LIFE COMES FROM LIFE
Srila Prabhupada's startling challenge to the modern
scientific theory of the origin of life and the universe.
The First Morning Walk April 18, 1973
The Second Morning Walk April 19, 1973
The Third Morning Walk April 28, 1973
The Fourth Morning Walk April, 29, 1973
The Fifth Morning Walk May 3, 1973
The Sixth Morning Walk May 7, 1973
The Seventh Morning Walk May 8, 1973
The Eighth Morning Walk May 11, 1973
The Ninth Morning Walk May 13, 1973
The Tenth Morning Walk May 14, 1973
The Eleventh Morning Walk May 15, 1973
The Twelfth Morning Walk May 17, 1973
The Thirteenth Walk December 2, 1973
The Fourteenth Walk December 3, 1973
The Fifteenth Morning Walk December 7, 1973
The Sixteenth Morning Walk December 10, 1973
Life Comes From Life - Verse Notes
Dr. T.D. Singh [Bhakti-svarupa Damodara Maharaja]
Srila Prabhupada: First of all, you have to establish that life is not from matter. Matter is from life...
Srila Prabhupada: Then what is his explanation for how the process of evolution began?
Karandhara: Modern proponents of Darwinism say that the first living organism was created chemically.
Srila Prabhupada: And I say to them, "If life originated from chemicals, and if your science is so advanced, then why can't you create life biochemically in your laboratories?"
Srila Prabhupada: Scientists have helped to minimize the duration of life! Formerly men lived one hundred years; now they seldom live more than sixty or seventy years. And the scientists have discovered atomic energy; now they can kill millions of men. So they have helped only in dying. They have not helped in living, and still they dare to declare that they will create.
Srila Prabhupāda's morning walk with
Dr. T.D. Singh (Bhakti-svarupa Damodara Maharaja)
For people who have come to accept every pronouncement of modern scientists as tested and proven truth, this book will be an eye-opener. Life Comes From Life is an impromptu but brilliant critique of some of the dominant policies, theories and presuppositions of modern science and scientists by one of the greatest philosophers and scholars of the century, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada's vivid analysis uncovers the hidden and blatantly unfounded assumptions that underlie currently fashionable doctrines concerning the origins and purpose of life.
This book is based on taped morning-walk conversations that Srila Prabhupada had with some of his disciples during 1973, in the Los Angeles area. On those mornings when he focused on science, Srila Prabhupada spoke mainly with his disciple Thoudam D. Singh, Ph.D. An organic chemist, Dr. Singh presently directs the Bhaktivedanta Institute, an international center for advanced study and research in science, philosophy and theology.
Each day, wherever in the world he happened to be, Srila Prabhupada would go out for a lengthy stroll in the chill quietude of the early morning, and cloaked in a warm wrap, he would share intimate moments with a small group of students, disciples and special guests. Some mornings found him immersed in contemplation or quiet appreciation of the surroundings, and little dialogue emerged. At other times he spoke at great length, and often with considerable intensity, on various subjects. During these animated discourses he demonstrated that philosophical analysis need not be a dull, abstruse affair, but can be a dynamic cutting edge into every sphere of life. Nothing could escape his keen intellect, deep spiritual insight and uncommon wit. Rejecting superficial and dogmatic thinking, he edified, challenged, cajoled, charmed and enlightened his students, and he carefully guided them to increased insight and understanding.
Srila Prabhupada (1896-1977) is an internationally recognized author, scholar and spiritual preceptor, and he is widely esteemed as India's greatest cultural ambassador to the world. In Life Comes From Life, Srila Prabhupada takes the role of philosopher-social critic. With philosophical rigor, profound common sense and disarming frankness, he exposes not only modern science's methodological shortcomings and unexamined biases but also the unverified (and unverifiable) speculations that scientists present to the trusting public as known fact. Thus Srila Prabhupada breaks the spell of the materialistic and nihilistic myths which, masquerading as science, have so bewitched modern civilization.
-- The Publishers --
Science: Truth and Fiction
Once upon a time (as in a fairy tale), most of us believed that the food we ate was basically wholesome, nutritious and free from dangerous chemicals, that advertising may have been believable, and that product labels truly described the qualities and contents of what we fed ourselves and our families. Once upon a time, most of the world believed in the integrity of our heads of state, high-ranking political officials and local leaders. Once upon a time, we thought our children were getting a solid education in the public school system. Once upon a time, many of us believed atomic energy had "peacetime uses" that were perfectly safe and completely congruous with a happy and healthy society.
