How do karma and reincarnation fit into the theory of evolution?

Let me start this answer by assuming that these two ways of looking at the world are equally valid and that it does indeed make sense to compare and contrast them. In reality, they are nothing alike. Evolution is a scientific theory. Karma is a philosophical worldview that necessarily pushes boundaries of the human condition towards idea like afterlife and cosmic justice and is patently unverifiable as a result. Therefore, this answer is pure mental masturbation on my part.

The Differences

Evolution does not work on individuals. It works on populations as they live in and interact with their surroundings. When members of the species develop new traits by way of random genetic mutation, they either get better at propagating or they get worse and die out. Evolution thus proceeds in directions chosen by organised chaos.

Karma on the other hand, is said to work on the individual soul. It is essentially the physical manifestation of an invisible record of a person’s actions. It happens when consequences of your actions spread out into the world around you as ripples that eventually make their way back to you.

The Similarities

Evolution is amoral. It does not reward what is known as moral behaviour in human societies. It has little or no relevance for any existing religious philosophy (except for the ones which insist on reading direction and meaning into it).

Karma, similarly, is without judgment. Even though there is a tendency among some to talk about “good karma” and “bad karma”, the philosophy has nothing to say about rightness and wrongness. It is simply a matter of action and reaction.

The Meeting Point?

I am afraid there isn’t one unless we choose to manufacture it by force fitting the two phenomena into each other.

For example, we may say that the species which die out as a result of their inability to cope with their surroundings actually die because of the consequences of their actions. But there is no evidence to support this assertion. In fact, Karma cannot be proven. It can only be taken on faith.

Another way we can try to put evolution and Karma on the same table is by suggesting the existence of the individual soul. We may say for example that the organisms which die out in the evolutionary storm are reborn to face the consequences of their actions while they were alive. But again, there is no evidence to support reincarnation among humans, let alone in species that existed when present-day human beings were nowhere to be seen.

It is important, I think, to remember the difference between what we know to be true and what we want to be true.

#evolution, #hinsuism, #karma, #philosophy, #science