Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

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Lazy_eye
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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Post by Lazy_eye » Fri Apr 19, 2013 9:18 pm

Ñāṇa wrote: For starters, your man Chalmers argues against materialism in The Conscious Mind (Ch. 4). Hasker goes beyond Chalmers' natural dualism and argues against causal closure of the physical domain in his paper How Not To Be A Reductivist. Rosenberg's A Place for Consciousness: Probing the Deep Structure of the Natural World doesn't reject causal closure of the physical, but argues that physics doesn't offer a complete picture of causation, i.e. physics doesn't provide a theory of causation. Thus, he rejects physicalism (and he rejects epiphenomenalism and interactionist dualism as well). Papers on panpsychism can be found in Mind that Abides: Panpsychism in the New Millennium. And a number of different arguments are put forward in Mind And Its Place in the World: Non-reductionist Approaches to the Ontology of Consciousness, some less coherent than others.
Great. Very interested in looking at these. Thanks for the list!

Have you read Henry Stapp's book? I haven't got to it yet, but am planning to this year.
Ñāṇa wrote:Is there an "empirically demonstrable explanation" for the existence of consciousness that can withstand rigorous questioning? If there were, the "hard problem" would have already been solved.
No, I don't think there is. But my comment was actually with regard to kamma as an explanation for human differences -- i.e. why so-and-so becomes a child prodigy, or grows to a certain height, has green eyes, etc.

Nyana
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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Post by Nyana » Sat Apr 20, 2013 5:18 am

Alex123 wrote:I believe that materialism is metaphysics just as much as idealism.
So you're a skeptic. Skepticism and demands for empirically demonstrable proof will leave a lot of questions unresolved. Skepticism doesn't establish anything.

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Post by Nyana » Sat Apr 20, 2013 5:36 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Have you read Henry Stapp's book? I haven't got to it yet, but am planning to this year.
I've read a bit about Stapp's ideas, but I haven't read his books.

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Post by binocular » Sat Apr 20, 2013 7:44 am

Ñāṇa wrote:Skepticism doesn't establish anything.
Oh, it does establish things. Such as confusion. :p

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Post by Dinsdale » Sat Apr 20, 2013 8:36 am

Alex123 wrote: But still, Pali Canon has too many religious teachings - and unfortunately some of them are key points (kamma, rebirth, cosmology) which the Buddha is said to have taught. Unfortunately the issue is not just the amount of mythological teachings, but centrality and importance of those that are taught.
But is the answer really to strip out all this "religious" content just because it makes us feel uncomfortable?
Buddha save me from new-agers!

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Post by binocular » Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:00 am

Alex123 wrote:What is major difference between saying that this occurs due to Kamma and saying that it occurs due to God's will? Why do we believe one and not the other?
Who is the one asking this question, given that you use the pronoun "we"?

Alex123 wrote:Falsifiability is essential scientific criteria:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific ... l_criteria
And don't forget that you're taking this on faith.

Falsifiability may be an essential scientific criterium - but how exactly do scientific criteria relate to an actual person?

What reason do we have to believe that scientific criteria can adequately grasp the human experience and provide us with heuristics for achieving our goals, regardless of what those goals may be?

How can we verify rebirth? Can we objectively see person's stream of consciousness being reborn?
Traditionally, that may be possible if one has enough attainment.

Alex123 wrote:Ultimately it comes down to probability, occam's razor, evidence and "so what do we do?".
What do we do? We might ask ourselves why we put so much stock into having a belief that only a particular group of people would approve of.

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Post by binocular » Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:05 am

Lazy_eye wrote:The only way to test the viability of an idea is to put it under rigorous questioning and see how it holds up.
Not really. All proofs (or evidence) are necessarily circular, because a proof (or evidence) is possible only in a closed system.
If one tries hard enough one can prove/disprove or evidence anything one wants. It is this circularity that is so perplexing.

What people so often seek is epistemic autonomy, a way to _fully independently_ prove or evidence a claim. But as long as we are dependent beings (we cannot even produce our own air to breathe, what to speak of anything else), epistemic autonomy is a mere pipe dream, no matter how much it is otherwise desired.

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Post by binocular » Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:12 am

Alex123 wrote:What is unfortunate is that despite Buddhism being the best, the best religion - it still have elements of faith in it. And while we can ignore irrelevant teachings such as fish 5,000 km in length and sun rotating around the earth, and demon rahu swallowing the moon- kamma and rebirth are important elements that we can only believe in.
There are many things that are important to people - and which they can only believe in.
For example, one can only believe that one's house will still be there when one returns home.

I don't hold much faith in metaphysics (be it materialism or idealism).
Of course you do. :o Just not the kind that some other people do.

Some reasons why I doubt dualism:

- If consciousness can exist independently of the brain, then why do all memories get damaged when brain is damaged?
- Why does affecting the brain affects the mind including decision making?
- If consciousness has qualities opposite of physical phenomena, then how can two phenomena with opposite qualities interact?
On what kind of people were those experiments performed?
On 30,000 streamwinners? On 30,000 arahants? On 1,000 run-of-the-mill people?
What reason is there to believe that the experiments tested for relevant factors?

While we don't know everything, our knowledge grows and we shouldn't use "God-of-the-gaps" sort of argument.
I think that discussions about religiousness often implicitly involve a lot of image-maintenance or ego-maintenance. There is quite a bit about "How will what I say make me look in the eyes of these people?" But one may do this so automatically that one doesn't even notice one is doing it, and instead believes one is being "objective" and "unbiased."

