The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby Anagarika » Thu Feb 13, 2014 3:30 pm

Ancientbuddhism's original post is excellent, and hits at what is becoming a hot topic with many western Buddhist practitioners and scholars. Prof. White rightfully points out that scientism is as much of a dogmatic ideology as any western theist religion, and his comments about Google's SIYLI mindfulness trainings are spot on.

A past edition of Tricycle interviews Prof David McMahan http://www.tricycle.com/interview/context-matters , who discusses the importance of the Eightfold Path context with mindfulness meditation. Going further, http://www.mcmindfulness.com blog has Dr. Ron Purser, who is actively illustrating the need for an ethics based foundation in corporate mindfulness training.

I enjoyed Prof. McMahan's perspective so much that, in a gadfly mood, I wrote to Tricycle and Tricycle published my letter. I'm not tooting my horn ( I hope not, anyway), but here is part of what Tricycle published:

Change the World, Not Buddhism

I was very glad to see Linda Heuman’s interview with David McMahan, who identified the differences between what the Buddha taught—samma sati, or right mindfulness (wise and discerning ethical judgments)—and the stripped-down consumer version of mindfulness that is now part of the Western Buddhist menu (nonjudgmental awareness).

The problems inherent in a mindfulness practice that exists without an ethical and value-based ethos are just a slice of the Western Buddhist pie that needs to be examined carefully. ...I am glad that Professor McMahan is devoting his scholarship to some of these important issues, and I look forward to hearing much more from him.
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby daverupa » Thu Feb 13, 2014 3:49 pm

I think it may be an improvement to have the discourse settle into revolving around the necessary connection between a contemplative practice & a motivating ethos.

It may end up offering conversational opportunities to correctly describe the Buddha's diagnosis as well as his prescription, if such methods generally come to be contextualized as tools for something.

Otherwise, such practices come to be stapled onto conglomerate lifestyles that do not have cohesive support...
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby binocular » Fri Apr 11, 2014 5:53 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:Awareness can be strengthened by so-called mindfulness practices, but without the ethics, that strength can be applied to anything.

A popular assumption is that people are by their nature good. Wherefore, so goes this doctrine, all that really needs to be done is to become aware, and then everything will be fine.
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby Alex123 » Fri Apr 11, 2014 10:54 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote: White warns of what he coins ‘scientism’, an ideological narrative told by science which intends to reduce every human function and quality into its own terms. This ideology would preclude any nuance of human intuition or spirituality, such as art, faith or the contemplative ethics that would give rise to liberating insight and its fruits of empathy and compassion; reducing these to “…merely a function of neurons and chemicals…”.



I am really shocked to read that. In principle, science is search for evidence and facts.
Why chose this or that religion? On which basis can we say that "this is true faith, and that is not"?

Why do we hold ancient texts with authority? In which ancient religious book does it talk about iphones, internet, email, electricity and so forth? Where is the evidence that ancients knew more than us?
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby rowboat » Fri Apr 11, 2014 11:01 pm

Alex123 wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote: White warns of what he coins ‘scientism’, an ideological narrative told by science which intends to reduce every human function and quality into its own terms. This ideology would preclude any nuance of human intuition or spirituality, such as art, faith or the contemplative ethics that would give rise to liberating insight and its fruits of empathy and compassion; reducing these to “…merely a function of neurons and chemicals…”.



I am really shocked to read that. In principle, science is search for evidence and facts.
Why chose this or that religion? On which basis can we say that "this is true faith, and that is not"?

Why do we hold ancient texts with authority? In which ancient religious book does it talk about iphones, internet, email, electricity and so forth? Where is the evidence that ancients knew more than us?


