Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

No holds barred discussion on the Buddhadharma. Argue about rebirth, karma, commentarial interpretations etc. Be nice to each other.

Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby Jikan » Fri Dec 10, 2010 2:45 pm

I'd like to know what people think of this article. I have my own ideas about it, but I'm going to keep it to myself for the present.

http://www.biojuris.com/buddha/index.html
Jikan
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4279
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:04 pm

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby Indrajala » Fri Dec 10, 2010 4:58 pm

The Neurobiologist's Guide to Buddha is an encyclopedia of mental disorders, personality traits, and other behaviors for which a genetic basis has been discovered.


Sure it isn't still theory, I wonder?



In each category, genes are listed which are known to affect the behavior.


Clearly our physical state and physical apparatus affects our behaviours, but that doesn't mean genes equal agency. There is influence and there is agency. This article suggests genes have complete agency over a being.

For the neurobiologist, the mind is the brain, a highly sophisticated organ comprised of billions of specialized cells, called neurons. These neurons are interconnected with one another to form an elaborate cellular network. All our unconscious and conscious activities originate in this vast network, arising from coordinated interactions between neurons, integrating and shunting information from one region of the brain to another.


There are plenty of humans both living and in history who recollected their past lives. There is even modern scientific research that has been conducted to verify such claims. In the cases with children there are plenty who accurately recollect events from a time before their conception. This clearly demonstrates that the mind is not just the physical brain.

According to the neurobiologist, a Buddha-mind can not be achieved unless one is endowed with the genes -- the Buddha-genes -- which allow it.


I wonder what they mean by Buddha-mind? Omniscience?

If you stand nowhere like infinite space, I imagine genes have no influence.

To find out whether a genetic component has been identified for aggression, the page is advanced to the topic AGREEABLENESS. More than a dozen different genes are listed which have been linked to aggressive behavior.


"Linked to" sounds less like fact and more like speculation albeit based on observation. However, I'm not convinced that genes have chief agency over a being. In particular humans have an interesting ability to override natural programming.

The remainder are from studies in humans where genetic differences ["HGL" or human gene linkage] were found to correlate with aggression.


How do you measure aggression in humans?

That's quite subjective. If you asked people if they're aggressive I imagine many would answer "sometimes" in the affirmative.

How does one link a gene to aggression? Do you find a gene that a bunch of pissed off people have in common?

Linking subjective behaviours to specific genes sounds extremely speculative.

The GE studies suggest possible genes to screen in human populations for evidence of linkage with aggressive behavior.


Well they admit it is just "evidence of linkage" rather than cold solid fact.

Does he become a pathological monster? Is a person culpable for criminal conduct when he has a genetic disease that is responsible for his behavior? Criminal genes and the law. These are the kinds of questions that can be explored through The Neurobiologist's Guide to Buddha.


Criminal genes? That's like saying the devil made me do it. :twisted:
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
Former staff member
 
Posts: 5557
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: India

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby Mr. G » Fri Dec 10, 2010 8:24 pm

There are plenty of humans both living and in history who recollected their past lives. There is even modern scientific research that has been conducted to verify such claims. In the cases with children there are plenty who accurately recollect events from a time before their conception. This clearly demonstrates that the mind is not just the physical brain.


Professor Ian Stevenson has written numerous books and articles on this. Fascinating.
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
User avatar
Mr. G
 
Posts: 4098
Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 6:36 am
Location: Spaceship Earth

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby ground » Sat Dec 11, 2010 4:58 am

Jikan wrote:I'd like to know what people think of this article. I have my own ideas about it, but I'm going to keep it to myself for the present.

http://www.biojuris.com/buddha/index.html


I find that it is compatible with Buddhism.

Genes are form/physical and karma is physical as well. Also there is no consciousness without form/body in the desire and form realms.

If you replace "genes" by "capacity" the outcome is the same.

It is just that the concept of "heredity" may be misleading. But then the concept of "rebirth" should be generally misleading because when born as an animal or human you always take up the bodily appearance of father and mother (i.e. that of a specific animal or human).


mr. gordo wrote:
This clearly demonstrates that the mind is not just the physical brain.

Here is the trap of eternalism and reification. Once you conceptually separate from the body what is just dependent consciousness you inevitably are moving towards clinging to what is just an arising and ceasing aggregate.


Kind regards
User avatar
ground
 
Posts: 1782
Joined: Mon Nov 23, 2009 8:31 am

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby Indrajala » Sat Dec 11, 2010 6:20 am

TMingyur wrote:
mr. gordo wrote:
This clearly demonstrates that the mind is not just the physical brain.

Here is the trap of eternalism and reification. Once you conceptually separate from the body what is just dependent consciousness you inevitably are moving towards clinging to what is just an arising and ceasing aggregate.


Kind regards


Better to be an eternalist than a nihilist.

In any case, by advocating the existence of a mind not inherently tied to the physical body to advocate rebirth I am not falling into eternalism.

