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Al-Jahiz wrote the “Book of Animals”, which mostly borrowed from Aristotle. It mentions that predators eat prey, but makes no mention of competition within a species.
Al Tusi believed this “great chain” of Aristotle was a plan of Allah to create beings each more nearly perfect than the previous creation.
His theory is missing Darwin’s key concepts of a branching tree and natural selection by survival of the fittest. Rocks are a rung of the ladder near the bottom.
Angels as the top rung, which contradicts the Quran teaching that angels were created before humans.
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BOOK OF ANIMALS
Al-Jahiz (776 – 868) wrote an encyclopedia called the “Book of Animals”, which mostly borrowed from Aristotle, who had borrowed from earlier Greek philosophers.
This book contains the passages : “The rat goes out for its food, and is clever in getting it, for it eats all animals inferior to it in strength” … “has to avoid snakes and birds and serpents of prey, who look for it in order to devour it” … “Every weak animal devours those weaker than itself. Strong animals cannot escape being devoured by other animals stronger than they”. Muslims falsely claim these passages describe “natural selection” before Darwin did. However, Darwin wrote of competition for survival
between individuals of the same species. Al-Jahiz was merely stating that rats need to avoid snakes and birds but did not mention the key point of “natural selection” that there is a competition between rats, and the rats better able to avoid predators have a survival advantage over other rats.
Aristotle, in the 4th century BC, taught that all natural things, not only living things, were imperfect actualisations of different natural possibilities, known as “forms” or “species”.
All natural things have an intended role to play in a divine cosmic order. In this “great chain of being” (also called the “ladder of life”), new types of living things come to be as new rungs at the top of the ladder, but rungs never change and rungs are never inserted between existing rungs. There is no branching tree.
Aristotle wrote that all species could be placed in order, from the lowest to the highest, with worms at the bottom and man at the top. This “great chain” was divine, and therefore perfect. Every link is represented by one (never more than one) species.
Meskavay (932 – 1030)
“[These books] state that God first created matter and invested it with energy for development. Matter, therefore, adopted the form of vapour which assumed the shape of water in due time. The next stage of development was mineral life. Different kinds of stones developed in course of time. Their highest form being mirjan (coral). It is a stone which has in it branches like those of a tree. After mineral life evolves vegetation. The evolution of vegetation culminates with a tree which bears the qualities of an animal. This is the date-palm. It has male and female genders. It does not wither if all its branches are chopped but it dies when the head is cut off. The date-palm is therefore considered the highest among the trees and resembles the lowest among animals. Then is born the lowest of animals. It evolves into an ape. This is not the statement of Darwin. This is what Ibn Miskawayh states and this is precisely what is written in the Epistles of Ikhwan al-Safa. The Muslim thinkers state that ape then evolved into a lower kind of a barbarian man. He then became a superior human being. Man becomes a saint, a prophet. He evolves into a higher stage and becomes an angel. The one higher to angels is indeed none but God. Everything begins from Him and everything returns to Him.”
His theory of “evolution” was not Darwin’s theory of natural selection, but actually was the intelligent design “ladder of life” theory of Aristotle in which water evolves into rock which evolves into branching coral which evolves into trees which eventually evolves into apes, then primitive people. Miskawayh’s additions to the theory probably were that the link between plants and animals is the date palm (because it dies when its head is cut off), and that angels are the top rung of the ladder of life.
His philosophy of ethics borrowed from Plato
Al Tusi believed this “great chain” of Aristotle was a plan of Allah to create beings each more nearly perfect than the previous creation..
Al-Tusi wrote that “internal contradictions” caused what had been nearly identical substances to become the minerals. These “internal contradictions” then caused the rocks to transform into the plants and animals and humans.
Al-Tusi claimed some animals changed faster and differently than other animals. His theory is missing Darwin’s key concepts of a branching tree and natural selection by survival of the fittest within a species determining which random changes are passed on to the next generation.
Al-Tusi wrote “The organisms that can gain the new features faster are more variable. As a result, they gain advantages over other creatures. […I The bodies are changing as a result of the internal and external interactions”.
Al-Tusi wrote “Animals are higher than plants, because they are able to move consciously, go after food, find and eat useful things. […] There are many differences between the animal and plant species, […] First of all, the animal kingdom is more complicated. Besides, reason is the most beneficial feature of animals. Owing to reason, they can learn new things and adopt new, non-inherent abilities. For example, the trained horse or hunting falcon is at a higher point of development in the animal world.“
Al-Tusi wrote that black-skinned people living in Western Sudan were close to animals and at a lower step in the perfection of humans. “The first steps of human perfection begin from here. […] Such humans live in the Western Sudan and other distant corners of the world. They are close to animals by their habits, deeds and behavior. […] The human has features that distinguish him from other creatures, but he has other features that unite him with the animal world, vegetable kingdom or even with the inanimate bodies“. He may have meant that Allah created man separately but repeated some of the features of animals.
“Before [the creation of humans], all differences between organisms were of the natural origin. The next step will be associated with spiritual perfection, will, observation and knowledge. […] All these facts prove that the human being is placed on the middle step of the evolutionary stairway. According to his inherent nature, the human is related to the lower beings, and only with the help of his will can he reach the higher development level.”
The preceding quotations were found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasir_al-Din_al-Tusi.
Image from “Book of Animals” by Al-Jahiz, via Wikimedia Commons.
image credit https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Al-Jahiz_-_pages_from_Kitaab_al_Hayawaan_4.jpg#mw-jump-to-license