Scientism ≠ science.
Rain soddens what is covered up,
It does not sodden what is open.
Therefore uncover what is covered
That the rain will not sodden it.
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby daverupa » Fri Apr 11, 2014 11:09 pm

Here is a book dealing with this very issue, in fact:

Without Hierarchy: The Scale Freedom of the Universe by Mariam Thalos

A venerable tradition in the metaphysics of science commends ontological reduction: the practice of analysis of theoretical entities into further and further proper parts, with the understanding that the original entity is nothing but the sum of these. This tradition implicitly subscribes to the principle that all the real action of the universe (also referred to as its "causation") happens at the smallest scales-at the scale of microphysics.

A vast majority of metaphysicians and philosophers of science, covering a wide swath of the spectrum from reductionists to emergentists, defend this principle. It provides one pillar of the most prominent theory of science, to the effect that the sciences are organized in a hierarchy, according to the scales of measurement occupied by the phenomena they study. On this view, the fundamentality of a science is reckoned inversely to its position on that scale.

This venerable tradition has been justly and vigorously countered-in physics, most notably: it is countered in quantum theory, in theories of radiation and superconduction, and most spectacularly in renormalization theories of the structure of matter. But these counters-and the profound revisions they prompt-lie just below the philosophical radar. This book illuminates these counters to the tradition principle, in order to assemble them in support of a vaster (and at its core Aristotelian) philosophical vision of sciences that are not organized within a hierarchy.

In so doing, the book articulates the principle that the universe is active at absolutely all scales of measurement. This vision, as the book shows, is warranted by philosophical treatment of cardinal issues in the philosophy of science: fundamentality, causation, scientific innovation, dependence and independence, and the proprieties of explanation.


---

Probably we can say that scientism is one sort of metaphysics of science, and refine the conversation.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby dxm_dxm » Sat Apr 12, 2014 2:26 am

Can somebody mention a single way this practices have the slightest chance of doing something bad for anybody ?

can a sociopath practice Dhamma? And for what it is worth, it is an interesting question

Meditation does not give you superpowers, it gives you a totally different and universally good thing better than that. Scientifically speaking these 2 things are proven: the more happy a person is, the more compasionate and generous he is and 2: meditation is for happiness like lifting weights is for muscles. That's why Matthiau Riccard is officially the happies man on earth


I am surprised nobody here mentioned that the the whole idea of buddhism is that all the dharma in the world, all the intelectual knoladge worth nothing in buddhism, the point is to meditate (witch is the oposite to thinking). Dharma can only serve to convince you to meditate. Geez you guys start to sound like ultra-conservative christians. (only with noble 8fodh paths, only with dharma there is liberation). Maby somebody can provide us with a link to that story of the two brothers, one witch searched his whole life for a teacher and the other who knew nothing about the dharma and got enlightned. And by the way, google employes are not supposed to be buddhist so citicising them for not been TRUE buddhist is funny.


Buddhism main atributes are pragmatism and skepticism. I see this new pragmatic aproach to meditation as a thing a trillion times better than the mainstream aproach to buddhism in the west witch is stupid new age "feel good therapy" using things like "trantric sex" and "energy meditation" lol


Edit: I did not read the second page. Well this seems to answer my first question and does not scare me too much:
Otherwise, such practices come to be stapled onto conglomerate lifestyles that do not have cohesive support...

A chocolate for who finds anything except this
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby pegembara » Sat Apr 12, 2014 3:37 am

"Monks, I will teach you the Dhamma compared to a raft, for the purpose of crossing over, not for the purpose of holding onto. Listen & pay close attention. I will speak."

"As you say, lord," the monks responded to the Blessed One.

