You have an important appointment in the city at 4:50pm. The bus you need to catch is scheduled to arrive at 4.32. It’s now 4:33. The bus pulls up to the kerb. You pay, find a seat and sit down, close your eyes, plug your earphones in, and escape into another world.
Or, singing to your favourite song, you drive to work. It takes you twenty minutes to get there. You park the car and head inside to start your day.
What assumptions do you make in these situations?
You trust that the bus driver will take you to the right place and that you will be on time for your appointment, and you assume that it’s safe for you to close your eyes and relax on the bus. In the car, you trust that the oncoming cars will stay in the opposite lane and not cross the centre line and that you will get to work safely. You assume you will find a carpark.
Imagine your life without making assumptions. Living life without relying on this type of faith is an extremely uncomfortable and dysfunctional way to exist. If we didn’t make assumptions in every aspect of our lives we wouldn’t be able to function as a member of society. Our assumptions require faith—complete trust and confidence in something.
Faith and Science
If faith is so crucial to daily life, does it also play a role in science? Most of us accept scientific method as a way to explain the way the world works—as a way to present the hard facts. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines science as “principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.” By definition, science deals with this material world and with matter. If you can measure it, then there is a branch of science that addresses it. But where do we draw the line between science and faith? Where do assumptions end and facts begin? Or do they cross over? And if faith is such an integral part of our lives, then why are we so phobic about anything that demands our “faith”?
Science Requires Faith Too
To function, science also requires that we make assumptions—it requires faith. Physicist Paul Davies points out that “even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith the existence of a law-like order in nature that is at least in part comprehensible to us.”
To perform science, we need to believe the material world is real. It needs to be measurable for it to give us real knowledge. You’re probably thinking, “Who wouldn’t accept that the material world is real? You can touch it, you can kick it.” But if you think about it, we can’t prove that the material world is real, because any proof is itself only real if the material world is real. If the material world is the experiencer’s imagination, then no knowledge could come from such measuring. So, to gain knowledge through science, we must assume that the material world is real.
We can’t prove that the material world is real, so to take it as such is a kind of faith. But let’s not quibble over faith versus science. Assumptions are a necessary part of life, and applied with intelligence and discrimination they enable us to engage in life both on the surface and at deeper levels. In complex mathematics, for instance, assumptions are unavoidable. Electrical engineers routinely assign a variable a fixed value so that they can perform their equations. But while it’s clear that assumptions can’t be avoided, a difference exists between blind faith and intelligent acceptance of truths that can’t be empirically proven.
Our Deepest Assumptions
Consciously or unconsciously, we all perceive some level of truth as “self- evident.” These truths don’t need to be proven, because they prove themselves.
Core moral values best demonstrate these self-evident truths. We all feel that on the deepest level, all people should be equal. Yet, materially, there is no equality. One person is rich, one is poor, another is beautiful, another is unattractive. No one can say that on a material level everyone is equal. However, we like to think that there should be a fundamental equality between all human beings. Why do we feel this way?
That all humans are inherently equal is a nonmaterial value: a value that cannot be measured or experienced with our ordinary senses. Interestingly, the United States Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident— that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The universal equality of all human beings is not something we can prove through material methods.
All traditional worldviews acknowledge the existence of something that is not measurable with material tools or senses. The most notable of the yoga texts of ancient India, the Bhagavad Gita, discusses a supreme spiritual reality, a world that is not perceivable through ordinary senses. Spiritually inclined or not, we all participate in a realm that is not perceivable through ordinary senses: it is the realm of values.
Beyond Our Senses
Every one of us must accept some values, because as a society we have a certain level of consciousness. For example, we expect and value good hygiene, fidelity, honesty, and security. However, people in a lower state of consciousness can violate a society’s values. Generally, we would think a person who was not strongly against rape, murder, and theft is insane.
Shared by persons with the same level of consciousness, values have the power to unite or divide. Our values cannot be measured under a microscope, but few would claim it to be less important as a result. Many would uphold that core values and principles such as love, ethics and sense of purpose are most important in building truth and identity in their lives. So the question is, does knowledge that validates our deepest values exist?
Bhagavad Gita- True Spiritual Science
Knowledge that validates our most cherished values does exist. In my search for this knowledge and a worldview free from inconsistencies, I found the texts of ancient India to provide the most rational and comprehensive understanding of both this world and the world beyond. The universally acclaimed Bhagavad Gita, an authentic body of spiritual knowledge, covers everything from the eternal nature of the soul, to the layers of the material world and the spiritual reality. This ancient text also describes human life’s ultimate goal and its highest achievement. It offers readers an opportunity to experience the positive effects of applying this higher knowledge in their everyday lives. Universities have so many faculties, but which department studies the eternal nature of the soul? Let’s take a step back and ask the bigger questions in life, consider whether answers to these questions exist, and make it a priority to search out such answers.