The Evolution Debate

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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby robertk » Mon Apr 16, 2012 8:53 am

Kenshou wrote:
robertk wrote:various quotes


It sort of looks like you are conflating "purposeless" with "non-random". These do not necessarily carry the same implications.

Maybe. Just as a matter of interest though:I quoted these two leading scientists:

Stephen J. Gould: “We are global accidents of an unprecedented process with no drive to complexity” (1997 p.214).

Jacques Monod thinks that “Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, lies at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution ...” (Monod, 1972, p.110); and “Man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he emerged by chance.” (p.167).

What do you think they meant by 'global accidents and pure chance?
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Apr 16, 2012 8:58 am

robertk wrote:
Kenshou wrote:
robertk wrote:various quotes


It sort of looks like you are conflating "purposeless" with "non-random". These do not necessarily carry the same implications.

Maybe. Just as a matter of interest though:I quoted these two leading scientists:

Stephen J. Gould: “We are global accidents of an unprecedented process with no drive to complexity” (1997 p.214).

Jacques Monod thinks that “Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, lies at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution ...” (Monod, 1972, p.110); and “Man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he emerged by chance.” (p.167).

What do you think they meant by 'global accidents and pure chance?
Ah, so there is a teleological "Divine Foot in the door."
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby robertk » Mon Apr 16, 2012 9:10 am

tiltbillings wrote:
robertk wrote:. . . a Divine Foot in the door.” . . .
So, you want a Divine Foot in the door? What would the Buddhist version of a "Divine Foot in the door" look like?

I don't think I suggested I want a divine foot in the door.
If you study the whole quote
Lewontin: [i]We have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism[/u]. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” (Lewontin, 1997)

I think the underlined parts are the most relevant.

Buddhism is off the radar as far as the debate over evolution is concerned..
But if you take the time to discuss Buddhist ideas like kamma and rebirth with leading evolution scientists you will find they group it under 'magical thinking' and find it almost as silly, from their perspective, as the idea of a powerful God.

Give them examples like the beautiful story told by Mahasi Sayadaw about QUEEN UPARI ( http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Mahasi/Bha ... #PickingUp)
who was reborn as a beetle and they would probably walk away laughing (knowing as they do that this is "impossible").


.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby robertk » Mon Apr 16, 2012 9:35 am

Jason wrote:[
Definitely an interesting article. I especially like how it addresses the issues of how a person's worldview can influence their interpretation of evidence, and vice versa, and there being more than just two options or lenses to view these issues from (i.e., creationism and strict materialism). That said, I agree with the majority of daverupa's criticisms.

For example, I agree that evolution has nothing to do with cosmogenesis or biogenesis, and definitely shouldn't be conflated with either, in my opinion. Your use of the word 'evolution' throughout the article is extremely loose, and you often bounce from one definition to another; whereas science (particularly evolutionary biology) is generally very strict about applying it to changes in inherited traits of species over time and nothing else.

.

Thanks very much for your comments Jason. I might elaborate more on this in the book.
But do have a look at the quotes I gave from some secondary school textbooks that include the wider scientific view of the world, including 'biogenesis' in their chapters on evolution.
Maybe you are too young, but when I was at school the Miller-Urey experiment was cited as indisputable evidence for the materialistic beginnings of life.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Jason » Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:01 pm

robertk wrote:Thanks very much for your comments Jason. I might elaborate more on this in the book.
But do have a look at the quotes I gave from some secondary school textbooks that include the wider scientific view of the world, including 'biogenesis' in their chapters on evolution.
Maybe you are too young, but when I was at school the Miller-Urey experiment was cited as indisputable evidence for the materialistic beginnings of life.


The Miller-Urey experiment gave further evidence that organic molecules can form via natural chemical reactions in a form of molecular evolution, which is one of the necessary first steps for life to begin, and further evidence that these things have purely natural causes and don't necessarily need a creator or architect. Still, this particular experiment falls more into the realm of abiogenesis than biological evolution, which deals with changes in inherited traits of species over time. Certainly they're related as there's some relation and overlap between the two; but in my understanding, they're two distinct fields of study, with the former being the study of the naturalistic origins of life and the latter beginning with the assumption that life already exists and explaining how it developed. They're often taught together in school, but they're not the same as far as I'm aware.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Buckwheat » Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:25 pm

robertk wrote:
Kenshou wrote:
robertk wrote:various quotes


It sort of looks like you are conflating "purposeless" with "non-random". These do not necessarily carry the same implications.

Maybe. Just as a matter of interest though:I quoted these two leading scientists:

Stephen J. Gould: “We are global accidents of an unprecedented process with no drive to complexity” (1997 p.214).

Jacques Monod thinks that “Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, lies at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution ...” (Monod, 1972, p.110); and “Man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he emerged by chance.” (p.167).

What do you think they meant by 'global accidents and pure chance?