The Blessed One said: "Suppose a man were traveling along a path. He would see a great expanse of water, with the near shore dubious & risky, the further shore secure & free from risk, but with neither a ferryboat nor a bridge going from this shore to the other. The thought would occur to him, 'Here is this great expanse of water, with the near shore dubious & risky, the further shore secure & free from risk, but with neither a ferryboat nor a bridge going from this shore to the other. What if I were to gather grass, twigs, branches, & leaves and, having bound them together to make a raft, were to cross over to safety on the other shore in dependence on the raft, making an effort with my hands & feet?' Then the man, having gathered grass, twigs, branches, & leaves, having bound them together to make a raft, would cross over to safety on the other shore in dependence on the raft, making an effort with his hands & feet. [7] Having crossed over to the further shore, he might think, 'How useful this raft has been to me! For it was in dependence on this raft that, making an effort with my hands & feet, I have crossed over to safety on the further shore. Why don't I, having hoisted it on my head or carrying it on my back, go wherever I like?' What do you think, monks: Would the man, in doing that, be doing what should be done with the raft?"

"No, lord."

"And what should the man do in order to be doing what should be done with the raft? There is the case where the man, having crossed over, would think, 'How useful this raft has been to me! For it was in dependence on this raft that, making an effort with my hands & feet, I have crossed over to safety on the further shore. Why don't I, having dragged it on dry land or sinking it in the water, go wherever I like?' In doing this, he would be doing what should be done with the raft. In the same way, monks, I have taught the Dhamma compared to a raft, for the purpose of crossing over, not for the purpose of holding onto. Understanding the Dhamma as taught compared to a raft, you should let go even of Dhammas, to say nothing of non-Dhammas."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Few have used the raft to cross over but it seems some have decided to build the raft so that they can feel more secure and safe staying put on the near shore!
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby binocular » Sat Apr 12, 2014 12:01 pm

Alex123 wrote:I am really shocked to read that. In principle, science is search for evidence and facts.
Why chose this or that religion? On which basis can we say that "this is true faith, and that is not"?

Why do we hold ancient texts with authority? In which ancient religious book does it talk about iphones, internet, email, electricity and so forth? Where is the evidence that ancients knew more than us?

Perhaps the biggest problem that some people have is that they are so out of touch with their needs, interests, and concerns, that the variety of people, things, doctrines that exist, confounds them.
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby Lazy_eye » Sat Apr 12, 2014 3:49 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:In an interview with Curtis White, featured in this Springs issue of Tricycle:The Science Delusion, White warns of what he coins ‘scientism’, an ideological narrative told by science which intends to reduce every human function and quality into its own terms. This ideology would preclude any nuance of human intuition or spirituality, such as art, faith or the contemplative ethics that would give rise to liberating insight and its fruits of empathy and compassion; reducing these to “…merely a function of neurons and chemicals…”.

White also discusses how the narrative of ‘scientism’ is motivated by “what stories best support our own self interests” with the intention of “stories that you want everyone to see themselves in” as an impetus of mass social manipulation.


Yes, scientific epistemology and methodology have dethroned religious metaphysics, and the result is that we see some decline in faith (at least among the educated), and the arising of secularized spiritual movements, such as the current "mindfulness" craze. Maybe this is to be lamented to some degree, although frankly I can see worse problems.

Knock science off of its pedestal, and we could look forward to Jenny McCarthy as our next health and human services secretary. Anyone really for that?
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sat Apr 12, 2014 5:02 pm

daverupa wrote:I think it may be an improvement to have the discourse settle into revolving around the necessary connection between a contemplative practice & a motivating ethos.

It may end up offering conversational opportunities to correctly describe the Buddha's diagnosis as well as his prescription, if such methods generally come to be contextualized as tools for something.

Otherwise, such practices come to be stapled onto conglomerate lifestyles that do not have cohesive support...


It would seem that the simple version of the connection between ‘a contemplative practice & a motivating ethos’ in Dhamma is the quest to remove the second dart of dukkha. Its cause of ignorance and unwholesome roots (lobha/rāga, dosa, moha) is the aiming-point of dhammic ethics anyway. And when this quest is pursued through contemplative calm and insight, the ethics gains a vibrancy that raises it from mere petty morality, to the actual direct experience of the release.

