2. How do we know?
• Most people feel that they know a
certain number of true things about
themselves and the world they live in.
• What is the process by which we have
come to hold one thing true and
3. Direct observation
How do we know . . .
•The frog is green.
•The frog is moist.
•The frog chirps.
4. Rational process
But, how do we know . . .
•The frog is an
•The frog hatches from
•The frog begins life with
a tail and fins instead of
5. Beyond common sense...
“It is when we try to go beyond the level of
common-sense knowledge that we are
forced to reflect more seriously about the
process of discovering truth, for the
unanimity which characterizes the world of
practical truth is then rather quickly lost.
We may, for example, start wondering
about the inner and hidden structure of the
things we observe—those forces and entities
which we cannot observe directly but
whose existence seems required to explain
what we do observe.”
— William S. Hatcher, PhD, mathematician,
6. How do we
“In sum, we seek what science calls a
theory, a consistent set of hypotheses
involving abstract concepts which describes
a model of reality and which allows us to
deduce and thereby explain the known
In religious terms, we seek a faith, which is
simply a theory to which we add a high
degree of personal commitment and
— William S. Hatcher
7. Science & Religion: The Orthodoxies
• Both science and
religion are human,
• Neither can claim to
be better than their
ultimate influence on
8. Science & Religion: The Orthodoxies
Both science and religion can be abused
due to humanity’s social and moral
Just as religion has been used for
prejudicial, ungodly and irrational ends,
so science has been used for prejudicial,
unscientific, and irrational ends.
Historically, science has been a tool to
obtain desired (but not necessarily
beneficial or even rational) social ends.
Science has been used to “destroy
nations, render the earth uninhabitable,
effect mass murder, disgorge a
cornucopia of often useless gadgets, and
even to bolster dogmatic and puerile
political-social or philosophical points of
view about life.” (Hatcher)
9. Science versus
When the true purpose and
nature of science and
religion are understood,
there is no conflict.
10. The Scalpel Analogy
• Purpose: to save lives.
• In the hands of a skilled
surgeon it fulfills its
• In the hands of an ignorant
or unskilled user, it can
become the source of
• In the hands of a criminal,
it becomes an instrument
11. The Scientific Method
12. The Bahá’í View
1. The basic unity of
science lies in its
method of inquiry.
2. Bahá’ís accept this and
redefinitions of the
terms “religion” and
“faith” arise from it.
13. The First Faculty of
“Between scientists and the followers of religion there
has always been controversy and strife for the reason
that the latter have proclaimed religion superior in
authority to science and considered scientific
announcement opposed to the teachings of religion.
Bahá’u’lláh declared that religion is in complete
harmony with science and reason. If religious belief
and doctrine is at variance with reason, it proceeds
from the limited mind of man and not from God;
therefore, it is unworthy of belief and not deserving
of attention; the heart finds no rest in it, and real faith
is impossible. How can man believe that which he
knows to be opposed to reason? ... Reason is the first
faculty of man, and the religion of God is in harmony
with it.” — Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal
Peace, p. 231 (14 July 1912, New York, NY)
14. What is science,
“...science is a collection of
statements or affirmations which are
taken as truths about reality (or
some portion thereof).”
— William S. Hatcher
15. Statements About Reality
• “This cat is black.”
• “E=mc2” (Energy is equal to the
squared mass of an object moving
at light speed (c) in a vacuum.)
• One is concrete.
• One is abstract.
• Both are equally true statements
• BUT they are not equally
16. This cat is black...
• Is a concrete statement.
• Is empirical or experiential.
• The “cat” and its quality
of “blackness” are
• Is an abstract statement.
• Is logical or theoretical.
• It requires the use of
abstract terms such as
“energy” [e] and “mass”
[m] and light speed [c]
that are not directly
“In fact, the pregnant statement “e=mc2” has
such a high theoretical component that it takes
years of concentrated effort to assimilate its
meaning. This statement is far removed from
simple, direct physical observations like the
whiteness of paper.
On the other hand, “this paper is white” has
such a simple linguistic structure involving the
use of concrete terms that its meaning might
even be conveyed by the one word “white”
accompanied by appropriate gestures toward
the physical object in question. It is
inconceivable to think of conveying the
meaning of a highly theoretical statement in
— William S. Hatcher
19. In other words...
It is rocket science.
Hatcher comments: “A statement with a
high empirical component and a low
theoretical component corresponds to the
popular notion of a fact.”
“Often, but not always, the important
statements of science are statements with
a high theoretical component.”
20. What makes a statement important?
• Internal structure and meaning.
• Its relationship to other statements.
• Specifically, the number of other statements
that depend on it being true.
• Hatcher explains: “Thus, if we dropped e=mc2
from our list of truths, many statements come
into doubt; but if we drop “this paper is white”
from our truths, then few statements, if any, are
• One statement can imply another statement without our
being aware of it.
