Science and Buddhism

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom
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BubbaBuddhist
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Mon Apr 19, 2010 2:45 pm

Yea, many years of observing myriad intelligent and often well-trained people, many of whom were actual physicists (as opposed to amateurs attempting to create a Grand Unified Theory of Everything :P ) wrestling with this knot have taught me one thing: While Buddhism and Natural Science have exploring "reality" as their intention, the End Game of the two are very different.

Some things just don't fit well on the same plate. Ice cream and tuna fish for example. Best to keep them in separate bowls. I think at this point in our experience these two investigative tools are best kept separate. Otherwise, we only confuse ourselves and waste time. Although it can be an interesting waste of time, if that's yer thing.

At the root of the problem is that our Science only examines Rupa and phenomena arising from Rupa. If it acknowledges consciousness at all, it's how it arises from Rupa. Buddhism recognizes both Rupa and Nama (non-material elements) and these non-material elements are part of our experiences. These non-material elements of consciousness are not part of Material Science at this point; there are no instruments yet to measure them. Perhaps one day there will be a fusion of Science and Dhamma. If this happens quite a few changes in our existence would occur, it seems to me.

J
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Freawaru » Tue Apr 20, 2010 8:03 am

Bubbabuddhist wrote:Yea, many years of observing myriad intelligent and often well-trained people, many of whom were actual physicists (as opposed to amateurs attempting to create a Grand Unified Theory of Everything :P ) wrestling with this knot have taught me one thing: While Buddhism and Natural Science have exploring "reality" as their intention, the End Game of the two are very different.


Indeed. If Buddhism had been about physics by now we would have warp drive, time travel, stargates, ascension ...

Some things just don't fit well on the same plate. Ice cream and tuna fish for example. Best to keep them in separate bowls. I think at this point in our experience these two investigative tools are best kept separate. Otherwise, we only confuse ourselves and waste time. Although it can be an interesting waste of time, if that's yer thing.


Swimming in the possibilities. I think this is something similar in Buddhism and physics. At first we consider the possibilities of everything stated in a speculation (it is possible to be in absorption, iddhis, awareness, jhana ...), then we test it, find its range of limits and construe a full fledged theory adapting and upgrading it on the base of the results of every new experiment.

At the root of the problem is that our Science only examines Rupa and phenomena arising from Rupa. If it acknowledges consciousness at all, it's how it arises from Rupa. Buddhism recognizes both Rupa and Nama (non-material elements) and these non-material elements are part of our experiences. These non-material elements of consciousness are not part of Material Science at this point; there are no instruments yet to measure them. Perhaps one day there will be a fusion of Science and Dhamma. If this happens quite a few changes in our existence would occur, it seems to me.

J


Does physics really examine rupa? I don't think so. Rupa consists of the elements: fire, earth, water, and air. This is not what physics acknowledges or investigates. The proper science to compare the lore of rupa to would be psychology (more precisely: psychosomatic science), namely how the information from the senses are feeding the impression of how our physical body and the physical world appears to us (in yoga this is called the "ether body" and "ether world"). The rupa jhanas and rupa realms of the deva are not about physical levels, either, but about what is called "astral" in the West, the mind made realms, not based on any information provided by the physical senses, but based on the mind-made rupa senses. And so far I have not seen any Hamiltonian describing the mechanics of an Astralion.

"What self do you posit, Potthapada?"

"I posit a gross self, possessed of form, made up of the four great existents [earth, water, fire, and wind], feeding on physical food."

...

"Then, lord, I posit a mind-made self complete in all its parts, not inferior in its faculties."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Tue Apr 20, 2010 12:41 pm

I think you have an incomplete understanding of the term "rupa." :namaste: This term in its most general meaning refers to material objects and their appearance. The elements Earth, air, fire and liquid, I believe are commonly referred to as Dhathus.

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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby meindzai » Tue Apr 20, 2010 2:41 pm

Freawaru wrote:
Bubbabuddhist wrote:Yea, many years of observing myriad intelligent and often well-trained people, many of whom were actual physicists (as opposed to amateurs attempting to create a Grand Unified Theory of Everything :P ) wrestling with this knot have taught me one thing: While Buddhism and Natural Science have exploring "reality" as their intention, the End Game of the two are very different.


Indeed. If Buddhism had been about physics by now we would have warp drive, time travel, stargates, ascension ...

Some things just don't fit well on the same plate. Ice cream and tuna fish for example. Best to keep them in separate bowls. I think at this point in our experience these two investigative tools are best kept separate. Otherwise, we only confuse ourselves and waste time. Although it can be an interesting waste of time, if that's yer thing.


Swimming in the possibilities. I think this is something similar in Buddhism and physics. At first we consider the possibilities of everything stated in a speculation (it is possible to be in absorption, iddhis, awareness, jhana ...), then we test it, find its range of limits and construe a full fledged theory adapting and upgrading it on the base of the results of every new experiment.