I suppose it is possible that a ‘mindfulness’ technique can be used without the pre-loaded ethical markers and cautions to look for, as these will arise and be met anyway. But the the framework of the Dhamma gives them and spends considerable time on how to unpack the nīvaraṇa for a reason.
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Anuvicca papañca nāmarūpaṃ
ajjhattaṃ bahiddhā ca rogamūlaṃ,
sabbarogamūlabandhanā pamutto
anuvidito tādi pavuccate tathattā
.

“Having known the naming of objects,
With its proliferation, its root in illness – within and without;
One is released from bondage to the root of all illness.
And thus is called the Knowing One – the Such.

– Sn. 3.6 (Sabhiyasuttaṃ)

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sat Apr 12, 2014 5:07 pm

daverupa wrote:Here is a book dealing with this very issue, in fact:

Without Hierarchy: The Scale Freedom of the Universe by Mariam Thalos

A venerable tradition in the metaphysics of science commends ontological reduction: the practice of analysis of theoretical entities into further and further proper parts, with the understanding that the original entity is nothing but the sum of these. This tradition implicitly subscribes to the principle that all the real action of the universe (also referred to as its "causation") happens at the smallest scales-at the scale of microphysics.

A vast majority of metaphysicians and philosophers of science, covering a wide swath of the spectrum from reductionists to emergentists, defend this principle. It provides one pillar of the most prominent theory of science, to the effect that the sciences are organized in a hierarchy, according to the scales of measurement occupied by the phenomena they study. On this view, the fundamentality of a science is reckoned inversely to its position on that scale.

This venerable tradition has been justly and vigorously countered-in physics, most notably: it is countered in quantum theory, in theories of radiation and superconduction, and most spectacularly in renormalization theories of the structure of matter. But these counters-and the profound revisions they prompt-lie just below the philosophical radar. This book illuminates these counters to the tradition principle, in order to assemble them in support of a vaster (and at its core Aristotelian) philosophical vision of sciences that are not organized within a hierarchy.

In so doing, the book articulates the principle that the universe is active at absolutely all scales of measurement. This vision, as the book shows, is warranted by philosophical treatment of cardinal issues in the philosophy of science: fundamentality, causation, scientific innovation, dependence and independence, and the proprieties of explanation.


---

Probably we can say that scientism is one sort of metaphysics of science, and refine the conversation.


It has been asked in this thread ‘why this trend is so bad?’ or ‘what harm is it actually doing?’ But I offered the topic because of concerns I have had for some time now that are more undercurrent and nuanced.

For me, the Nikāyas are the larger narrative that contains and helps define the contemplative aims and methods that I have found essential for navigating through life. And scientism as ‘metaphysicians and philosophers of science’ is possibly the larger narrative that helps define dubious modalities like MBCT/MBSR, offering stress-reduction, pain-management, cognitive-efficiency etc. What concerns me is that because these products still give even the slightest nod to Buddhism as its origin, they are re-shaping public opinion on what Buddhist contemplative lifestyle is. Even some practitioners of many years are ready to assume that the ‘mindfulness’ offered in these programs is the same as that taught in the Vipassanā traditions they have been adherent to. In my experience teaching Dhamma and its contemplative approaches to others, this is a current I have to push against because of what the neo-mindfulness modalities lack to the complete aim of Dhamma.

In a forum such as ours it may be helpful to discuss this for the caution it may give. And to refine the conversation as suggested:

◦ is scientism and its subsets like MBCT/MBSR offering a product that is at least producing the results claimed?
◦ are these neo-mindfulness modalities meeting the same dynamic of stress (the second dart of dukkha) as Dhamma?
Anuvicca papañca nāmarūpaṃ
ajjhattaṃ bahiddhā ca rogamūlaṃ,
sabbarogamūlabandhanā pamutto
anuvidito tādi pavuccate tathattā
.

“Having known the naming of objects,
With its proliferation, its root in illness – within and without;
One is released from bondage to the root of all illness.
And thus is called the Knowing One – the Such.

