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.