Zoroastrian Text Preempted Science’s Latest Discovery: Professor Hintze’s Letter to the Financial Times

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March 19th’s Financial Times included a letter to the editor from AIIT trustee Professor Almut Hintze, in response to the previous day’s front page story ‘Bicep 2’s ‘ripples’ add muscle to Big Bang‘–reporting the breakthrough discovery of measurable gravitational waves from the Big Bang:

‘Zoroastrian text that preempted science’s latest discovery’

From Prof Almut Hintze.

Sir, “At the beginning of time Ohrmazd created the world out of his own substance, which is eternal light.” This passage from a Zoroastrian Middle Persian text on cosmology, the Bundahishn, compiled in the 10th century CE but based on much older traditions, reads like a pre-scientific summary of the most recent discovery, made with telescopes in Antarctica, of measurable gravitational waves generated within a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of the second in which happened the birth of the universe 13.8bn years ago. This sensational breakthrough was reported on your front page on Tuesday (“Bicep 2’s ‘ripples’ add muscle to Big Bang”, March 18). The discovery of the gravitational ripples is very exciting indeed, but it should not be forgotten that the Zoroastrian pre-scientific explanation of the origins of the world not only pre-empted this discovery but also viewed it within the larger picture of the origins of the cosmos and of its goal, ideas which scientists are still a long way from verifying in measurable terms.

The recent scientific discovery brings into evidence two points. The first is that, alongside science, it is well worth being aware of the humanities, religious traditions in particular. Second, the study of ancient religious traditions requires great, especially linguistic, expertise in order to access sources that are written in obscure scripts and languages, and such expertise deserves to be valued as much as scientific explorations.

The question of what the primordial light is within which the Big Bang happened is still to be explored – no doubt at an expense of unimaginable size – but pre-scientific answers are already there in religious traditions. One approach does not preclude the other, of course, and both are vital. But in the current climate that underrates and, as a result, underfunds the humanities, it is necessary to be open – and listen – to both.

Almut Hintze
Zartoshty Brothers Professor of Zoroastrianism, School of Oriental and African Studies
University of London, UK

To view this letter and any comments please click on FT.com

From the Financial Times. Wednesday 19 March, 2014.  ‘Zoroastrian text that preempted science’s latest discovery’. Prof. Almut Hintze.
© The Financial Times Limited 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Comments 0

  1. The Bundahishn does not “read like a pre-scientific summary of the most recent discovery”.

    “First, He produced the shining and visible Sky, which is very distant, and of steel, of shining steel, whose substance is the male diamond; its top is connected with the Endless Light;” – CHAPTER I, a

    Sorry but the sky is not made of steel whose substance is the male diamond, whatever that might mean.

    Nothing about gravity waves and inflation was predicted by the Bundahishn, nor by any religious text. It’s just another collection of creation myths. Like the pre-scientific creation myths found throughout human literature it bears no relation to the universe observed through our telescopes. This was the fundamental problem that Galileo struck 400 years ago and the disjunction has only intensified.

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