– Sn. 3.6 (Sabhiyasuttaṃ)

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sat Apr 12, 2014 5:21 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:In an interview with Curtis White, featured in this Springs issue of Tricycle:The Science Delusion, White warns of what he coins ‘scientism’, an ideological narrative told by science which intends to reduce every human function and quality into its own terms. This ideology would preclude any nuance of human intuition or spirituality, such as art, faith or the contemplative ethics that would give rise to liberating insight and its fruits of empathy and compassion; reducing these to “…merely a function of neurons and chemicals…”.

White also discusses how the narrative of ‘scientism’ is motivated by “what stories best support our own self interests” with the intention of “stories that you want everyone to see themselves in” as an impetus of mass social manipulation.


Yes, scientific epistemology and methodology have dethroned religious metaphysics, and the result is that we see some decline in faith (at least among the educated), and the arising of secularized spiritual movements, such as the current "mindfulness" craze. Maybe this is to be lamented to some degree, although frankly I can see worse problems...


The debate on religious metaphysics, even just in Nikāyan Buddhism, has always seemed a sideshow and irrelevant to me. Even the misperceptions that pedestrians flocking to neo-mindfulness programs may come away with re: Buddhism matters less than how these modalities are being interpreted by practitioners of Dhamma. That is the real loss of faith.
Anuvicca papañca nāmarūpaṃ
ajjhattaṃ bahiddhā ca rogamūlaṃ,
sabbarogamūlabandhanā pamutto
anuvidito tādi pavuccate tathattā
.

“Having known the naming of objects,
With its proliferation, its root in illness – within and without;
One is released from bondage to the root of all illness.
And thus is called the Knowing One – the Such.

– Sn. 3.6 (Sabhiyasuttaṃ)

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby daverupa » Sat Apr 12, 2014 6:03 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:...spends considerable time on how to unpack the nīvaraṇa...


This dynamic between the hindrances & awakening factors, as well as running & circling around sammaditthi, are the main aspects I see missing from e.g. MBCT, to say nothing of the ennobling eightfold path altogether as an aspect of the four truths.

ancientbuddhism wrote:What concerns me is that because these products still give even the slightest nod to Buddhism as its origin, they are re-shaping public opinion on what Buddhist contemplative lifestyle is.


I have had very good success by explaining the four truths in quick summary, and if the timing is appropriate explaining the fourth truth as the eightfold path, using 'integrous' instead of 'right' and specifically emphasizing dukkhanirodha, mentioning impending mortality as appropriate. This quickly distinguishes the Dhamma in conversation, in my experience.

◦ is scientism and its subsets like MBCT/MBSR offering a product that is at least producing the results claimed?


e.g. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/36/4/823.short

:shrug:

◦ are these neo-mindfulness modalities meeting the same dynamic of stress (the second dart of dukkha) as Dhamma?


I think it is, at best, short-term palliative care, destined to fall apart given the right sort of stressors; sammavimutti is of an altogether different order.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby Lazy_eye » Sat Apr 12, 2014 7:12 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:The debate on religious metaphysics, even just in Nikāyan Buddhism, has always seemed a sideshow and irrelevant to me. Even the misperceptions that pedestrians flocking to neo-mindfulness programs may come away with re: Buddhism matters less than how these modalities are being interpreted by practitioners of Dhamma. That is the real loss of faith.


But it seems to me, at least, that the emergence of these modalities is a byproduct of the loss of confidence in religious metaphysics. People who don't believe in an afterlife are naturally going to be drawn to practices that are more directed at life in the world, and more focused on the here and now -- because if there's no next life, the here and now is all we've got.

