The Evolution Debate

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Jason » Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:42 am

Buckwheat wrote:
Jason wrote:Personally, I think it's quite possible that evolution takes place, and species physical change over time, while another process is at work in the mental realm, influencing the growth and development of consciousness. However, until such a non-material process can be observed and/or tested for, it must remain outside the scope of science, in my opinion.


The brain is a product of evolution, so as far as consciousness is a "product" of the brain, consciousness is a product of evolution.


Sure, but that's not what I was talking about. I was talking about the way consciousness and mind moments in general are described as operating in the process of rebirth.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby kirk5a » Tue Apr 17, 2012 1:23 am

mikenz66 wrote:That's the whole point. The modern view would be that that consciousness is just a product of the brain. Is that view consistent with the suttas/abhidhamma/commentaries?

No.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby robertk » Tue Apr 17, 2012 5:36 am

Alex123 wrote:
robertk wrote:Here is what the Mahasi Sayadaw wrote about the story: Those who do not believe in the law of kamma and its effects and in the law of dependent origination are unable to accept that a human queen could have gone so low as to become a beetle in her next existence.


In science there is no place for rebirth and kamma. Thus this question is irrelevant to Science. It is a matter of faith in Rebirth and Kamma.


Possibly, and Steven J. Gould, might be correct that :
"The fact of evolution is as well established as anything in science (as secure as the revolution of the earth around the sun)". (1987, p.64 )

But when evolution scientists claim that consciousness and all mental factors are merely epiphenomena of matter in the brain, and that consciousness is a product of evolution, then they are challenging Buddhist theory.

And of course when Richard Dawkins says that in a universe governed by materialistic evolution (as he claims our universe to be) "some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice." (1995, pp.132-133) he is right: a materialistic universe might well behave that way.

Except that as far as I can see, in a universe governed by several factors, including kamma, then people are going to get hurt or have good fortune and this is all due to rhyme and reason and the fact that good kamma gives good results and bad kamma give bad results.

Who is right? If, as Gould puts it, "humans are a widely improbable evolutionary event" (1999, pp.206) and animals taking rebirth as humans, or vice versa, are merely parables, good for scaring children or comforting old ladies, then of course we Buddhists should man up and face the fact that: either the scriptures of Theravada Buddhism are filled with nonsense, or even, if we think the texts really reflect his thinking, that the Buddha was a tad on the deluded side.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Apr 17, 2012 5:47 am

robertk wrote:But when evolution scientists claim that consciousness and all mental factors are merely epiphenomena of matter in the brain, and that consciousness is a product of evolution, then they are challenging Buddhist theory.
Not necessarily.

But then, what is the origin of consciousness?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Apr 17, 2012 6:01 am

robertk wrote:Except that as far as I can see, in a universe governed by several factors, including kamma, then people are going to get hurt or have good fortune and this is all due to rhyme and reason and the fact that good kamma gives good results and bad kamma give bad results.
Are you saying that everything that happens to us that causes pain or pleasure is the result of kamma? Is this something you can directly observe and quantitatively and qualitatively measure?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby robertk » Tue Apr 17, 2012 9:55 am

tiltbillings wrote:
robertk wrote:Except that as far as I can see, in a universe governed by several factors, including kamma, then people are going to get hurt or have good fortune and this is all due to rhyme and reason and the fact that good kamma gives good results and bad kamma give bad results.
Are you saying that everything that happens to us that causes pain or pleasure is the result of kamma? Is this something you can directly observe and quantitatively and qualitatively measure?

Things that really matter are certainly conditioned by kamma: one is born as a human, a horse or a rat, not by pure chance but because of kusala or akusala kamma - as per Buddhist theory.

Maybe we can look at your question about quantitaive measurement and apply it to Richard Dawkins statement: have evolution scientists given any quantative measuremnts of luck?
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:04 am

robertk wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
robertk wrote:Except that as far as I can see, in a universe governed by several factors, including kamma, then people are going to get hurt or have good fortune and this is all due to rhyme and reason and the fact that good kamma gives good results and bad kamma give bad results.
Are you saying that everything that happens to us that causes pain or pleasure is the result of kamma? Is this something you can directly observe and quantitatively and qualitatively measure?

Things that really matter are certainly conditioned by kamma: one is born as a human, a horse or a rat, not by pure chance but because of kusala or akusala kamma - as per Buddhist theory.

