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Science

Quantum Mechanics, Modern Physics and the Baha’i Teachings

Vahid Houston Ranjbar | Feb 26, 2017

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Vahid Houston Ranjbar | Feb 26, 2017

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

When I reflect on the Baha’i teachings, which stunningly prefigure many of the discoveries of modern physics, I see an interesting pattern.

As a physicist, I’ve noticed that most of the clearest scientific expressions and explanations in the Baha’i teachings come from the writings and talks of Abdu’l-Baha. Looking carefully, those explanations usually trace back to the original concept provided by Baha’u’llah. However, ultimately Abdu’l-Baha seems uniquely capable of pulling these concepts out, explaining them in clear, modern language, and rendering them intelligible to us—or at least to me.

For example on the question of the ultimate substance of matter, in Baha’u’llah’s “Tablet of Wisdom” we can see the presence of the ideas later expressed by Abdu’l-Baha:

… He (Socrates) it is who perceived a unique, a tempered, and a pervasive nature in things, bearing the closest likeness to the human spirit, and he discovered this nature to be distinct from the substance of things in their refined form. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 146.

This, I suspect, forms the kernel of the idea that underlies Abdu’l-Baha’s statement that:

Even the ether, the forces of which are said in natural philosophy to be heat, light, electricity and magnetism, is an intelligible and not a sensible reality. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, pp. 93-94.

Perhaps this alludes to the other uniquely modern ideas from the Baha’i teachings about non-existence of rest and a void, which both flow from the concept of a pervasive and spirit-like essence underlying all matter. For those reasons and from my perspective, it seems it would behoove us to pay extremely careful attention to what Abdu’l-Baha says about science and the universe, despite how deceptively simple it may sound.

With hindsight we can easily see the many important principles contained in Abdu’l-Baha’s writings and speeches—for example, the understanding that both matter and light arises from the ether, the understanding that this field represents a non-physical “intellectual reality” and that absolute rest is impossible via his statement “that motion be an inseparable concomitant of existence.” These concepts expose some of the core ideas of quantum mechanics and later field theory—which developed as guiding lights of contemporary science long after Abdu’l-Baha first expressed them.

Louis de Broglie

Louis de Broglie

All this makes me wonder how a scientist existing before the advent of the quantum wave function might have used Abdu’l-Baha’s statements to hasten these discoveries. One could imagine an insightful individual who might have taken Abdu’l-Baha’s statements on ether and matter to heart, and seen, as the pioneering French physicist Louis de Broglie eventually postulated, that matter might be modeled as a wave; or later understood that this same field could also explain electromagnetism. Yet still, this kind of discovery requires formulating these principles in terms of the problems and the mathematics at hand, which makes me doubt anyone will discover a fully formed theory of physics hidden in scripture. Instead, we can sometimes find principles which should inspire and hopefully point the direction towards fruitful scientific inquiry.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the probable truths contemporary science still wrestles with and attempts to prove, and see if we can find corollaries or clues within the Baha’i teachings. Several ideas seem to be suggested in the Baha’i writings which many physicists think are true, but haven’t conclusively proven yet. I’ll list two of the most important ones here:

The Cosmos Exhibits Self-similarity

This concept perhaps should really belong in the category of known scientific facts, since this is a plainly observed phenomena of our universe, due to the nature of our physical laws. While it hasn’t yet been conclusively proven—it would be a very difficult theory to prove, after all—most scientists already accept it; and most laymen do, too. In part, it has driven the development of such emerging sciences as fractal mathematics. The Baha’i teachings express this cosmic self-similarity in terms of the obvious patterns of nature, from the smallest element to the largest:

… earthly and heavenly, material and spiritual, accidental and essential, particular and universal, structure and foundation, appearance and reality and the essence of all things, both inward and outward—all of these are connected one with another and are interrelated in such a manner that you will find that drops are patterned after seas, and that atoms are structured after suns in proportion to their capacities and potentialities. – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablet of the Universe, provisional translation.

The Cosmos is Infinite

Despite the belief that our universe originated with a singularity, scientists now have a strong suspicion that our cosmos is infinite, populated by a multi-verse. In fact, the infinite nature of the universe is now almost a requirement for many existing theories beyond the standard model. Since science centers so much on measurement, this theory also approaches impossibility in terms of proof—but the Baha’i teachings have proclaimed the infinitude of the universe since the beginning of the revelation:

Know thou that the expressions of the creative hand of God throughout His limitless worlds are themselves limitless. Limitations are a characteristic of the finite, and restriction is a quality of existent things, not of the reality of existence. – Ibid.

