Preserving the Genetic Heredity the Religious Way


Reciprocity a necessity between Science and Religion



Adil J.  Govadia



Boonak Pasbani in simple terms means the preservation of the racial seed or lineage through endogamous marriages; in other words, preserving ones genetic heredity the religious way! Not only our forefathers but also our scriptures amply demonstrate the fact that race and religion are synonymous to one another.  Prohibition against interfaith marriage is certainly not an ‘invention’ for history confirms the fact that in order to protect ones religion from getting diluted one must first protect his race by forbidding interfaith marriages. 


Science and Religion

It is often said that religion, without science, is lame whereas science, without religion, is blind thereby emphasizing the fact that while science gives us the power, religion gives us the vision.  Albert Einstein, in his book Out of My Later Years, made illuminating remarks about science and religion and said, “Through the medium of science, knowledge of what IS does not open the doors directly of what SHOULD be!”  The great scientist of our times went on to further emphasize that it is only through religion that our existence and activities acquire meaning of life and death, of corresponding goals and values!  Therefore he believed that there must be a continuous effort of creative dialogue, understanding and mutuality between science and religion. 


Ervad Dr.  Minocher Karkhanawalla, another eminent scientist of modern times and a religious scholar, in his talk on Zoroastrianism and Modern Youth also stated something very similar to Albert Einstein.  He said, “----I would say there is nothing like science, because all we do is merely try to categorize what we observe, rationalize our observation and deduce generalizations from those observations.  The observations may be real but they may not give us a true picture of reality.”  He further elaborated by citing an example of how our eyes play trick on our mind and thereby change our perceptions.  “Science tells us that there is no colour such as white in the entire electromagnetic spectrum.” But we still see the colour white.  “So,” he wondered, “where is our reality?  Where is our faith in what we see?” 


On the other hand, religion, unlike science, can enunciate goals and generate in us a sense of motivation to reach them.  For example, science can develop a bulldozer, but can it train the emotions of its’ driver to stop the bulldozer from running over a fellow human being?  Religion, on the other hand, cannot make a bulldozer but it can train the emotions of the driver from purposely destroying a human life.  Therefore, in life, we require both, the power as well as the sanity, to go hand-in-hand.  However, in the power of science, a blind power so to say, sanity is not inherent and therefore that sanity has to come from some other source, which is religion. 


In the words of Einstein, “I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational and comprehensible to reason.”  Thus, on the authority of a great scientist, we observe that FAITH is the only working basis for all true scientific investigations. 


While speaking about science and religion, there lies a much deeper meaning in the words of Swami Chinmayananda when he said, “----with limited knowledge, the unlimited cannot be known or understood, for the Truth is far beyond the senses of the human mind.” 


Faith and Religion: Fusion or Fission

In all man’s activity, FAITH indeed, is an essential ingredient, and that it is valid as much as the physical sciences.  Even to believe in mathematical equations or in abstract ideas we need FAITH.  We need faith in everything and in every aspect of human endeavour.  And therefore, our greatest need today, is resuscitation of our unquestioning faith in our religious teachings and rituals. 


Also, it is a well-known fact that FAITH is the foundation of spiritual life.  Can we really flourish in this material world without faith? In fact, whether one appreciates it or not, all forms of human efforts are based on faith.  Don’t we always place FAITH in the abilities of the driver or the pilot that he will transport us safely to our destination? In fact, faith is the very basis of life in every form of human endeavour---be it faith in our fellow human beings or faith in ones’ own abilities.  In fact faith transcends reason for it is only when the horizon is the darkest and human reason is beaten down to the ground that faith shines brightest and generally comes to ones rescue. 


So where is the root cause of this FAITH?  Ervad Dr.  Karkhanawalla, in one of his talks, expressed his sadness at the fact that today we are so engrossed with the physical that we do not think of anything else.  He advised that unless we cure our mind of its ills, the body couldn’t be cured.  He went on to state and I quote, “When you say that you have no faith in anything but the physical, you are like the earthworm that digs and burrows itself in the ground.  When it reaches the roots of a giant tree, it can only see the roots: not the trunk, or the leaves or the branches.  So, it is beyond its comprehension that the roots, the trunk and the leaves are all parts of one whole.  You cannot severe one from the other.  It is the same with human existence.  The leaves and the trunk are the physical; the roots we do not see are the spiritual and the mental.  We have to have religion as a solace, to have FAITH in human beings, in our fellowmen, eventually leading to FAITH in Ahura Mazda.  That is the root.  Without faith in religion and its’ pronouncements, without faith in Ahura Mazda, can one develop faith in anything?” Unquote.


