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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

ABS Tangents

Dear Friends,
Sorry to be so distant this past month.  I will post a few times this month in order to stir the blogging pot a bit more evenly.  

Tangent 1: Practical Application
I attended the most recent Association of Baha'i Studies meeting here in San Diego this past weekend and it was a good experience.  There were many Baha'is contemplating an assortment of ideas in relation to social cohesion.  Out of all of the talks, I believe that the presentation that spoke most to me about applying religious principles in a practical manner was from the CEO of Idea Connections Systems, Inc., Robert Rosenfeld.  Specifically, the Mosaic Partnerships Program stems from a simple idea (relatively) - foster friendship and trust among people in diverse race/ethnic backgrounds and organizational transformation can occur for the betterment of the organization and society.  You can read more about the program itself here - Mosaic Partnerships.  (I hope that Bob doesn't mind the oversimplification of his program in my blog.)

Tangent 2: Invoking Scripture Academically
Faculty from diverse backgrounds met at the ABS meeting as well.  It seems that there is a challenge to integrate one's faith with one's work.  Are you an academic?  Are you a faculty member, graduate student, undergraduate, etc.?  Would it make sense to invoke scripture when considering how best to conduct biochemistry research?  Or does invoking scripture make sense only in the humanities and arts?

Remember the Lawh-i-Maqsud (Tablet of Maqsud)?  The one that contains the quote "Regard man as a mine..." (see first post, if not).  Well, the last part of it that I quoted was,
"The Great Being saith:  The learned of the day must direct the people to acquire those branches of knowledge which are of use, that both the learned themselves and the generality of mankind may derive benefits therefrom.  Such academic pursuits as begin and end in words alone have never been and will never be of any worth."  So, doe that mean that basic scientific research is pointless?  Can you think of areas of academic pursuit that may fall into the 'never be of any worth' category?

In another passage, Baha'u'llah states in Bisharat (Glad Tidings), "The eleventh Glad Tidings - It is permissible to study sciences and arts, but such sciences as are useful and would redound to the progress and advancement of the people.  Thus hath it been decreed by Him Who is the Ordainer, the All-Wise."

Consider the following example, someone asks you if it is important to study bacteriophage (viruses that infect bacteria) and how bacteria respond to them.  At first, it may seem to be an unimportant area of study, since bacteriophage infect bacteria one may think of them not having an impact on human health - so why study them?  Well, they have been studied and restriction enzymes were discovered.  The molecular 'scissors' that are used to cut DNA in the research lab for a variety of uses (the least of which is to be used in a forensics lab on CSI).

So, I ask you, as I asked my friends at the ABS meeting - in your area of academic interest (or study) - what counts as service?  Does it include invoking scripture?  Provide ten ways that you can provide service to society through your profession.

Time for me to go workout and contemplate the same.

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