At the root of the problem is that our Science only examines Rupa and phenomena arising from Rupa. If it acknowledges consciousness at all, it's how it arises from Rupa. Buddhism recognizes both Rupa and Nama (non-material elements) and these non-material elements are part of our experiences. These non-material elements of consciousness are not part of Material Science at this point; there are no instruments yet to measure them. Perhaps one day there will be a fusion of Science and Dhamma. If this happens quite a few changes in our existence would occur, it seems to me.

J


Does physics really examine rupa?


rupa = form/physicality/materiality. By definition,that's *all* physics does, and it cannot acknowlede anything outside physicality and stil be considered physics.

Rupa consists of the elements: fire, earth, water, and air. This is not what physics acknowledges or investigates.


Sure it does. It just doesn't classify the above as "elements" anymore.

-M

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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Nibbida » Sat Apr 24, 2010 1:05 pm

Many good points raised here. Science is a way of understanding reality, so there is nothing to hide from but rather something to be invesitaged and embraced. It all comes through the same sense doors, as Kim succintly put it. However, it's also important to realize that science doesn't emerge from a burning bush, but rather from people who have their own interpretations and biases. The potential for clinging to views is something to be aware of.

Like Ben, I'm a fan of Sam Harris for this reason. Like the other atheist authors he's in favor of reason over dogma. To many religious people, this seems cynical and cold. But Harris offers something up more useful in place of dogma.

Listen to this talk by Henry Markram. He's trying to build a computer simulation of a brain. Without even touching on the pros and cons of that, listen to the talk especially at 1:50. He's describing emptiness:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS3wMC2BpxU

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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Nibbida » Sat Apr 24, 2010 1:52 pm

Ben wrote: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.



I love this quote from that article:

"In the West, if you speak to yourself out loud all day long, you are considered crazy. But speaking to yourself silently -- thinking incessantly -- is considered perfectly normal. On the Buddhist view, the continuous identification with discursive thought is a kind of madness -- albeit a madness that is very well-subscribed."
"Dispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body, acquire strength by exercise." --Thomas Jefferson

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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Ben » Sat Apr 24, 2010 2:05 pm

Yes, he's a great writer and he knows his stuff.
kind regards

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sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Dudenextdoor » Tue Apr 27, 2010 12:19 pm

My first day in Quantum Mechanics class, the professor stood in front of the lecture hall and looked out at the 70 students before him. All had their notebooks out, and all were ready to learn this crazy-sounding field they'd only heard about before.

"How many of you," he asked, "are physics majors?" About half the class raised their hands. I was one of these.

"Good," he said. "You belong here. Now, how many of you are math majors?" About a quarter of the class raised their hands.

"Good. This will be a useful and interesting course for you. Now, how many of you are engineering majors or chemistry majors?" Most of the rest of the class raised their hands.

"Impressive! You're fine." Then he gritted his teeth and said in a much, much lower--I would even go so far as to say threatening--tone, "Now how many of you are philosophy or religion majors?"

Two students raised their hands. The professor proceeded to yell the loudest F-word I have ever heard in my life. And I'm a high school teacher, so... I've heard some pretty intense ones. This was the F-word that ate all those other puny cusses in one fowl bite.

When the echo died down, he said, "Alright, now LOOK. Here's the deal. There's more [expletive] written about Quantum Mechanics by people who don't know anything about it than there are actual books on the subject. People use the word 'Quantum' to justify beliefs in alternate universes, multiple consciousnesses, miracle medicines, and a bunch of other things. There are unfortunate phrases in this course, like 'The Uncertainty Principle,' which people take so far out of context it's not funny. To you who are philosophers and wish to learn this stuff, I'm not kicking you out of class, but be aware: this is a science course. Everything here is backed by data and experimentation. QM isn't a well-respected theory because of uncertainty or philosophy; it's respected because it is one of the MOST supported by evidence in the history of science. This is a science for the hard skeptics, for the doubters, for those who need to see to believe. If you need to believe things you can't see, this course will disappoint you. You'll do hard math. You'll see clear results. That's the way it is. And anyone who tells you QM is anything else is either ignorant or lying through their teeth."

And that's about all there was to say about the subject of philosophy in that class.

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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Dan74 » Tue Apr 27, 2010 1:01 pm

This is a nice story and it sure does drive its point home, and yet the very founders of QM and many who followed spent a fair bit of time worrying how to interpret it and what it all means philosophically. Also serious mathematical physicists like Penrose, have been "guilty" of those crimes your professor has mentioned - positing quantum origins of consciousness, for example.

So it's not all so clear cut, but sure it is hard science in the way it models observable events.
_/|\_

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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Dudenextdoor » Tue Apr 27, 2010 2:38 pm

I actually did talk with one of the philosophy majors after the whole course had finished. He got an A, by the way, and I got a B. He said the loud expletive scared him at first, but he thought it was actually the right approach for the class. He took the course basically because he wanted to gather arguments to refute some of his philosophy-oriented peers when they started quoting Deepak Chopra and the like. His view was basically that all of science actually is a philosophy in itself: that no belief should be held unless it is 1. justifiable based on evidence, 2. falsifiable if future evidence appears, 3. verifiable by peer review, etc. (I think he had about twelve things on the whole list).

