On Science and Religion:
Technology — Ethical Issues and the Bahá'í Faith

By Ramin Neshati

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #81
Bosch Bahá'í School: Santa Cruz, California, USA
May 29 – June 1, 2008
(see list of papers from #81)

    The essential harmony of science and religion is an underpinning principle of the Bahá'í Faith. For Bahá'ís, the absence of this vital principle reduces religion to a mere set of superstitions, bankrupt beliefs and ruinous rituals. Religion must at all times conform to science and reason. Bahá'í teachings laud science as an indispensable complement to spirituality.

    Intelligence and erudition gained through scientific pursuits, therefore, cannot be discordant with mystical proclivity. This principle gives rise to a plethora of thought-provoking and troubling uncertainties for many scientists who find themselves on opposing ends of the faith-reason divide.

    The scientific understanding of human reproduction was largely worked out during the course of the twentieth century through the morphological explorations of the DNA molecule. The sequences in the double helix structure of DNA were believed to hold the key to human life and reproduction. In 2000, researchers published the preliminary map of the chemical sequences in the DNA of the human genome. By 2003, these scientists were finally successful in decoding the entire human genome. This phenomenal accomplishment—the comprehension of the genetic instructions embedded in human DNA molecules—facilitates a number of useful medical breakthroughs. It also portends of a serious moral and ethical concern for most religious people: human cloning. The ethical dilemma posed by such an eventuality is enormously troubling. Human manipulation of nature, indeed the creation of life itself, is problematic given the potential for the misuse of this technology. Darwinian evolutionary theorists posit that species adapt to environments with the passage of time. But neither Darwin nor any of his contemporary evolutionary scientists ever thought that humans would one day come up with the capability to design and alter their environment at will rather than adapt to it.

    At the 2007 `Irfán Colloquium at Bosch we explored the origin of mankind under the rubric of the Bahá'í principle of the essential harmony of science and religion. We concluded that the disentanglement of the mystery surrounding the origin of human life could be fathomed from both scientific and religious perspectives, neither trumping the other. At the 2008 `Irfán Colloquium we will extend this discussion with the aim of an enhanced understanding of the ethics of technological advances in genetics using `Abdu'l-Bahá's edifications in Some Answered Questions as our conduit and compass to Bahá'í beliefs. Don't come looking for answers, only questions!

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