Is Science Just Another Religion?

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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Jun 01, 2012 5:19 am

Dechen Norbu wrote:So, we go to our teachers and they tell us: it's like this and like that. We pack our bags, go home and do nothing, simply accepting what we were told. I mean, really?

A lot of buddhists are happy simply doing as they are told.

Dechen Norbu wrote:No, we spend a lifetime investigating it, checking firsthand if what we were told is accurate. We do it with such a minute precision that we need to improve our own abilities. A scientist doesn't refine himself that much. Of course he trains concentration and some other cognitive abilities, but a mediator develops his abilities to degrees that science- although has already measured some- can't even explain to pursue his research. That's how noncritical we are. If we keep finding the same conclusions, we're not to blame. Perhaps Buddha got it right and in fact there's rebirth.
There's a catch though. You want to be sure? You need to do it yourself because this can't be demonstrated to a third party. This is why many people doubt. It takes a long time to check it out and needs a lifetime of dedication. But we have our experts and they have their own language, mind you. If they talk among themselves, they know very well who is attained and who isn't. However, Buddhism (not Buddhadharma) is also a group of institutions. As such, deviations occur and then a lot of factors cloud the perception of the uninitiated public of what is really going on.

In another thread I recommend that those looking for a balanced view of phenomena incorporate elements of both science and religion. This seems to be what you are describing here.

Actually it surprises me that simple shamatha meditation is not part of scientific training.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jun 01, 2012 5:53 am

dharmagoat wrote:
Huseng wrote:Many claims in religions will be unfalsifiable.

However, many claims in religion are falsifiable. This does not mean that religion is in any way based on scientific principles.


Of course, but the general difference between religious thought and scientific thought is one of unfalsifiable claims versus falsifiable claims.

Still, as Dechen Norbu has said already, the distinction or dichotomy between science versus religion is rather untidy.

Listening to the lectures by contemporary astrophysicists on theoretical physics I am left thinking how much of what they say sounds like religious claims, albeit backed up with mathematics and observations (however in religious traditions there can be mathematics and observations equally employed like in the Vedas).

I've come to think that the dichotomy between religion and science is actually a product of political conflicts in Europe where secular authorities sought to secure their own resources and positions against the Church. This is why the word "religion" had to be translated using a new term in East Asia when they started reading western literature here. Historically, there was no distinction between a "science" and a "religion".

There are vested economic and political interests in maintaining the dichotomy, which is why anything that smells of "religion" is unconsciously thought of a pollutant in the sciences. To get scientists to practice meditation as part of their training would be introducing disagreeable "religion" into a "secular" field.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby practitioner » Fri Jun 01, 2012 6:00 am

The Universe in a Single Atom by HHDL is a great book on this topic. It talks about the need for both objective and subjective evidence in how we view our world and that one does not negate the other but rather that by using both methods we gain a greater understanding. One of his best books.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Jun 01, 2012 6:03 am

practitioner wrote:The Universe in a Single Atom by HHDL is a great book on this topic. It talks about the need for both objective and subjective evidence in how we view our world and that one does not negate the other but rather that by using both methods we gain a greater understanding. One of his best books.

From what I have read, it is my opinion that HHDL is the one to trust on these matters.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Jun 01, 2012 6:12 am

Huseng wrote:To get scientists to practice meditation as part of their training would be introducing disagreeable "religion" into a "secular" field.

I expect that it would be more to do with Christian elements within the scientific and wider community objecting to a "heathen" influence.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby jeeprs » Fri Jun 01, 2012 6:29 am

Science is not a religion per se, however religious ideas plainly played an important role in the historical circumstances which gave rise to the emergence of science in the West.

An important aspect of this is how dualism - the division of reality into mind and matter - eventually gave rise to materialism, which was the attempt to explain or to understand everything in material or physical terms, by eliminating the idea of 'the spiritual'. This is an historical development which is still in the process of being played out. But as the nature of matter has now proved to be elusive and paradoxical, instead of plain old-fashioned 'materialism', we now have allegiance to the idea of naturalism, or to 'whatever can be proven by the scientific method', as the kind of arbiter of what ought to be considered 'real'. For those who really subscribe to this viewpoint, while science is still not a religion, it assumes a kind of authority that was, in earlier times, attributed to religion.

Couple of relevant articles Buddhism and Science: Probing the Boundaries of Faith and Reason; Bikkhu Bodhi, A Buddhist Response to Contemporary Dilemmas of Human Existence.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby Jnana » Fri Jun 01, 2012 6:41 am

dharmagoat wrote:I wonder if scientists laugh at philosophers.

Well, generally speaking, dialogue is more useful than mockery or sardonic disdain. In the modern Western tradition there is a proliferating Philosophy of Mind and Philosophy of Cognitive Science.

