Astus wrote:I find it a mistaken route to argue for Buddhism's agreement with physicalism, as it is obviously not.
FWIW, I'd agree. The post quoted above was not saying that Buddhism should concur with Dawkins. It was saying that the objections from that camp should be successfully answered if the goal is to help "divest people of their scientific materialism".
Natural science itself is a set of axioms and rules to observe and analyse matter.
We may want to be a little careful about equating "physicalism/materialism" with "naturalism". They are not necessarily the same thing. David Chalmers, for instance, proposes a non-materialist but naturalist view of consciousness.
Physicalism demonises non-materialist views just like Christianity does so with other religions.
With respect, I find this to be a rather weak line of argument because it ignores the different bases for knowledge, i.e the "rules of the game". A religious leader can proclaim the truth about the universe (and the wrongness of competing views) simply on the basis of scriptural or institutional authority. The Pope can never be in error, even when he is.
Philosophical propositions (such as materialism) require some sort of rational argument, and they stand or fall on the basis of that argument. It doesn't matter how many university degrees you have; if your argument is bunk somebody will be glad to come along and debunk it. Scientific propositions require a certain methodology, empirical support, peer review etc. Yes, we can say that ultimately these are all just ways of seeing in the dark, but for the purposes of a serious discussion it's a bit too easy. It's like when people go around equating Taoism and Zen, or Buddhism and Advaita, or saying "all religions are the same", etc. Distinctions can be important at the level of conventional reality.
It is a biased view to claim that the West and Western people are totally materialists.
Where I live, in the US, lots of people seem to be evangelicals. Complicating matters further, quite a few of the scientists I know personally are devout Christians.
True, materialism and science has been the government sponsored orthodoxy in the West for more than a hundred years now, simply because it could provide the usual magical requirements of healing and weaponry.
Science's prestige is also due to its ability to explain the physical universe and make independently verifiable claims about how things work. Don't forget that religious faith has also been popular with governments because of its ability to maintain social harmony and, when needed, mobilize people for war.
Huseng wrote:I'll tell you why... because materialist philosophy (which is often inflated to also mean science in many circles) is the state sanctioned doctrine that is taught in most education systems throughout the world.
Maybe that's true in Canada. I don't recall seeing "materialist philosophy" -- or any other kind of philosophy, for that matter -- being taught widely in US schools. We do have recurring educational battles, mostly over various religious and right wing political groups trying to inject their beliefs into the curriculum and classroom.
Huseng wrote:The ability of materialist philosophy in recent decades to manipulate the physical world has been impressive...
I think you are playing too fast and loose with the terminology, Huseng. Earlier you were lamenting that people confuse science with materialist philosophy. Now you are saying that materialist philosophers manipulate the physical world. Methinks you are building a straw man but are unsure about how to name him.
In any case in any society you'll have a certain portion of the population which seeks out spiritual pursuits. Whether or not the white robed Brahmins of universities approve or not, Buddhism will still have a strong appeal to many people.
Does that really tell us much? There's a "certain portion of the population" which believes all kinds of things. Are you implying that spirituality is for the uneducated?
From that angle rebirth and karma seem unrealistic and just religious fantasies. What seems most realistic for somebody brought up in said system is the working assumptions within materialist philosophy. Materialist philosophy is the default canvas upon which you build your own world view.
Personally, I don't think rebirth is the big issue we often make it out to be. The really interesting issue is the nature of consciousness. If consciousness is non-material, or has a non-material aspect, then rebirth is not at all implausible -- it's actually the more likely possibility. So the root argument is over whether, in fact, "mind" is distinct from "brain".
If what we call consciousness is an outgrowth of material processes, or is ultimately reducible to matter, then obviously we have a problem. But even in this case we might argue for a kind of property dualism which allows for rebirth and karma to be valid as experential constructs -- that is, the mind perceives itself as being the product of such a cycle.