“I’m Not a Descendant of Apes”: a Problematic Question of Our Origin

I’m not their descendant, and that’s it. That’s why it sounds so scandalous. I’ve read a lot on this topic, but just as I didn’t believe in it before that, I still don’t now.
I’ll also mention that on a social media page, one Orthodox girl wrote a beautiful thought: “I’m not ashamed to be a daughter of the Heavenly Father. Let those whose ancestors are apes be ashamed.” (Note: Later in the article Fr. Valery refers specially to “primitive apes,” referring to the common ape-like ancestor that humans and apes supposedly share in common.) I am also not ashamed that I am a son of the Heavenly Father (albeit a sinner, but a son; after all, in the Gospel there is the Prodigal Son—a son not rejected by his father), and my soul does not accept the theory of evolution.
I’m ashamed when fellow priests write to me, who say with conviction, “Evolution is a proven fact; every student knows this; it’s obvious! How can you so ignorantly dismiss the evidence?” Sometimes they send articles and materials on the topic. But you might as well talk to a brick wall: Just as my soul wouldn’t accept it before, it still won’t accept it now.
For some reason, the words of St. Paisios the Athonite and the Holy Hierarch Luke (Voino-Yasenetsky) sound more convincing. One was uneducated in worldly terms but acquired the Holy Spirit and therefore also the gift of insight; the other was the greatest of scientists who thoroughly knew the human body. And they both speak as one about the falsity of the theory of evolution. And it’s not just them. It’s a common Patristic intuition, whether it’s St. Theophan the Recluse or St. Seraphim of Sarov (to whom people attribute evolutionary views in vain, apparently not having read his pages in full, taking only a few words), or whether it’s the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church: Hieromartyr Vladimir (Bogoyavlensky), Hieromartyr Nikolai (Pokrovsky), Monk-Martyr Varlaam (Nikolsky), the Holy Hierarch Makary (Nevsky), and many others. In the Greek Church there is St. Nektarios of Aegina, and in the Serbian Church—St. Nicholai (Velimirovic). No matter which saint—they reject evolution.
The same St. Theophan openly wrote about the ideologues of evolution:
They have heaped up a multitude of fanciful suppositions for themselves, elevated them to the status of irrefutable truths and plumed themselves on them, assuming that nothing can be said against them. In fact, they are so ungrounded that it is not even worthwhile speaking against them. All of their sophistry is a house of cards – blow on it and it flies apart. There is no need to refute it in its parts; it is enough to regard it as one regards dreams. When speaking against dreams, people do not prove the absurdity in their composition or in their individual parts, but only say, ‘It’s a dream,’ and with that they resolve everything. It is the same with the theory of the formation of the world from a nebula and its supports, with the theory of abiogenesis and Darwin’s origin of genera and species, and with his last dream about the descent of man. It is all like delirium. When you read them you are walking in the midst of shadows. And scientists? Well, what can you do with them? Their motto is “If you don’t like it, don’t listen, but don’t prevent me from lying.”

St. Ambrose of Optina counseled those who came to him: “Don’t believe at face value all kinds of nonsense without investigation: that something can come into being [of itself] from dust, and that people used to be apes.”

Why can’t I agree with the position of the saints?
And how much should I distort Scripture to argue that Adam had anthropoid parents, that is, a redundant couple that fell away into nothingness after their purpose was up? How would Adam feel, seeing their deaths in Paradise, himself being a descendant of death, giving birth to likewise mortal descendants? Where is life here, if death reigns all around the primordial Adam? Why redeem him from sin if he is a child of death not because of sin, but because of biological laws? What sin is there to speak of if there are just animal instincts, subject neither to reason nor human will?
How should I interpret revelation, believing that Adam’s poor ancestors chased one another with mouths agape, and whoever was smarter found the first club? What is this crown of creation, crammed with ancient irresistible instincts that we mistakenly call passions? What sin is there to speak of if, I repeat, the whole theory of evolution speaks of passions as animalistic necessities, inherent in any biological creature? Let’s not deceive ourselves: There’s nothing angelic, and what’s more, nothing according to the image of God in principle in such creatures. Conscience, and ethics, and etiquette—everything in this paradigm is a result of evolution, driven by death.
And the Bible itself, in their conception, is, to add insult to injury, the product of the evolution of ancient myths and epic tales, included in religious collections and carefully redacted through the centuries. What Divine revelation is there here if everything is the continuous evolution of myths?
No, we will not be deceived. The theory of evolution works for destruction.
Now I’ll say something that won’t be scandalous because it’s an obvious fact.
Science studies the world in its fallen state, according to the loss of the paradisiacal harmony, according to the Fall of man and the invasion of the law of death and corruption into the universe created by God. Therefore, the starting axiom of the theory of evolution is death: How would species have evolved if no one died before Adam? How does an ape become human if the weakest don’t die to leave space for the miracle-mutation—man?
Therefore, the cosmogony of evolution moves from the unsuccessful to the accidentally successful, from the excess waste material of living beings that didn’t limp their way to biological perfection to new species accidentally fixed at new stages. That is, in their conception, God couldn’t hold on until the creation of a beautiful, harmonious, perfect world. But then, what God is there in evolution?! Their God is evolution itself, a kind of wizard, alchemist, casting magic spells from one nature to another, from a crocodile to a pterodactyl, from a bear to a whale, from a lama to a giraffe, from a primitive ape to a human. All of this is taken from their books. What would he do—this crocodile—when his feet morph over the generations into stumps, to then turn into pterodactyl wings? Who will help this evolutionary invalid, whose paws mutate but has no wings yet? But for those to whom it’s interesting, evolution was contrived by a wily alchemist.

