Every scientist wants to understand how to distinguish the known from the unknown, and how to push the boundaries of knowledge.

Recently I wrote two articles exploring some aspects of the correspondence between Baha’i scripture and modern physics. The first centered on Plato, Modern Physics and Baha’u’llah, the second a brief analysis of Abdu’l-Baha’s Tablet of the Universe. In the process of my writing, several questions arose which made me question the relationship of the science of contemporary physics to my Faith. I also came away with a desire to categorize those ideas contained in the Baha’i writings which seemed to clearly prefigure many aspects of modern physics.

I hoped, in this search, that I could better identify those ideas which, though not yet established by physics as correct, have some considerable likelihood of being right. Also, I wanted to know more about those concepts in modern physics we don’t yet understand, but which that might point us in worthy directions.

Simply put; I wanted to see if I could distinguish the known from the unknown, to differentiate, as the Baha’i teachings say, between “the knowledge of what hath been and what will come to pass:”

Praised be to God Who made the Point to be outstretched within the Book of Origination, an Ornament through which is the Genesis of Creativity. From it He differentiated the knowledge of what hath been and what will come to pass. – Baha’u’llah, provisional translation by Stephen Lambden.

As I wrote in my previous articles, these musings represent just that, my own very flawed thoughts, ideas and speculations. In presenting these thoughts, I’ve tried to remain unafraid of speculation—even wild speculation. However, hopefully in this process I’ll make a clear distinction between what is established by science, what has some probability of being recognized as true, and what is purely my own wild speculation.

For me, Baha’u’llah’s revelation and Abdu’l-Baha’s exposition of the Baha’i teachings represent a huge, fertile ocean of knowledge for the spiritual and social development of humankind. However I also believe, as Abdu’l-Baha says in his “Tablet of the Universe,” that:

These are spiritual truths relating to the spiritual world. In like manner, from these spiritual realities infer truths about the material world. For physical things are signs and imprints of spiritual things … – provisional translation.

So taking that advice, I would like to see how far our minds and current understanding can carry us in this direction. Our goal: to attempt to understand how our universe works, and even more important, to go beyond how to what it means.

This mode of inquiry, however, offers many perils for a practicing scientist. History shows us that faith can be a very powerful force in subverting rationality. One only has to look at the long list of respectable scientists who have at various points in their career fallen down the hole of questionable pseudoscience. Renowned people like Newton, who in addition to creating the foundation of physics out of just about thin air, nevertheless spent a lot of time on Alchemy, for example.

I know many scientists of faith who dislike this direction of thought. Although they believe that faith and science are not mutually exclusive, they still think that the domains of science and religion should not intersect beyond the mechanics of ethics and the vagaries of spiritual inspiration. They may be right. However, my reading of the Baha’i teachings, and my intuition, tells me much more remains to be discovered at that fascinating intersection of belief and scientific knowledge:

There is no contradiction between true religion and science. When a religion is opposed to science it becomes mere superstition: that which is contrary to knowledge is ignorance.

How can a man believe to be a fact that which science has proved to be impossible? If he believes in spite of his reason, it is rather ignorant superstition than faith. The true principles of all religions are in conformity with the teachings of science. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 141.

So, as a scientist and as a Baha’i, I’ve decided to stick my toe into this opaque water.

Often, when individuals engage in such activities, they spend a lot of time fitting scripture into the current scientific narrative—or worse yet, trying to fit and distort current science to fit their theology. While this might be necessary as a starting point, one should always bear in mind the dangers of ‘over-fitting’. After all, anything can fit, simply by including enough variables. Just about any wild theory can be made consistent with observation if we twist it enough. This occurs at the various “creation science” institutes, where they try and cram current science into an absurd 6,000-year-old narrative of the world, or from those who try to divine all sorts of modern science or predictions from the numerology of the Bible or the Quran.

For these activities to have any merit beyond a curious entertainment, they must produce a valid, new and verifiable prediction. So far, that hasn’t happened, and I suspect it won’t. On the other hand, could we possibly gain some deep scientific insight from the newest global religious revelation, the Baha’i Faith? Let’s explore that question in this series of essays, and start out by examining what we do know.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

9 Comments

characters remaining
  • Feb 24, 2017
    Trying to force science to fit religion has led to a lot of trouble. Trying to force religion to fit science is also troublesome, as exemplified by T. H. Huxley's distortion of Darwin's evolution in order to sell an atheist/agnostic viewpoint to the public (which underlies a lot of the continuing tension between religion and science).
    I think scientists often don't give enough consideration to the nature of the first step of scientific method: forming a testable hypothesis. This step is mainly intuitive, and may well be of religious origin. For example, Copernicus formed the hypothesis of ...a sun-centered system from the analogy of the Sun to God.
    Read more...
    • Guy Pierre Poulin
      Feb 26, 2017
      To avoid trouble, the trick here to work on only one variable at the time. Try first, without forcing😉
  • Arindam Ghosh
    Feb 24, 2017
    https://m.phys.org/news/2015-02-big-quantum-equation-universe.html
    you may find the papers referred to in this article interesting. Seems that this theory may be more in line with Abdul Baha's thoughts.
  • Hooshang S. Afshar
    Feb 24, 2017
    I would like to read you tackle "miracles." As you know Baha'i writings acknowledge some of the miracles in the Bible, for example virgin conception of Mary with Jesus. Does this agree with science?
    Thank you for this good article.
    • Feb 25, 2017
      I guess on the question of miracles I would reply that at this point we accept these few things on faith. I don't think science is at a level that these could be understood any other way. However I do think the day will come when perhaps some of these events will be understandable. My reading of the writings indicates that there are quite stupendous levels of knowledge that will be opened to humanity in the future.
      On those days when I allow myself the freedom to imagine, I often wonder if in the future we might discover some ...kind of 'hack' to the physical reality. I am fairly convinced that this physical reality is just the tip of the iceberg, as Abdu'l-Baha say's "a shadow stretching forth".
      Read more...
  • Feb 24, 2017
    Here you are again! I was following your posts on Medium. Good to see you here as well. I'm looking forward to your series.
  • Terry Tibando
    Feb 23, 2017
    Baha'is typically give science preference in any debate on truth, we recognize the essential harmony between science and religion, however, scientists have yet to acknowledge this basic truth. How often science will make a scientific breakthrough and will suppress its discovery believing the public isn't ready for it. This is a betrayal of science and truth. Consider Nikola Tesla's discovery of a working system that can extract infinite energy from the quantum vacuum of space (Zero Point Energy), yet, this its discovery has been rigorously suppressed and covered up by science for over a century. How sad that humanity must ...wait until this institution of society has matured before the rest of us can enjoy the benefits of such a discovery!
    Read more...
    • Hooshang S. Afshar
      Feb 24, 2017
      Why? I think there is more to it than supressing the discovery. I think we have been fed misinformation because the discovery itself was not real.