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Post by Alex123 » Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:38 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
Alex123 wrote:I believe that materialism is metaphysics just as much as idealism.
So you're a skeptic. Skepticism and demands for empirically demonstrable proof will leave a lot of questions unresolved. Skepticism doesn't establish anything.
If by skepticism you mean something like total skepticism (Pyrrho, etc), then no. If by skepticism you mean that I am skeptical of proposition until given good facts and evidence, then yes.

I believe that what is given in experience (senses) experientially matters more. I believe that inference should point to something that can be experienced, and falsifiable. Materialism is metaphysics as we can never actually check what (if anything) is outside of sense-perception because as soon as you check, it is not outside of sense-perception anymore.

Our current scientific knowledge shows pattern of experience and the knowledge is not absolute, it is best that we have today.

How would you call my view above?
"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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Alex123
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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Post by Alex123 » Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:43 am

porpoise wrote:But is the answer really to strip out all this "religious" content just because it makes us feel uncomfortable?
Why don't you believe in the Bible and its fairy tales?

It is not matter of feeling comfortable or uncomfortable but the facts and evidence that we have today.
"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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Alex123
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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Post by Alex123 » Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:54 am

binocular wrote:Not really. All proofs (or evidence) are necessarily circular, because a proof (or evidence) is possible only in a closed system.
If one tries hard enough one can prove/disprove or evidence anything one wants. It is this circularity that is so perplexing.
This is why I don't give much credibility only to abstract and logical proofs. One clever person can argue fully convincingly about point of view A, another just as clever person can argue fully convincingly for not-A, third person for third idea...

How do we solve the above? What pov can be empirically checked? What pov gives what pragmatic results?

binocular wrote:What people so often seek is epistemic autonomy, a way to _fully independently_ prove or evidence a claim.
Of course we cannot ever be 100% certain of anything. Of course current scientific knowledge is not absolute final word. It is just that some claims have more probability than others.
"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: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Post by Alex123 » Sat Apr 20, 2013 12:01 pm

binocular wrote:There are many things that are important to people - and which they can only believe in.
For example, one can only believe that one's house will still be there when one returns home.
Correct. We can't also totally disprove the idea that after death we will be judged by some God who wanted to test our faith by planting all the evidence contrary to his existence to challenge our faith in him.

So what do we do? I guess we need to go with the best current evidence that we have, and realize that we are dealing with probabilities rather than absolute certainties.

Also I believe in pragmatic use of one's beliefs.

Lets say that someone logically "proves" that world is an illusion. What pragmatically and experientially does this change?
Does this mean that:
- Person can jump under the truck (which is only illusion) and not get hurt?
- person can avoid eating when hungry and not die because body, hunger and food are all "illusions"?


binocular wrote:
Alex wrote:I don't hold much faith in metaphysics (be it materialism or idealism).
Of course you do. :o Just not the kind that some other people do.
Please explain.
binocular wrote:
Alex wrote:Some reasons why I doubt dualism:
- If consciousness can exist independently of the brain, then why do all memories get damaged when brain is damaged?
- Why does affecting the brain affects the mind including decision making?
- If consciousness has qualities opposite of physical phenomena, then how can two phenomena with opposite qualities interact?
On what kind of people were those experiments performed?
On 30,000 streamwinners? On 30,000 arahants? On 1,000 run-of-the-mill people?
What reason is there to believe that the experiments tested for relevant factors?
These experiments were performed on humans, and performed well enough to suggest causal link. Even Arhats are still biologically human. Their psychology is different.
"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: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Post by Dinsdale » Sat Apr 20, 2013 1:37 pm

Alex123 wrote:
porpoise wrote:But is the answer really to strip out all this "religious" content just because it makes us feel uncomfortable?
Why don't you believe in the Bible and its fairy tales?
If I did believe in what the Bible says then I'd probably be a Christian rather than a Buddhist - isn't that the point?
Interestingly there is a small but growing number of non-theist Christians, people who aspire to follow Christ's example but don't assume he is the son of God, etc. Personally I think that's fine, but I suspect a lot of Christians would question it - maybe there's a parallel here with secular Buddhism?
Buddha save me from new-agers!

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Aloka
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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Post by Aloka » Sat Apr 20, 2013 3:06 pm

I don't consider myself a 'secular buddhist ' but I think it makes sense for me to set aside speculation about rebirth and other realms, in order to focus on what is verifiable in this life and to my practice in the here and now.

I also think that if others choose to criticise me because of that - then its entirely up to them. I'm not really wanting to argue a 'position'.

:)

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Re: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist

Post by kirk5a » Sat Apr 20, 2013 4:11 pm

Parts of this discussion remind me of Ven. Malunkyaputta's insistence that the Buddha explain to him personally the answers to some vexing questions.
I'll go ask the Blessed One about this matter. If he declares to me that 'The cosmos is eternal,' that 'The cosmos is not eternal,' that 'The cosmos is finite,' that 'The cosmos is infinite,' that 'The soul & the body are the same,' that 'The soul is one thing and the body another,' that 'After death a Tathagata exists,' that 'After death a Tathagata does not exist,' that 'After death a Tathagata both exists & does not exist,' or that 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist,' then I will live the holy life under him. If he does not declare to me that 'The cosmos is eternal,'... or that 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist,' then I will renounce the training and return to the lower life."
Of course, the Buddha had a skillful response to such a demand, and Ven. Malunkyaputta achieved arahantship, in the end.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"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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