• We discover relationships between statements, theories, or
facts by examining the logical connections between them.
• Often this discovery takes place not by direct observation
but as a result of intuition and subsequent proof of the
relationship between the statements.
• Observation and experimentation are not the only means
of discovering scientific truth. We often discover new
truths by recognizing that a new or previously dubious
statement is implied by known and accepted truths.
22. What Science is Not
• Science is not a “collection
• Science is not a belief
• “Factual” statements are
simply statements with a
low theoretical component.
• Facts comprise only a small
part of our scientific
statements, and sometimes
the least important part.
24. Scientific inquiry...
“Scientific inquiry brings into play a host of human
faculties such as reason, intuition, and experience,
and these on different levels of profundity and
objectivity. One cannot, however, explain in any
simple manner the way in which these faculties
interact to produce a given statement of science. The
statements of science are arrived at by a process of
repeated application of these human faculties, and by
many different human beings. Years of
experimentation (organized experience), theorizing
(conscious reasoning and intuition), and discussion
lie behind the one statement “e=mc2”.
— William S. Hatcher
25. Scientific inquiry...
“It would be a mistake to say that we hold
such a statement to be true because of reason,
or because of intuition, or because of
In the final analysis, we hold something as
true only because of everything else which
we accept as true, that is, because this
something is consistent with our experience
and understanding of life as a whole.”
— William S. Hatcher
26. Is scientific fact absolute?
No statement of science is independent of the meaning of other
statements—which may be altered either by subtle shifts in the
way we use words or by a change in definitions.
Our knowledge is relative and subjective.
A classic example:
Newton's laws of mechanics and his theory of gravitation
have been considerably modified since his time. At least one
change came as a result of experiments with subatomic
particles that Newton could not have performed in his
No statement of science is absolutely true, for no statement is
independent of other statements and facts which may not yet be
known. (Occam’s Razor may apply.)
27. Occam’s Razor
• William of Occam was a
Franciscan monk and
theologian and unarguably
one of the most influential
philosophers of the 14th
• He is the father of the KISS
principle (Keep It Simple,
Stupid) by virtue of his
assertion that: Entia/Essentia
non sunt multiplicanda praeter
necessitatem. [Entities should
not be multiplied
28. Knowledge is human
Human beings are the knowers.
This does not mean that the
world “out there” is unreal or a
figment of our imagination.
It means merely that our
understanding of this objective
reality (whatever it is) is subjective
and relative because our
relationship to it is relative.
Contrary to popular notions,
“absolute proof” of anything is
simply not within the domain of
the scientific method.
29. The Process of Knowledge
30. How do statements
31. Organizing Our Assumptions
In order to make sense out of
experience, we make certain
assumptions about reality.
If these assumptions are made
unconsciously, we often refer to
them as “common sense”.
We know that getting thumped by
a baseball bat will hurt if we’ve
fallen down and experienced the
effects of sudden acceleration.
BUT … we may know this without
being able to cite a single principle
of acceleration or velocity that
“proves” it will hurt.
32. Organizing Our Assumptions
When our assumptions are organized
consciously, we have the beginnings of
As we examine and test the logical
relations between our assumptions
and their consequences we’re led to a
well-organized “body of knowledge”
which describes a model of reality.
The collection of statements which
make up this body of knowledge are
the statements of science, which will
be continually revised in the light of
new experiences, new assumptions,
and new logical relationships.
33. Science is organized
The conscious, explicit
organization of knowledge is
what makes it scientific.
Logician W. V. Quine wrote:
“science is common sense which
has become self-conscious.”
34. The cat is black...
• “The cat is black.”
• Common sense.
• Arrived at
• Directly observable.
• “The cat’s fur absorbs all
frequencies of visible light.”
• Arrived at consciously.
• Not directly observable.
35. Does it work?
• Science is not just a matter of discovering true
statements; we all know a myriad, trivial, true
statements: black cat is black, fire burns, baseball
bats are hard.
• Proof, in scientific terms, means the total process
by which we render a statement acceptable by the
pragmatic criterion: “Does it work the way it says
• Abdu’l-Bahá suggests that faith ought to be
36. Material & Spiritual
“Scientific knowledge is the highest
attainment upon the human plane, for
science is the discoverer of realities. It is of
two kinds: material and spiritual. Material
science is the investigation of natural
phenomena; divine science is the discovery
and realization of spiritual verities.
The world of humanity must acquire both.
A bird has two wings; it cannot fly with
one. Material and spiritual science are the
two wings of human uplift and attainment.
Both are necessary...” — Abdu’l-Bahá
37. The Scientific
“The scientific method is the systematic,
organized, directed, and conscious use of
our various mental faculties in an effort to
arrive at a coherent model of whatever
phenomenon is being investigated.”
