Science and Buddhism

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Science and Buddhism

Postby smokey » Fri Apr 16, 2010 6:06 pm

How Buddhism and Science share the same Views of the Nature of Reality.

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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby meindzai » Fri Apr 16, 2010 6:36 pm

And on the other hand, a quote from a physicist friend of mine on another forum:

Furthermore, I will claim that most everyone who quotes quantum mechanics, or any branch of science, to promote their particular spiritual/religious views, are cowards. For example, if you use some scientific idea to "prove" some concept from your spiritual/religious views, and a few years from now that scientific idea is disproven, would you lose your faith? I suspect in most cases, you would not, in which case you aren't taking the science very seriously--it's merely a convenient prop, to be discarded if it turn inconvenient. This applies not only to quantum mechanics but also to ill-considered anthropic arguments, the idea that the universe is so fine tuned it must show the hand of God.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby smokey » Fri Apr 16, 2010 8:07 pm

So you are calling me a coward?
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby smokey » Fri Apr 16, 2010 8:13 pm

I was just sharing information. I know that science is built on concepts. Concepts are only subjectively and conventionally true. While Ultimate realities are Truths not depending on conventional definitions.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby meindzai » Fri Apr 16, 2010 8:21 pm

smokey wrote:So you are calling me a coward?


Of course not. Just sharing another perspective from somebody I know. I think it is a bad idea to use science to support one's practice though.

-M
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Apr 16, 2010 9:50 pm

smokey wrote:I was just sharing information. I know that science is built on concepts. Concepts are only subjectively and conventionally true. While Ultimate realities are Truths not depending on conventional definitions.

Everything we know, whether it is science or dhamma, comes through the same sense doors.
:namaste:
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby SDC » Sat Apr 17, 2010 12:10 am

meindzai wrote:
I think it is a bad idea to use science to support one's practice though.

-M


This probably would've been the best thing to say from the beginning.

Your friend's quote was not necessary to convey your opinion. Pretty uncalled for in a community in which we are supposed to be helpful, supportive and patient with each other. Well at least that is how I figure it should be. Maybe I'm foolish in that regard.

If you want someone to rethink their opinion on a subject, which you obviously did considering what you posted, give them some helpful opinions and advice rather then a flat out insult. I know you said you didn't intend to insult him, but how do you think someone is going to feel when you post something like that?
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby meindzai » Sat Apr 17, 2010 12:54 am

SDC wrote:
meindzai wrote:
I think it is a bad idea to use science to support one's practice though.

-M


This probably would've been the best thing to say from the beginning.

Your friend's quote was not necessary to convey your opinion. Pretty uncalled for in a community in which we are supposed to be helpful, supportive and patient with each other. Well at least that is how I figure it should be. Maybe I'm foolish in that regard.

If you want someone to rethink their opinion on a subject, which you obviously did considering what you posted, give them some helpful opinions and advice rather then a flat out insult. I know you said you didn't intend to insult him, but how do you think someone is going to feel when you post something like that?


The quote expressed what I think on the topic rather well, and clearly since it was a quote and not a direct response, it was not an insult. How anybody feels about it is actually up to them, but I apologize for any misunderstandings.

Sorry Smokey!

-M
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Wind » Sat Apr 17, 2010 1:15 am

meindzai wrote:
smokey wrote:So you are calling me a coward?


I think it is a bad idea to use science to support one's practice though.

-M


I think it's a good idea to use science to support one's practice. That's part of testing whether it's true. But one should be careful not to attach to theories as fact since it can change or be disproven. But ultimately science and religion can be the opposite view of the same coin.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby SDC » Sat Apr 17, 2010 1:16 am

meindzai wrote:
The quote expressed what I think on the topic rather well, and clearly since it was a quote and not a direct response, it was not an insult. How anybody feels about it is actually up to them, but I apologize for any misunderstandings.

Sorry Smokey!

