Guy Consolmagno: Religion & Science

Fascinating talk by Guy Consolmagno, Vatican astronomer, discussing science and religion:

Click here for the full hour long program.

Guy Consolmagno believes that science and religion should work together rather than against one another. In a 2006 interview he said:

“Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism – it’s turning God into a nature god. And science needs religion in order to have a conscience, to know that, just because something is possible, it may not be a good thing to do.”

Hmmm, that is a clunky version of what Abdu’l-Baha eloquently said many years ago:

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.

Is it possible Guy Consolmagno has read Abdu’l-Baha?

  • Grover

    Personally, I do not believe that science and religion can be reconciled.

    Science is all about using evidence and logic to form and validate theories about the physical or material (as opposed to “spiritual”) universe, etc. There is little or no trust in authoritative statements unless the statements are backed up by evidence. Science is fallible, sometimes victim to politics, corporate greed, or fraud, BUT, it is self correcting and constantly revising. Scientific knowledge is updated and revised all the time by scientists as new evidence comes along. Science is about specifics and being able to understand how things work and being able to prove theories.

    Science relies on a set of ethics such as honesty in reporting findings. Because science is subject to review (usually by some student or scientist replicating existing work), any dishonest scientist usually gets found out.

    Does religion belong in science? Hell no! Religion is about putting faith in deity, prophet, scripture or authoritative figure. Faith does not have to be based on evidence or logic (but it does help) and can be emotive or experiential (which is a problem when trying to convince someone that their belief may be wrong). Religious knowledge cannot be verified, is not updated (unless you believe in progressive revelation in which case it is updated every time a new prophet comes along), and depends on what prophet you happen to believe in. There are nearly always difficulties with interpretation because meanings and language change over time and because religious scripture tends to be annoyingly vague. There are also problems with validity of scripture (who actually wrote it), translation, and it changing over time if it is based on an oral tradition (i.e. conveyed by word of mouth from person to person).

    Basically, to be blunt, anyone could spout a load of crap and someone out there would believe it, unless they use a scientific or rational mindset to explore what has been said.

  • Grover

    Personally, I do not believe that science and religion can be reconciled.

    Science is all about using evidence and logic to form and validate theories about the physical or material (as opposed to “spiritual”) universe, etc. There is little or no trust in authoritative statements unless the statements are backed up by evidence. Science is fallible, sometimes victim to politics, corporate greed, or fraud, BUT, it is self correcting and constantly revising. Scientific knowledge is updated and revised all the time by scientists as new evidence comes along. Science is about specifics and being able to understand how things work and being able to prove theories.

    Science relies on a set of ethics such as honesty in reporting findings. Because science is subject to review (usually by some student or scientist replicating existing work), any dishonest scientist usually gets found out.

    Does religion belong in science? Hell no! Religion is about putting faith in deity, prophet, scripture or authoritative figure. Faith does not have to be based on evidence or logic (but it does help) and can be emotive or experiential (which is a problem when trying to convince someone that their belief may be wrong). Religious knowledge cannot be verified, is not updated (unless you believe in progressive revelation in which case it is updated every time a new prophet comes along), and depends on what prophet you happen to believe in. There are nearly always difficulties with interpretation because meanings and language change over time and because religious scripture tends to be annoyingly vague. There are also problems with validity of scripture (who actually wrote it), translation, and it changing over time if it is based on an oral tradition (i.e. conveyed by word of mouth from person to person).

    Basically, to be blunt, anyone could spout a load of crap and someone out there would believe it, unless they use a scientific or rational mindset to explore what has been said.

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    Really? You don’t think there is even an iota of “faith” or assumption in science? Have you seen this presentation?

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    Really? You don’t think there is even an iota of “faith” or assumption in science? Have you seen this presentation?

  • Craig Parke

    Scientific Evidence on Why The Administrative Order Has Been
    Completely Impaired for 88 Years and Counting

    This explains the amazing dysfunctionality of every single decade.

    THE BRAIN CHEMISTRY OF GROUPTHINK LOCK STEP CONFORMITY

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/01/15/social.conformity.brain/index.html

    THIS IS YOUR BRAIN AS A NORMAL HUMAN BEING
    “But when they removed these differences, persecution, and bigotries out of their midst, and proclaimed the equal rights of all subjects and the liberty of men’s consciences, the lights of glory and power arose and shone from the horizons of that kingdom in such wise that those countries made progress in every direction; and whereas the mightiest monarchy of Europe had been servile to and abased before the smallest government of Asia, now the great states of Asia are unable to oppose the small states of Europe.

