Science and religion

A Baha'i Take on the Creation/Evolution Debate

Stephen Friberg

The conflict over evolution and the origins of humanity once again comes to the fore with the debate between Bill Nye -- the Science Guy -- and Ken Ham -- the young earth creationist. Tickets for the debate were sold out in minutes, putting it into the rarefied air of a Super Bowl or a Rolling Stones tour. Clearly, people are interested.

Of course, there is opposition. Dan Arel, writing for the Richard Dawkins Foundation, protests that "scientists should not debate creationists." The noted astrophysicist and science television show host Neil deGrasse Tyson tells Bill Moyers in a television interview that faith and reason are unlikely to be reconciled.

But not everybody is opposed to such debates or pessimistic about the future of the relationship of these two influential aspects of our organized life. Many, including members of the Baha'i Faith, look forward to a future when science and religion -- and faith and reason -- are reconciled and no longer opposed.

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How Two Baha’i Women Integrate Science and Religion

Very few Americans know much about the Baha’i faith. Yet one of its core principles is a commitment to scientific inquiry, which means that Baha’is have a unique perspective on how science and religion can interact.

Thus as part of Sinai and Synapses‘ series “More Light, Less Heat,” Lisa M. Ortuno, Ph.D. and Dr. Carey Murphy share how their Baha’i faith has enhanced their love of science, and how science has strengthened their commitment to their faith.

Lisa M. Ortuno has a Ph.D. in biology and currently works for the Promega Corporation, a biotechnology company. She is a member of the Sinai and Synapses working group, and she discovered that using the scientific method and her training in biology were invaluable in her journey towards becoming a Baha’i:

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How religions change their mind

{josquote}We ultimately have to make that creative effort to think for ourselves and puzzle things out for ourselves. - Karen Armstrong{/josquote}

Once upon a time, animal sacrifice was an important part of Hindu life, Catholic priests weren't celibate and visual depictions of the Prophet Muhammad were part of Islamic art. And soon some churches in the UK may be marrying gay couples. How do religions manage to change their mind?

In 1889, Wilford Woodruff became the fourth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - more commonly known as the Mormon Church.

As president, he was seen as a living prophet, someone who could receive wisdom and advice from Jesus Christ. And he was certainly in need of advice - his church was in crisis.

For 40 years, Mormons had been at loggerheads with the US Congress over the issue of polygamy, which was encouraged among male believers. The government said it was illegal, and held that religious conviction was no defence.

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A Sometime Rhyming Style: Physics and Theology

Science is too often milked for pseudo-insights into non-science. How many times a day does someone announce that “Einstein showed everything is relative” even though he didn’t and was in fact annoyed by the popular belief that he had? Cosmic fine-tuning, the Big Bang, the concept of “energy,” and biological complexity have all been hijacked to support magical or religious beliefs. Whole books have been written misconstruing quantum physics in support of religious ideas, including Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics. Catholic biologist Kenneth Miller (a vocal opponent of intelligent-design creationism) once declared quantum indeterminacy “a key feature of the mind of God” (Finding Darwin’s God, p. 213). But is it?

{josquote}...I admit to having wavered once or twice when it comes to quantum physics and traditional Christian theology.{/josquote}

All efforts to find support for theological beliefs in the physical sciences are, I believe, deeply mistaken, but I admit to having wavered once or twice when it comes to quantum physics and traditional Christian theology. The temptation is, from a certain point of view, severe. Consider first the deliberately irresolvable assertions of ancient Christian theology: three divine “persons” who are somehow absolutely One, yet also Three, yet also One. Also the doctrine of the Incarnation, which declares Christ both God and human, dual in nature—yet also single in nature, not a body possessed by a deity. No wonder some progressive religious moderns have quietly switched to more reasonable beliefs. Thomas Jefferson said it with classic nineteenth-century pith:

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Second Language Improves Cognition


In his seminal work, “God Passes By” Shoghi Effendi summarized the Baha’i Faith into approximately a dozen principles which are “the essential elements of that Divine polity”. Among these is “the adoption of a universal auxiliary language”.

This idea was proposed by Baha’u'llah as a practical method to increase unity in a linguistically fragmented world. In the Tablet of Ishraqat (Splendours) Baha’u'llah writes:

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