Here’s a graph from the Pew Research Center which shows the percentage of people of various religious backgrounds (living in the US) who agree that evolution is the best explanation for the origin of human life on earth.
Buddhists and Hindus are — not surprisingly — at the top of the heap. Why? Because these two non-monotheistic religions are based on the rational idea that change is an inherent characteristic of the universe and that change is evolutionary. Just to illustrate the point that the idea of evolution is central to Hinduism, consider the Ten Incarnations of Vishnu. The sequence is as close a guess as anyone with little modern scientific understanding but with great intuition could have come up with. Vishnu’s first incarnation is a fish; then an amphibian; then a land animal; then half-man-half-lion; then a dwarf human; then a warrior; then a prince; then a god; then an enlightened man . . .
Buddhism is built on two basic ideas: first, that of impermanence and change; second, that there is no such thing as a “self,” or that the illusion of a self is an emergent phenomenon. Both these ideas help people appreciate the fact that the world we are in today is not the way it was yesterday and it will be different tomorrow. The diversity of species arising from processes of evolution through natural selection is an idea that fits in easily with Hindu and Buddhist conceptions of the universe.
Which is why I believe that the Hindu-Buddhist philosophies will continue to be long past when Islam and Christianity have passed into the great beyond. The fittest survive, even in idea space.
(Hat tip: Rajan Parrikar.)