    These are effectual and sufficient proofs that the conscience of man is sacred and to be respected; and that liberty thereof produces widening of ideas, amendment of morals, improvement of conduct, disclosure of the secrets of creation, and manifestation of the hidden verities of the contingent world.

    Moreover, if interrogation of conscience, which is one of the private possessions of the heart and the soul, take place in this world, what further recompense remains for man in the court of divine justice at the day of general resurrection?

    Convictions and ideas are within the scope of the comprehension of the King of kings, not of kings; and soul and conscience are between the fingers of control of the Lord of hearts, not of [His] servants. So in the world of existence two persons unanimous in all grades [of thought] and all beliefs cannot be found.

    (Abdu’l-Baha, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 91)

    THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON THE ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER
    “We have inherited a dangerous delusion from Christianity that our individual conscience is supreme. This is not a Baha’i belief. In the end, in the context of both our role in the community and our role in the greater world, we must be prepared to sacrifice our personal convictions or opinions. The belief that individual conscience is supreme is equivalent to ‘taking partners with God’ which is abhorrent to the Teachings of the Faith.”
    - Douglas Martin
    Former Member of the Universal House of Justice
    Baha’i Faith

    THIS IS YOUR BRAIN AS A NORMAL HUMAN BEING
    “‘The ways unto God are as the number of the breaths of [His] creatures’ is a mysterious truth, and ‘To every [people] We have appointed a [separate] rite’* is one of the subtleties of the Qur’??n.”

    (Abdu’l-Baha, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 91)

    “How many the huris of inner meaning that are as yet concealed within the chambers of divine wisdom! None hath yet approached them…”

    (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 70)

    “Indeed there are many hidden meanings in the utterances of His Presence the Spirit (Christ). He mentioned many things, but lack of prepared listeners and of people of insight, caused Him to withhold or seclude them; as He said: ‘But ye cannot bear them now.’ (St. John xvi, 12) That dawning of the Revelation (Christ) meant that ‘His Presence, the Promised One, would mention them’ (the many things)”.

    (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 123)

    “The Sun of Truth is the Word of God upon which dependeth the education of those who are endowed with the power of understanding and of utterance. It is the true spirit and the heavenly water, through whose aid and gracious providence all things have been and will be quickened. Its appearance in every mirror is conditioned by the colour of that mirror. For instance, when its light is cast upon the mirrors of the hearts of the wise, it bringeth forth wisdom. In like manner when it manifesteth itself in the mirrors of the hearts of craftsmen, it unfoldeth new and unique arts, and when reflected in the hearts of those that apprehend the truth it revealeth wondrous tokens of true knowledge and discloseth the verities of God’s utterance.”

    (Translated from the Persian)
    (Compilations, The Importance of the Arts in Promoting the Faith)

    “Abdu’l-Bah?? replied: — ‘Divine things are too deep to be expressed by common words. The heavenly teachings are expressed in parable in order to be understood and preserved for ages to come. When the spiritually minded dive deeply into the ocean of their meaning they bring to the surface the pearls of their inner significance. There is no greater pleasure than to study God’s Word with a spiritual mind.”

    (Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 79)

    THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON THE ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER
    “The experience of the Ruhi Institute has shown that we do not suppress the imagination or the personality of the participants when we refrain from posing questions such as, ‘What does this mean to you?’; on the contrary, we are helping to nurture the development of communities which look first to the Writings as the principal basis of consultation whenever they are faced with a question.

    We believe that the habit of thinking about the implications of the
    Writings with the minimum of personal interpretation would eliminate a great share of the disagreements which afflict consultation in many communities, and would make the activities of our communities more effective.”

    “TO THE COLLABORATORS” – Ruhi Book One

    I suggest ANY soul who serves more then 10 years on the Universal House of Justice MUST selflessly resign for the good of the Faith and NEVER be eligible to be elected ever again and find something useful to do with the rest of their life where they have to form some new brain synapses. Like the kind you have to form when you have to make a payroll every two weeks by actually doing something useful in the world besides searching quotes from Shoghi Effendi on a hard drive to parrot.

    I suggest ANY soul who serves more than 8 years on a National Spiritual Assembly MUST selflessly resign for the good of the Faith and NEVER</b? be eligible to be elected ever again and find something useful to do with the rest of their life where they have to form some new brain synapses. Like the kind you have to form when you have to run a drive through at McDonalds. Keeping the fries and the McNuggets straight with the printed out order slip can concentrate the mind wonderfully. Getting ketchup straight from mustard and pickles straight from onions can help too.