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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby Dexing » Fri Jun 01, 2012 8:29 am

Dechen Norbu wrote:If a Physicist talks about dark matter, dark energy, multiverse, coiled dimensions, the big bang, the big freeze, curved space, quantum entanglement and so on and so forth you consider these hypothesis or theories.
If a Buddhist talks about rebirth, you call it an assumption.


The difference being:

Scientific hypotheses or theories are by nature open to revision and are not parts of a creed.
Religious claims are immutable components of the religions' composition.

In my view, it is a mistake to take either as granted.

Listen, to practice Buddhism you need a certain degree of trust in what it is taught there, not immediate acceptance. So, Buddhists say there's rebirth. How about checking it? And how will you do that? You'll start with the only thing you can ever be sure about: your mental experience. This is a direct experience that you have, the most real thing you'll ever deal with. It is said that you investigate it enough, you gain insight about not only the mind, but the nature of all phenomena. So, you can start investigating without any assumptions: you observe your mind, refine attention, develop insight and see for yourself. Then you see if there is or there is not rebirth.


Let's not be afraid of the word faith if that's what we're employing, albeit what Buddhists like to call "confidence-based faith" or "trust". If you have not directly perceived the process of rebirth in this way yourself, yet nonetheless hold that the Buddhist notion of it is true, then you are making an assumption and holding a religious belief based on faith and not reason.

Before the objection is made, this is not the same as taking scientific discoveries for granted, as they can be objectively demonstrated. This is why rebirth remains a religious claim. However, that is not to say a religious claim is less valid simply because of its esoteric nature.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby Huifeng » Fri Jun 01, 2012 8:39 am

Have just about finished reading my recently arrived copy of Stan Grof's Psychology of the Future.
Copying and pasting the whole book into this thread may be a bit out of line, even with a <spoiler>,
so I'll just point to it and nod. A huge amount of stuff that is usually considered "religious" / "mystical" / <whatever>
is examined here all in a scientific light, with rigorous scientific method and approach.
Stan is still into scientific method, just not the sort that first assumes what is and what is not possible,
and then ignores all findings that go against such presuppositions. Well worth reading.

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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:03 pm

I would like to quote here the opening paragraph of an article posted by jeeprs: Buddhism and Science: Probing the Boundaries of Faith and Reason by Martin J. Verhoeven.
Western interest in Eastern religions, especially Buddhism, historically coincided with the rise of modern science and the corresponding perceived decline of religious orthodoxy in the West. Put simply, modern science initiated a deep spiritual crisis that led to an unfortunate split between faith and reason--a split yet to be reconciled. Buddhism was seen as an "alternative altar," a bridge that could reunite the estranged worlds of matter and spirit. Thus, to a large extent Buddhism's flowering in the West during the last century came about to satisfy post-Darwinian needs to have religious beliefs grounded in new scientific truth.

Amen. Thanks for the link, jeeprs.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:37 pm

Huifeng wrote:Have just about finished reading my recently arrived copy of Stan Grof's Psychology of the Future.
Copying and pasting the whole book into this thread may be a bit out of line, even with a <spoiler>,
so I'll just point to it and nod. A huge amount of stuff that is usually considered "religious" / "mystical" / <whatever>
is examined here all in a scientific light, with rigorous scientific method and approach.
Stan is still into scientific method, just not the sort that first assumes what is and what is not possible,
and then ignores all findings that go against such presuppositions. Well worth reading.

Thank you for the pointing and the nod, Huifeng.

Here is the beginning of one of his lectures, the full (64 minute) version can be found here

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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:45 pm

Jnana wrote:In the modern Western tradition there is a proliferating Philosophy of Mind and Philosophy of Cognitive Science.

This is a huge resource of philosophical papers. The real deal. Thanks Jnana.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby Acchantika » Fri Jun 01, 2012 1:20 pm

dharmagoat wrote:
Acchantika wrote:In my opinion, both religion and science, as predicated on a view of qualified existence, are equally useless with regards to liberation, whatever category we decide on.

Unless one's path to liberation involves uncovering the truth behind appearances.


Therein lies the rub - if one accepts that science can uncover meaningful truth behind appearances, one accepts the assumptions of empiricism that experience is a valid means of knowledge and realism that a reality independent of mind exists (and can be approximated).

True or false, these assumptions are not self-validating - one cannot prove empiricism or realism is true using science, as they are necessary premises of science. Nor can we use another method to prove them, as accepting a non-empirical means of knowledge invalidates empiricism, likewise with realism. So whatever information you derive from them can never be attested to as "truth", therefore neither as "knowledge", only justified belief. A belief, however justified, won't aid a path that is trying to uncover truth independent of belief, by definition.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Jun 01, 2012 1:26 pm

Acchantika wrote:True or false, these assumptions are not self-validating - one cannot prove empiricism or realism is true using science, as they are necessary premises of science. Nor can we use another method to prove them, as accepting a non-empirical means of knowledge invalidates empiricism, likewise with realism. So whatever information you derive from them can never be attested to as "truth", therefore neither as "knowledge", only justified belief. A belief, however justified, won't aid a path that is trying to uncover truth independent of belief, by definition.

