The Dawkins Dilemma

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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Dec 10, 2009 3:41 am

Greetings Dhammabodhi,

Dhammabodhi wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:I don't see anything inherently incompatible between them.


The incompatibility lies in the problem of 'after-death'. He clearly advocates a nihilist point of view which the Buddha has denied.


Well that's just another belief in something unproveable, isn't it? He just needs to be more consistent with his argument.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby BlackBird » Thu Dec 10, 2009 3:52 am

Dhammabodhi wrote:This is the reason for my vicikicca. The Kalama Sutta comes to mind, but if I am honest with myself, I have to say that I'm susceptible, like many people, to this 'need' for a higher purpose and following it through in this life. Through personal experience I do have a very strong feeling that I'm on the right path, but I have to keep asking questions to be sure that I'm not deluding myself.

Thanks again for all your comments. I'll of course keep practicing, and try to see. I know of a particularly big giant whose shoulders I can stand on. :)

Metta, :anjali:
Dhammabodhi


Been through a bout of this myself just recently. One thing that helped me through was to observe the 1st and 2nd Noble Truths. Looking closer, dukkha is everywhere, you can't escape it. At the same time there's this constant desire to be rid of it, to go do something else, because maybe that will satisfy. Not so.

These first two truths can be seen on our mundane level, everywhere. Now the logical inference is that if the Buddha is the only teacher ever to diagnose dukkha, the only teacher ever to get to the heart of craving, then the 3rd and 4th Noble truths must be spot on the money also. How could it be otherwise?

To a degree, it's always going to be a leap of faith. The important thing is that the Dhamma is Opanayiko, like a rabbit hole. There are those alive today, even here at Dhamma Wheel I suspect, who have gone a lot further than us and can yodel on back that the way is clear and good. Who knows actually, I might be at the back of the pack, in which case I'm probably telling my grandmother how to suck eggs. It's impossible to say, but the important thing is, as you have said Dhammabodhi is that we keep practicing, and keep this Dhamma-train rolling.

metta
Jack
"And so, because this Teaching is so different from what Westerners are accustomed to, they will try to adapt the Teaching to their own framework. What they need to learn to do is not to adapt the Teaching to their own point of view but to adapt their own point of view to the Teaching. This is called saddhá, or faith, and it means giving oneself to the Teaching even if the Teaching is contrary to one’s own preconceived notions of the way things are."- Ven Bodhesako

Nanavira Thera's teachings - An existential approach to the Dhamma | Ven. Bodhesako's essay on anicca
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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby zavk » Thu Dec 10, 2009 4:38 am

Dhammabodhi wrote:Is the peace one experiences through meditation just a 'security blanket' which is self-decieving?


This immediately reminded me of something that Ajahn Chah said. I think I read it in A Still Forest Pool:

If you haven't wept deeply, you haven't begun to meditate.


Not sure if you can call that kind of experience a 'security blanket'......
With metta,
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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby PeterB » Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:18 am

Mawkish1983 wrote:
Tex wrote:Dawkins specifically mentions that there is reason to view Buddhism apart from other religions.

How terribly nice of him.

Sorry. I find Dawkins to be... abrasive. Might have to do a bit of reflection on that...


I think those of us who live in the UK sometimes have a different view of Dawkins than those who do not. We see him on the box frequently when not reading from prepared statements or literary passages composed in his Oxford study for delivery to a TV or video camera. After a while many of us find that the strident anger and intolerence becomes wearying. The eyes become steely and flashing just a little too often for comfort. And as for the young cohort of followers who dog his steps, they are frankly worrying as they ( among over things ) bombard anti vivisection protests with verbal abuse and intimidation......for those who will not know the story a new lab specifically designed for vivisection experiments on primates was planned for Oxford, it was opposed by many, but championed by Dawkins at his most wild eyed, and his followers , who won the day by intimidatory tactics. One of Dawkins proteges Susan Blackmore is a Zen student and there is evidence that she has modified his views on Buddhism, but frankly with friends like Dawkins I am not sure that Buddhism needs enemies.
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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Dec 10, 2009 11:36 am

