Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist who focuses on the foundations of morality & philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, a professor of law and philosophy (11 minute youtube video)
Science "self-corrects" because of "institutionalize disconfirmation". This is why groups of scientists can do much better work than on their own.
This video does a good job of explaining the best of western wisdom on how to be effective and in alignment with the dharma as groups wanting to engage in difficult issues such as climate change.
In my opinion politically engaged sanghas and Buddhist leaders make a big mistake when they don't recognize and value the role of institutional dis-confirmation, the social dynamics spoken of in the video and honest brokers. It's almost impossible to be a good honest broker in the science and social policy sphere on our own. It takes a team. We need others to challenge us.
On most contentious issues there is not one clearly "Buddhist position" except in the broadest terms. Yes we should be mindful and care for nature. But issues become contentious for a reason. Often the facts and science are not completely certain. And even if the science and facts were certain the path to what we perceive as a wise and effective policy response depends a lot on different secular views on how to achieve a good, compassionate society. There is rarely one right view in terms in terms of specific actions and policy responses.
The difference between an honest broker and an issue advocate is this: Honest brokers open up choice and present options. The purpose of advocacy to persuade you to limit your choices to the view or policy advocated. Nothing wrong with advocacy. But for an example, if there is a difficult passage of sutta text to translate consider what the serious student would want to hear. I would want to be taught that the passage might reasonably be translated in different ways and then be taught from the various translations. Many of us read from various translations when seriously studying a sutta.
I have no problem with a teacher presenting, for instance, the interpretation of their lineage or the one they think most applies to a specific situation. But I appreciate the teacher who acknowledges what they are doing ... as well as the existence of other interpretations that the serious student might want to be aware of. But it doesn't work as well when the teacher is unaware of other reasonable translations or interpretation. Teachers too benefit from the input from honest brokers. It's a fundamental idea in the western concept of scholarship. We can teach our views without being dogmatic or attacked to views.
In the same manner a teacher might say "this in my idea or view on how to engage in this political issue but there might be other views". Far better to say "this in my view but there are other wise views and I can point you to sources which teach them". Even better to say "following my talk someone will present another view".
Another strategy to give time to one or more invited 'respondents' to review, critique or expand on the talk. That's what many 'think tanks' do. They often invite respondents from other think tanks. That's something like how peer review of research papers works in science.
I compare political contentious issues to disagreements on how best to fix the meeting hall. Experienced, informed people, experts and building contractors can disagree on the best means. There is no one, right Buddhist position on how to do it. Except, that is, to make the decision and carry out the work with compassion and in as much harmony as you can.
Ok, wow. That went on for more words then I expected.
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