Yet in recent times our illusions have been shattered. Repeated exposes of widespread consumer fraud and grand political collusion and bribery have all but destroyed our former innocence. We now know that through mass marketing and the media, a veil of fantasy and deception can be created with such unprecedented expertise that it can become impossible for us to distinguish between substance and simulation, reality and illusion.
Today many scientists are propagating the doctrine that life originates from matter. However, they cannot provide proof, either experimentally or theoretically. In fact, they hold their stance essentially on faith, in the face of all sorts of scientific objections. Srila Prabhupada points out that this groundless dogma has done great damage to moral and spiritual standards worldwide and has thus caused incalculable suffering.
Though beset by internal doubt and division, modern scientists have somehow managed to present a united front to the nonscientific public. Their behavior brings to mind the worst in political and corporate trickery. For instance, despite the recent outcry over their masking the difficulties of maintaining safety standards at nuclear power plants, the scientists and the government remain committed to nuclear power and even make light of the fact that there is no safe way of dealing with radioactive waste.
In popular works and in textbooks scientists present their account of the material origin of life as the only possible scientific conclusion. They claim that no other theory can be scientifically acceptable. And so everyone is taught that life gradually arose from chemicals, a "primordial soup" consisting of amino acids, proteins and other essential ingredients. Yet in their journals and private discussions, the same scientists acknowledge that their theory has grave, sometimes insuperable difficulties. For example, certain features of the DNA coding mechanism cast serious doubt upon the substance of evolutionary thought. The noted biologist W. H. Thorpe writes, "Thus we may be faced with a possibility that the origin of life, like the origin of the universe, becomes an impenetrable barrier to science and a block which resists all attempts to reduce biology to chemistry and physics." The highly committed evolutionist Jacques Monod has pointed out these same difficulties. Theodisius Dobzhansky, another prominent advocate of evolution, can only agree: "Our scientific knowledge is, of course, quite insufficient to give anything like satisfactory accounts of these transitions [from no life to life, from no mind to mind]. Biologists as basically different in their... views as W. H. Thorpe and Jacques Monod agree that the origin of life is a difficult and thus far intractable and unsolved problem. I concur." Dobzhansky goes on to call the origin of life "miraculous." These admissions by Dobzhansky, Monod and Thorpe are by no means unique. Yet in popular presentations and textbooks one finds little hint of such widespread doubt.
Nobel prize-winning physicist Eugene Wigner has shown that the probability of the existence of a self-duplicating unit is zero. Since the ability to reproduce is one of the fundamental characteristics of all living organisms, Wigner concludes that our present understanding of physics and chemistry does not enable us to explain the phenomenon of life. Herbert Yockey has demonstrated by information theory that even a single informational molecule such as cytochrome c (what to speak of complex organisms) could not have arisen by chance in the estimated lifetime of the earth: "One must conclude that, contrary to the established and current wisdom, a scenario describing the genesis of life on earth by chance and natural causes which can be accepted on the basis of fact and not faith has not yet been written."
As we can see, on the one hand many scientists have a deep personal commitment to the concept that life comes from matter. On the other hand they admit that they do not have the evidence to corroborate their conviction, and that their theory is beset with intractable problems. They are convinced that life arose from matter and is reducible to matter, yet at the same time they must confess to having scant scientific grounds for their conviction. Thus their theory is a priori: it supersedes the scientific method and science itself. Their fervent, almost messianic hope is that someday, somehow, someone may be able to validate it, and in the meantime their faith is unshakable.
Dazzling technological achievements have given modern scientists an aura of infallibility, and so when the scientists present untested or unprovable theories about life's origin, people tend to accept with blind faith. In Passages About Earth William Irwin Thompson writes, "Just as once there was no appeal from the power of the churches without risking damnation, so now there is no appeal from the power of science without risking a charge of irrationality or insanity." And as botanist Garrett Hardin notes, anyone who questions the status of Darwin "inevitably attracts the speculative psychiatric eye to himself."