Maybe we can look at your question about quantitaive measurement and apply it to Richard Dawkins statement: have evolution scientists given any quantative measuremnts of luck?
Do answer my question, then I'll answer your question.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby robertk » Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:19 am

Fair enough!
No, i haven't personally conducted any studies that evaluated, quantatatively or qualitatively,human fortune or misfortune.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Tue Apr 17, 2012 11:13 am

Kamma (intentional action) and its effects (khamma vipakha) deal with causes and consequences due to mental and behavioral issues, aside from rebirth, which is a mostly religious issue and requires faith that Buddha knew and understood processes that you and I don't necessarily comprehend to the extent that a sammasambuddha can/does.

Biological evolution is a purely physical process, with genetics at its core. However, it does have a behavioral component, which is purely reproductive: Only those living creatures which can survive to reproduce and successfully raise their offspring get to go on in the environment. Those which have the capacity to find and provide food for both themselves and their progeny, withstand climatic, and biological pressures such as predators, diseases and parasites get to reproduce. The organisms which provide biological pressures towards their prey are always evolving. The best and most adaptive survive to reproduce and raise their offspring successfully. Therefore the prey themselves must continue to evolve in such a way that allows them to survive to reproduce.

And, so it goes in samsara. :reading:

Buddha explained that there was only one way out of this vicious circle: The Noble Eight Fold Path. :buddha1:

Just one question needs to be raised as to our success in this regard: "Are we there yet?" :tongue:
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Alex123 » Tue Apr 17, 2012 3:15 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Buckwheat wrote:
Jason wrote:Personally, I think it's quite possible that evolution takes place, and species physical change over time, while another process is at work in the mental realm, influencing the growth and development of consciousness. However, until such a non-material process can be observed and/or tested for, it must remain outside the scope of science, in my opinion.


The brain is a product of evolution, so as far as consciousness is a "product" of the brain, consciousness is a product of evolution.

That's the whole point. The modern view would be that that consciousness is just a product of the brain. Is that view consistent with the suttas/abhidhamma/commentaries?

:anjali:
Mike


Its insight knowledge in DN#2
    'This body of mine is endowed with form, composed of the four primary elements, born from mother and father, nourished with rice and porridge, subject to inconstancy, rubbing, pressing, dissolution, and dispersion. And this consciousness of mine is supported here and bound up here.'


Also in MN36 the Buddha couldn't reach Jhana unless he was properly fed:
    "So when I had taken solid food and regained strength, then — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities, I entered & remained in the first jhana:
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Alex123 » Tue Apr 17, 2012 3:19 pm

robertk wrote:Things that really matter are certainly conditioned by kamma: one is born as a human, a horse or a rat, not by pure chance but because of kusala or akusala kamma - as per Buddhist theory.


How do we know this aside from the faith in what the Buddha has told us?
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Buckwheat » Tue Apr 17, 2012 5:29 pm

In the "Great Causes" discourse (DN 15), two factors of dependent origination are dependent on each other: name and form is dependent on consciousness, and consciousness is dependent on name and form. Because they are mutually dependent, the mind does require certain brain states for consciousness, and the brain requires consciousness for certain behaviors. Because consciousness is not totally independent from form, it seems it would be influenced to some degree by evolution. That is why in my quote above I used:

Buckwheat wrote:as far as consciousness is a "product" of the brain


"as far as" being a qualifier (it might not be totally dependent on the brain). I should have used "dependent on" instead of "product of".

Anywho, my main point here is that consciousness is not totally independent of the body, and therefore not totally independent of evolution. Most animals that are claimed to have consciousness are relatively modern mammals, with a particular brain structure (neocortex) that seems to play a large role in consciousness.

It seems presumptuous to assume that consciousness is completely outside the realm of the physical and thus evolution, just as it seems presumptuous to assume that consciousness is completely a byproduct of brain evolution. We really don't know enough about consciousness to make assertions in this realm, unless you happen to be a noble one.

I am always skeptical when a person posits a force outside the realm of form / physical existence. I am almost certain there are forces within the physical realm that we don't have an inkling of understanding, but they are still very physical (meaning they interact with matter/energy) If they don't interact with matter/energy in some way or another, then how would they affect our lives at all? Remember, consciousness is dependent on name and form, just as name and form are dependent on consciousness. The universe is mysterious enough without positing outside forces.
Disciples, this I declare to you: All conditioned things are subject to disintegration – strive on untiringly for your liberation.

Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby kirk5a » Tue Apr 17, 2012 5:54 pm

Buckwheat wrote:I am always skeptical when a person posits a force outside the realm of form / physical existence. I am almost certain there are forces within the physical realm that we don't have an inkling of understanding, but they are still very physical (meaning they interact with matter/energy) If they don't interact with matter/energy in some way or another, then how would they affect our lives at all? Remember, consciousness is dependent on name and form, just as name and form are dependent on consciousness.