If you think I am falling into a trap of eternalism and reification you're mistaken.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
Former staff member
 
Posts: 5557
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: India

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby KwanSeum » Sat Dec 11, 2010 6:40 am

It's a load of rubbish and completely unscientific. I'll give two points below of why and more if anyone asks:

Firstly, my whole family are raving alcoholics (three generations now) and yet for several years now I'm t-total. If genetics determine my life, including alcoholism then I too would have alcohol problems, but I don't.

Secondly, modern science dose not suggest that genes alone determine our fate. In fact not only does our environment alter our lives but modern research also point to our environment changing our genes which then gets passed onto the next generation (eg, http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0 ... igenetics/).

At the end of the day this website is plain wrong in its assertions.
'Accepting things as they are' and striving to improve them is living the Dharma while causing or accepting suffering because 'that's the way things are' is Nihilism.
User avatar
KwanSeum
 
Posts: 128
Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2010 4:43 pm
Location: Leicester, UK

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby ground » Sat Dec 11, 2010 7:28 am

This clearly demonstrates that the mind is not just the physical brain.

TMingyur wrote:Here is the trap of eternalism and reification. Once you conceptually separate from the body what is just dependent consciousness you inevitably are moving towards clinging to what is just an arising and ceasing aggregate.


Huseng wrote:Better to be an eternalist than a nihilist.

I concur.

Huseng wrote:In any case, by advocating the existence of a mind not inherently tied to the physical body to advocate rebirth I am not falling into eternalism.

You have to differentiate between "inherently" and "dependently arisen". The latter means "When this is that comes to be. When this is not that does not arise."

Huseng wrote:If you think I am falling into a trap of eternalism and reification you're mistaken.

I did not talk about persons.


Kind regards
User avatar
ground
 
Posts: 1782
Joined: Mon Nov 23, 2009 8:31 am

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby Huifeng » Sat Dec 11, 2010 10:29 am

Jikan wrote:I'd like to know what people think of this article. I have my own ideas about it, but I'm going to keep it to myself for the present.

http://www.biojuris.com/buddha/index.html


Hi Jikan,

Just as early forms of psychology focused on mental illness, until the likes of Maslow came to study the psychology of over-achievers, perhaps neuro-science needs to do something similar. Models are developed based on average people, and so the model then tends to conclude that this is the only possible range of results.

Another issue is this: I don't see that the idea of genes as causal factors (though not out and out causes) is entirely against the Buddhist position. However, and this is the important point, whereas most science would argue that person with certain personality traits and related genes are basically random, ie. if you are born with the genes, you have the traits, Buddhism would ask the question of why would that person be born into that situation in the first place? eg. if there is an "alcoholism gene", then perhaps those people who in past lives have strong tendency towards alcohol would be more likely to be born into families who also behave in this manner, and thus end up with the same gene. In other words, the gene isn't really the cause at all, but is just as much a result. An earlier cause leads to the result of both the behavior and the gene, through karmic forces which propel one into an environment of such behavior comprised of people of the same family and thus genes.

And of course, from the Buddhist perspective, this wouldn't mean that gene must lead to said behavior. People can have propelling karma which would get them the gene, but not the fulfilling karma which would complete the behavior pattern.

Taking this to the area of "buddha genes", we note that most Buddhist schools always detail that the "family" and "clan" of a future Buddha is very important. They have to pick the right parents, for instance, and they are very rare and difficult to find.

I note that in the book, all the topics of "craving" are basically drugs, which is only a small part from the Buddhist perspective. The section on "learning" has studies on mice. Likewise for "aggreeableness". Are these really relevant? How much can we learn from these studies about the state of a Buddha?

The content in "The Gene Pool Metaphor" is ... poor. "According to "The Teachings Of Buddha," a fundamental choice presented to the individual is whether to embrace Buddha-nature or to retreat into the ego-personality of the self." "The rejection of "self" is almost paradoxical since self-experience is central to achieving Enlightenment."

But when I read this:
"Buddha's rejection of selfness must be aligned with his teaching of the centrality of self-experience to achieving Enlightenment. We start with defining the self. The self, as viewed by Buddha, is the mind, the eye from within which perceives and experiences stimuli, both from the external and internal worlds. As we know it today, the source of the mind is the brain."

Then I know, in the end, I think that this is 99% neuro-science, and about 1% Buddha. They seem to be maybe hoping the catchy title will help with promotion, perhaps?
User avatar
Huifeng
 
Posts: 1449
Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2009 4:51 am

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby Jikan » Sat Dec 11, 2010 2:17 pm

Thanks for the detailed responses, everyone.

My response to the piece was along the same lines as Ven. Huifeng's, but not as concisely worded. I think the article approaches the issue of determination without much regard for the understanding of determination and volition in the Buddhist context. Assuming that one's DNA determines one's capacities, capabilities, tendencies, and other personal characteristics, then would one not want to know what causes and conditions determined the specific constellation of DNA you inherited at conception? &c.

I don't know anything about neurobiology, so I can't comment on that. The claims on Buddhism, though, seem fishy to me.

For all that, I know from other contexts that the author is sincerely interested in learning more about Buddhism and Buddhist practice. So there may be more later on this. :cheers:
Jikan
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4279
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:04 pm

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby biojuris » Sun Dec 12, 2010 3:34 am

Thanks Jikan and others for the response.