The dialogues in Life Comes From Life may seem revolutionary, but then were not Newton, Pasteur and Einstein scientific revolutionaries? Life Comes From Life does not simply criticize those who support the theory that matter is the origin of life. Rather, this book encourages them to rededicate themselves to a more genuine and intense quest for truth and knowledge, and to thereby redirect their valuable intelligence, resources and work toward the true benefit of the world.
Srila Prabhupada is accompanied by Dr. Thoudam Damodara Singh,
Karandhara dasa adhikari, Brahmananda Svami and other students.
Life on Other Planets
Srila Prabhupada: Even on the sun and moon there are living entities. What is the opinion of the scientists?
Dr. Singh: They say there is no life there.
Srila Prabhupada: That is nonsense. There is life there.
Dr. Singh: They say that there is no life on the moon because they did not find any there.
Srila Prabhupada: Why do they believe that? The moon planet is covered with dust, but within that dust the living entities can live. Every atmosphere is suitable for life—any atmosphere. Therefore the Vedas describe the living entities as sarva-gatah, which means "existing in all circumstances." The living entity is not material. Although encaged in a material body, he is not material. But when we speak of different atmospheres, we refer to different material conditions.
Karandhara: They say that the moon's atmosphere is unsuitable for life, but all they can legitimately say is that it is unsuitable for life as they know it.
Srila Prabhupada: The Vedas say that the living entity has no connection with material things. He cannot be burned, cut, dried up or moistened. This is discussed in Bhagavad-gītā.
Dr. Singh: Scientists extend their knowledge about life on this planet, thinking that it must apply to life on other planets also.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. They are thinking foremost of their own selves. They are thinking limitedly, in terms of their own circumstances.
This is what we call "Dr. Frog's philosophy. [Laughter.]
Once there was a frog in a well, and when a friend informed him of the existence of the Atlantic Ocean, he asked the friend, "Oh, what is this Atlantic Ocean?"
"It is a vast body of water," his friend replied.
"How vast? Is it twice the size of this well?"
"Oh, no-much, much larger," his friend replied.
"How much larger? Ten times the size?" In this way, the frog went on calculating. But what is the possibility or ever understanding the vastness of the great ocean in this way? Our faculties, our experience, and our powers of speculation are always limited. The speculations of the scientists only give rise to such frog philosophy.
Karandhara: The basis of what they call "scientific integrity" is that they talk only about what they can directly experience.
Srila Prabhupada: You may talk about your experience, and I may talk about my experience. But why should I accept your experience? You may be a fool, so why should I also become a fool? You may be a frog, but suppose I am a whale. Why should I take your well as all in all? You have your method of acquiring scientific knowledge, and I have mine.
Dr. Singh: Because the scientists haven't detected any water on the surface of the moon, they've concluded that no life could survive there.
Srila Prabhupada: They haven't seen the whole surface of the moon. Suppose someone were to come here from another planet, drop into the Arabian Desert and then return home. Could he come to a complete conclusion about the nature of the whole earth? His knowledge would not be complete.
Karandhara: They have a device that senses water. They say they've had it orbit the moon, and they've concluded that the moon has no water and therefore no life.
Srila Prabhupada: Even if, as on the sun, there is apparently no water, still there are living entities there. How does a cactus grow in the desert, apparently without water?
Karandhara: It gets water from the atmosphere.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, because the atmosphere contains all the elements needed to sustain life: earth, water, fire, air and ether. In anything material, all these elements are present. For example, in my body there is water, although you cannot see it. Similarly, you don't see fire in my body, yet my body is warm. Where does this warmth come from? You don't see any fire. Do you see any fire burning in my body? Then where does the warmth come from? What is the answer?
The Universe in the Atom
Srila Prabhupada: All matter is a combination of five gross elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether) and three subtle elements (mind, intelligence and false ego).
Karandhara: According to the Vedic science, material energy begins with the false ego and then develops into the intelligence, then the mind and then the gross elements—ether, air, fire and so on. So the same basic ingredients are present in all matter. Is this right?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The creation of the material universe is like the growth of a great banyan tree from a tiny seed. No one can see the tree within the seed, but all the necessary ingredients for the tree are there, including the required intelligence. Actually, everyone's body is simply a sample universe. Your body and my body are different universes, small universes. Therefore, all eight material elements are present within our bodies, just as they are within the whole universe. Similarly, an insect's body is another universe.
Karandhara: How about the atom?
