The Evolution Debate

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation
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Jason
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Jason » Tue Apr 17, 2012 8:30 pm

kirk5a wrote:
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.


It's not my place to do your homework for you. And in case you missed it, I've already stated my opinion on the matter:

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).
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby kirk5a » Tue Apr 17, 2012 8:35 pm

Jason wrote:
kirk5a wrote:
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.


It's not my place to do your homework for you. And in case you missed it, I've already stated my opinion on the matter:

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).

It isn't my homework to provide an answer to your perceived inconsistencies.

Where are you coming from, anyway? Are you someone who takes refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha?
"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 9:08 pm

kirk5a wrote:It isn't my homework to provide an answer to your perceived inconsistencies.


You're right, you don't have to provide an answer, especially since the question wasn't directed at you. My initial response was directed towards Buckwheat and what they specifically wrote, and I brought up the immaterial realms and their inhabitants because these things seem inconsistent with the idea presented in DN 15 that consciousness and/or mind isn't totally independent from form and I'm interested in how'd they address this particular issue.

Where are you coming from, anyway? Are you someone who takes refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha?


It doesn't matter where I'm coming from. Buckwheat's views and opinions, of which I'm interested, are wholly independent of where I'm coming from. Moreover, I don't feel it necessary to prove myself or present my Buddhist credentials to you or anyone else. Besides, they're not the topic of discussion.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby kirk5a » Tue Apr 17, 2012 9:20 pm

Jason wrote:It doesn't matter where I'm coming from. Buckwheat's views and opinions, of which I'm interested, are wholly independent of where I'm coming from. Moreover, I don't feel it necessary to prove myself or present my Buddhist credentials to you or anyone else. Besides, they're not the topic of discussion.

Well you raised what you perceive to be an inconsistency in the tradition. So that might be interesting to talk about, but quite frankly I'm not going to bother if you're a non-Buddhist skeptic, because as I said earlier, I don't think anything ever satisfies such people on topics like this.
"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 Lazy_eye » Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:13 pm

Jason wrote: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.


It's interesting that, apart from this one case (arupa-loka) there appears to be nothing in the Pali suttas which necessitates substance dualism (mind as existing independently of matter), and indeed much that would seem to reject it. Furthermore, my understanding is that arupa loka is not a destination a Buddhist practitioner would aspire to -- it's basically a null state in which no progress can be made towards liberation. So its significance to the dhamma might be called into question.

Finally, it doesn't seem to me necessary to posit a dualistic theory of consciousness in order for rebirth to be valid. Dependent origination is sufficient.

From the Upaya Sutta:

'Were a man to say: I shall show the coming, the going, the passing away, the arising, the growth, the increase or the development of consciousness
apart from matter, sensation, perception and mental formations, he would be speaking of something that does not exist. [Walpola Rahula translation]

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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Alex123 » Tue Apr 17, 2012 11:10 pm

What if by "rūpa" we take it as matter as it is experienced rather than ontological matter of materialism. Then with this phenomenological interpretation arūpa loka poses no problem. There is no experience of matter there.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Rui Sousa » Tue Apr 17, 2012 11:46 pm

RobertK,

I have not read the whole article, so please forgive me if my comments are irrelevant.

As I understand it Evolution has two main mechanisms, natural selection and sexual selection.

Natural selection occurs when then those who die before procreation will become a genetical dead end, and those who survive into adulthood and are able to procreate will pass on their characteristics to future generations. Comparing this to what I understand of Buddhist cosmogony, it is each individual's kamma that determines the initial properties of each nama-rupa existence. Physical and mental conditions, not events, are based on previous actions that create boundaries to what each individual can do in each existence. I can fit these two proposals (Evolution and Kamma) in my mind without any apparent conflict. In the Aggañña Sutta DN27 I see this evolution of mind and body by means of desire, connected with the steps of dependent origination.

In light of this sexual desire is a mere specialization of natural selection, and of the kamma of desire.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby kirk5a » Tue Apr 17, 2012 11:58 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:It's interesting that, apart from this one case (arupa-loka) there appears to be nothing in the Pali suttas which necessitates substance dualism (mind as existing independently of matter), and indeed much that would seem to reject it.

"Vaccha, when a being sets this body aside and is not yet reborn in another body, I designate it as craving-sustained, for craving is its sustenance at that time."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"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 daverupa » Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:26 am

Meanwhile, back at the OP...

:zzz:
    "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 Evolution Debate

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Apr 18, 2012 1:18 am

"Vaccha, when a being sets this body aside and is not yet reborn in another body, I designate it as craving-sustained, for craving is its sustenance at that time."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Just means that craving what propels a being into renewed existence -- a truth which we already know from the twelve nidanas. I don't think it necessarily refers to a kind of bardo in which a dematerialized consciousness hangs out for some indefinite period of time, feeding on craving.

It seems to me the sutta is related to MN 72, which compares the Tathagata to a fire that has gone out -- hence he does not reappear anywhere. By contrast, for an unawakened being the fire of craving still burns, providing the cause for further reappearance.