Hi, everyone,
Coming late to the thread, I'll make a series of assertions which agree with some of you and disagree with others (sorry) while trying to move the discussion forward a bit:
:soap:
Dawkins is abrasive, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's wrong, just that his teaching style will alienate some listeners.
Dawkins is (nevertheless) wrong when he falls into the (typically militant-Western-atheist) habit of tacitly equating religion with monotheism and describing arguments against monotheism as arguments against religion. (I note that he did explicitly say, once, that he was not talking about Buddhism - but I am sure that he did not repeat that caveat often enough to remind himself, and his audience, that some religion is not monotheism.) Tamas Pataki does exactly the same thing in 'Against Religion'.
Dawkins is right in a lot of his criticism of religion. Any belief system that rejects or denies the conventional truths discovered by the physical sciences is an obstacle to both commonsense learning and to enlightenment. 'Creation science', one of Dawkins' pet hates, falls into that category. (HHDL has supported what I'm saying here, saying that where Buddhist cosmology conflicts with Western science, Buddhist cosmology must step aside in favour of more accurate knowledge.)
Dawkins is wrong when extrapolates from that to say, in effect, that anything the physical sciences don't know or can't know is illusory and irrational. Subjective experience is the real locus of Buddhism and it is outside of Western science (however much some people try to say that Buddhism is scientific) but not necessarily irrational or illusory.

Conclusions?
Monotheism looks very wobbly. Dawkins' criticisms do (mostly) apply, and belief in any interventionist deity is inconsistent with belief in science.
Buddhism still looks good. Most of Dawkins' criticisms of religion don't really touch it, but we may need to abandon some of the peripheral parts of Buddhist lore.
/ soap-box

:anjali:
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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby Michael_S » Thu Dec 10, 2009 5:50 pm

Dawkins is wrong when extrapolates from that to say, in effect, that anything the physical sciences don't know or can't know is illusory and irrational.


Dawkins could thus perhaps be considered as one who's outlook can be considered as scientism.

Not sure where I heard it, but a waggish description of scientism is:

Scientism is the self-annihilating proposition that the only real knowledge is that
which can be demonstrated scientifically, which is itself a proposition that can not be
scientifically demonstrated.

Mike
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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby pink_trike » Thu Dec 10, 2009 9:05 pm

zavk wrote:
Dhammabodhi wrote:Is the peace one experiences through meditation just a 'security blanket' which is self-decieving?


This immediately reminded me of something that Ajahn Chah said. I think I read it in A Still Forest Pool:

If you haven't wept deeply, you haven't begun to meditate.


Not sure if you can call that kind of experience a 'security blanket'......

Great quote.

Real peace doesn't start emerging until we've shed security blanket after security blanket after security blanket...

It takes commitment, courage, and a willingness to experience appearances and sensations nakedly and raw. The Dharma isn't necessarily about feeling good, its about being awake.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby PeterB » Fri Dec 11, 2009 9:38 am

One of Ajahn Chahs monks told me that Luang Por had said to him " your practice doesnt really begin until you have been taken to despair three times " He didnt suggest that at that point all traces are kicked over and tradition abandoned, rather that tradition sparks into life, renews itself, the baton passes.
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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby Cafael Dust » Sat Dec 12, 2009 8:09 pm

The problem with science is that when I say, for instance, 'I know there is no life after death because I saw brain pathways during a dissection and so I have proof that my consciousness is a machine', I am really saying:

'I know a past experiment involving a machine-brain-causing-consciousness to be true because a thought and image popped up in my awareness telling me it was a memory, and I remember that there is a past which one can rely upon for information about the future. I know the future to exist because I remember it doing so before, right after the past - oh look, here it is, just like all the other bits and pieces of what-I-think-truth-to-be-ness all of which occur, conveniently, right at this moment. Yet I rely on the utterly unsupported underlying assumptions without question, and call people mad if they attempt to undermine them. '

And another thing with reason/materialism/fetters of views in general; does one really understand one's own thoughts, language, therefore views in general? Consciousness is not elastic through time, it only exists right now, so one couldn't possibly understand durational objects like thoughts, sentences, conversation, meaning in general. You aren't there to. So you don't understand what you're reading and I don't understand what I'm writing. (insert witty comment here). How can a person have an ego about being clever or having the right opinions when he never understood anything in his life?

