The Theory of Evolution - From Nassafi in 12th century to Darwin in 19th century

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resource: Magazine events (www.events.ir); No 7 December 2004


Hoshang Tale, Ph D (Economics), Consultant Economist & Researcher

Azizoddin Nassafi or Nakhshabi, the 7th century HQ (12th century) scholar is one of the greatest Iranian scholars ever to have lived on this earth. Unfortunately exact details about his life are not available today but his major works survive and the main points about his life are known.

The scholar’s name Nassafi relates him to Nassaf region (more correctly but less often pronounced Nakhshab) where he was born and where he spent the longest part of life. Apparently he had an excellent teacher there from whom he benefited largely, learning extensively.

The teachings of this master left a deep impression on Azizoddin’s mind and had the greatest effect in the development of Azizoddin’s personality and knowledge.
It is also known that he mingled with Sufis and philosophers and had a master and sheikh from whom he acquired a great deal in the area of Sufism. Furthermore Azizoddin also studied medicine and had extensive knowledge in the field.
Having been born in Nassaf or Nakhshab, he has often mentioned this city in his writings as “my homeland.” He is said to have left his home forever in February 1273. During his time there were two parts of Iran that flourished increasingly.  First, there was the Transoxiana, and, second the Fars region. He traveled to many of the major cities of Great Khorassan which then covered a large part of the world including parts of Transoxiana and Afghanistan. Later he visited Shiraz in Fars and Isfahan and finally he moved to Abarkooh in today’s Yazd province where he spentthe last days of his life. He died there leaving behind a large collection of outstanding books in many fields and on many subjects. At least one of his books, Maqsadolaqsa, was translated into Latin from a Turkish version in 1655.

 

As early as 13th century this scholar had come to the conclusion that life was based on evolution, what Darwin said centuries after him. Nassafi21says:

1. Creation has developed through evolution. Plants and creatures first emerged in their simplest form and gradually developed to reach higher levels of life.
2. Evolution requires the passage of long periods of time, each stage taking thousands of years.
3. The mechanism of this evolution lies in nature.
4. All plants and creatures originate from primary forms and are diversified through evolution to reach the present forms.
Centuries later Charles Darwin proposed a similar hypothesis which later came to be known as Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

 

Born in Shrewsbury, England, Darwin spent many years traveling round the world as a member of an immense British expedition (1831-36). He studied for some time on the Island of Galapagos, in the Pacific Ocean. There he noticed many varieties of plant and animal species of the same general type as those found in South America. The expedition visited places round the world, the last days of his life. He died there leaving behind a large collection of outstanding books in many fields and on many subjects. At least one of his books, Maqsadolaqsa, was translated into Latin from a Turkish version in 1655.

As early as 13th century this scholar had come to the conclusion that life was based on evolution, what Darwin said centuries after him. Nassafi and as the expedition proceeded Darwin studied animals and plants and gathered specimens for further study.
When he returned to England he carried out a series of thorough and well planned studies and research using his notes and specimens and came to certain conclusions:

that evolution certainly did occur
 that evolutionary change was extremely slow and gradual, requiring thousands to millions of years
that the primary mechanism of evolution was a process that he named natural selection, and finally

Six centuries earlier Nassafi had come to almost the same conclusion, without traveling round the world, without the use of a microscope, without other facilities available to Darwin … But, it must be admitted, his conclusions were not put forward as scientifically as Darwin’s were.

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