Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Bedil and Evolution

 Zulfiqar Khan makes a very interesting point on the great Indian Farsi poet, Abdul Qadir Bedil (1642–1720), who was famous for encompassing complex - and often surprisingly modern - ideas in his poetry:

Bedil on Evolution:

Last night, before going to bed, I was reading a ghazal (a special form for a Persian/Urdu poem) by Bedil and this couplet made me stop and think. More than a century before Darwin was even born, Bedil has discussed evolution frequently in his poetry. In this particular verse, Bedil suggests that since everything found in nature has something else very similar, it means that nature doesn’t create things out of nowhere but, in fact, it continues to perfect them from their previous versions (generations?). Just like before making a portrait, an artist first draws a sketch, Bedil argues that humans once used to be apes before they reached to this present form. And this shows what a wonderful poet Bedil was, he put his entire argument and conclusion in just one beautiful couplet:

هیچ شکلی بی‌هیولا قابل صورت نشد
آدمی هم پیش از آن‌ کادم شود بوزینه بود

(Translation: There is no portrait, for which a sketch was not first drawn. Therefore, the man, before he could become Adam, was once an ape.)

Of course, this does not capture the main ideas of evolution, but it does recognize the fact that humans and apes are fundamentally the same kind of animal - a truly revolutionary idea for the 18th century! 

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