The aggregates just give you these little eureka-I-understand/grrr-that-makes-me-angry/sigh-this-is-boring moments that keep us in the loop of believing we're believing we believe in the illusion which isn't one. In truth, they don't even do this much, even that's just another story. (Yes, I know Buddha said that the aggregates create a sense of self etc etc and that this was really definitely true and true even if you write it in frivolous fonts or translate it to german and back using Babelfish. What I'm saying doesn't contradict him on the level he spoke, it's just my dance, what I have to offer, for us now, pile of rafts by the river).

One of Ajahn Chahs monks told me that Luang Por had said to him " your practice doesnt really begin until you have been taken to despair three times " He didnt suggest that at that point all traces are kicked over and tradition abandoned, rather that tradition sparks into life, renews itself, the baton passes.


You just keep peeling, I guess. And it's completely unfair and intolerable and then it begins, and there's no more despair then.

So Buddhism is not science or scientific and so on. It's not about what you read and cross-referenced or reason or scholarship or memory of any other of these empty vessels, floating on no shore. It's got nothing to do with Dawkins and his whole metaphysical world of spacial/mental-beams and foundations and so on. Buddhism, or rather Dharma, can only be experienced; it's not a metaphysical thing, it's your life, now, as it unfolds and surpasses all expectations.
Not twice, not three times, not once,
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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Dec 21, 2009 11:12 pm

Hi, folks,
I saw an interview with Dawkins on (Aussie) ABC TV last night. If I had thought of it, I could have alerted you to it ahead of time - sorry - but you still may be able to see it. Try http://www.abc.net.au/
Andrew Denton, who is a good, thoughtful interviewer, talked to him and it was revealingly uninformative: Dawkins was unable, I think, rather than unwilling, to answer any questions about why he is the way he is, or why he thinks the way he does. He came across as a basically nice, kind, positive person but one with no insight at all into himself (and very little into other people). I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the abrasiveness people have commented on is simply that lack of empathy.
At this point we can all jump up and down and say, 'typical [insert expletive of choice] scientist.' That would be partly right, too, but not all scientists are so one-sided.

Kim
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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Tue Dec 22, 2009 2:26 am

I can tell you from first-hand experience Dawkins has very little insight into human nature.

Several years go, he came to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (my former home town) to debate Creationism with a Fundamentalist. The audience was loaded with about a hundred Fundamentalists and maybe--MAYBE 25 members of the East Tennessee Rationalists. Dawkins was his usual contemptuous self. The Fundamentalist was handsome, charming, and persuasive. Needless to say--people being what they are--The Fundie carried the majority of the crowd. The majority of people are not swayed by logic, unfortunately, but by personality. Proof: democracy.

Understand I grew up in the very heart of where evolution was outlawed. I was weaned a veritable stone's throw from the courthouse where the gavel rang down on Darwin's skull. They ordered us, "Stop evolving!" and we did. There was no enlightenment to be found there this day. Dawkins was in ill temper. He left the building after this debate growling at the crowd. Outside the building were people carrying signs saying things like "We were not desented (sic) from monkees!" "God made us in his Loveing image." Dawkins stopped on his way to the car and SCREAMED at the crowd. They screamed back. Security was inadequate to hold back the hundred or so people trying to get to him. He yelled, "You unevolved, ignorant APES!"

The crowd broke through the security and almost got to him. Fortunately, the security barely got him into the car, but believe it or not, they had to practically shove him inside. He would have stood there yelling at the mob until they dragged him off, and I'm sure, beat him to death or lynched him. I'm convinced he was so clueless about the type of people with whom he was dealing, he thought they would stand there exchanging badinage, when in reality he was smack in the middle of an enraged lynch mob. He was ten seconds away from losing his life. Proof? About a year ago, later, a Fundamentalist entered a Unitarian church in Knoxville with a semiautomatic rifle and opened fire on the congregation, his rationale the cleansing of lesbians, gays, atheists, wiccans and other "abominations." There are many more instances. Passions, alas, run deep on these issues.