Fact vs.  Faith:  J. A. Thomson in his book Introduction to Science dwells considerably on the subject of what is science and what is necessary in order to be scientific.  He explains that in order to be scientific one has to develop a rigorous discipline of mind.  In his words, “The aim of science is to describe impersonal facts of experience in verifiable terms as exactly as possible, as simple as possible, and as completely as possible.” 

Therefore, can science pretend to know God or the ultimate reality?  Alternately, can God’s existence be proved beyond doubt by science alone? 


If the business of science is to deal with facts then define what is a ‘fact’?  That which exists or occurs maybe defined as a ‘fact’!  But how does one know what exists?  A few years ago, the planet Pluto was unheard-of by the scientific world.  Does it necessarily mean that because it was unheard-of in the world of astronomy, planet Pluto never did exist in the God’s Universe?  Unfortunately, we humans have our limitations as we, through our senses of perception and as directed by our mind, know only what we actually see and tend to believe what exists.  Or does not exist! As Ervad Dr.  Minocher Karkhanawalla points out in one of his talks on the subject of Youth and Religion that faith and learning are ‘never incompatible’ as what is being peddled out presently in our schools, colleges and institutions is at best information and certainly not knowledge.  He stated, “In learning we have to distinguish between two things: information and knowledge.”  


The colour of the sky appears blue to our naked eye, but, in reality, is it really blue?  In fact, it is pitch black! Any scientist or a physics student would explain that the scattering of light is inversely proportional to the forced power of the wavelength of the light and therefore, the colour blue is scattered and the sky appears to be blue, although, in reality, jet-black! So then, what is reality? Can one really put faith in such assumed reality?  Einstein rightly said: “All the theories of science are mere word pictures by which we tend to describe the observations that we make”.  Therefore, while the scientific observations may look and sound real but do they really give us a true picture of the reality? 


Boonak Pasbani: Nature and Nurture

The editorial of LIFE Magazine, in one of its’ 1997 issue reported that new studies indicate that genes can influence not only the physical but also the mental which includes the personality, temperament, likes and dislikes.  Therefore, does it mean that there is no freedom of choice, that our genes will dictate our in-born preferences in matters related to life, including religion?  Dean Hamer, a molecular biologist and co-author of Living With Our Genes, has the answer: “Temperament is what you are born with; character is what you learn”.  That, probably, is the key to our living: a child can be brave or shy, happy or sad, silly or serious, but it is the parent’s job to guide that basic temperament for the good rather then the ill.  A child may have the daring to chase the chicken on the highway, but that decision is not in his genes, for he needs to be guided by his parents. 


Speaking of Zarathushtrian religion, it is based on Asha, which means, Immutable Laws of Nature.  Asha is the very first and foremost primordial Law of Creation from which all other natural Divine universal laws flow.  In the cosmic sense, Asha means ‘Righteous Order & Balance throughout the Cosmos’.  However, in the field of human behaviour, Asha means Righteousness, that is purity, truth and piety.  From nature we learn that animals instinctively follow the Immutable Laws of Nature, whereas, the human beings, because they are endowed with dual mentalities and emotions, practice the system of marriage (or even intermarriage). 


So then, what is marriage?  Is it a man-made ritual or a Divine prescription?  What do our scriptures have to say about marriage and intermarriage?  These questions and many more are often asked by many and we will try to answer these questions logically and also esoterically as we proceed with this essay. 


There are more than half a dozen interdictions against intermarriage in our scriptural and historical lore, ranging from the Gathas to the Rivayats, including the Shahnameh by Firdausi Thoosi. 


In fact, in the very first paragraph of a very powerful and inspiring Setayesh called the Chithrem Buyat, great stress is laid on preservation of one’s Chithra (Tokhma) or the ‘seed’.  The prayer goes thus:

Chithrem buyat ahmi namanay.  (May the Chithra or the Tokham remain pure and unsullied by avoiding intermingling of races).

Pithvem buyat ahmi namane (May the ‘seed’ always be preserved in this house.)

Tokhma pithvem buyat ahmi namane.  (May there be fertility in this house.)


Today modern science tells us that various characteristics and several diseases are hereditary and that one can’t change nature.  But it is in this very science of genealogy that our centuries-old ancient Zarathushtrian religion has shown its deep insight and stated the fact that diseases and the characteristics of the parents could be transmitted to the children. 