    These people are brain impaired after so many endless monotonous years in these airtight groupthink lifetime incumbent positions. The hard science is there. This groupthink impaired brain chemistry effect has destroyed religions, governments, and businesses in human history. Everyone on this site has seen these effects everywhere in their life if they have lived long enough.

    Fight brain impairment. Throw these people out into the street through THE VIGILANT MATURE VOTE which Baha’u’llah gave to every believer. It is one’s sacred duty to save these people from themselves. Some may eventually thank you for the intervention from total ruin of their personal reputations in world history for the next three thousand years.

    THIS IS YOUR BRAIN AS A HUMAN BEING IN THIS WORLD AGE
    Science and religion SHOULD AGREE.

    THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON THE ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER
    Science and religion SHOULD NOT AGREE unless it fits with what we, uh, think.

  • Craig Parke

    Scientific Evidence on Why The Administrative Order Has Been
    Completely Impaired for 88 Years and Counting

    This explains the amazing dysfunctionality of every single decade.

    THE BRAIN CHEMISTRY OF GROUPTHINK LOCK STEP CONFORMITY

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/01/15/social.conformity.brain/index.html

    THIS IS YOUR BRAIN AS A NORMAL HUMAN BEING
    “But when they removed these differences, persecution, and bigotries out of their midst, and proclaimed the equal rights of all subjects and the liberty of men’s consciences, the lights of glory and power arose and shone from the horizons of that kingdom in such wise that those countries made progress in every direction; and whereas the mightiest monarchy of Europe had been servile to and abased before the smallest government of Asia, now the great states of Asia are unable to oppose the small states of Europe.

    These are effectual and sufficient proofs that the conscience of man is sacred and to be respected; and that liberty thereof produces widening of ideas, amendment of morals, improvement of conduct, disclosure of the secrets of creation, and manifestation of the hidden verities of the contingent world.

    Moreover, if interrogation of conscience, which is one of the private possessions of the heart and the soul, take place in this world, what further recompense remains for man in the court of divine justice at the day of general resurrection?

    Convictions and ideas are within the scope of the comprehension of the King of kings, not of kings; and soul and conscience are between the fingers of control of the Lord of hearts, not of [His] servants. So in the world of existence two persons unanimous in all grades [of thought] and all beliefs cannot be found.

    (Abdu’l-Baha, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 91)

    THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON THE ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER
    “We have inherited a dangerous delusion from Christianity that our individual conscience is supreme. This is not a Baha’i belief. In the end, in the context of both our role in the community and our role in the greater world, we must be prepared to sacrifice our personal convictions or opinions. The belief that individual conscience is supreme is equivalent to ‘taking partners with God’ which is abhorrent to the Teachings of the Faith.”
    - Douglas Martin
    Former Member of the Universal House of Justice
    Baha’i Faith

    THIS IS YOUR BRAIN AS A NORMAL HUMAN BEING
    “‘The ways unto God are as the number of the breaths of [His] creatures’ is a mysterious truth, and ‘To every [people] We have appointed a [separate] rite’* is one of the subtleties of the Qur’??n.”

    (Abdu’l-Baha, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 91)

    “How many the huris of inner meaning that are as yet concealed within the chambers of divine wisdom! None hath yet approached them…”

    (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 70)

    “Indeed there are many hidden meanings in the utterances of His Presence the Spirit (Christ). He mentioned many things, but lack of prepared listeners and of people of insight, caused Him to withhold or seclude them; as He said: ‘But ye cannot bear them now.’ (St. John xvi, 12) That dawning of the Revelation (Christ) meant that ‘His Presence, the Promised One, would mention them’ (the many things)”.

    (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 123)

    “The Sun of Truth is the Word of God upon which dependeth the education of those who are endowed with the power of understanding and of utterance. It is the true spirit and the heavenly water, through whose aid and gracious providence all things have been and will be quickened. Its appearance in every mirror is conditioned by the colour of that mirror. For instance, when its light is cast upon the mirrors of the hearts of the wise, it bringeth forth wisdom. In like manner when it manifesteth itself in the mirrors of the hearts of craftsmen, it unfoldeth new and unique arts, and when reflected in the hearts of those that apprehend the truth it revealeth wondrous tokens of true knowledge and discloseth the verities of God’s utterance.”