-M


Right on, meindzai. I apologize for being that abrupt about it. :smile:

I just felt for Smokey.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Ben » Sat Apr 17, 2010 1:49 am

Hi Smokey and all

I've been a big fan of Sam Harris for some years and a good friend pointed me to the following video and article: Towards a Contemplative Science.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harri ... 15024.html
I hope you get out of it as much as I did.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby adosa » Sat Apr 17, 2010 4:49 pm

meindzai wrote:And on the other hand, a quote from a physicist friend of mine on another forum:

Furthermore, I will claim that most everyone who quotes quantum mechanics, or any branch of science, to promote their particular spiritual/religious views, are cowards. For example, if you use some scientific idea to "prove" some concept from your spiritual/religious views, and a few years from now that scientific idea is disproven, would you lose your faith? I suspect in most cases, you would not, in which case you aren't taking the science very seriously--it's merely a convenient prop, to be discarded if it turn inconvenient. This applies not only to quantum mechanics but also to ill-considered anthropic arguments, the idea that the universe is so fine tuned it must show the hand of God.



Only if you cling to view.


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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby fig tree » Sat Apr 17, 2010 6:14 pm

How Buddhism and Science share the same Views of the Nature of Reality.

Yeah, I also will say, be wary of these references to quantum physics.

In particular, lots of people comment on the relationship that consciousness has with reality, and describe quantum physics as "saying" something like that consciousness gives rise to reality. Quantum physics really has little to "say" about consciousness, however. The way that it is described (including in perfectly reasonable physics journals), in terms of "observation" and so on can be misleading. But there isn't anything in the physics itself that gives evidence that observation by a conscious entity is different from interaction with some system such as a brick or a block of wood. Quantum physics does not seem to provide any way to test for consciousness. That consciousness plays a central role is just one interpretation that can be placed on it.

It is interesting that quantum physics takes one further away from picturing reality as composed of isolated component parts. Quantum physics depends on a connection known as "entanglement" existing to make its predictions. For instance, the frequencies of light emitted by a helium atom are predictable with great accuracy, but only by treating the state of the pair of electrons as something more than just a combination of separate states for each electron by itself. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_entanglement. But it seems like a somewhat technical distinction with few real philosophical implications.

Science and Buddhism have a lot in common as enterprises that have investigation of reality at their core, but not so much in the insights they reach, as in their attempting to keep observation pure and unobstructed by attachment to views. Science relies more on ways to prevent observations from being distorted even if the researcher is mentally biased, while Buddhism relies more on ways of ridding the researcher from mental bias, which in a sense is a much more ambitious goal.

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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby ground » Sun Apr 18, 2010 8:06 am

smokey wrote:How Buddhism and Science share the same Views of the Nature of Reality.


The video presents a variety of speculative views that have nothing to do with science.

Buddhism entails the end of speculation.

As far as sensually perceptable phenomena are concerned science certainly provides evidence for the infinite divisibility of anything that may be called "form" in a buddhist context.

Buddhism however does not promote the view that by looking "deeper and deeper into form" anything benefitial may be gained. Buddhism advocates the investigation into "I" and "mine" in the first place.

Science implicitely undermines a gross type of realism ("naive" realism) with reference to phenomena (conventionally) "external to mind" which usually are acessible to and verifiable by conventional sense perception. This partial deconstruction by scientific analysis does not touch potential metaphysical remainders like "cosmic energy", "god" or a "monolithic self" or ordinary "quasi-metaphysical" entities like "I" and "mine".

Kind regards
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Prasadachitta » Sun Apr 18, 2010 5:14 pm

I think that as we deconstruct we are engaged in an act of construction. I tend to think of my Buddhist practice as a process of cultivating a sense of the degree to which there is speculation and seeing where it has value and where it is useless. When does having an actionable theory become useless speculation? What criteria do I use to discern this? What is my goal? It is my ever present task to continually cultivate a mind which keeps these questions at the forefront. To my mind this is how Buddha Dhamma will always supersede scientific investigation. These questions and the clarity which I attempt to bring to them are always more important than any of the provisional answers which guide further action. I think that the difference between an effective actionable theory and useless speculation can often simply be a question of whether or not I act on it.


Metta All...


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Last edited by Prasadachitta on Sun Apr 18, 2010 8:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby smokey » Sun Apr 18, 2010 7:24 pm

meindzai wrote:
SDC wrote:
meindzai wrote:
I think it is a bad idea to use science to support one's practice though.

-M


This probably would've been the best thing to say from the beginning.