Science sees a picture of the world in its broken state, with the remnants of a harmony, but the obvious loss of the paradisiacal harmony. How can the current realities be transferred to the beginning of our existence? 

Let these scholars of the mind tell us what microscope or what super-electron equipment, what analysis they can use to study the Resurrected Christ and the state of His Body at His Resurrection; His nature—in need of no food, of breathing the air, lacking natural necessities, inaccessible to microbes and bacteria, diseases, and ailments—in general, a nature in which there is no death, but life, and moreover, life everlasting, without old age and wrinkles, without “I want to eat” or “I have to go to the bathroom;” a nature fully human but equal to the angels, having defeated death and corruption? How would they define the nature of the True Man, resurrected for us in order to return the paradisiacal harmony to us? How can they touch the nature of the first Adam, whose qualities we lost as soon as Adam severed his connection with God? This is why the New Adam—Christ—came. He returned immortality to people, returned that which was lost in Paradise, and gave us yet more; and they say that Adam was born from death and the entire first-created world was filled with death, destruction, and ruination as something wholly natural. What would Christ return to us then if everything was controlled by mutation from the beginning?
How can they investigate the ever-virginity of the Mother of God, where God the Holy Spirit acted rather than the laws of biology?
No, science will not say a word about what is higher than the created world and higher than disintegrating nature, about deification, about the transfiguring action of the grace of God. It can say nothing about the condition of the world before the entrance of the law of sin into it.
Studying the world according to the Fall, we only see part of the picture of the universe. So how can we believe such science?!
This is why those who have acquired grace, who ascended to the contemplation of Christ and His Uncreated Light even during this life, that is—neither you nor I, but holy
people—live by a different intuition. This intuition leaves the scientific data of the moral world behind in view of the first-created paradisiacal world. Studying the world according to the Fall and man in his sinful state, we only see part of the picture—that is, not even close to everything. Science that has studied only part is not objective, not seeing the whole picture—neither in the universe nor in man himself.
It’s hard to reach an agreement with people who have varying views on origins. The connection with our genealogy is like a pillar of existence, the core, defining the man and his behavior. Everyone takes something from his genealogy, copies it in life, and some justify themselves, citing their ancient origins. The choice is up to us all.
I understand that in response they’ll splatter formulas and data from biology, geology, archaeology, paleontology and all the rest, and evidence from Ilya Prigogine, Stephen Hawking, and the other luminaries of this world. They’ll say, “How are you not the descendant of a primitive ape? Look, see for yourself.” No, my friends, I am not their descendant, though you may kill me with the same ancient club. The proponents of evolution are my brothers and sisters, but a chimpanzee is not my brother, and a monkey is not my sister.
In the Gospel of Luke, we read about the genealogy of Christ, and it is written there that He, according to His humanity, traces back to the root of the species, the son of …. Enos, Seth, Adam, and God (Lk. 3:38). There is no other ancestor between the first man Adam and His Creator God—no transitional link.
Which is closer and dearer to us—Christ with His transfigured nature, or a myth about the origin of the tailed primates?
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  1. Thank you for this. I too have heard professing Orthodox Christians belittle the witness of the Fathers, and contemporaries such as Fr. Seraphim Rose, concerning the genesis of man. Divine revelation reveals creation in its blessed state while science reveals it in its fallen state. All true science is God’s science. We are the children of God.

  2. Thank you for this article, father Dukhanin. You have mentioned that lots of saints were against evolution. Could you indicate where they said this, as sort of a bibliographic information? Thank you!

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