Again, evolution is not a single theory. It is several smaller theories, such as one that states genes are randomly recombined during sexual reproduction (easily observable) and natural selection that prefers certain traits over others to survive and reproduce within a given biological niche (not very random).
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby robertk » Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:31 pm

Buckwheat wrote:[

Again, evolution is not a single theory. It is several smaller theories, such as one that states genes are randomly recombined during sexual reproduction (easily observable) and natural selection that prefers certain traits over others to survive and reproduce within a given biological niche (not very random).


Fair enough, but do you think that random recombing of genes fits well with Buddhist philosophy, or that kamma and rebirth fit into current scientific views on teh way evolution proceeds?
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:37 pm

robertk wrote:Give them examples like the beautiful story told by Mahasi Sayadaw about QUEEN UPARI ( http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Mahasi/Bha ... #PickingUp)
who was reborn as a beetle and they would probably walk away laughing (knowing,as they do that this is "impossible").


If presented as a parable or fable, I'm not sure it would necessarily arouse objections from scientists. Are you saying it should be taken literally (i.e. a dung beetle can talk and has sufficient cognitive capacity to engage in a discourse on love)?
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Jason » Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:45 pm

robertk wrote:
Buckwheat wrote:[

Again, evolution is not a single theory. It is several smaller theories, such as one that states genes are randomly recombined during sexual reproduction (easily observable) and natural selection that prefers certain traits over others to survive and reproduce within a given biological niche (not very random).


Fair enough, but do you think that random recombing of genes fits well with Buddhist philosophy, or that kamma and rebirth fit into current scientific views on teh way evolution proceeds?


That's an interesting question. My first thought is to say that not everything is the result of kamma — which in my understanding is primarily psychological in nature and has nothing to do with the physical evolution of species over time — and Theravada does list five distinct causal laws or processes (panca-niyamas) that operate in the physical and mental worlds: seasonal laws (utu-niyama), biological laws (bija-niyama), psychological laws (citta-niyama), kammic laws (kamma-niyama) and natural laws (dhamma-niyama). If anything, I'd say that evolution would more likely fall under the category of biological laws, and that both kamma and evolution can be seen as two distinct processes working in tandem when it comes to a sentient being's experience of the present moment. (If you're interested, you can find more of my thoughts about Buddhism and evolution here.)
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Buckwheat » Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:54 pm

robertk wrote:
Buckwheat wrote:Again, evolution is not a single theory. It is several smaller theories, such as one that states genes are randomly recombined during sexual reproduction (easily observable) and natural selection that prefers certain traits over others to survive and reproduce within a given biological niche (not very random).


Fair enough, but do you think that random recombing of genes fits well with Buddhist philosophy, or that kamma and rebirth fit into current scientific views on teh way evolution proceeds?


Whenever I hear or speak the word random I think "complex, possibly random" because I realize some things we think of being totally random may be controlled by a mind-bogglingly complex process. For instance, weather is pretty random, but where I live the weather forecasts are getting to very accurate even several days out. With enough understanding, some random processes may become predictable. Others, however, are truely random. I do not know for sure that random genetic variability is purely random. It may be influenced by some sort of kamma (or God), but when I check my gut, it says "random".
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby robertk » Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:59 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
robertk wrote:Give them examples like the beautiful story told by Mahasi Sayadaw about QUEEN UPARI ( http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Mahasi/Bha ... #PickingUp)
who was reborn as a beetle and they would probably walk away laughing (knowing,as they do that this is "impossible").


If presented as a parable or fable, I'm not sure it would necessarily arouse objections from scientists. Are you saying it should be taken literally (i.e. a dung beetle can talk and has sufficient cognitive capacity to engage in a discourse on love)?


Here is what the Mahasi Sayadaw wrote about the story: Those who do not believe in the law of kamma and its effects and in the law of dependent origination are unable to accept that a human queen could have gone so low as to become a beetle in her next existence. Even in these days of the Buddha’s dispensation there are some who hold that once you are a human being, you cannot be reborn into a plane of existence inferior to that of human existence. Outside the aegis of the Buddha’s dispensation there were many who held the view similar to that of the dissenters of the present day. According to the Buddha’s teaching, as long as one has not attained the state of a Noble One, anyone in the fortunate planes of existence may descend to the four lower realms. Even if one is the king of the devas it does not matter. One’s mode of rebirth after death depends on how one is mindful at death’s door. If one’s mind is directed to wholesome thoughts when dying, one may be reborn as a man or a deva, however lowly he may be, but the converse is also true.

There is the story about Venerable Tissa. On his death-bed, his mind got attached to the saffron robe that he was wearing. The result was that he was reborn as a louse making its home in his saffron robe. There is another story about a frog being reborn in Tāvatimsa as a deva since it died listening to the the Buddha while he was teaching.


It is standard Theravada teaching, as has been taught for millenia.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Apr 16, 2012 3:06 pm

robertk wrote:It is standard Theravada teaching, as has been taught for millenia.


I'm not quite sure you've answered my question. Are we to take the story literally -- in other words, it is true that a dung beetle is capable of cognition and discourse, able to recall a past life as a queen, and can form sophisticated and elegant thoughts on joys, trouble and love?