So when the professor was ranting on about how this wasn't a philosophy course, this student was hearing nothing but philosophy. I found that rather interesting.

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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Freawaru » Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:21 pm

Hi Meindzai,

meindzai wrote:
Freawaru wrote:
Does physics really examine rupa?


rupa = form/physicality/materiality. By definition,that's *all* physics does, and it cannot acknowlede anything outside physicality and stil be considered physics.


You misunderstood me. Yes, physics examines matter (and energy). But I doubt that rupa refers to that. The rupa realms are not physical for example, rupa deva have form but no physical body consisting of electrons and protons and neutrons and fields....

Rupa consists of the elements: fire, earth, water, and air. This is not what physics acknowledges or investigates.


Sure it does. It just doesn't classify the above as "elements" anymore.


I have not seen any similarity between the physical classifications (particles, four interactions) and Theravadan rupa (elements). Do you see any similarity?

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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Apr 27, 2010 9:21 pm

Hi Dan,
Dan74 wrote:This is a nice story and it sure does drive its point home, and yet the very founders of QM and many who followed spent a fair bit of time worrying how to interpret it and what it all means philosophically. Also serious mathematical physicists like Penrose, have been "guilty" of those crimes your professor has mentioned - positing quantum origins of consciousness, for example.

Yes, and Penrose has been criticised repeatedly, especially by philosophers, for some of his meanderings.

Much of the meanderings of the 1930s were rendered irrelevant by Bell in the 1960s, and subsequent experiments, which showed that what Einstein would have liked (a local realistic theory) does not agree with experiment. Therefore, I don't take the early discussions on quantum mechanics too seriously, since they are often arguing about what are now moot points.
Dan74 wrote:So it's not all so clear cut, but sure it is hard science in the way it models observable events.

And that's the point. Quantum mechanics is the most accurate theory we have, predicting the g-value of the electron (how an electron reacts to a magnetic field) to better than one part in 10 to the power of 10.

And, of course, an overwhelming amount of modern technology (e.g. semiconductor chips and lasers) are based on harnessing the quantum properties of matter and light...

Mike

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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Apr 28, 2010 4:05 am

Greetings,

Does science adequately recognise "the observer"?

Is there an appreciation that all the scientist can observe is via their senses, or are they always artificially shunted out of the process, as if the observations are somehow 100% objective or independent?

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Dan74 » Wed Apr 28, 2010 4:46 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Does science adequately recognise "the observer"?

Is there an appreciation that all the scientist can observe is via their senses, or are they always artificially shunted out of the process, as if the observations are somehow 100% objective or independent?

Metta,
Retro. :)


The observer is integral to QM (perhaps Mike can clarify beings a physicist). My understanding is that at the particle level any measurement will actually change the object/phenomenon being measured. Even photons (light) bouncing off can effect a change in the movement of electron. But it seems to go deeper than that.

In psychology, observer is recognized more in the sense that you mean above. Reporting your own level of happiness, for example. Self-reference and observer bias becomes huge in these kinds of situation, hence a lot of delusion...
_/|\_

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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:04 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:Does science adequately recognise "the observer"?

It depends what you mean by an "observer".
retrofuturist wrote:Is there an appreciation that all the scientist can observe is via their senses, or are they always artificially shunted out of the process, as if the observations are somehow 100% objective or independent?

Yes, but if the senses are just reading numbers off a computer screen then there isn't as much subjectivity to it as estimating the magnitude of variable stars by staring through a telescope, for example.

Mike

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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Freawaru » Wed Apr 28, 2010 7:44 am

mikenz66 wrote:And that's the point. Quantum mechanics is the most accurate theory we have, predicting the g-value of the electron (how an electron reacts to a magnetic field) to better than one part in 10 to the power of 10.

And, of course, an overwhelming amount of modern technology (e.g. semiconductor chips and lasers) are based on harnessing the quantum properties of matter and light...

Mike


And it even predicted completely new stuff like the Aharanov-Bohm effect, countering classical assumptions people had grown used to for generations.

The Aharonov–Bohm effect, sometimes called the Ehrenberg–Siday–Aharonov–Bohm effect, is a quantum mechanical phenomenon in which an electrically charged particle shows a measurable interaction with an electromagnetic field despite being confined to a region in which both the magnetic field B and electric field E are zero.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aharonov-Bohm_effect


To everybody who is interested in Quantum Mechanics but does not want to enter the deep mathematics I suggest

"QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter" by Richard P. Feynman
http://www.amazon.com/QED-Strange-Princ ... 897&sr=8-5

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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Apr 28, 2010 10:48 am

Yes, that's a nice book.

There's a collection of the videos that were made during Feynman's practise run for those talks at University of Auckland around 1980. I think they are on the internet here on Vega (which was set up by Harry Kroto):
http://vega.org.uk/video/subseries/8
It's quite impressive watching Feynman fill up the blackboards in those lectures...

Mike


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