Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Casual discussion amongst spiritual friends.
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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby binocular » Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:00 am

Alex123 wrote:What is major difference between saying that this occurs due to Kamma and saying that it occurs due to God's will? Why do we believe one and not the other?


Who is the one asking this question, given that you use the pronoun "we"?


Alex123 wrote:Falsifiability is essential scientific criteria:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific ... l_criteria


And don't forget that you're taking this on faith.

Falsifiability may be an essential scientific criterium - but how exactly do scientific criteria relate to an actual person?

What reason do we have to believe that scientific criteria can adequately grasp the human experience and provide us with heuristics for achieving our goals, regardless of what those goals may be?


How can we verify rebirth? Can we objectively see person's stream of consciousness being reborn?


Traditionally, that may be possible if one has enough attainment.


Alex123 wrote:Ultimately it comes down to probability, occam's razor, evidence and "so what do we do?".


What do we do? We might ask ourselves why we put so much stock into having a belief that only a particular group of people would approve of.

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby binocular » Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:05 am

Lazy_eye wrote:The only way to test the viability of an idea is to put it under rigorous questioning and see how it holds up.


Not really. All proofs (or evidence) are necessarily circular, because a proof (or evidence) is possible only in a closed system.
If one tries hard enough one can prove/disprove or evidence anything one wants. It is this circularity that is so perplexing.

What people so often seek is epistemic autonomy, a way to _fully independently_ prove or evidence a claim. But as long as we are dependent beings (we cannot even produce our own air to breathe, what to speak of anything else), epistemic autonomy is a mere pipe dream, no matter how much it is otherwise desired.

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby binocular » Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:12 am

Alex123 wrote:What is unfortunate is that despite Buddhism being the best, the best religion - it still have elements of faith in it. And while we can ignore irrelevant teachings such as fish 5,000 km in length and sun rotating around the earth, and demon rahu swallowing the moon- kamma and rebirth are important elements that we can only believe in.


There are many things that are important to people - and which they can only believe in.
For example, one can only believe that one's house will still be there when one returns home.


I don't hold much faith in metaphysics (be it materialism or idealism).


Of course you do. :o Just not the kind that some other people do.


Some reasons why I doubt dualism:

- If consciousness can exist independently of the brain, then why do all memories get damaged when brain is damaged?
- Why does affecting the brain affects the mind including decision making?
- If consciousness has qualities opposite of physical phenomena, then how can two phenomena with opposite qualities interact?


On what kind of people were those experiments performed?
On 30,000 streamwinners? On 30,000 arahants? On 1,000 run-of-the-mill people?
What reason is there to believe that the experiments tested for relevant factors?


While we don't know everything, our knowledge grows and we shouldn't use "God-of-the-gaps" sort of argument.


I think that discussions about religiousness often implicitly involve a lot of image-maintenance or ego-maintenance. There is quite a bit about "How will what I say make me look in the eyes of these people?" But one may do this so automatically that one doesn't even notice one is doing it, and instead believes one is being "objective" and "unbiased."

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby Alex123 » Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:38 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
Alex123 wrote:I believe that materialism is metaphysics just as much as idealism.

So you're a skeptic. Skepticism and demands for empirically demonstrable proof will leave a lot of questions unresolved. Skepticism doesn't establish anything.


If by skepticism you mean something like total skepticism (Pyrrho, etc), then no. If by skepticism you mean that I am skeptical of proposition until given good facts and evidence, then yes.

I believe that what is given in experience (senses) experientially matters more. I believe that inference should point to something that can be experienced, and falsifiable. Materialism is metaphysics as we can never actually check what (if anything) is outside of sense-perception because as soon as you check, it is not outside of sense-perception anymore.

Our current scientific knowledge shows pattern of experience and the knowledge is not absolute, it is best that we have today.

How would you call my view above?
"dust to dust...."

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby Alex123 » Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:43 am

porpoise wrote:But is the answer really to strip out all this "religious" content just because it makes us feel uncomfortable?


Why don't you believe in the Bible and its fairy tales?

It is not matter of feeling comfortable or uncomfortable but the facts and evidence that we have today.
"dust to dust...."