It will not be out of place to state that the new science of genetics has emphasized that same laws apply to plants, birds, animals and insects as apply to human beings.  The DNA, which is the essential and basic component, contains the genetic code that transmits the hereditary pattern from one generation to another.  In fact, the theory of genetics, originally developed on the basis of experiments conducted on peas by an Austrian botanist named Gregor J.  Mendel (1822-1884) and as reported in Fishbein’s Medical Encyclopedia (volume 2) under the name Mendel’s Law, categorically states that since the law of genetics governing the plants, birds, animals and insects are the same as that of human beings, and since cross-breeding in the animal or plant kingdom lead to degeneration of the off-springs, can a different result possibly be expected from cross-breeding amongst human beings? 


Interestingly, Times of India in its’ recent edition dated April 25th 2001 reported that countries across the globe are now opposing the entry of genetically modified foods in the third world countries like India as it is feared that such genetic engineering of foods could prove to be extremely dangerous to mankind.  International Organizations like the Greenpeace have vehemently protested against the entry of, what they termed as, Franken-food under the guise of alleviating hunger and in fact advised the world of biotechnology to exercise caution and restraint in defying nature while producing food monsters. 


Dr.  Barbara McClintock, an American geneticist who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1983, confirmed after conducting experiments that cross-breeding indeed does lead to degeneration.  In fact, inbreeding (endogamy) is the only method of ensuring sustenance of a species without extinction.  This Law of Nature not only applies to plants and animals but also to human beings with equal force.  However, both, endogamy (in-breeding) and exogamy (out-breeding) have their advantages and disadvantages, and the balance does tilt in favour of one or the other depending on what characteristics one is looking for in the siblings.  For example, the stock of flowers and trees probably improve with grafting between same species from two different countries or cities or regions.  Similarly, for better yields of milk from cows and for swifter spirited horses, cross breeding is advisable in certain instances.  However, it is most dangerous to apply the laws governing vegetation and animals to human beings in matters related to breeding.  This is because, while the vegetation and animals only have the colour and perfumes or the strength and speed to demonstrate, the human beings have conscience, character and the power of reasoning.  Therefore, the laws governing the lower order of evolution should not be blindly applied to the noblest creation of God, that is, MAN.


However, it does seem that the science is indecisive on the subject of superiority of either inbreeding and out-breeding for neither can explain the rise (and fall) of a Shakespeare or a Napoleon or a Hitler.  However, Parsi-Zarathushtrians must know what is detrimental to the interests of the community.  The problem of Intermarriage has certainly be-devilled our community throughout the last Century but the bottom line and ardent desire must always be to maintain the Zarathushtrian communal existence by scrupulously avoiding mixed marriages.  Therefore, faith in our religious teachings play a major role in our lives as we are NOT expected to doubt, denigrate, distort or defy the evidences from the timeless and time-tested Zarathushtrian scriptural and religious texts. 


Ervad Dr.  Minocher Karkhanawalla in his essay Survival of the Community---A Strategy for the Present and the Future, while acknowledging today’s modern science emphatically stated that “----- the uniqueness of every individual is a result of hereditary characteristics funneled into him from total genetic content spanning about 9 (nine) generations on both sides of each parent.  In this respect, an individual can be compared to the neck portion of a large hourglass, with a vast reservoir of genetic material from an ever-increasing network of generations above contributing to what the individual is in the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual make-up, and that individual in his own turn contributing in a complex way to a vast and ever-spreading network of generations to follow.”


To sum up, when an old theory in science is replaced by a new hypothesis, the occasion is considered a triumph, and not a defeat for science.  However, not so in matters related to religion as the fundamental principles of any religion is expected to be eternal! Especially so it is true of those religions that are revealed by a Prophet.  Every religion represents a spectrum of God’s truth.  In order to accept the truth of the rose, one need not deny the truth of the lotus or the lily.  Thereby, emphasizing the fact that Zarathushtrian religion forbids mixed marriages not because of assumed superiority of race, but because the religion and its’ culture deserve to survive and not be frivolously fritted away.  It also re-emphasizes the fact that it is unwise to challenge Nature’s design, as diversity is the rule of God’s creation and interfaith marriages certainly do affect the very mainsprings of Zarathushtrian-Parsi existence.  Every Paris must treat this subject on top priority and with a feeling of dispassionate examination. 


It is only through religion that our existence and activities acquire meaning of life and death, of corresponding goals and values.  May Ahura Mazda guide us to practice this fundamental TRUTH with unquestionable FAITH, for the Ultimate Truth is far beyond the senses of the human mind.