J
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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Dec 22, 2009 6:57 am

Thanks for the story.
The only other response that comes to mind is, 'Wow!'
:cookoo:

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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby BlackBird » Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:00 am

Thanks Bubbabuddhist, great story.
"And so, because this Teaching is so different from what Westerners are accustomed to, they will try to adapt the Teaching to their own framework. What they need to learn to do is not to adapt the Teaching to their own point of view but to adapt their own point of view to the Teaching. This is called saddhá, or faith, and it means giving oneself to the Teaching even if the Teaching is contrary to one’s own preconceived notions of the way things are."- Ven Bodhesako

Nanavira Thera's teachings - An existential approach to the Dhamma | Ven. Bodhesako's essay on anicca
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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby PeterB » Tue Dec 22, 2009 1:17 pm

A good insight, but not surprising to we in the UK who see him regularly on TV when not reading prepared statements or sparring with journos. His intellect is of a high order. His emotional IQ is very low. He comes across like someone with high end Aspergers. Think the guy in The Big Bang Theory...obviously that is an exaggeration for comic effect , but Dawkins does have that same air of being baffled in the face of emotion and the whole affective side of functioning. When faced with the human need for meaning other than that reducible to maths, he goes into angry meltdown.
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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby Dan74 » Tue Dec 22, 2009 2:05 pm

When faced with the human need for meaning other than that reducible to maths


What do you mean "other than"? :shrug:

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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby PeterB » Tue Dec 22, 2009 2:37 pm

Sorry, I am not sure that I understand the question.
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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Tue Dec 22, 2009 3:57 pm

Unfortunately you encounter this quite a bit with self-defined "rationalists;" an inability to connect with people on an emotional level. Hence they feel people can be relegated to ciphers and are quantifiable. When you refuse to acknowledge a person's individuality--not only as a human being but as a collection of beliefs, opinions, experiences and fallibility-- there will be frustration--on both sides.

I bow in awe to the human mystery. :tongue:

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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby Dan74 » Wed Dec 23, 2009 7:45 am

PeterB wrote:Sorry, I am not sure that I understand the question.


Just a joke at my own expense (I am a mathematician).

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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby pink_trike » Wed Dec 23, 2009 8:09 am

Bubbabuddhist wrote:I can tell you from first-hand experience Dawkins has very little insight into human nature.

Several years go, he came to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (my former home town) to debate Creationism with a Fundamentalist. The audience was loaded with about a hundred Fundamentalists and maybe--MAYBE 25 members of the East Tennessee Rationalists. Dawkins was his usual contemptuous self. The Fundamentalist was handsome, charming, and persuasive. Needless to say--people being what they are--The Fundie carried the majority of the crowd. The majority of people are not swayed by logic, unfortunately, but by personality. Proof: democracy.

Understand I grew up in the very heart of where evolution was outlawed. I was weaned a veritable stone's throw from the courthouse where the gavel rang down on Darwin's skull. They ordered us, "Stop evolving!" and we did. There was no enlightenment to be found there this day. Dawkins was in ill temper. He left the building after this debate growling at the crowd. Outside the building were people carrying signs saying things like "We were not desented (sic) from monkees!" "God made us in his Loveing image." Dawkins stopped on his way to the car and SCREAMED at the crowd. They screamed back. Security was inadequate to hold back the hundred or so people trying to get to him. He yelled, "You unevolved, ignorant APES!"

The crowd broke through the security and almost got to him. Fortunately, the security barely got him into the car, but believe it or not, they had to practically shove him inside. He would have stood there yelling at the mob until they dragged him off, and I'm sure, beat him to death or lynched him. I'm convinced he was so clueless about the type of people with whom he was dealing, he thought they would stand there exchanging badinage, when in reality he was smack in the middle of an enraged lynch mob. He was ten seconds away from losing his life. Proof? About a year ago, later, a Fundamentalist entered a Unitarian church in Knoxville with a semiautomatic rifle and opened fire on the congregation, his rationale the cleansing of lesbians, gays, atheists, wiccans and other "abominations." There are many more instances. Passions, alas, run deep on these issues.

J

True, true. I lived in Georgia and South Carolina and have seen crowds of those people waving their bibles and misspelled signs with their faces contorted in hate and rage - veins popping out of their head and neck, fire pouring out of them. You really have to experience it to understand the depth and intensity and the potential for danger .
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

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Re: The Dawkins Dilemma

Postby 5heaps » Sat Jan 02, 2010 5:57 pm

Dhammabodhi wrote:Is the peace one experiences through meditation just a 'security blanket' which is self-decieving? I know there is no straightforward answer

Yes there is: no.
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