Born in 1201, Nasir Al-Din Al Tusi was perhaps one of the most prolific Persian intellectuals. He was not only an architect, an astronomer, a chemist, a mathematician, a philosopher, a physicist, a physician, a biologist and a theologian, but was also considered a Marja Taqlid (“one who deserves to be imitated”) among Shia Muslims.
Of his 150 works, covering both religious and non-religious subjects, 25 are written in Farsi and most of the others in Arabic. A few manuscripts contain translations from Farsi to Arabic to Turkish on the same page. Tusi also translated and wrote commentaries on the works of Euclid, Archimedes and Ptolemy, among others.
In one of these 150 treatises, the Akhlaq-i-Nasri, Tusi proposes an interesting theory of evolution which, in more than one way, resembles that of Darwin.
Tusi points out that, at first, the universe was composed of similar elements that were generating internal contradictions that allowed some substances to develop in one way, and others in another. Thus, Tusi explains the natural differentiation that would have caused some elements to form minerals, vegetables, animals, and finally humans, postulating the existence of a mechanism of hereditary variability, as read in this excerpt published in TheVintageNews:
The organisms that can gain the new features faster are more variable. As a result, they gain advantages over other creatures. […] The bodies are changing as a result of the internal and external interactions.
Moreover, Tusi points out the mechanisms that allow organisms to adapt to their environments. In a nutshell, this is precisely Darwin’s argument for the theory of natural selection.
Look at the world of animals and birds. They have all that is necessary for defense, protection and daily life, including strengths, courage and appropriate tools [organs] […] Some of these organs are real weapons, […] For example, horns-spear, teeth and claws-knife and needle, feet and hoofs-cudgel. The thorns and needles of some animals are similar to arrows. […] Animals that have no other means of defense (as the gazelle and fox) protect themselves with the help of flight and cunning. […] Some of them, for example, bees, ants and some bird species, have united in communities in order to protect themselves and help each other.