All this further demonstrates that rebirth can be accounted for within the framework of D.O., without the need to resort to a soul theory, subtle body, immaterial mind, etc.

Alex123 wrote:What if by "rūpa" we take it as matter as it is experienced rather than ontological matter of materialism. Then with this phenomenological interpretation arūpa loka poses no problem. There is no experience of matter there.


That sounds like a convincing explanation, to me at least. :smile:

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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Buckwheat » Wed Apr 18, 2012 3:34 am

Jason wrote: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.


I think of these as either cultural baggage or not affecting my life in a significant way. Sorry.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Jason » Wed Apr 18, 2012 4:01 am

Lazy_eye wrote:
"Vaccha, when a being sets this body aside and is not yet reborn in another body, I designate it as craving-sustained, for craving is its sustenance at that time."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Just means that craving what propels a being into renewed existence -- a truth which we already know from the twelve nidanas. I don't think it necessarily refers to a kind of bardo in which a dematerialized consciousness hangs out for some indefinite period of time, feeding on craving.

It seems to me the sutta is related to MN 72, which compares the Tathagata to a fire that has gone out -- hence he does not reappear anywhere. By contrast, for an unawakened being the fire of craving still burns, providing the cause for further reappearance.

All this further demonstrates that rebirth can be accounted for within the framework of D.O., without the need to resort to a soul theory, subtle body, immaterial mind, etc.


This is more or less how I understand the process of post-motem rebirth to work; and speaking of evolution, I used to use a the selfish gene theory to explain it:

    In explaining how craving could result in future births, the Buddha used a simile in which he compared the sustenance of a flame to that of a being at the time of death. Essentially, a flame burns in dependence on its fuel, and that fuel sustains it. When a flame burns in dependence on wood, for example, the wood sustains that flame. However, when a flame is swept up and carried away by the wind, the fuel of wind sustains that flame until it lands upon a new source of fuel. In the same way, a being at the time of death has the fuel of craving as its sustenance (SN 44.9). Hence, the Buddha states, "Wherever there is a basis for consciousness, there is support for the establishing of consciousness. When consciousness is established and has come to growth, there is the production of renewed existence" (SN 12.38).

    To better illustrate this, I'd like to make an analogy to a theory introduced by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. There, he presents his theory that those genes whose phenotypic effects successfully promote their own propagation will be favourably selected in detriment to their competitors, which is essentially a part of what helps species surive and reproduce. He does not mean that the human gene is actually selfish, but rather that it acts as if it were. Craving can also be seen to act in a similar way.

    If we look at craving as being the cause by which this process happens at the molecular level, we can get an idea of the role that craving plays in realm of rebirth. In this pseudoscientific analogy, the propagation of genes is analogous to becoming and birth in dependent co-arising, and the cause of this process is craving; in the case of genes, it would be craving in regard for the reproductive success of the organism, or of other organisms containing the same gene, while in the case of beings, it would be craving in regard to the production of renewed existence, or the establishment and growth of consciousness.

Alex123 wrote:What if by "rūpa" we take it as matter as it is experienced rather than ontological matter of materialism. Then with this phenomenological interpretation arūpa loka poses no problem. There is no experience of matter there.


That sounds like a convincing explanation, to me at least. :smile:


I agree. But the consequence is that we'd have to reject the traditional accounts of the existence of immaterial beings as actual immaterial, non-physical beings (i.e., mind only). Personally, I'm not adverse to doing that; but some who happen to have implicit faith in the tradition may be a bit more reluctant to do so.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Jason » Wed Apr 18, 2012 4:33 am

Buckwheat wrote:
Jason wrote: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.


I think of these as either cultural baggage or not affecting my life in a significant way. Sorry.


I understand. As for myself, when I encounter apparent inconsistencies such as this, my tendency is to try and figure out if my understanding is wrong (which isn't uncommon), or if the traditional accounts are indeed contradictory and need to be reevaluated.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby daverupa » Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:56 am

Buckwheat wrote:
Jason wrote: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.


I think of these as either cultural baggage or not affecting my life in a significant way. Sorry.


I also think it doesn't affect the Dhamma in a significant way, either, so trying to get science education to account for its lack of evidence for this sort of (scientifically) baseless claim on the grounds that it's 'Buddhist' is to be absurd twice.
    "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 Evolution Debate

Postby robertk » Wed Apr 18, 2012 3:07 pm

Rui Sousa wrote:RobertK,

I have not read the whole article, so please forgive me if my comments are irrelevant.

As I understand it Evolution has two main mechanisms, natural selection and sexual selection.

Natural selection occurs when then those who die before procreation will become a genetical dead end, and those who survive into adulthood and are able to procreate will pass on their characteristics to future generations. Comparing this to what I understand of Buddhist cosmogony, it is each individual's kamma that determines the initial properties of each nama-rupa existence. Physical and mental conditions, not events, are based on previous actions that create boundaries to what each individual can do in each existence. I can fit these two proposals (Evolution and Kamma) in my mind without any apparent conflict. In the Aggañña Sutta DN27 I see this evolution of mind and body by means of desire, connected with the steps of dependent origination.

In light of this sexual desire is a mere specialization of natural selection, and of the kamma of desire.