Bhikkhu Bodhi comments on this in one of his essays:

fundamentalism is not the only religious response to the modernist critique of religion. An alternative response accepts the constructive criticisms of the agnostics, skeptics, and humanists, and admits that religion in the past has been deeply flawed. But rather than reject religion, it seeks a new understanding of what it means to be religious. Those who take this route, the liberal religious wing, come to understand religion as primarily a way to find a proper orientation in life, as a guide in our struggles with the crises, conflicts, and insecurities that haunt our lives, including our awareness of our inevitable mortality. We undertake the religious quest, not to pass from this world to a transcendent realm beyond, but to discover a transcendent dimension of life—a superior light, a platform of ultimate meaning—amidst the turmoil of everyday existence.

One way that religion has responded to the secularist challenge is by seeking a rapprochement with its old nemesis of secularism in a synthesis that might be called “spiritual secularity” or “secular spirituality.” From this perspective, the secular becomes charged with a deep spiritual potential, and the spiritual finds its fulfillment in the low lands of the secular. The apparently mundane events of our everyday lives—both at a personal and communal level—are no longer seen as bland and ordinary but as the field in which we encounter divine reality. The aim of religious life is then to help us discover this spiritual meaning, to extract it from the mine of the ordinary. Our everyday life becomes a means to encounter the divine, to catch a glimpse of ultimate goodness and beauty. We too partake of this divine potential. With all our human frailties, we are capable of indomitable spiritual strength; our confusion is the basis for recovering a basic sanity; ever-available within us there is a deep core of wisdom.


The problem I have with White and others like B. Allan Wallace and Robert Thurman who complain about "scientism" is that their criticisms really just amount to ad-hominem attacks. They fail to demonstrate why modern societies should privilege religious over scientific epistemology; they fail to show why a social narrative governed by religious metaphysics, as opposed to empiricism and naturalism, would be preferable to what we have now. Reason, they say, entraps us. But were people "freer" when they had no choice but to accept the fatwas handed down by clerics? And were these clerics fully integrated into the political power structures of their time? At least with reason and critical tihinking anyone has the ability to demonstrate that the emperor is short on clothes.
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby daverupa » Sat Apr 12, 2014 7:23 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:...They fail to demonstrate why modern societies should privilege religious over scientific epistemology; they fail to show why a social narrative governed by religious metaphysics, as opposed to empiricism and naturalism, would be preferable to what we have now.


Conflating scientism with scientific epistemology is inaccurate and obfuscating.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby Lazy_eye » Sat Apr 12, 2014 7:34 pm

daverupa wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:...They fail to demonstrate why modern societies should privilege religious over scientific epistemology; they fail to show why a social narrative governed by religious metaphysics, as opposed to empiricism and naturalism, would be preferable to what we have now.


Conflating scientism with scientific epistemology is inaccurate and obfuscating.


"Scientism" is a straw man, a canard. Look at how White defines it below. Take away the alarmist, overwrought language ("intends to reduce every human function into its own terms! Preclude any nuance of human intuition!") and the pseudo-theoretical jargon about "ideological narratives", all you're left with is the statement that science has an epistemology and a methodology.

White warns of what he coins ‘scientism’, an ideological narrative told by science which intends to reduce every human function and quality into its own terms. This ideology would preclude any nuance of human intuition or spirituality, such as art, faith or the contemplative ethics that would give rise to liberating insight and its fruits of empathy and compassion; reducing these to “…merely a function of neurons and chemicals…”.
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby daverupa » Sat Apr 12, 2014 7:42 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:"Scientism" is a straw man, a canard.


My understanding is that scientism is a metaphysical position which claims that scientific epistemology means that a species of reductionism is true, e.g. ontological reductionism.

The Dhamma has a position contraindicating determined materialism; not scientific epistemology. (Is it a species of vitalism?...)

---

I wonder if there is anyone here who has read Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts by Stanislas Dehaene. This book summarizes of lot of what scientific epistemology has to say about conscious experience, the sort of thing that might make for a substantive discussion about the interface here.

