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Tue Jun 19, 2012, 05:09 PM

Science, Religion, and the Bahá'í Faith


Stephen R. Friberg
Experimental physicist

Posted: 06/19/2012 12:58 pm

It wasn't long ago that a lot of people, especially people on college campuses, viewed religion as a musty artifact from the Bronze Age. Naturally, they thought of it as inherently unscientific. Times have changed, and a new generation has discovered how strongly science and religion are intertwined. But old views persist -- they often do -- and many people still hold science and religion to be in conflict, so it can come as a shock to learn that the youngest of the world religions, the Bahá'í Faith, founded in 1844, holds the agreement of science and religion as a core principle. And Bahá'ís don't see the agreement of science and religion as a theological debate but a plan of action.

Two Wings of One Bird

The view that science and religion agree has a distinguished heritage. It prevailed in Athens during the axial age, in Islam at its peak, and in Europe during the scientific revolution. Modern society is likely to soon embrace it again, in no small part because it is increasingly clear that secularism and science by themselves cannot answer the challenges of a global society.

The Bahá'í view is that true science and true religion are completely compatible:

Any religious belief which is not conformable with scientific proof and investigation is superstition, for true science is reason and reality, and religion is essentially reality and pure reason; therefore, the two must correspond... If we say religion is opposed to science, we lack knowledge of either true science or true religion, for both are founded upon the premises and conclusions of reason, and both must bear its test. (Excerpt from a 1912 talk given by `Abdu'l-Bahá, son of the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, while visiting America)

Science and religion are the two wings of one bird. Both must be equally strong for the bird to fly: "Religion and science are the two wings upon which man's intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the human soul can progress. It is not possible to fly with one wing alone!" (`Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pg. 143).

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Reply Science, Religion, and the Bahá'í Faith (Original post)
cbayer Jun 2012 OP
dimbear Jun 2012 #1
cbayer Jun 2012 #2
longship Jun 2012 #3
GliderGuider Jun 2012 #4
Silent3 Jun 2012 #5

Response to cbayer (Original post)

Tue Jun 19, 2012, 05:20 PM

1. "youngest of the world religions, the Bahá'í Faith, founded in 1844"

No one should be shocked that Lord ElRon is displeased. But also, Mary Baker Eddy is displeased (1879).

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Response to dimbear (Reply #1)

Tue Jun 19, 2012, 05:34 PM

2. I would consider Christian Science a subset of christianity, but


It's often not clear where to draw the line, and I am sure that many could say that Scientology is no more bizarre or fantastic than other religions, but for me personally - not a religion.

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Response to cbayer (Original post)

Tue Jun 19, 2012, 06:35 PM

3. Other than the fact that a premise of this article is falsified.

There are many religions newer than the cited Bahai. Religious belief seems to be a part of human evolution. I don't want to get into a chair throwing argument about psychological evolution, but there is some research indicating that these religious feelings are part of our humanity.

Probably one of the best way to understand the process of how a religion can be born is to look at the history of the Cargo Cults which were born out of Western explorers and WWII military landing on South Pacific islands.

What is most interesting is that the Christian missionaries that landed on these islands utterly failed in their attempts to convert the natives. Instead, the locals made their own religion out of whole cloth based on the visitors' apparent higher technology. The John Frum cult exists to this day.

Religion is a social construct. Science is too. But whereas religion tells stories, none of which are backed by data, science looks at the universe and asks the question, What can we know? That is a question that religion rarely, if ever, asks. Another difference is the second question, What if I am wrong? It is a question
asked every day in science and one which is never even considered with religion.

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Response to longship (Reply #3)

Wed Jun 20, 2012, 06:58 AM

4. "What if I am wrong?"


That's one of the best questions you can ask yourself, about everything.

I started asking it in earnest about ten years ago, as part of my skeptical responsibility to myself. It was surprising how much I discovered that I was wrong about. A short decade later I'm no longer a committed scientistic positivist who assumes that human ingenuity will fix all the problems of the world. I'm now a non-dualist panentheist who believes that modern civilization and much of the life on the planet (perhaps even human beings) are destined for the trash-heap of history, sooner rather than later, all due to the human approach to problem-solving.

Be careful what you wish for...

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Response to cbayer (Original post)

Wed Jun 20, 2012, 08:42 AM

5. Good ol' compatibility by vigorous assertion...

...and insistent poetic metaphor.

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