Baháʼí views on science

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A fundamental principle of the Baháʼí Faith is the stated harmony of religion and science.[1] Whilst Baháʼí scripture asserts that true science and true religion can never be in conflict, critics argue that statements by the founders clearly contradict current scientific understanding.[2] ʻAbdu'l-Bahá, the son of the founder of the religion, stated that "when a religion is opposed to science it becomes mere superstition".[3] He also said that true religion must conform to the conclusions of science.[4][5]

This latter aspect of the principle seems to suggest that the religion must always accept current scientific knowledge as authoritative, but some Baháʼí scholars have suggested that this is not always the case.[6] On some issues, the Baháʼí Faith subordinates the conclusions of current scientific thought to its own teachings, which the religion takes as fundamentally true.[7] This is because, in the Baháʼí understanding the present scientific view is not always correct, neither is truth said to be only limited to what science can explain.[5] Instead, in the Baháʼí view, knowledge must be obtained through the interaction of the insights obtained from revelation from God and through scientific investigation.[8]

Overall Baháʼí attitude[edit]

ʻAbdu'l-Bahá, the son of the founder of the religion, asserted that science and religion cannot be opposed because they are aspects of the same truth; he also affirmed that reasoning powers are required to understand the truths of religion. Shoghi Effendi, the head of the Baháʼí Faith in the first half of the 20th century, described science and religion as "the two most potent forces in human life".[9]

The teachings state that whenever conflict arises between religion and science it is due to human error; either through misinterpretation of religious scriptures or the lack of a more complete understanding of science. ʻAbdu'l-Bahá explained that religious teachings which are at variance with science should not be accepted; he explained that religion has to be reasonable since God endowed humankind with reason so that they can discover truth.[4] Science and religion, in the Baháʼí writings, are compared to the two wings of a bird upon which a person's intelligence can increase, and upon which a person's soul can progress. Furthermore, the Baháʼí writings state that science without religion would lead to a person becoming totally materialistic, and religion without science would lead to a person falling into superstitious practices. ʻAbdu'l-Bahá in one of his public talks said:

If religion were contrary to logical reason then it would cease to be a religion and be merely a tradition. 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! Should a man try to fly with the wing of religion alone he would quickly fall into the quagmire of superstition, whilst on the other hand, with the wing of science alone he would also make no progress, but fall into the despairing slough of materialism. All religions of the present day have fallen into superstitious practices, out of harmony alike with the true principles of the teaching they represent and with the scientific discoveries of the time.[10]

ʻAbdu'l-Bahá is quoted as saying the following:

Mathematicians, astronomers, chemical scientists continually disprove and reject the conclusions of the ancients; nothing is fixed, nothing final; everything is continually changing because human reason is progressing along new roads of investigation and arriving at new conclusions every day. In the future much that is announced and accepted as true now will be rejected and disproved. And so it will continue ad infinitum.[11]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Research Department of the Universal House of Justice (August 2020). "Social Action". Bahá’í Reference Library. Coherence Between the Material and Spiritual Dimensions of Existence. Retrieved 2020-08-30.
  2. ^ Various (1975-12-26) [1912]. Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice. Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, Baháʼí World Centre (published December 1995). Retrieved 2007-12-01.
  3. ^ ʻAbdu'l-Bahá 1912, pp. 141–146
  4. ^ a b Effendi 1912
  5. ^ a b Mehanian & Friberg 2003
  6. ^ "It also requires us not to limit science to any particular school of thought or methodological approach postulated in the course of its development." in Universal House of Justice (1997-08-13). "19 May 1995 letter, written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer (published in Memorandum on Quotations on Science and Religion". Retrieved 2007-12-02.
  7. ^ Effendi 1946
  8. ^ Universal House of Justice (1997-08-13). "19 May 1995 letter, written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer (published in Memorandum on Quotations on Science and Religion". Retrieved 2007-12-02.
  9. ^ Effendi 1938
  10. ^ ʻAbdu'l-Bahá 1912, p. 143
  11. ^ Effendi 1912, p. 21

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

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