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby Alex123 » Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:54 am

binocular wrote:Not really. All proofs (or evidence) are necessarily circular, because a proof (or evidence) is possible only in a closed system.
If one tries hard enough one can prove/disprove or evidence anything one wants. It is this circularity that is so perplexing.


This is why I don't give much credibility only to abstract and logical proofs. One clever person can argue fully convincingly about point of view A, another just as clever person can argue fully convincingly for not-A, third person for third idea...

How do we solve the above? What pov can be empirically checked? What pov gives what pragmatic results?


binocular wrote:What people so often seek is epistemic autonomy, a way to _fully independently_ prove or evidence a claim.


Of course we cannot ever be 100% certain of anything. Of course current scientific knowledge is not absolute final word. It is just that some claims have more probability than others.
"dust to dust...."

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby Alex123 » Sat Apr 20, 2013 12:01 pm

binocular wrote:There are many things that are important to people - and which they can only believe in.
For example, one can only believe that one's house will still be there when one returns home.


Correct. We can't also totally disprove the idea that after death we will be judged by some God who wanted to test our faith by planting all the evidence contrary to his existence to challenge our faith in him.

So what do we do? I guess we need to go with the best current evidence that we have, and realize that we are dealing with probabilities rather than absolute certainties.

Also I believe in pragmatic use of one's beliefs.

Lets say that someone logically "proves" that world is an illusion. What pragmatically and experientially does this change?
Does this mean that:
- Person can jump under the truck (which is only illusion) and not get hurt?
- person can avoid eating when hungry and not die because body, hunger and food are all "illusions"?



binocular wrote:
Alex wrote:I don't hold much faith in metaphysics (be it materialism or idealism).


Of course you do. :o Just not the kind that some other people do.


Please explain.

binocular wrote:
Alex wrote:Some reasons why I doubt dualism:
- If consciousness can exist independently of the brain, then why do all memories get damaged when brain is damaged?
- Why does affecting the brain affects the mind including decision making?
- If consciousness has qualities opposite of physical phenomena, then how can two phenomena with opposite qualities interact?


On what kind of people were those experiments performed?
On 30,000 streamwinners? On 30,000 arahants? On 1,000 run-of-the-mill people?
What reason is there to believe that the experiments tested for relevant factors?


These experiments were performed on humans, and performed well enough to suggest causal link. Even Arhats are still biologically human. Their psychology is different.
"dust to dust...."

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Apr 20, 2013 1:37 pm

Alex123 wrote:
porpoise wrote:But is the answer really to strip out all this "religious" content just because it makes us feel uncomfortable?

Why don't you believe in the Bible and its fairy tales?


If I did believe in what the Bible says then I'd probably be a Christian rather than a Buddhist - isn't that the point?
Interestingly there is a small but growing number of non-theist Christians, people who aspire to follow Christ's example but don't assume he is the son of God, etc. Personally I think that's fine, but I suspect a lot of Christians would question it - maybe there's a parallel here with secular Buddhism?
"I ride tandem with the random, Things don't run the way I planned them, In the humdrum."
Peter Gabriel lyric

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby Aloka » Sat Apr 20, 2013 3:06 pm

I don't consider myself a 'secular buddhist ' but I think it makes sense for me to set aside speculation about rebirth and other realms, in order to focus on what is verifiable in this life and to my practice in the here and now.

I also think that if others choose to criticise me because of that - then its entirely up to them. I'm not really wanting to argue a 'position'.

:)

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby kirk5a » Sat Apr 20, 2013 4:11 pm

Parts of this discussion remind me of Ven. Malunkyaputta's insistence that the Buddha explain to him personally the answers to some vexing questions.
I'll go ask the Blessed One about this matter. If he declares to me that 'The cosmos is eternal,' that 'The cosmos is not eternal,' that 'The cosmos is finite,' that 'The cosmos is infinite,' that 'The soul & the body are the same,' that 'The soul is one thing and the body another,' that 'After death a Tathagata exists,' that 'After death a Tathagata does not exist,' that 'After death a Tathagata both exists & does not exist,' or that 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist,' then I will live the holy life under him. If he does not declare to me that 'The cosmos is eternal,'... or that 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist,' then I will renounce the training and return to the lower life."