— William S. Hatcher
38. Principle & Proposition
Once we accept a concept or
principle as true, our
emotions begin to organize
themselves around it. We
come to depend on it.
The concept “ceases to be a
mere intellectual hypothesis
or assumption. It becomes
part of the way we live and
expect things to behave.”
39. Principle & Proposition
Principle: “Hatred does not cease
by hatred; hatred ceases by love—
this is an eternal commandment.”
— Buddha, Sanskrit Dhammapada
Proposition: “A thought of hatred
must be destroyed by a more
powerful thought of love.” —
Abdu’l-Bahá , Paris Talks
Lab note: How many times did
Abdu’l-Bahá prove that principle
in the laboratory of his life by
putting the proposition into
40. A Good Word
“We need a good word to sum up this process of
organizing our emotions around our
assumptions, and religion has provided us with
the word: faith.
We can define an individual's faith to be his
total emotional and psychological orientation
resulting from the body of assumptions about
reality which he has made (consciously or
— William S. Hatcher
41. What if…?
Experience leads us to have faith
that unsupported objects will fall.
Even scientists act on this faith
unconsciously, though it can be
scientifically formulated in the
theory of gravitation.
But what if an unsupported object
did not fall?
What would happen to the
scientist’s assumptions about how
the world works? What would
happen to their faith?
42. What is faith?
Faith is the process of organizing our
emotional life around our
the quality of one’s faith depends on
the quality of the assumptions on which
that faith is based.
43. The Analysis of
“Religion must be living, vitalized, moving and
progressive. If it be non-progressive it is dead. The
divine institutes are evolutionary; therefore [their]
revelation must be progressive and continuous.
Sciences of former ages and philosophies of the past are
useless today. Ancient laws and archaic ethical systems
will not meet the requirements of modern conditions...
In view of this, shall blind imitations of ancestral forms
and theological interpretations continue to guide the
spiritual development of humanity today? Shall man
gifted with the power of reason unthinkingly adhere to
dogma which will not bear the analysis of reason?”
(Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity)
44. • The scriptures of the Bahá’í Faith make it clear that a
scientific outlook on life is essential.
• William Hatcher eloquently sums up why this is so.
• “Change and reappraisal characterize knowledge
and faith. But what is also true is that we seem to
be more suited to gradual, smooth transitions than
to sudden, violent, cataclysmic ones. The latter tend
to overstimulate us to the point of shock, rendering
a new and pragmatic response difficult.”
• The Bahá’í Writings suggest we should keep our faith
aligned with reality.
45. How does faith become dogmatic?
Irrational or unscientific assumptions
about reality lead to a parting of faith
We come to expect the wrong things
and to be emotionally disturbed when
reality doesn’t match our expectations.
(The unsupported object doesn’t fall.)
Faith becomes blind and irrational.
Faith becomes dogmatic and
adamant … and out of step with
We’ve set ourselves up for a “rude
awakening” or a “crisis of faith.”
46. Dogmatism is human
“Even when presented with clear
contradictions in our conceptions we resist
change... Thus, we may be led, by our
emotions, to act against our own interest.
How scientifically did Jesus say, ‘As a man
thinketh, so is he,” and how scientifically
did Paul say, “The good I would do I do
not.” The more we persist in our blind faith
the greater the inertia against acceptance of
a truer picture of reality, and the greater
the pain when the larger conception forces
itself upon us, and we can avoid it no
— William S. Hatcher
47. Faith & Reason—Only in
• There is no intrinsic opposition
between faith and reason—
faith and reason are part of the
human process of knowing and
• Faith must be rational, and
reason must operate within the
context of our basic
assumptions about reality—i.e.,
• The reason for accepting
(having faith in) the scientific
method is that it works.
48. A practical
understanding of reality
“The theoretical uncertainty remains even
with the surest of statements, but it is our
explicit awareness of this uncertainty which is our
greatest asset in adapting to our human situation.
Once we accept humbly the limitations
imposed on us, it becomes practically possible
to resolve a good many issues and to make
real progress in formulating a meaningful and
practical understanding of reality.”
— William S. Hatcher
49. A practical
“God has given man the eye of investigation by
which he may see and recognize truth. He has
endowed man with ears that he may hear the
message of reality and conferred upon him the gift of
reason by which he may discover things for himself.
This is his endowment and equipment for the
investigation of reality. ... Each human creature has
individual endowment, power and responsibility in
the creative plan of God. Therefore, depend upon
your own reason and judgment and adhere to the
outcome of your own investigation; otherwise, you
will be utterly submerged in the sea of ignorance and
deprived of all the bounties of God. Turn to God ...
that God may rend asunder the veils that obscure