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Evolution and karma

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  • Evolution and karma

    Dear venerables
    I read something on an emerging understanding of a factor of evolution called epigenetics. It describes among other things how actions in a physical body can cause genes to express in such a way it has an impact on future generations.

    So as I understand it, if these theories are right giraffes come by their long neck not just by natural selection but also because of their desire for food and an intention and habit to reach up to get food all the time generation after generation causes the physical form of the species to change.

    is there anything in the suttas that would talk about the physical body forming because of intentions of past generations ? It sounds like karma but my understanding is karma is based on the mind of just the individual,

    Thank you . .

  • #2
    Dear Erin,

    Epigenetics is a fascinating new science. There have been some wild claims, and some intriguing possibilities. I'm a bit of a nerd so I do read the science news from time to time. For those who don't know what epigenetics is, here's a wiki page for you.

    The stretchy action leading to long neck theory dates back to Lamark. Most dyed in the wool geneticists would argue virulently against this kind of theory, but there is some interesting evidence that shows classical evolution is incomplete.

    Now, bodies forming because of intention. In terms of Dhamma, the intention of your past lives will indeed determine your body, heavenly or human, animal, ghost or hellish. But what you seem to be asking is whether the intention of your genetic ancestors determines your body. According to epigenetic theory yes. In terms of Dhamma as spoken by the Buddha, I can't recall any such teaching.

    In any case, thank you for your interesting question.

    With metta,

    Bhante J.R.


    • #3
      Dear bhante
      Thank you for your answer. That was what i meant. Epigenetics just sounds similar to the some ideas in eastern philosophy. I is a nerd too, I think thats why I like Buddhisim, its a good fit!

      i first read about epigenetics in time magazine. You may enjoy the article,00.html

      On page 3 they mention Lamark and his work. I enjoyed the comment that these theories have been derided by Darwinists but they now are quietly admitting they might have been wrong.

      When I read Dawkins and other scientists books it always strikes me how they seem so similar to the christians that they are trying to argue with, both have such closed minds and rigid beliefs.



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