You are talking about what the tradition says about nama and rupa, yet you are apparently regarding nama as "physical." But that is not what the tradition says about nama.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Buckwheat » Tue Apr 17, 2012 6:39 pm

kirk5a wrote:... you are apparently regarding nama as "physical." ...


No, I am regarding rupa as "physical".
Disciples, this I declare to you: All conditioned things are subject to disintegration – strive on untiringly for your liberation.

Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Jason » Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:00 pm

Buckwheat wrote:In the "Great Causes" discourse (DN 15), two factors of dependent origination are dependent on each other: name and form is dependent on consciousness, and consciousness is dependent on name and form. Because they are mutually dependent, the mind does require certain brain states for consciousness, and the brain requires consciousness for certain behaviors. Because consciousness is not totally independent from form, it seems it would be influenced to some degree by evolution. That is why in my quote above I used:

Buckwheat wrote:as far as consciousness is a "product" of the brain


"as far as" being a qualifier (it might not be totally dependent on the brain). I should have used "dependent on" instead of "product of".

Anywho, my main point here is that consciousness is not totally independent of the body, and therefore not totally independent of evolution. Most animals that are claimed to have consciousness are relatively modern mammals, with a particular brain structure (neocortex) that seems to play a large role in consciousness.

It seems presumptuous to assume that consciousness is completely outside the realm of the physical and thus evolution, just as it seems presumptuous to assume that consciousness is completely a byproduct of brain evolution. We really don't know enough about consciousness to make assertions in this realm, unless you happen to be a noble one.

I am always skeptical when a person posits a force outside the realm of form / physical existence. I am almost certain there are forces within the physical realm that we don't have an inkling of understanding, but they are still very physical (meaning they interact with matter/energy) If they don't interact with matter/energy in some way or another, then how would they affect our lives at all? Remember, consciousness is dependent on name and form, just as name and form are dependent on consciousness. The universe is mysterious enough without positing outside forces.


I'm more or less inclined to agree with everything you've said here. But there's the issue of non-material beings, such as those that are said to inhabit the immaterial world or formless realm (arupa-loka), that also needs to be taken into account. Personally, think that most of what's known as the '31 planes of existence' has been cobbled together from various sources throughout the canon. For example, the four formless realms may have originally referred to advanced states of meditative absorption since they correspond to the four 'immaterial' jhanas, but were later taken to also refer to actual realms of birth above the brahma-realms, especially for the benefit of non-returners (see esp. Gombrich's What the Buddha Thought). That said, Theravada general treats them as real places, and formless beings as actually existing. In my opinion, these things either need to be discarded, or else explained in a way that's consistent with the idea that consciousness and/or mind isn't totally independent from form.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby kirk5a » Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:12 pm

Jason wrote: In my opinion, these things either need to be discarded, or else explained in a way that's consistent with the idea that consciousness and/or mind isn't totally independent from form.

Neither needs to happen, unless someone is interested in satisfying the skeptics, who are never satisfied with anything.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Jason » Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:18 pm

kirk5a wrote:
Jason wrote: In my opinion, these things either need to be discarded, or else explained in a way that's consistent with the idea that consciousness and/or mind isn't totally independent from form.

Neither needs to happen, unless someone is interested in satisfying the skeptics, who are never satisfied with anything.


Or if one wishes to have a consistent worldview/philosophy.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby kirk5a » Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:21 pm

Jason wrote:Or if one wishes to have a consistent worldview/philosophy.

What are you saying is inconsistent, exactly?
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Jason » Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:28 pm

There's an inconsistency if one accepts both that consciousness is dependent on name and form and isn't totally independent from form, and that there are immaterial beings who have mind (and mind consciousness) but no physicality. Unless, of course, one discards one these assumptions, or else explains the latter in a way that's consistent with the idea that consciousness and/or mind isn't totally independent from form (e.g., positing a subtle form, a lack of mind consciousness, which would need to be explained, etc.).
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby kirk5a » Tue Apr 17, 2012 8:26 pm

Jason wrote:There's an inconsistency if one accepts both that consciousness is dependent on name and form and isn't totally independent from form, and that there are immaterial beings who have mind (and mind consciousness) but no physicality. Unless, of course, one discards one these assumptions, or else explains the latter in a way that's consistent with the idea that consciousness and/or mind isn't totally independent from form (e.g., positing a subtle form, a lack of mind consciousness, which would need to be explained, etc.).

Ok so apply yourself and sort this out for us.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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