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Comments

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  • Greg Billington
    Aug 12, 2019
    -
    I find your articles both cogent and concise. This blend requires art as ell as science. I appreciate them from both directions. Ty.
  • Marc Bellario
    Mar 1, 2017
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    I am a bit curious about your position concerning perspectives of
    Dave Bohm, ( who worked, I believe at the University of Haifa ),
    on some of these matters? Pilot wave etc,, especially ideas
    from Undivided Universe, and Wholeness And Implicate Order
    • Mar 4, 2017
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      I am not a great student of all his work, however I do know he was an advocate for the so called hidden variable theories. These seemed to have been disproven via testing of Bell's theorem (at least the local versions). I personally am satisfied with the Copenhagen interpretation and think that and the non-physical and even non-deterministic part of it actually fits well with Baha'u'llah's writings. (I spent a bit of time on this in an article on medium https://hackernoon.com/plato-modern-physics-and-bahau-llah-ee3f8740fddc#.7u0pp84dd) I do know he was also very interested in the problem of consciousness and thought there was some link ...to QM..on this point he may be right.
      Read more...
  • Jane Povey
    Feb 28, 2017
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    Thank you Vahaid for some really interesting articles. I hope I can ask how you would respond to Brian Cox's recent assertion that there is no such thing as ghosts (and therefore spiritual bodies) because if there were the LHC would have found them? My physics is far more fascination than deep understanding but is it possible for a physical machine to really find a non-physical reality? When we, as Baha'is, talk about the spirtual world I don't see how that can be discovered by a machine which exists in only 4 dimensions but is there a better ...scientific explanation of why the LHC would or would not be able to detect any non-physical bodies? Is it a possible for a future post to address this question?
    Read more...
    • Mar 1, 2017
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      Yes I read the article in question. Actually the LHC produces Ghosts all the time, they are called virtual particles and violate energy conservation on the level permitted by the uncertainty principal..but of course he is talking about consciousness. My short response to that is if we are ready to accept that a purely mathematical/intellectual object which permeates all space gives rise to an electron is it so stupid to believe something similar gives rise to consciousness?
  • Don Hyde
    Feb 27, 2017
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    www.resonance.is Flower of Life and Sacred Geometry Mathematics.
  • Don Hyde
    Feb 27, 2017
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    As, above, so below. As within the Multivese is infolded!
  • Lee Schelin
    Feb 27, 2017
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    I believe the whole Big Bang theory was based on the Red Shift which meant the universe was expanding. So if the expansion was reversed the result would be a singularity, one point which resulted in the Big Bang. Now there is new evidence that Red Shift reading was wrong which means the universe is not expanding at all...bye, bye Big Bang. I have felt that the universe has always been here (No beginning, no end) It is....period
  • Roland Green
    Feb 26, 2017
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    The belief that our universe originated with a singularity is being questioned. For example, Ahmed Farag Ali and Saurya Das have proposed a new model in a paper published in Physics Letters B that the Big Bang singularity can be resolved by their new model in which the universe has no beginning and no end.
    The model applies quantum correction terms to complement Einstein's theory of general relativity. The model may also account for dark matter and dark energy, resolving multiple problems at once. Faraq Ali argues that "The Big Bang singularity is the most serious problem of ...general relativity because the laws of physics appear to break down there."
    Read more...
  • rodney Richards
    Feb 26, 2017
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    "... makes me doubt anyone will discover a fully formed theory of physics in scripture..."?? I differ slightly although I appreciate the argument. Was it not the prophet Muhammad in the 6th century before Copernicus and Galileo who stated "The sun is a fixed star."? And the acumen of the early Arab seafarers and astronomers is almost without parallel, demonstrating scripture can and does inform human scientific achievement. For, as 'Abdu'l-Baha has related in His talks on the inner Powers of Man, Imagination may be the progenitor of all thought, and inspiration, the progenitor of imagination? And what is, ...or has proven to be, more inspiring that the Word of the Prophets?
    Read more...
    • Feb 27, 2017
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      Yes I actually discuss this power of inspiration and meditation which Abdu'l-Baha talks about, in the 6th part (I think) of this series. When I say "fully formed" I am thinking of nice clean differential equations or theories cast in the contemporary language of science.
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