Tuesday, 24 November 2009

150th Anniversary of the Publication of “On the Origin of Species”

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”, his momentous work, which he started here on the Island, explaining where we, and all of life, actually came from. There has been recent speculation that Darwin may have been influenced by Buddhist teachings. It turns out that Darwin's friend Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, the botanist and explorer, visited Tibet in 1847. He became familiar with Buddhist concepts there. He also wrote letters to Darwin.

Psychologist Paul Ekman has said that Darwin's descriptions of compassion, as well as his view of morality as it relates to compassion, closely mirror Buddhist ideas. For Darwin and Buddhists, the seed for compassion is in the mother-infant relationship - this is "simple compassion," Ekman said. Then there's global compassion - for example, sending money and clothes to victims of a natural disaster. Finally, heroic compassion means risking your own life to save another, just as the Buddha said a mother would to save her only child.

The fundamental idea in both Darwin's writings and Buddhist views of compassion is that "when I see you suffer, it makes me suffer, and that motivates me to reduce your suffering so I can reduce my suffering," he said.

Ekman, co-wrote a book with the Dalai Lama on compassion called "Emotional Awareness: Overcoming the Obstacles to Psychological Balance and Compassion." after reading him some passages of Darwin's work, Ekman recalls the Dalai Lama saying, "I am now calling myself a Darwinian."

1 comment:

  1. Also, Darwin's theory of evolution supports Process Philosophy and undermines Essentialism and Substantialism.