JKhedrup wrote:The level of scholarship and debate necessary in the great [Tibetan] instiutions requires a high degree of doubt and critical thinking.
Yes, but it has strictly defined parameters. Despite all the deep learning, critical acumen, and doubt your Geshes may bring to the table, in the end, they are merely expected to master what is already accepted as true according to a consensus. Like musicians, they are merely expected to become expert at playing the scales. They neither expected nor encouraged to open up whole new fields of learning. They are expected merely to be vessels conveying the wisdom of one generation to another, unaltered like an impression from a seal. Now, do not think that in my view this has no value. It definitely has value. It is a part of human culture and learning.
However, most of the classically educated Tibetans I know have a very hard time with the idea of evolution. They have difficulty accepting that modern humans come from Africa, and that all languages also originally come from Africa and that the pattern of human migration from Africa can be mathematically tracked. Indeed, they have difficulty with Science in general (all the while happily using the fruits of scientific endeavor in the form of electricity, cell phones, antibiotics, and so on).
This is largely because up until recently most educated Tibetans are educated into a pre-modern view of the world that includes Mt. Meru, the Buddhist myth of the origin of humans in devas whose bodies gel and thicken due to their craving for the sweet "cream of the earth" (sa zhag) on the surface of the planet and so on.
There is no fault in all this, of course, but it is important to remember that there are bound to be vast differences in the way persons like ourselves, raised and educated in a post-modern civilization will view the world when compared to those who have pre-modern educations.
For example, a common theme among Tibetan teachers is the oft repeated trope:
"...but the science of Buddhism will never change."
-- Dzongsar Khyentse
http://www.lifepositive.com/Spirit/Budd ... 112005.asp
"Why will Buddhism never change?", we ask; and answer as always is "Because Buddhism is based on wisdom."
Of course, anyone who has studied history will instantly recognize this to be a statement that is at best, very naive. Buddhism has undergone constant change and evolution from the beginning.
Even more questionable is the arrogation of Buddhism as a "science". It is not science, it never was and never will be. Buddhism, is, in its best aspect, a yogic tradition; at worst, a religious dogma. Buddhism may indeed have some ideas which are compatible with the worldview informed by modern science, but it equally entertains many beliefs which are not falsifiable in any respect, and hence must be considered non-scientific (which does not mean false, rather merely empirically untestable).
Now, of course, Dzongsar Khyentse can be forgiven for referring to Buddhism as a "science" because of the use of the term adhyātmavidyā (nang rig) translated as so-called "inner science" where the term "science" is used to the translate the term "vidyā".
We must however see statements like Dzongsar Khyentse's for what they are: reactionary rhetoric which misses the target.
Modern science, as we know, is a method of coming up with predicative models. If one's predictions fail, one's model is defective, and one's hypothesis is either abandoned or revised by incorporating the results of one's failure. It is an iterative process, as we all know.
However, there is, in my estimation a religious and cultural insecurity which is responsible for sentiments like Dzongar Khyentse's, a sentiment right at home with similar sentiments about the Bible expressed by Christian Fundamentalists. It is an eternalization of tradition. Stating that Buddhism will never or has never changed is like asserting that words of the Bible or the Koran are infallible.