I just wanted to add a few more thoughts (good article for discussion, Thorny!
Horgan say, "science, unlike religion, seeks truth regardless of how it makes us feel." But I don't think he is living up to that ideal himself. Deep down, I think he picks science because it makes him feel good, and he rejects Buddhism because it contains ideas which make him feel uncomfortable. I don't think he's given Buddhism it's due according to the scientific method. For all he talks about science's objectivity, I think he overlooks the implied message of science which is "Gee, look how smart we humans are. We figured out all this stuff!" I think science quite definitely has the ability to lead to philosophies which are human-centered, and great scientists, such as Einstein and Stephen Hawking, have almost become deified in popular culture. So, science has its own objects of worship...
*** a light interlude
A blindfolded Christian priest is given two vanilla milk shakes: one made by a scientist and one made by a Buddhist. Which one will taste better? Which one will taste more holy and pure? It's the showdown of the century!
Ahem, where was I?
Now let me discuss Florien's brief comments.
Florien says, "Doctrines of reincarnation, detachment, karma and the like have always struck me as ridiculous or wishful/dreadful thinking." Despite these remarks still leaving a bad taste in the mouth of any Buddhist, I can relate more to Florien because I am still wrestling with my own attempt to understand Buddhism correctly so that I avoid exactly these feelings.
Sometimes I do wonder how simply thinking nice thoughts or receiving a lama's blessings can affect anything. I believe the ancient masters, but I am still looking for a good explanation. On the surface, these ideas do sound like wishful thinking.
I am still struggling to understand karma and rebirth precisely and correctly. When looked at from a certain perspective,these things certainly can seem dreadful (I won't veer way off topic, but perhaps a "Karma and Rebirth" thread would be a good idea). I think mainly the "dreadful" aspect comes from the feeling that you inherited all this negative karma from past lives which you can slowly remove, but can't take back.
It's like inheriting a mansion which is completely filled with manure from a dead relative. It takes months to shovel it all out by yourself, years to do the detailed cleaning, and perhaps several lifetimes to completely get rid of the smell.
Student: Master, I want to learn the Dharma!
Master: Wonderful! Here's a shovel.
Student: What should I do with it?
Master: Start digging!