---

In any event, I think the problem here has to do with whether or not Dhamma practitioners consider various resultant scientific mindfulness modalities as being themselves accurate re-presentations of e.g. satipatthana practice(s), because they are often critically deficient in that context.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sun Apr 13, 2014 5:07 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:But it seems to me, at least, that the emergence of these modalities is a byproduct of the loss of confidence in religious metaphysics.


Or some people are just too lazy to indulge religious metaphysics its place in ones relationship within a religious milieu. It may seem harder to go to the Wat, a retreat, or Centre where the tradition is offering instruction on practice, but those of us who have (even us rebirth/metaphysics agnostics) know the benefit.

Lazy_eye wrote:…People who don't believe in an afterlife are naturally going to be drawn to practices that are more directed at life in the world.


More directed at life in the world … yeah, that is their head anyway, isn’t it? The puthujjana is inclined toward the world, whether sassatavādin or ucchedavādin, belief or disbelief in metaphysics has nothing to do with whether one has the critical thinking to challenge one's inclinations 'to be drawn to' this or that.


Lazy_eye wrote:The problem I have with White and others like B. Allan Wallace and Robert Thurman who complain about "scientism" is that their criticisms really just amount to ad-hominem attacks. They fail to demonstrate why modern societies should privilege religious over scientific epistemology; they fail to show why a social narrative governed by religious metaphysics, as opposed to empiricism and naturalism, would be preferable to what we have now. Reason, they say, entraps us. But were people "freer" when they had no choice but to accept the fatwas handed down by clerics? And were these clerics fully integrated into the political power structures of their time? At least with reason and critical tihinking anyone has the ability to demonstrate that the emperor is short on clothes.

"Scientism" is a straw man, a canard. Look at how White defines it below. Take away the alarmist, overwrought language ("intends to reduce every human function into its own terms! Preclude any nuance of human intuition!") and the pseudo-theoretical jargon about "ideological narratives", all you're left with is the statement that science has an epistemology and a methodology.


“Scientism” is part of the discussion, but the topic is not entirely aimed at it. I cannot tell if you are quoting White or my summary of points made in White’s interview, did you read the articles? Did you read the entire OP?

I do agree with some of your critique of White, I would also add ‘specious’ and ‘overreaching’ with reference to his style of diatribe. And I do not agree with everything he says, not even much of it. But that does not make him entirely wrong either. The article was timely and I thought that it may be helpful for Buddhist practitioners to discuss it. Specifically, the points he raised about how the position of a scientific authority on classical Buddhist meditation – with clinical and corporate endeavors to peddle its derivatives – could dilute and distort how these core traditions are not only perceived by newcomers and later generations, but that this trend is already changing how current practitioners perceive their own religion.
Anuvicca papañca nāmarūpaṃ
ajjhattaṃ bahiddhā ca rogamūlaṃ,
sabbarogamūlabandhanā pamutto
anuvidito tādi pavuccate tathattā
.

“Having known the naming of objects,
With its proliferation, its root in illness – within and without;
One is released from bondage to the root of all illness.
And thus is called the Knowing One – the Such.

– Sn. 3.6 (Sabhiyasuttaṃ)

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby Lazy_eye » Sun Apr 13, 2014 6:27 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:More directed at life in the world … yeah, that is their head anyway, isn’t it? The puthujjana is inclined toward the world, whether sassatavādin or ucchedavādin, belief or disbelief in metaphysics has nothing to do with whether one has the critical thinking to challenge one's inclinations 'to be drawn to' this or that.


Then why worry about secular mindfulness movements, or companies borrowing meditation techniques from Buddhism? Obviously these trends reflect the interests of puthujjana, who as you say are inclined towards the world. The objection that "such practices will not lead to cessation/liberation" is not relevant to these practitioners, because that's not their goal to begin with.

Conversely, since your goal is liberation, as opposed to, say, better productivity at work, nothing is stopping you from following a more authentic Buddhist path and avoiding these "lite" versions. Where is the cause for dispute?
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