Srila Prabhupada: The same formula applies: all these constituents are within the atom. Anor aniyan mahato mahiyan (Katha Upanisad 1.2.20). This means that whether something is extremely large or infinitesimal, it is still made of the same basic elements. This is true everywhere in the material world. Just as a woman's small watch has all the requisite machinery for its smooth functioning, so an ant has all the necessary brain substance to manage its affairs nicely. How is this possible? To answer this properly, you must minutely examine the brain tissues in the ant. But this you cannot do. Moreover, there are innumerable insects smaller than the ant. So there must be a mechanical arrangement for all this detailed activity, but scientists cannot discover it.
Relativity and Knowledge
Srila Prabhupada: All living entities possess the required intelligence to execute four principles: eating, sleeping, sexual intercourse and defense. These four principles exist even in the atom. The only difference in the human being is that he has the extra intelligence with which to understand God. This is the difference. Ahara-nidra-bhaya-maithunam ca samanam etat pasubhir naranam. Eating, sleeping, sex life and defense are to be found everywhere. You have seen trees growing. Wherever there is a knot, the bark does not go this way; it goes that way. [Srila Prabhupada gestures to show that a tree's bark grows not over a knot, but around it.] The tree has intelligence: "If I go this way, I will be blocked, so I will go that way." But where are its eyes? How can it see? It has intelligence. That intelligence may not be as good as yours, but it is intelligence. Similarly, a child also has intelligence, though not as developed as his father's. In due course of time, when the child gets a body like that of his father, the child's intelligence will be fully developed and exhibited.
Dr. Singh: Then intelligence is relative.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Everything is relative. You have your body, your duration of life, and your intelligence, and the ant has his. Both we and the ant live for one hundred years, but the length of our hundred—year life—span is relative to our bodies. Even Brahma, the longest—living entity in this universe, lives for one hundred years. To us the ant's life-span may seem only a few days. In the same way, on other planets with atmospheres different from the earth's, there are life-forms suited to those conditions. But the scientists try to view everything according to the relative conditions of planet earth. This is nonsense. Why are they doing that? If the whole cosmic manifestation follows the law of relativity, how can the scientist say that the conditions of this planet must apply to life on other planets? The Vedas instruct us that knowledge must always be considered in terms of desa-kala-patra. Desa means "circumstances," kala means "time," and patra means "the object." We must understand everything by taking these three elements into consideration. For example, a fish is living very comfortably in the water, and we are shivering on the shore of the sea. This is because my desa-kala-patra and the fish's desa-kala-patra are different. But if we conclude that the sea gulls will also shiver in the water, that is nonsense; their desa-kala-patra is again different. There are 8,400,000 different species of life in the material cosmic manifestation, and each species must adjust to circumstances differently. Even on this planet, you cannot go live comfortably in Alaska, although it is America. Similarly, the living entities enjoying life in Alaska do not come here.
Karandhara: Relativity, then, is based upon our individual situation.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Therefore it is said that what is food for one is poison for another.
Brahmananda Swami: Because scientists cannot survive on the moon, they think no one else can.
The 8.6-Billion-Year Day
Dr. Singh: The problem with the world is that practically everyone is thinking only in terms of his own circumstances—and that is nonsense.
Student: Someone who has never gone out of his village thinks that his village is the whole world.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The frog is always thinking in terms relative to his well. He has no power to think otherwise. The ocean is great, but he is thinking of the ocean's greatness in terms relative to his own greatness. Similarly, God is great, but we are thinking of God in terms of relative greatness, greatness relative to our own. There are certain insects that are born at night, and they grow, bear offspring and die—all before daybreak. They never see the morning. So if they conclude that there is no morning, that is nonsense. In the same way, as soon as we hear from the shastras [revealed scriptures] that Brahma's duration of life is equivalent to millions of our years, we do not believe it. We say, "How can it be?" But Bhagavad-gita (8.17) says, sahasra-yuga-paryantam ahar yad brahmano viduh: "Four billion three hundred million earth years equal Brahma's twelve hours." Even a leading Indian politician who was known as a great scholar of the Gita could not accept this information. He said it is mental speculation. Such a rascal! Yet he is passing as an important scholar. This is the problem. Rascals and fools are passing as scholars, scientists and philosophers, and therefore the whole world is being misguided.