Science and Buddhism

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Science and Buddhism

Postby Tom » Thu Aug 29, 2013 6:03 pm

From a DhammaVinaya point of view, should we trust scientific "laws" to maintain consistency? I'm thinking about becoming a scientist because I've recognized how many technologies developed from science, however I don't necessarily trust that science presents absolute certainties to the world, so I don't know whether or not it would be safe to play with this uncertainty.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Jhana4 » Thu Aug 29, 2013 6:25 pm

ccharles wrote:I don't necessarily trust that science presents absolute certainties to the world,


That is exactly why I value science. Scientific will consensus will change when new information is discovered. With religion, the Earth stays flat and at the center of the universe until the rest of the world moves on shames/forces the priests to update their views.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Aug 29, 2013 6:41 pm

Science cannot solve the problem of human suffering. It might be able to find some DNA fault that might have been responsible for the deformity suffered by the Elephant Man, but it cannot answer the question, why was John Merrick born with that faulty gene?

What matters for us is to find out what causes us to suffer here and now. Without the Buddha's supernormal powers we cannot know what past kamma lead to the present result. Even if the Buddha or one like him could tell us, we would still not be free from suffering the results of kamma that we do inherit.

So, what should we do? Study science to solve scientific and technological problems. Study the Buddha's teaching to solve the human problem of suffering.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Jhana4 » Thu Aug 29, 2013 7:20 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Science cannot solve the problem of human suffering.


Plenty of suffering in the world, even in Buddhist countries, after 2500 years of Buddhism. When Buddhism works, it works for individuals and after many years of applied effort from that individual. Since science studies underlying mechanisms, including the biological ones, science has the potential to learn things that could shorten the amount of time it takes individuals to get those results.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby HumbleThinker » Thu Aug 29, 2013 7:39 pm

ccharles wrote:From a DhammaVinaya point of view, should we trust scientific "laws" to maintain consistency? I'm thinking about becoming a scientist because I've recognized how many technologies developed from science, however I don't necessarily trust that science presents absolute certainties to the world, so I don't know whether or not it would be safe to play with this uncertainty.


From any Buddhist POV that I know of, the "laws" of the universe are dependent on a universe existing and therefore offer no certainties. This is true even from a secular scientific POV, as science does not deal in proof but in the preponderance of evidence, or what is most likely correct based on or most supported by the evidence. And scientific laws are just descriptive models of phenomenon that are consistently accurate only within the (for lack of a better term) perspective they are intended. For example, Newtons laws are extremely accurate on the macroscopic level, but become less accurate the smaller and smaller you go, most notably at the quantum level.
"I know that I know nothing" -Socrates

IOW, take what I say with a grain of salt, for I likely know as little or less than you do.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Kusala » Thu Aug 29, 2013 7:53 pm

ccharles wrote:From a DhammaVinaya point of view, should we trust scientific "laws" to maintain consistency? I'm thinking about becoming a scientist because I've recognized how many technologies developed from science, however I don't necessarily trust that science presents absolute certainties to the world, so I don't know whether or not it would be safe to play with this uncertainty.


To paraphrase Ajahn Brahm, science is the pursuit of truth in the outside world and Buddhism is the pursuit of truth in the inner world. I think, in certain cases, both disciplines complement one another.
Last edited by Kusala on Sun Sep 01, 2013 4:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Kusala » Sat Aug 31, 2013 7:55 pm

The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is good as dead. - Albert Einstein
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Homage to the Buddha
Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.

Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and now; not delayed in
time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known by the wise, each for himself.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Tom » Thu Nov 28, 2013 5:23 am

Would working as an engineer or computer scientist fall under right livelihood?
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby pilgrim » Thu Nov 28, 2013 5:30 am

Tom wrote:Would working as an engineer or computer scientist fall under right livelihood?


Its not the career but what you do in your career. Engineers and computer scientists were probably involved in designing the latest medical equipment as well as the latest weapons.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Nov 28, 2013 5:53 am

pilgrim wrote:
Tom wrote:Would working as an engineer or computer scientist fall under right livelihood?


Its not the career but what you do in your career. Engineers and computer scientists were probably involved in designing the latest medical equipment as well as the latest weapons.

True, but I had to smile at that pairing of jobs: years ago I had a good friend, a physicist, who worked at the (Defence Dept, Aust) Weapons Research Establishment and gave it up to go into medical physics, working at a hospital.

:coffee:
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby mahat » Thu Nov 28, 2013 6:20 pm

Without science, especially computer science, I would never have figured out that Buddha's 4 Noble Truths is a beautiful algorithm involving recursion! :jawdrop:
I was so excited when I figured it out! :woohoo:

Science really has helped me appreciate Buddha's spiritual genius -- that he was above and beyond any founder of any other tradition, either philosophical or religious.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby SarathW » Thu Nov 28, 2013 10:19 pm

I agree with you Mahat, I learned most about Buddhism through internet.
Anyone who says science is not important is see only the one side of the Buddha’s teaching.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Nov 29, 2013 1:53 am

Tom wrote:Would working as an engineer or computer scientist fall under right livelihood?


Sure, why not? As long as you're not making WMD or something like that, it should be very wholesome work / career.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Mkoll » Fri Nov 29, 2013 7:24 am

Tom wrote:From a DhammaVinaya point of view, should we trust scientific "laws" to maintain consistency? I'm thinking about becoming a scientist because I've recognized how many technologies developed from science, however I don't necessarily trust that science presents absolute certainties to the world, so I don't know whether or not it would be safe to play with this uncertainty.