And should we introduce this possibility into science education?
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby daverupa » Mon Apr 16, 2012 3:10 pm

robertk wrote:do you think that random recombing of genes fits well with Buddhist philosophy, or that kamma and rebirth fit into current scientific views on teh way evolution proceeds?


How does this relate to science education in public schools? Your thesis in this thread and that paper seems to be all over the map...

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    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby robertk » Mon Apr 16, 2012 3:30 pm

daverupa wrote:How does this relate to science education in public schools? Your thesis in this thread and that paper seems to be all over the map...]


The first page of the article, at the top (http://www.sciencebuddhism.com/), has a summary which notes that, "the implications go well beyond the classroom", and the article "provides a study of early (Theravada) Buddhist thought with regard to scientific findings on evolution."
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Alex123 » Mon Apr 16, 2012 5:46 pm

robertk wrote:Here is what the Mahasi Sayadaw wrote about the story: [i]Those who do not believe in the law of kamma and its effects and in the law of dependent origination are unable to accept that a human queen could have gone so low as to become a beetle in her next existence.


In science there is no place for rebirth and kamma. Thus this question is irrelevant to Science. It is a matter of faith in Rebirth and Kamma.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:28 pm

Alex123 wrote:
robertk wrote:Here is what the Mahasi Sayadaw wrote about the story: [i]Those who do not believe in the law of kamma and its effects and in the law of dependent origination are unable to accept that a human queen could have gone so low as to become a beetle in her next existence.


In science there is no place for rebirth and kamma. Thus this question is irrelevant to Science. It is a matter of faith in Rebirth and Kamma.

Yes. And thanks Robert for bringing this out. As we have seen here, and in a number of other threads, if one approaches Dhamma teachings from a modernist perspective, many ancient teachings will be dismissed as irrelevant/cultural/etc... Whether that is a matter of concern, or not, is not decidedable by mere reasoning...

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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Jason » Mon Apr 16, 2012 9:01 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Alex123 wrote:
robertk wrote:Here is what the Mahasi Sayadaw wrote about the story: [i]Those who do not believe in the law of kamma and its effects and in the law of dependent origination are unable to accept that a human queen could have gone so low as to become a beetle in her next existence.


In science there is no place for rebirth and kamma. Thus this question is irrelevant to Science. It is a matter of faith in Rebirth and Kamma.

Yes. And thanks Robert for bringing this out. As we have seen here, and in a number of other threads, if one approaches Dhamma teachings from a modernist perspective, many ancient teachings will be dismissed as irrelevant/cultural/etc... Whether that is a matter of concern, or not, is not decidedable by mere reasoning...

:anjali:
Mike


A very salient point. Personally, I think it's quite possible that evolution takes place, and species physical change over time, while another process is at work in the mental realm, influencing the growth and development of consciousness. However, until such a non-material process can be observed and/or tested for, it must remain outside the scope of science, in my opinion.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Apr 16, 2012 9:35 pm

mikenz66 wrote:As we have seen here, and in a number of other threads, if one approaches Dhamma teachings from a modernist perspective, many ancient teachings will be dismissed as irrelevant/cultural/etc...


An impression I get -- which could well be off base and reflective of my ignorance -- is that such issues arise out of an identity crisis within (Theravada) Buddhism, owing to the fact that "Buddhism" is something of a modernist creation, with reform movements in Asia (King Mongkut, for example) as well as interested Westerners providing input. As a result, Theravada Buddhism in particular has tended to be very concerned, perhaps more so than is the case with some other branches of Buddhism, with establishing itself as scientific or at least compatible with science. Donald Lopez discusses this at some length.

But at the same time the dhamma is very ancient, and the broader spectrum of teachings, tales, practices and traditions clearly includes many elements which are anything but "modernist". So there's some pull in each direction.

Personally, I don't have a problem with approaching questions such as rebirth from a purely religious point of view, without making scientific claims for it; nor do I see a problem with conducting bona fide research in this area. The problem I see is when people go about it in a sort of half-baked way -- wanting to establish some scientific basis, but not bothering to apply the necessary standards of proof and thus inevitably falling back onto pseudoscience.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Buckwheat » Mon Apr 16, 2012 11:52 pm

Jason wrote:Personally, I think it's quite possible that evolution takes place, and species physical change over time, while another process is at work in the mental realm, influencing the growth and development of consciousness. However, until such a non-material process can be observed and/or tested for, it must remain outside the scope of science, in my opinion.


The brain is a product of evolution, so as far as consciousness is a "product" of the brain, consciousness is a product of evolution.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:36 am

Buckwheat wrote:
Jason wrote:Personally, I think it's quite possible that evolution takes place, and species physical change over time, while another process is at work in the mental realm, influencing the growth and development of consciousness. However, until such a non-material process can be observed and/or tested for, it must remain outside the scope of science, in my opinion.


The brain is a product of evolution, so as far as consciousness is a "product" of the brain, consciousness is a product of evolution.

That's the whole point. The modern view would be that that consciousness is just a product of the brain. Is that view consistent with the suttas/abhidhamma/commentaries?

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