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Religious institutions have often reviled and denied scientific facts, and even severely punished those who discovered them.
In the famous case of Galileo in 1633, the Holy Office of the Catholic Pope put him on trial for his scientific theory that the Earth revolved around the Sun. The trial verdict found Galileo “vehemently suspect of heresy”, and the Church forced him to publicly recant his theory. Famously, he said about the Earth immediately after his trial, “And yet it moves.” For his crime of discovery, Galileo spent nine years, the rest of his life, under house arrest.
Science discovers reality, as does religion, in its own way. Now, in the 21st century, scientific views have undergone a 180-degree revolution. Today scientific theories have become so numerous and so ubiquitous that we tend to regard them as fact instead of hoax until proven otherwise. And religious truth has become secular in many instances in order to adapt.
Another example, my beloved three cups of coffee per day, according to Leslie Stahl’s reporting last month on 60 Minutes, could prolong my life into the 90’s and beyond. At one time the prevalent science recommended against drinking coffee, yet now, research has shown that coffee gives us more than just a morning jolt; that steaming cup of java also provides the number one source of antioxidants in the U.S. diet, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.
Every created thing, including us, reflects the reality of the moment we live in. Some scientific truths and religious dogmas have been proven wrong or right, years after technologists or scientists or sociologists first report their findings. The single truth underlying all science, and indeed, all of life itself, is that discovering reality never ends. The Baha’i principle of the agreement of science and religion says that truth, whether spiritual or scientific, has one source and one reality:
It is evident then that each elemental atom of the universe is possessed of a capacity to express all the virtues of the universe. This is a subtle and abstract realization. Meditate upon it, for within it lies the true explanation of pantheism. From this point of view and perception, pantheism is a truth, for every atom in the universe possesses or reflects all the virtues of life, the manifestation of which is effected through change and transformation. Therefore the origin and outcome of phenomena is verily the omnipresent God for the reality of all phenomenal existence is through Him. There is neither reality nor the manifestation of reality without the instrumentality of God. Existence is realized and possible through the bounty of God, just as the ray or flame emanating from this lamp is realized through the bounty of the lamp from which it originates. Even so all phenomena are realized through the divine bounty, and the explanation of true pantheistic statement and principle is that the phenomena of the universe find realization through the one power animating and dominating all things; and all things are but manifestations of its energy and bounty. The virtue of being and existence is through no other agency. Therefore in the words of Baha’u’llah the first teaching is the oneness of the world of humanity….” – Foundations of World Unity, p.59
As rational human beings, we realize through the truth of religion that God gives us the faculty of reason to discover both material and spiritual and reality:
Religion and science are the two wings upon which man’s intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the human soul can progress. It is not possible to fly with one wing alone! Should a man try to fly with the wing of religion alone he would quickly fall into the quagmire of superstition, whilst on the other hand, with the wing of science alone he would also make no progress, but fall into the despairing slough of materialism…. But the religion which does not walk hand in hand with science is itself in the darkness of superstition and ignorance.
Much of the discord and disunion of the world is created by these man-made oppositions and contradictions. If religion were in harmony with science and they walked together, much of the hatred and bitterness now bringing misery to the human race would be at an end.
Consider what it is that singles man out from among created beings, and makes of him a creature apart. Is it not his reasoning power, his intelligence? Shall he not make use of these in his study of religion? I say unto you: weigh carefully in the balance of reason and science everything that is presented to you as religion. If it passes this test, then accept it, for it is truth! If, however, it does not so conform, then reject it, for it is ignorance! – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 143-144.
Reality, like fantasy and imagination, goes on forever. With its billions of galaxies, so does the universe. That unimaginable vastness means we have an enormous amount left to discover, if we can unite the spiritual and the scientific in the pursuit of truth.