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I live in Florida, right in Hurricane Irma’s destructive path. Luckily, my family and I got out in time.
Irma caused tremendous devastation in Florida and the Caribbean islands, so I feel blessed that we were able to evacuate before the storm hit, and that our home sustained minimal damage. Of course, I was extremely worried for all those who weren’t able to leave.
Have you noticed? It seems apparent that an increase of natural disasters is happening everywhere in the world. Some argue that it’s always been that way, and others say it has increased in frequency and intensity. I tend to agree with the latter.
So I ask myself and others: Why? Those who have a scientific view often believe it’s due to climate change, and those with more religious view say it is prophecy and the wrath of God. Others simply say that’s how nature works. As a Baha’i I am religious—but like all Baha’is, I also strongly believe in science, and try to find the connections between both in regards to natural disasters.
The Baha’i teachings say that nature is governed by a universal law, and that religion and science agree in their essential truths:
… nature is subject to a sound organization, to inviolable laws, to a perfect order, and to a consummate design, from which it never departs. To such an extent is this true that were you to gaze with the eye of insight and discernment, you would observe that all things—from the smallest invisible atom to the largest globes in the world of existence, such as the sun or the other great stars and luminous bodies—are most perfectly organized, be it with regard to their order, their composition, their outward form, or their motion, and that all are subject to one universal law from which they never depart. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, p. 3.
So nature has order, but it has no consciousness or free will, and reacts to manipulation from outside forces. We humans are a part of nature—but because we have consciousness, intellect and spirit we believe ourselves to be above nature, mostly because we have been able to influence nature in great part to our favor.
For years now I have been studying the microbiome with fascination. The human microbiome is our inner ecosystem, especially in our gut, the digestive system. Scientific evidence shows that the trillions of microbes that reside in our bodies can influence our gut-linked health, affecting our risk of obesity, diabetes, colon health, autoimmunity, cancer and more. Manipulating this invisible microbial world within us affects many parts of our body and the body as a whole—it even effects our brain function. The fact that tiny invisible microbes residing within us can be so powerful reminds me of what Abdu’l-Baha explained, that from the micro world of atoms to the macro world of planets there is order.
If we take an electron out of the atom or add a proton we create a new atom. This manipulation also applies to the macro world.
If we have massive pollution in one part of the world, excessive oil drilling in another part of the world, extreme consumerism and materialism that results in superfluous trash such as used electronics, nuclear waste and more, we are manipulating and devastating our environment.
While visiting Germany this past summer I observed how much effort Germany puts into protecting the environment. I didn’t know if I should be happy or sad, because I knew that other parts of the world are not even expending 1% of the effort Germany does in protecting the environment, and I felt that was not fair.
Now the question might be “What does religion and prophecy have to do with this?” Well, while many think of so-called “natural” disasters as the wrath of God, I would consider them a consequence of ignoring God’s commands.
The Baha’i Faith says that science and religion have to go hand in hand. While we have made great scientific progress in the world, and built technologically-advanced civilizations, if science is conducted without religious and moral values then it becomes more harmful than useful. Science needs to be conducted without the objective of greed, with the highest integrity to truthful outcomes, to serve all not only a few, with respect to nature, and with the understanding that we are a part of nature and need to work with it rather than against it.
Baha’is recognize that ultimately the whole world has to unite as one to solve the world’s serious problems. Just as the limbs of one body cannot be separated, the world should not be regarded as segregated—because what goes on in one part of the world will affect the other parts of the world. If we don’t heed this call to come together in a unified human effort, Baha’u’llah cautions us:
O ye peoples of the world! Know, verily, that an unforeseen calamity is following you, and that grievous retribution awaiteth you. Think not the deeds ye have committed have been blotted from My sight. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 209-210.