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If we all live, as many scientists now believe, in a “fine-tuned universe,” then the universe must have been designed, created, and arranged by a higher and more powerful intelligence.
The Baha’i teachings refer to that higher and more powerful intelligence as an “unknown essence,” far beyond any attempt at human depiction or comprehension.
People call that higher power by many different names – the Creator, God, the Lord. By whatever name we refer to the Creator, however, we all universally refer to nature as the creation. Baha’u’llah wrote:
Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment. Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world. It is a dispensation of Providence ordained by the Ordainer, the All-Wise.
… nature is subject to a sound organization, to inviolable laws, to a perfect order, and to a consummate design, from which it never departs. … were you to gaze on it 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 other great stars and luminous bodies – are most perfectly organized …
Now, can such organization, order, and laws as you observe in existence be attributed merely to the effect of nature, notwithstanding that nature itself has neither consciousness nor understanding, is in the grasp of the omnipotent Lord, Who is the Ruler of the world of nature and Who causes it to manifest whatsoever He desires.
Did the universe come into existence so life could emerge? Almost everyone with a belief in a higher power would likely answer “yes” to that question – but some scientists call this idea “carbon chauvinism,” saying that the fine-tuned universe theory only allows for carbon-based life as the sole possibility and outcome we can imagine.
Others see the fine-tuning argument as a kind of immodest hubris, an anthropocentric position, with its belief that human life represents the sole purpose of the entire universe and its evolution.
Few have yet formulated cogent responses to these criticisms of the fine-tuned universe theory – but the Baha’i teachings open up an entirely new spiritual viewpoint on this important issue.
First, Baha’is believe that God’s creation of life goes far, far beyond the limits of the planet Earth. Baha’u’llah clearly said, in response to a question about “the celestial spheres,” that life on other planets was not only a possibility but a reality:
Thou hast, moreover, asked Me concerning the nature of the celestial spheres. To comprehend their nature, it would be necessary to inquire into the meaning of the allusions that have been made in the Books of old to the celestial spheres and the heavens, and to discover the character of their relationship to this physical world, and the influence which they exert upon it. Every heart is filled with wonder at so bewildering a theme, and every mind is perplexed by its mystery. God, alone, can fathom its import. The learned men, that have fixed at several thousand years the life of this earth, have failed, throughout the long period of their observation, to consider either the number or the age of the other planets. Consider, moreover, the manifold divergencies that have resulted from the theories propounded by these men. Know thou that every fixed star hath its own planets, and every planet its own creatures, whose number no man can compute.
Here Baha’u’llah repudiates the fundamentalist idea that the Earth is only “several thousand years” old, the theory commonly known as “creationism.” While Baha’is accept the Bible and its teachings, Baha’is view those teachings as largely metaphorical and symbolic – not as scientific truth. Baha’is emphatically reject the literalist reading of the Bible that results in declarations by creationists that the Earth is 6,000 years old. In a speech he gave in 1912 in New York City, Abdu’l-Baha explained:
This divine sovereignty is not to be measured by six thousand years. This interminable, illimitable universe is not the result of that measured period. This stupendous laboratory and workshop has not been limited in its production to six thousand revolutions of the earth about the sun. With the slightest reflection man can be assured that this calculation and announcement is childish, especially in view of the fact that it is scientifically proved the terrestrial globe has been the habitation of man long prior to such a limited estimate.
As to the record in the Bible concerning Adam’s entering paradise, His eating from the tree and His expulsion through the temptation of Satan: These are all symbols beneath which there are wonderful and divine meanings not to be calculated in years, dates and measurement of time. Likewise, the statement that God created the heaven and the earth in six days is symbolic …. When man casts even a cursory glance of reflection upon the question of the universe, he discovers it is very ancient.
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So this ancient universe, the Baha’i teachings say, supports living creatures throughout its billions of galaxies.
Modern science has just begun to develop the ability to discover exoplanets in the habitable zone of their respective solar systems, the so-called “Goldilocks planets” suited for life as we know it to exist. In fact, scientists reporting on 2009’s Kepler Space Mission announced that there could be many as 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of Sun-like stars – just in our Milky Way galaxy.
Baha’is believe that we humans are not alone – that God has created life throughout the universe; and that the perfect beauty, order, and symmetry of the universe reveals the existence of a motive force, a Creator, a First Cause.