    (Translated from the Persian)
    (Compilations, The Importance of the Arts in Promoting the Faith)

    “Abdu’l-Bah?? replied: — ‘Divine things are too deep to be expressed by common words. The heavenly teachings are expressed in parable in order to be understood and preserved for ages to come. When the spiritually minded dive deeply into the ocean of their meaning they bring to the surface the pearls of their inner significance. There is no greater pleasure than to study God’s Word with a spiritual mind.”

    (Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 79)

    THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON THE ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER
    “The experience of the Ruhi Institute has shown that we do not suppress the imagination or the personality of the participants when we refrain from posing questions such as, ‘What does this mean to you?’; on the contrary, we are helping to nurture the development of communities which look first to the Writings as the principal basis of consultation whenever they are faced with a question.

    We believe that the habit of thinking about the implications of the
    Writings with the minimum of personal interpretation would eliminate a great share of the disagreements which afflict consultation in many communities, and would make the activities of our communities more effective.”

    “TO THE COLLABORATORS” – Ruhi Book One

    I suggest ANY soul who serves more then 10 years on the Universal House of Justice MUST selflessly resign for the good of the Faith and NEVER be eligible to be elected ever again and find something useful to do with the rest of their life where they have to form some new brain synapses. Like the kind you have to form when you have to make a payroll every two weeks by actually doing something useful in the world besides searching quotes from Shoghi Effendi on a hard drive to parrot.

    I suggest ANY soul who serves more than 8 years on a National Spiritual Assembly MUST selflessly resign for the good of the Faith and NEVER</b? be eligible to be elected ever again and find something useful to do with the rest of their life where they have to form some new brain synapses. Like the kind you have to form when you have to run a drive through at McDonalds. Keeping the fries and the McNuggets straight with the printed out order slip can concentrate the mind wonderfully. Getting ketchup straight from mustard and pickles straight from onions can help too.

    These people are brain impaired after so many endless monotonous years in these airtight groupthink lifetime incumbent positions. The hard science is there. This groupthink impaired brain chemistry effect has destroyed religions, governments, and businesses in human history. Everyone on this site has seen these effects everywhere in their life if they have lived long enough.

    Fight brain impairment. Throw these people out into the street through THE VIGILANT MATURE VOTE which Baha’u’llah gave to every believer. It is one’s sacred duty to save these people from themselves. Some may eventually thank you for the intervention from total ruin of their personal reputations in world history for the next three thousand years.

    THIS IS YOUR BRAIN AS A HUMAN BEING IN THIS WORLD AGE
    Science and religion SHOULD AGREE.

    THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON THE ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER
    Science and religion SHOULD NOT AGREE unless it fits with what we, uh, think.

  • Pingback: Te’h Baha’i » Blog Archive » Quotes and Stuff

  • fubar

    The (usual) human tendency to seek meaning, transcendance, “beauty, goodness and truth”, has little to do with conventional science in the “modern” western tradition.

    Social critics that are also spiritual/religious people have tended to observe that “science” has a heartless tendency, and not infrequently inspires ugliness. As do “systems” – a related sociological category.

    Great furor arose from this issue in the 1800s in europe as people reacted with horror at the “dehumanizing” aspects of one of science’s ugly by-products: industrialization. Romanticism resulted as the old “refined” elites were displaced by “unrefined” (vulgar) capitalists. Unfortunately Romanticism was mostly reactionary, and resulted in various hate ideologies, including the cousin ideologies of marxism and fascism (and “spiritual” etherealism, such as Tolstoy’s).

    The shift from medieval institutions based on (slave) agriculture and imperialist/colonial (mercantile) economics to democratic institutions and capitalism was messy. As literacy/numeracy went up, as slavery was abolished, as more people were liberated from economic drudgery, science (rationalism/enlightenment) became a “weapon” that the forces of social progress used to defeat premodern superstitions, bad metaphysics, and bad politics (corrupt aristocracy/nobility).

    There were similar arguments at the same time about the “divine right of kings” vs. “natural law” (property rights), that arose from the same underlying changes in economics and culture.

    “Science” was part of a movement of social progress that sought to triumph over “premodern” culture in which “reason” had not yet become “differentiated” from spirituality or aesthetics.

    Ironically, science also become a tool for the vast expansion of european imperialism (starting in the 1600s with technical advances in ships and guns), which eventually resulted in the utterly vile racist idea of social darwinism.

    This is the historical context in which the founding bahai dads attempted to address the “problem” of a “conflict” between science and spirituality/religion.