Science never presents absolute certainties to people. The definition of science is: the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena. There is no mention of certainties. In fact, science is quite the opposite: it is perpetually uncertain! This article, Common misconceptions about science I: “Scientific proof", makes this clear.

As an aside...

As disciples of the Buddha who want to become noble disciples of the Buddha, we take the view that the Buddha is a fully enlightened being who directly realized the most profound truths of existence, the Dhamma, and taught those truths to others so they could see and realize the end of suffering and become members of the noble Sangha. The taking of this view and the living of life in accordance with it is an act of faith of the disciple.

When one becomes a member of the noble Sangha through diligent practice, one becomes "independent of others in the Teacher's Dispensation" and faith becomes immovable. Doubt in the Buddha is destroyed completely and one truly knows for oneself. Of course, self-identity view is also destroyed completely but the limitations of language require the use of names, pronouns, subjects, objects, nouns, and verbs. Contrast this to scientific knowledge which will always remain at a tentative level. This is why comparisons of Buddhism with science must be made with caution and with full awareness of the limitations of such comparisons.

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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby kmath » Fri Nov 29, 2013 6:14 pm

“If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.”


― His Holiness Dalai Lama XIV, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Mkoll » Fri Nov 29, 2013 6:39 pm

kmath wrote:“If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.”


― His Holiness Dalai Lama XIV, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality


I strongly disagree with this based on the same point I made in my previous post. There is no "conclusively" in an absolute sense in science. Science provides tentative explanations about phenomena. This means that these explanations can change if better evidence is found that forces us to revise those explanations.

Hypothetically, let's say that "scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false" and we "accept the findings of science and abandon those claims". Then new evidence is discovered later that actually supports that previous Buddhist claim we've abandoned. How foolish would we look?

:shrug:

With all due respect to such a kind man, the Dalai Lama's statement shows a clear misunderstanding of what science is.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby kmath » Fri Nov 29, 2013 8:02 pm

Mkoll wrote:Hypothetically, let's say that "scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false" and we "accept the findings of science and abandon those claims". Then new evidence is discovered later that actually supports that previous Buddhist claim we've abandoned. How foolish would we look?


Not that foolish. In each instance, we're just following the best available information.

But it makes me wonder: which Buddhists teachings could science potentially contradict?
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Nov 29, 2013 8:18 pm

kmath wrote:But it makes me wonder: which Buddhists teachings could science potentially contradict?


Mount Sumeru. Science has pretty conclusively shown that there is no known center of the universe. In Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain mythology Mt. Sumeru is the center of all physical and spiritual universes.

It is mostly mentioned in Mahayana texts such as the Abhidharmakośabhāṣyam, if that is any consolation for us Theravadins.
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby mahat » Fri Nov 29, 2013 8:39 pm

Mkoll wrote:
kmath wrote:“If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.”


― His Holiness Dalai Lama XIV, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality


I strongly disagree with this based on the same point I made in my previous post. There is no "conclusively" in an absolute sense in science. Science provides tentative explanations about phenomena. This means that these explanations can change if better evidence is found that forces us to revise those explanations.

Hypothetically, let's say that "scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false" and we "accept the findings of science and abandon those claims". Then new evidence is discovered later that actually supports that previous Buddhist claim we've abandoned. How foolish would we look?

:shrug:

With all due respect to such a kind man, the Dalai Lama's statement shows a clear misunderstanding of what science is.


I agree, science is solving little pieces of the phenomenal puzzle. Science cannot give ethical directions.

Buddhism is about Dhamma, ethical laws and their relationships to internal/external phenomena as well as gaining self control and wisdom through meditation.

Here is an example of the silliness of the statement of the Dalai Lama and the limits of scientific studies:

Just recently I read an article that showed that scientific studies showed "sex is good for you",

http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/guide/sex-and-health

So far my Googling has not found one scientific study showing that celibacy can also be good for you. ;)

THEREFORE: I guess according to the Dalai Lama now monks and nuns should now forfeit celibacy due to this "scientific finding". If Buddha only knew sex can be this healthy he would never have advocated celibacy for monks and nuns... :rolleye:

I'll stick with Buddha. :meditate:
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Re: Science and Buddhism

Postby Modus.Ponens » Fri Nov 29, 2013 8:46 pm

Mkoll wrote:
kmath wrote:“If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.”


― His Holiness Dalai Lama XIV, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality


I strongly disagree with this based on the same point I made in my previous post. There is no "conclusively" in an absolute sense in science. Science provides tentative explanations about phenomena. This means that these explanations can change if better evidence is found that forces us to revise those explanations.

Hypothetically, let's say that "scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false" and we "accept the findings of science and abandon those claims". Then new evidence is discovered later that actually supports that previous Buddhist claim we've abandoned. How foolish would we look?

:shrug:

With all due respect to such a kind man, the Dalai Lama's statement shows a clear misunderstanding of what science is.


It's not an all or nothing question.

You can say for certain that there was evolution of the human species from simian ancestors. If I recall correctly the buddhist myth of how mankind came to existence had to do with devas becoming more coarse, so to speak, due to sexual desire.

On the other hand, the current observation that the universe is accelerating its expansion does not contradict buddhist cosmology. The general agreement is that the universe will expand forever and will eventualy become cold and lifeless. But there could also be the case of the universe being in an expansion phase, to fit the buddhist cosmological model.

Science can prove what it is false as false, but it cannot prove a theory as true. This means that what has been proven false is false. In that sense I completely agree with the Dalai Lama.

We cannot pick and choose what to take from science. It has proven several good things about meditation. We take it as true. We cannot have a double standard when science proves a buddhist theory to be wrong.
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