscellaneous, religion, sacred knowledge, science, tassawuf, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Descent of Man

  1. Zhaki says:

    Reblogged this on Writer's Blog and commented:
    What is required is not a Hadron collider to smash matter apart and to find a ‘god particle’ (the word matter comes from the word mother incidentally) but what will smash this illusion of the self, the great idol.

  2. Imran says:

    Dear Sidi Ian, Assalamu alaikum. Whenever I look at your designs for book covers, I can’t help but think how beautiful and appropriate they are. I don’t know how you do it. May God bless you and increase you.

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