The Evolution Debate

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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robertk
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;)
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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Lazy_eye
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by 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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daverupa
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by 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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robertk
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by 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/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;), 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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Alex123
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by Alex123 » Mon Apr 16, 2012 5:46 pm

robertk wrote: 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.


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.
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:28 pm

Alex123 wrote:
robertk wrote: 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.


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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Jason
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by Jason » Mon Apr 16, 2012 9:01 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Alex123 wrote:
robertk wrote: 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.


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.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Lazy_eye
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by 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

Post by 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.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

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mikenz66
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by 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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Jason
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by Jason » Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:42 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.
Sure, but that's not what I was talking about. I was talking about the way consciousness and mind moments in general are described as operating in the process of rebirth.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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kirk5a
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by kirk5a » Tue Apr 17, 2012 1:23 am

mikenz66 wrote: 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?
No.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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robertk
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by robertk » Tue Apr 17, 2012 5:36 am

Alex123 wrote:
robertk wrote: 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.
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.
Possibly, and Steven J. Gould, might be correct that :
"The fact of evolution is as well established as anything in science (as secure as the revolution of the earth around the sun)". (1987, p.64 )

But when evolution scientists claim that consciousness and all mental factors are merely epiphenomena of matter in the brain, and that consciousness is a product of evolution, then they are challenging Buddhist theory.

And of course when Richard Dawkins says that in a universe governed by materialistic evolution (as he claims our universe to be) "some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice." (1995, pp.132-133) he is right: a materialistic universe might well behave that way.

Except that as far as I can see, in a universe governed by several factors, including kamma, then people are going to get hurt or have good fortune and this is all due to rhyme and reason and the fact that good kamma gives good results and bad kamma give bad results.

Who is right? If, as Gould puts it, "humans are a widely improbable evolutionary event" (1999, pp.206) and animals taking rebirth as humans, or vice versa, are merely parables, good for scaring children or comforting old ladies, then of course we Buddhists should man up and face the fact that: either the scriptures of Theravada Buddhism are filled with nonsense, or even, if we think the texts really reflect his thinking, that the Buddha was a tad on the deluded side.

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Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by tiltbillings » Tue Apr 17, 2012 5:47 am

robertk wrote: But when evolution scientists claim that consciousness and all mental factors are merely epiphenomena of matter in the brain, and that consciousness is a product of evolution, then they are challenging Buddhist theory.
Not necessarily.

But then, what is the origin of consciousness?
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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tiltbillings
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by tiltbillings » Tue Apr 17, 2012 6:01 am

robertk wrote: Except that as far as I can see, in a universe governed by several factors, including kamma, then people are going to get hurt or have good fortune and this is all due to rhyme and reason and the fact that good kamma gives good results and bad kamma give bad results.
Are you saying that everything that happens to us that causes pain or pleasure is the result of kamma? Is this something you can directly observe and quantitatively and qualitatively measure?
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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