    It was probably somewhat opportunistic for abdulbaha to blab sufi metaphysics to romanticists (upper class transcendentalists, esotericists, etc., who were recoiling from the “horrors” of capitalism and industrialism) in europe and the usa without creating a coherent overall framework for a theory of human consciousness. But not even the “westerners” had started to take up that project for another generation or two (Sri Aurobindo, Jean Gebser, Jung, etc.).

    Terry Culhane of Omaha taught people on the original talisman email list about Jurgen Habermas’ famous idea that (paraphrasing)

    “systems colonize lifeworld”

    The “reconciliation” that needs to happen mostly relates to the clash between obvious things like biblical creation and evolution.

    However, there are deeper historical currents that are part of the larger cultural problem of “traditional spirituality vs. capitalism”.

    In postmodern culture, it is quite possible to see, as Habermas does, that one aspect of human consciousness can “colonize” others.

    Meanwhile, modernism evolved into pluralistic/relativistic postmodernism (which promptly began to attack modernism’s “scientific absolutes” and “flatland” mentality), and a whole new set of cultural problems became critical that the bahai dads apparently didn’t anticipate very well.

    (end)

  • fubar

    The (usual) human tendency to seek meaning, transcendance, “beauty, goodness and truth”, has little to do with conventional science in the “modern” western tradition.

    Social critics that are also spiritual/religious people have tended to observe that “science” has a heartless tendency, and not infrequently inspires ugliness. As do “systems” – a related sociological category.

    Great furor arose from this issue in the 1800s in europe as people reacted with horror at the “dehumanizing” aspects of one of science’s ugly by-products: industrialization. Romanticism resulted as the old “refined” elites were displaced by “unrefined” (vulgar) capitalists. Unfortunately Romanticism was mostly reactionary, and resulted in various hate ideologies, including the cousin ideologies of marxism and fascism (and “spiritual” etherealism, such as Tolstoy’s).

    The shift from medieval institutions based on (slave) agriculture and imperialist/colonial (mercantile) economics to democratic institutions and capitalism was messy. As literacy/numeracy went up, as slavery was abolished, as more people were liberated from economic drudgery, science (rationalism/enlightenment) became a “weapon” that the forces of social progress used to defeat premodern superstitions, bad metaphysics, and bad politics (corrupt aristocracy/nobility).

    There were similar arguments at the same time about the “divine right of kings” vs. “natural law” (property rights), that arose from the same underlying changes in economics and culture.

    “Science” was part of a movement of social progress that sought to triumph over “premodern” culture in which “reason” had not yet become “differentiated” from spirituality or aesthetics.

    Ironically, science also become a tool for the vast expansion of european imperialism (starting in the 1600s with technical advances in ships and guns), which eventually resulted in the utterly vile racist idea of social darwinism.

    This is the historical context in which the founding bahai dads attempted to address the “problem” of a “conflict” between science and spirituality/religion.

    It was probably somewhat opportunistic for abdulbaha to blab sufi metaphysics to romanticists (upper class transcendentalists, esotericists, etc., who were recoiling from the “horrors” of capitalism and industrialism) in europe and the usa without creating a coherent overall framework for a theory of human consciousness. But not even the “westerners” had started to take up that project for another generation or two (Sri Aurobindo, Jean Gebser, Jung, etc.).

    Terry Culhane of Omaha taught people on the original talisman email list about Jurgen Habermas’ famous idea that (paraphrasing)

    “systems colonize lifeworld”

    The “reconciliation” that needs to happen mostly relates to the clash between obvious things like biblical creation and evolution.

    However, there are deeper historical currents that are part of the larger cultural problem of “traditional spirituality vs. capitalism”.

    In postmodern culture, it is quite possible to see, as Habermas does, that one aspect of human consciousness can “colonize” others.

    Meanwhile, modernism evolved into pluralistic/relativistic postmodernism (which promptly began to attack modernism’s “scientific absolutes” and “flatland” mentality), and a whole new set of cultural problems became critical that the bahai dads apparently didn’t anticipate very well.

    (end)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Gray/100001692531472 Stephen Gray

    I believe in the independence of religion and science. Dialogue has become complicated. Religion is a diverse field. Science is more unified, but there is still alternative science out there. Any paradigm other than independence leads to the problem of religion having to be familiar with all of science and science having to be familiar with all of religion.

    Baha’is tend to criticize any scientific finding that contradicts tenets of the Baha’i Faith. This is despite overlooking the fact that there are religions these teachings are in accord with. When Bahai’s say they want science and religion not to be in conflict, they don’t mean relgion just the Baha’i Faith.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Gray/100001692531472 Stephen Gray