Your friend's quote was not necessary to convey your opinion. Pretty uncalled for in a community in which we are supposed to be helpful, supportive and patient with each other. Well at least that is how I figure it should be. Maybe I'm foolish in that regard.

If you want someone to rethink their opinion on a subject, which you obviously did considering what you posted, give them some helpful opinions and advice rather then a flat out insult. I know you said you didn't intend to insult him, but how do you think someone is going to feel when you post something like that?


The quote expressed what I think on the topic rather well, and clearly since it was a quote and not a direct response, it was not an insult. How anybody feels about it is actually up to them, but I apologize for any misunderstandings.

Sorry Smokey!

-M


Do not worry about it Meindzai. You did not offend me. :toast:
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun Apr 18, 2010 7:35 pm

depends on what you mean by science. the science to know whether or not the stars are in our atmosphere or whether or not there is an ocean in the sky(these are taught in the bible) is far different from the more theoretical or "cutting edge"sciences where you cant just take a plane up and look around. sure the math behind a lot of modern science is beautiful and tells us things should be such and such a way but ideas change, new insights are added or mistakes are found out etc and to pin any sort of faith that science has things figured out is a mistake. i have faith that the process of science is a valid one and has the potential to uncover great truths but beyond that i don't place my "salvation" in its hands.
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the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Dhammakid » Sun Apr 18, 2010 8:50 pm

I absolutely agree that science in general - and quantum mechanics specifically - should be carefully used (if at all) when attempting to apply it to spiritual concepts. The Buddha teaches us that we tend to misinterpret reality in pretty much everything we do. We look for a specific conclusion and don't stop until we find it. It's hard not to be selfish, even when using the scientific method. Science is a fantastic way to observe the material world, but it still involves suffering since it seeks to understand things the mundane human intellect will never be able to understand. We as students of Dhamma are concerned with ceasing these pursuits.

Quantum mechanics demonstrates that the rules of everyday life physics are much different than the rules on a micro level. Beyond this, further interpretation is speculative and most often ascribed to previously existing beliefs, often of the type not readily testable by conventional science. Besides, the way science is applied these days seems to be geared more towards controlling and dominating nature rather than understanding and appreciating it. Buddhism has no interest in this, since our practice is purely about eliminating suffering. Maybe if science as a whole was concerned with the same, then the discussion of their similarities would be more productive.

Also, just as Eastern philosophers can claim kin to quantum mechanics, so can a stout materialist atheist. After all, it shows us that we really don't know anything.

Just my thoughts.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Apr 19, 2010 1:33 am

Good posts, adosa, jc, and Dhammakid.

Quantum mechanics has been under some scrutiny lately because much of it appears to be speculative and not testable. But in regards to "other branches of science" this is certainly not the case. Recognizing some compatibility of one's religion to the sciences in other areas is certainly not "cowardly" as cowardly is a term normally used for someone afraid, such as being afraid to take a position or to defend a position. One can take a view, but not cling to it and modify it as necessary with an open mind. The Dalai Lama has been open to the linking of Buddhism as compatible to the sciences, but he has also stated that he would drop some belief if science absolutely showed it to be false.

The sciences in other branches (other than the quantum) has shown that Thor is not the reason there is thunder and lightning, has shown that animals and humans evolve, that the earth is several billion years old, not 6,000 etc. To this extent that the sciences are compatible with Buddhism, why not acknowledge that and welcome this link?

:toast:
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Dhammakid » Mon Apr 19, 2010 4:20 am

Some good points, David.

One of the reasons Buddhism appeals to me much more than any other faith is its closer compatibility with science than pretty much any other faith. I'm not necessarily ready to say it's completely compatible with science, but I also don't necessarily need it to be in order to be comfortable as a Buddhist. Scientists have begun speculating the existence of other universes, worm holes through black holes, time travel and a host of other unproven (and maybe even unprovable) ideas. Yet scientists aren't leaving their profession because of this. There are many parts of Buddhism that just makes sense to me, even if they aren't provable. There are also some Buddhist ideas that don't make sense to me; I can keep what's relevant to me and discard the rest. In due time, both scientists and spiritual students will come to know the truth(s) for themselves. For the time being, I'm quite happy the Buddha was at least a bit more grounded in reality than most other hippy dudes recorded on ancient scrolls.
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