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Clearly, the Baha’i teachings ask all people to independently investigate the truth—but many will still be left with the question: How do I actually do robust independent investigation for myself?
One of the most straightforward ways to learn how to investigate reality involves learning the processes of science—which dovetails with the Baha’i principle of the essential harmony of science and religion:
All blessings are divine in origin, but none can be compared with this power of intellectual investigation and research, which is an eternal gift producing fruits of unending delight. Man is ever partaking of these fruits. All other blessings are temporary; this is an everlasting possession … the supreme gift of God to man. Therefore, you should put forward your most earnest efforts toward the acquisition of science and arts. The greater your attainment, the higher your standard in the divine purpose. The man of science is perceiving and endowed with vision, whereas he who is ignorant and neglectful of this development is blind. The investigating mind is attentive, alive; the callous and indifferent mind is deaf and dead. A scientific man is a true index and representative of humanity, for through processes of inductive reasoning and research he is informed of all that appertains to humanity, its status, conditions and happenings. He studies the human body politic, understands social problems and weaves the web and texture of civilization. In fact, science may be likened to a mirror wherein the infinite forms and images of existing things are revealed and reflected. It is the very foundation of all individual and national development. Without this basis of investigation, development is impossible. Therefore, seek with diligent endeavour the knowledge and attainment of all that lies within the power of this wonderful bestowal. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 50.
Perhaps the most important gift that science has to offer us is the knowledge of its methods. The scientific method forms an excellent model for investigating many truths. The scientific method involves five basic steps:
- careful observation
- applying rigorous, questioning skepticism to those observations
- formulating hypotheses based on the observations, and on inductive reasoning
- experimental and measurement-based testing of all deductions drawn from the hypotheses
- and refinement (or elimination) of the hypotheses based on the experimental findings.
The scientific method closely parallels the overall strategy and goals of the Baha’i consultation process, which is:
… understood as the collective investigation of reality, promotes detachment from personal views, gives due importance to valid empirical information, does not raise mere opinion to the status of fact or define truth as the compromise between opposing interest groups. – The Universal House of Justice, To the Baha’is of Iran, 2 March 2013.
However, many of us, while accepting the conclusions of science, still dread learning its methods. We may believe we have no affinity for science, or have had bad experiences learning science and math in school in the past. So how can we avail ourselves of the insights science has to offer?
Several generally enjoyable ways exist that allow anyone to individually look into the processes of science—including reading science books and articles written for lay people, or listening to podcasts and radio shows. If you want to be sure that the information you choose to read or listen to is respected by those who know science you can use the lists “of the best books” from the Smithsonian or from the radio show/podcast Science Friday. If reading a whole book seems too daunting, you can listen to podcasts or read short articles at both of these websites and many more respectable and responsible science-oriented outlets.
If you’re looking for a more participatory way to learn the processes of science, you can participate in a Citizen Science project, which encourage the general public to participate in scientific research. Projects range in topic, geographically, and in the types of tasks volunteers are asked to do. The web site CitizenScience.gov provides a catalog of Citizen Science projects sponsored by U.S. government agencies.
Some Baha’is, for example, elect to serve their communities as advocates for science education. To counter frequent attempts by some states to legislate anti-evolution and climate change denial into the science classes of public schools, organizations such as the National Center for Science Education and the American Association for the Advancement of Science report on new and ongoing state legislative efforts concerning the science classroom.
Because of the primary Baha’i principle of the agreement of science and religion, the Baha’i teachings say that science and technology should not be limited to one group or class of people, but instead should benefit all humanity as “their common birthright:”
Development strategy, while acknowledging the wide differences of individual capacity, must take as a major goal the task of making it possible for all of the earth’s inhabitants to approach on an equal basis the processes of science and technology which are their common birthright. Familiar arguments for maintaining the status quo grow daily less compelling as the accelerating revolution in communication technologies now brings information and training within reach of vast numbers of people around the globe, wherever they may be, whatever their cultural backgrounds. – The Baha’i International Community, The Prosperity of Humankind, 3 March 1995, p. 16
Using your searching eye, you will experience unique glimpses of reality—all of them essential to the consultation in your communities and the unity of your collective efforts. This is how we as individuals and as a Faith come closer to comprehending reality:
The first teaching is that man should investigate reality, for reality is contrary to dogmatic interpretations and imitations of ancestral forms of belief to which all nations and peoples adhere so tenaciously. These blind imitations are contrary to the fundamental basis of the divine religions, for the divine religions in their central and essential teaching are based upon unity, love and peace, whereas these variations and imitations have ever been productive of warfare, sedition and strife. Therefore, all souls should consider it incumbent upon them to investigate reality. Reality is one; and when found, it will unify all mankind. Reality is the love of God. Reality is the knowledge of God. Reality is justice. Reality is the oneness or solidarity of mankind. Reality is international peace. Reality is the knowledge of verities. Reality unifies humanity. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 372.