I can't properly understand your point Rui
.
Have a look at the section in the article where I note the Aganna sutta's apparent similarity with evolution, but also look at the section which talks about the differences between Buddhist ideas and biologists conclusions.
http://www.sciencebuddhism.com/evolutio ... dhism.html
Buddhists are no different from anyone else, we are born into a culture which is, with good reason, in awe of the accomplishments of science. However, science/scientists are also just as much caught up in the flood of views and almost can't help extrapolating the thin facts they learn about evolution into comprehensive philosophical positions that are rife with wrong view. We Buddhists when looking at science need to be fair but critical.

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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Alex123 » Wed Apr 18, 2012 5:05 pm

robertk wrote:Buddhists are no different from anyone else, we are born into a culture which is, with good reason, in awe of the accomplishments of science. However, science/scientists are also just as much caught up in the flood of views and almost can't help extrapolating the thin facts they learn about evolution into comprehensive philosophical positions that are rife with wrong view. We Buddhists when looking at science need to be fair but critical.


Science is based on scientific method. It requires objective evidence, and also uses falsifiability principle.

"Everything is due to kamma" is not a scientific phrase and can never be. Furthermore it is no more provable than expression that "Everything is God's will".

There are frequent mentioning of Rajagaha existing for 100,000 of years which is disproven by modern knowledge of evolution. Also if we were to calculate when Buddha Kassapa and previous Buddha's were supposed to live on Earth, it too would go against evolution as science knows it.


It is better not to put "Science" and "Buddhism" together... In suttas there it mentions Arupa Loka beings who live for thousands (20k-84k) of Mahakalpas. How can this be if Universe does not last more than one MahaKalpa? Even in Rupa Loka there are beings who live more than entire universe lasts. There is mention of sun going around the earth, rain gods :rolleye:, fish up to 5,000km in length :redherring: , demon Rahu who swallows :jawdrop: the moon (imagine the size!), devas, rebirth, kamma, hell (see mn129/130), Indian city lasting 100,000 of years, etc, which we have to take on faith. Just like in other religions they take their stuff on faith.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Rui Sousa » Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:00 pm

robertk wrote:I can't properly understand your point Rui


Now that I read my post, neither can I. Shouldn't write stuff when my brain is half asleep :)

I have a few thoughts, but I have to organize them and then properly translate them into english.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Apr 20, 2012 3:21 am

robertk wrote:Buddhists are no different from anyone else, we are born into a culture which is, with good reason, in awe of the accomplishments of science. However, science/scientists are also just as much caught up in the flood of views and almost can't help extrapolating the thin facts they learn about evolution into comprehensive philosophical positions that are rife with wrong view. We Buddhists when looking at science need to be fair but critical.


Sure, I can agree. One way -- probably the better way, in my opinion -- is to show that such philosophical positions don't follow automatically or by necessity from the scientific evidence. For example, one can be a scientist without necessarily adhering to a philosophical position of existentialism or nihilism. There are alternate viewpoints arising from science. This is what Joel Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams set out to show in their recent book,The View from the Center of the Universe, although it doesn't have anything to do with dhamma.

Likewise, with Darwin and evolution, it's not only valuable but crucial to show that a Darwinian explanation of nature does not have to translate into a Darwinian moral philosophy ("only the fit deserve to survive"). And it's worth noting, perhaps, that many prominent Darwinists including Huxley did not espouse such a philosophy and indeed argued against it.

Another approach is to try and show that a scientific basis for Buddhist teachings such as rebirth actually exists. The difficulty here is the need to amass evidence and meet scientific standards of proof. So far this hasn't been done.

Instead, what tends to happen is that religious critics of science try to win debate points by taking pot shots at the (real or alleged) weaknesses in evolutionary theory. The problem is that even if the theory is not perfect, it remains a scientific theory whereas the competing religious models (intelligent design, for example) are not. This is a key point if we're talking about what does and doesn't belong in science education. For instance, even a debunked hypothesis such as the "lumniferous aether" theory might merit discussion in a science class because it was falsifiable, i.e. testable through experiment.

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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby daverupa » Fri Apr 20, 2012 10:56 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Sure, I can agree. One way -- probably the better way, in my opinion -- is to show that such philosophical positions don't follow automatically or by necessity from the scientific evidence...

Likewise, with Darwin and evolution, it's not only valuable but crucial to show that a Darwinian explanation of nature does not have to translate into a Darwinian moral philosophy...

...what tends to happen is that religious critics of science try to win debate points by taking pot shots at the (real or alleged) weaknesses in evolutionary theory. The problem is that even if the theory is not perfect, it remains a scientific theory whereas the competing religious models (intelligent design, for example) are not... falsifiable, i.e. testable through experiment.


:goodpost:

Well-put.
    "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 Evolution Debate

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Sat Jul 14, 2012 3:51 pm

What science offers today, which neither Darwin, nor any religiostics had available to them at the time is an understanding of genetics and how it drives evolution. It also dispels any notion of any form of moral superiority. All that really matters is can any given species adapt to and survive in the environmental conditions, which currently present themselves. :coffee:
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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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