Of course, the Buddha had a skillful response to such a demand, and Ven. Malunkyaputta achieved arahantship, in the end.
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: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby Alex123 » Sat Apr 20, 2013 4:17 pm

Ultimately I believe that what matters is application of wisdom and removal of extra suffering. I believe that Dhamma is the best.
"dust to dust...."

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby binocular » Sat Apr 20, 2013 5:34 pm

Alex123 wrote:How do we solve the above? What pov can be empirically checked? What pov gives what pragmatic results?

Of course we cannot ever be 100% certain of anything. Of course current scientific knowledge is not absolute final word. It is just that some claims have more probability than others.

Alex123 wrote:It is not matter of feeling comfortable or uncomfortable but the facts and evidence that we have today.


Like I already said:

Falsifiability may be an essential scientific criterium - but how exactly do scientific criteria relate to an actual person?

What reason do we have to believe that scientific criteria can adequately grasp the human experience and provide us with heuristics for achieving our goals, regardless of what those goals may be?



Alex123 wrote:So what do we do? I guess we need to go with the best current evidence that we have, and realize that we are dealing with probabilities rather than absolute certainties.


But does this approach give you peace of mind? Probably not.


Also I believe in pragmatic use of one's beliefs.

Lets say that someone logically "proves" that world is an illusion. What pragmatically and experientially does this change?
Does this mean that:
- Person can jump under the truck (which is only illusion) and not get hurt?
- person can avoid eating when hungry and not die because body, hunger and food are all "illusions"?


If "the world is an illusion," then so are pain and starvation.

What is your source for the idea that the world is illusory?


binocular wrote:
Alex wrote:I don't hold much faith in metaphysics (be it materialism or idealism).

Of course you do. :o Just not the kind that some other people do.

Please explain.


Metapyhsics of one kind or another is inescapable.


These experiments were performed on humans, and performed well enough to suggest causal link. Even Arhats are still biologically human. Their psychology is different.


That won't do.

Again: What reason do we have to believe that scientific criteria can adequately grasp the human experience?

The population they have experimented with was not representative on mankind.
Unless you want to argue that there is _no actual_ difference between a run-of-the-mill person and an arahant.


Alex123 wrote:Ultimately I believe that what matters is application of wisdom and removal of extra suffering. I believe that Dhamma is the best.


Which dhamma?
The one without teachings on kamma and rebirth - and giant fishes?

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby Alex123 » Sat Apr 20, 2013 6:00 pm

binocular wrote:Which dhamma?
The one without teachings on kamma and rebirth - and giant fishes?


The one dealing with origin and cessation of suffering and what happens here-and-now. Or as I like to put it "the bigger the difference between what one wants and what is experienced, the bigger the suffering".

As for the brain. There were lots of experiments where if the brain function was altered, so where the mental states. If a person drinks tea that contains some mind altering substances, that person's mental states can alter after the brain function is altered.

If there is even a single well researched case where a person can think, and yet his brain activity (as measured by fMRI, etc) is zero at that exact time, then I will believe that mind can be independent of the brain.

binocular wrote:Metapyhsics of one kind or another is inescapable.


Why can't we talk about what is given to experience, can be observed by tools that we have today and can be falsified?

How can we falsify materialism or idealism? A stubborn person can always fall back on "it is all known by the mind" or "it is all product of matter".


binocular wrote:The population they have experimented with was not representative on mankind.
Unless you want to argue that there is _no actual_ difference between a run-of-the-mill person and an arahant.


Arhats don't have a brain? They don't have biological body that follows biological laws?
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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby Lazy_eye » Sat Apr 20, 2013 7:31 pm

Alex123 wrote:
The one dealing with origin and cessation of suffering and what happens here-and-now. Or as I like to put it "the bigger the difference between what one wants and what is experienced, the bigger the suffering".



:goodpost:

Just to add one thing -- getting what we want is also an opportunity for dukkha. Sometimes even more so.
Last edited by Lazy_eye on Sat Apr 20, 2013 7:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby Buckwheat » Sat Apr 20, 2013 7:32 pm

binocular wrote:If "the world is an illusion," then so are pain and starvation.