Huh? I says it as I sees it.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby Acchantika » Fri Jun 01, 2012 1:48 pm

dharmagoat wrote:
Acchantika wrote:True or false, these assumptions are not self-validating - one cannot prove empiricism or realism is true using science, as they are necessary premises of science. Nor can we use another method to prove them, as accepting a non-empirical means of knowledge invalidates empiricism, likewise with realism. So whatever information you derive from them can never be attested to as "truth", therefore neither as "knowledge", only justified belief. A belief, however justified, won't aid a path that is trying to uncover truth independent of belief, by definition.

Huh? I says it as I sees it.


Seeing is believing?
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Jun 01, 2012 1:52 pm

Acchantika wrote:
dharmagoat wrote:Huh? I says it as I sees it.

Seeing is believing?

Describing is not believing.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby Acchantika » Fri Jun 01, 2012 1:54 pm

dharmagoat wrote:
Acchantika wrote:
dharmagoat wrote:Huh? I says it as I sees it.

Seeing is believing?

Describing is not believing.


If what you are describing is held to be reality, then you believe the evidence approximates reality.

If what you are describing is held to be meaningful, then you believe that the method is a valid way to extract meaning.

The difference between data and evidence is belief.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Jun 01, 2012 2:02 pm

Acchantika wrote:If what you are describing is held to be reality, then you believe the evidence approximates reality.

If what you are describing is held to be meaningful, then you believe that the method is a valid way to extract meaning.

The difference between data and evidence is belief.

Sorry, I don't want to play this game anymore.

Let's chop some wood and carry some water, or drink tea, or something.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby jeeprs » Sat Jun 02, 2012 12:07 am

Acchantika wrote:one cannot prove empiricism or realism is true using science, as they are necessary premises of science.


Very true. Naturalism assumes 'man in nature' - the subject, here, surveys or analyses the object, there, and its relationships with other objects, its composition, the forces that act upon it, its material causes, etc, etc. As far as possible, naturalism eschews what it considers to be 'subjective', on the basis that what is real, is what is 'truly objective' - it is that which exists independently of any observer, or exists in its own right, the so-called 'mind-independent reality'.

This was the main target of criticism of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. However this has been largely overlooked by science, probably because those drawn to naturalism or to science simply don't get this critique (with notable exceptions), as it requires a different kind of understanding, a different style of thinking, to that of objective naturalism. So, scientists have mostly just ignored it, which is how we end up with the scientism of Dennett, which ignores (and is not capable of comprehending) the fundamental role that consciousness itself plays in 'constructing reality'. It is something that phenomenology and Continental philosophy (and, of course, Buddhism, since the year dot) is aware of, but naturalism is not.

In any case, the search for the ultimate constituents of the 'mind-independent reality' has actually tended to prove the opposite of what it set out to establish. The measurement problem, a.k.a the observer problem, gave rise to the Copenhagen interpretation in quantum mechanics, wherein the role of the observing consciousness could no longer be excluded from the experimental outcome. Of course, this is a controversial topic and is open to various interpretations. But the 'role for consciousness' interpretation was established as a point of convergence between science and various forms of idealist and eastern philosophy, in the first half of the 20th Century. (See Marin, J. M. [2009] "'Mysticism' in quantum mechanics: the forgotten controversy"European Journal of Physics 30: 807-822.)

So the upshot of all this is that there is now a very lively school of 'Buddhist philosophy of science', which became popular with the tremendously successful publication of The Tao of Physics in the late 70's. This comes at all these questions from a completely different perspective to scientific naturalism or materialism. The Dalai Lama is a key figure, see for example his book Universe in a Grain of Sand, which was mentioned already, but there are numerous other titles in this genre, like The New physics and cosmology: Dialogues with the Dalai Lama edited by Arthur Zajonc. Personally, I think this is the direction that we can seek resolution to all these issues (which is why I'm now posting on Dharma Wheel and not the Philosophy Forum :smile:).
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby dharmagoat » Sat Jun 02, 2012 12:58 am

jeeprs wrote:As far as possible, naturalism eschews what it considers to be 'subjective', on the basis that what is real, is what is 'truly objective' - it is that which exists independently of any observer, or exists in its own right, the so-called 'mind-independent reality'.

From what I gather naturalism denies the supernatural rather than the subjective. What you are describing sounds more like realism.

jeeprs wrote:So, scientists have mostly just ignored it, which is how we end up with the scientism of Dennett, which ignores (and is not capable of comprehending) the fundamental role that consciousness itself plays in 'constructing reality'.

Is it really incapable of comprehending it, or just dismissive of it?
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