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Why Science and Spirituality Must Advance Together

Vahid Houston Ranjbar | Jul 14, 2016

PART 3 IN SERIES How the Baha'i Teachings—and Science—Discover Truth

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 | Jul 14, 2016

PART 3 IN SERIES How the Baha'i Teachings—and Science—Discover Truth

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

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. Were anyone to affirm that it is the Will of God as manifested in the world of being, no one should question this assertion. It is endowed with a power whose reality men of learning fail to grasp. Indeed a man of insight can perceive naught therein save the effulgent splendor of Our Name, the Creator. Say: This is an existence which knoweth no decay, and Nature itself is lost in bewilderment before its revelations, its compelling evidences and its effulgent glory which have encompassed the universe. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 141.

This paragraph from the Baha’i teachings on nature indicates that nature continually “creates,” and possesses a power or force which can bring order. In a letter to the naturalist Dr. Auguste Forel, Abdu’l-Baha seems to refer to this creative force as the “the ancient power.” In another place Abdu’l-Baha identifies the “attractive force” with the power to bring forth life, when he writes “Love is the very cause of life:”

We declare that love is the cause of the existence of all phenomena and that the absence of love is the cause of disintegration or nonexistence. – The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 255.

In modern physics, new work by Barbour and his colleagues seem to show that there is something unique about systems under the operation of an attractive force. In a recent paper they say “self-gravitating systems exhibit ‘anti-thermodynamic’ behavior that is not fully understood.”

We know that the laws of thermodynamics, as originally conceived, didn’t take gravitation into account. Indeed the operation of self-attractive forces leads to symmetry breaking and clustering, very different from how ideal gases behave.

Barbour’s work represents a possible solution to the origin of the so-called “time’s arrow”—and the asymmetry between matter and antimatter in the universe. Both represent important and deep questions in physics. Most physicists have identified the irreversible cooling process described in the second law of thermodynamics as the “arrow of time.” So, for example, the process of mixing gases or breaking a glass into many pieces both represent physical occurrences which one rarely observes in reverse.

Since the discovery of antimatter in 1932, no one has resolved the question of why normal matter dominates in our universe over antimatter—perhaps because the laws which govern their production don’t seem to exhibit a significant enough preference for matter over antimatter. This question also deeply relates to questions of time directionality, since we understand that antimatter represents matter with reverse time propagation.

Finally, Baha’u’llah’s writings indicate that profound scientific and artistic advances will come in the future. He attributes their imminent discovery to forces released via the revelation of the words of God in this age:

Through the mere revelation of the word “Fashioner,” issuing forth from His lips and proclaiming His attribute to mankind, such power is released as can generate, through successive ages, all the manifold arts which the hands of man can produce. This, verily, is a certain truth. No sooner is this resplendent word uttered, than its animating energies, stirring within all created things, give birth to the means and instruments whereby such arts can be produced and perfected. All the wondrous achievements ye now witness are the direct consequences of the Revelation of this Name. In the days to come, ye will, verily, behold things of which ye have never heard before. Thus hath it been decreed in the Tablets of God, and none can comprehend it except them whose sight is sharp. In like manner, the moment the word expressing My attribute “The Omniscient” issueth forth from My mouth, every created thing will, according to its capacity and limitations, be invested with the power to unfold the knowledge of the most marvelous sciences, and will be empowered to manifest them in the course of time at the bidding of Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Knowing. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 142.

However, Baha’u’llah also leaves us with several astounding warnings concerning the progress of civilization and the power of current and future scientific discoveries. These warnings caution us about pursuing pure science for its own sake, rather than combining the pursuit of spiritual and scientific truth together:

In all matters moderation is desirable. If a thing is carried to excess, it will prove a source of evil. Consider the civilization of the West, how it hath agitated and alarmed the peoples of the world. An infernal engine hath been devised, and hath proved so cruel a weapon of destruction that its like none hath ever witnessed or heard… Strange and astonishing things exist in the earth but they are hidden from the minds and the understanding of men. These things are capable of changing the whole atmosphere of the earth and their contamination would prove lethal. – Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 69.

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