Einstein wrote:Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Apr 20, 2013 10:52 pm

binocular wrote:Like I already said:

Falsifiability may be an essential scientific criterium - but how exactly do scientific criteria relate to an actual person?

What reason do we have to believe that scientific criteria can adequately grasp the human experience and provide us with heuristics for achieving our goals, regardless of what those goals may be?

Stepping aside from the broader discussion for a moment:
Science generally doesn't claim spiritual or philosophical insight but limits itself to what is observable and verifiable in the physical world. It is very good at what it does - science works and that is why it has become one of our main ways of understanding the world.
Problems arise when people try to apply science outside its realm of expertise - trying to derive morality from it, for instance - or when people try to say that science is wrong within its realm of expertise - saying that the world was literally created in seven days, for instance.

:namaste:
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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby Kare » Sun Apr 21, 2013 12:19 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:
binocular wrote:Like I already said:

Falsifiability may be an essential scientific criterium - but how exactly do scientific criteria relate to an actual person?

What reason do we have to believe that scientific criteria can adequately grasp the human experience and provide us with heuristics for achieving our goals, regardless of what those goals may be?

Stepping aside from the broader discussion for a moment:
Science generally doesn't claim spiritual or philosophical insight but limits itself to what is observable and verifiable in the physical world. It is very good at what it does - science works and that is why it has become one of our main ways of understanding the world.
Problems arise when people try to apply science outside its realm of expertise - trying to derive morality from it, for instance - or when people try to say that science is wrong within its realm of expertise - saying that the world was literally created in seven days, for instance.

:namaste:
Kim


Alex Rosenberg, "The Atheist's Guide to Reality" has an interesting discussion where the author in fact derives morality from our evolutionary history. It's too long to summarize here, but I can recommend reading the book.
Mettāya,
Kåre

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Apr 21, 2013 3:09 am

Kare wrote:
Alex Rosenberg, "The Atheist's Guide to Reality" has an interesting discussion where the author in fact derives morality from our evolutionary history. It's too long to summarize here, but I can recommend reading the book.
And http://www.amazon.com/The-Bonobo-Atheis ... B007Q6XKEY
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
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"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby binocular » Sun Apr 21, 2013 3:16 am

Alex123 wrote:
binocular wrote:Which dhamma?
The one without teachings on kamma and rebirth - and giant fishes?


The one dealing with origin and cessation of suffering and what happens here-and-now.


As things stand, humans typically have a sense of past and future, and they tend to consider their actions in regard to past and future.

It is with consideration for the past and the future that we act.

If humans would really be limited to merely the present moment, we'd probably have no sense that there is suffering to begin with.


And to be clear, I'm not arguing from a Buddhist perspective, nor in favor of kamma and rebirth; I am pointing out where I see a flaw in your reasoning.


As for the brain. There were lots of experiments where if the brain function was altered, so where the mental states. If a person drinks tea that contains some mind altering substances, that person's mental states can alter after the brain function is altered.

If there is even a single well researched case where a person can think, and yet his brain activity (as measured by fMRI, etc) is zero at that exact time, then I will believe that mind can be independent of the brain.


You don't seem to see what enormous faith you have in science; you don't even seem to realize it is faith.


Arhats don't have a brain? They don't have biological body that follows biological laws?

Why can't we talk about what is given to experience, can be observed by tools that we have today and can be falsified?


But you're not talking about actual human experience.

You are talking about particular scientific generalizations and abstractions of interpretations of human experiences.
Particular scientific generalizations and abstractions that can only be taken on faith, but for the most part, are impossible to be personally verified.

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Postby binocular » Sun Apr 21, 2013 3:20 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:Problems arise when people try to apply science outside its realm of expertise - trying to derive morality from it, for instance - or when people try to say that science is wrong within its realm of expertise


And that is called scientism.

The scientific model is necessarily reductionist and does not apply in areas that people generally consider the most important aspect of their lives - ie. their inner experience of life.


Kare wrote:Alex Rosenberg, "The Atheist's Guide to Reality" has an interesting discussion where the author in fact derives morality from our evolutionary history. It's too long to summarize here, but I can recommend reading the book.


How come you are recommending it?
Do you endorse it?


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