My intention is writing the Neurobiologist's Guide to Buddha was to create an encyclopedia of genes associated with behaviors and personalities. Although many (but not all) the studies were done in mice, mice are a well accepted model for human disease. While not 100% predictive of what will happen in humans, the correlations are strong enough that mouse models are frequently used to understand disease and other processes in humans. Of course, genes don't directly "cause" our personality or behavior, but they create a strong predisposition or tendency to behave and act in a certain way. If you look at your parents, I am sure most of us see certain things in them that we also observe in ourselves -- the most logical reason is that we share the same genes and genes are a strong influence on our behaviors and personality.

I agree that I have a lot to learn about Buddhism. My only point was that a person with the "anxious" gene would have a more difficult time staying calm and controlled .... and might have a more difficult time achieving the kinds of things that meditation and Buddhism teach.

Richard
biojuris
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2010 3:03 am

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby ground » Sun Dec 12, 2010 6:27 am

Clinging to the aggregates already causes all the misery. There is not need to cling to genes on top of that.

Kind regards
User avatar
ground
 
Posts: 1782
Joined: Mon Nov 23, 2009 8:31 am

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby Indrajala » Sun Dec 12, 2010 7:54 am

My intention is writing the Neurobiologist's Guide to Buddha was to create an encyclopedia of genes associated with behaviors and personalities. Although many (but not all) the studies were done in mice, mice are a well accepted model for human disease.


I don't think you can measure human mental disease in mice. That should be obvious.
While not 100% predictive of what will happen in humans, the correlations are strong enough that mouse models are frequently used to understand disease and other processes in humans.


Poor mice. I'm sure they'd rather not be made disease ridden in a laboratory to further human understanding of pathology. Medical science in India and China as far as I know never resorted to experimenting on small helpless rodents.


Of course, genes don't directly "cause" our personality or behavior, but they create a strong predisposition or tendency to behave and act in a certain way.



However, there are remarks like this...


The Neurobiologist's Guide to Buddha is an encyclopedia of mental disorders, personality traits, and other behaviors for which a genetic basis has been discovered.


A "genetic basis" for behaviour sounds like causality rather than mere influence.


I agree that I have a lot to learn about Buddhism. My only point was that a person with the "anxious" gene would have a more difficult time staying calm and controlled .... and might have a more difficult time achieving the kinds of things that meditation and Buddhism teach.


The content on your site seems to imply much more than people unable to meditate due to an "anxious" gene of sorts:


According to the neurobiologist, a Buddha-mind can not be achieved unless one is endowed with the genes -- the Buddha-genes -- which allow it.


What do you mean by Buddha-mind? In Mahayana Buddhism such a thing would likely be associated with omniscience of which I don't think neuroscience recognizes as a realistic claim let alone to be associated at all with genes.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
Former staff member
 
Posts: 5557
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: India

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby biojuris » Sun Dec 12, 2010 11:13 pm

in the end, I think that this is 99% neuro-science, and about 1% Buddha.


Very true. But no one here believes that genes have anything to with the ability to be compassionate and achieve inner peace?
biojuris
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2010 3:03 am

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby Nirveda » Mon Dec 13, 2010 4:08 am

This is a really valuable collection of research on genetics and psychology.

However, aside from the title, I don't see much direct connection with Buddhism. Do you mean to say that because the genetic influences disagree with Buddhist principles?

Genes are one of many causes and conditions that combine to form behavior or some trait at any given moment. As people make choices, there are changes in epigenetics and neuroplasticity. If you want to look at the genetic influences, it's equally important to look at all of the downstream effects and other influences on them.

There are a couple of things to consider here:

1. The older we get, the less effect genes have on our personality. Adult personality is at most 30% inherited:

McGue, M., Bacon, S. & Lykken, D.T. (1993). Personality stability and change in early adulthood: A behavioral genetic analysis. Developmental Psychology, 29, 96-109.

Nes, R.B. (2010). Happiness in behaviour genetics: findings and implications. Journal of Happiness Studies. 11(3), 369-381.


2. Practicing meditation changes the way genes are expressed to counteract the effects of stress:

Dusek, J.A., Otu, H.H., Wohlhueter, A.L., Bhasin, M., Zerbini, L.F., Joseph, M.G., Benson, H., & Libermann, TA. (2008) Genomic Counter-Stress Changes Induced by the Relaxation Response. PLoS ONE 3(7): e2576.
Nirveda
 
Posts: 31
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 4:46 pm

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby Huifeng » Tue Dec 14, 2010 2:59 am

biojuris wrote:
in the end, I think that this is 99% neuro-science, and about 1% Buddha.


Very true. But no one here believes that genes have anything to with the ability to be compassionate and achieve inner peace?


Maybe, maybe not. But if one does, there is the danger of falling into deterministic positions, which, from a Buddhist perspective, are not at all conducive to correct practice.
User avatar
Huifeng
 
Posts: 1449
Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2009 4:51 am

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby Heruka » Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:52 am

eugenics again?

:coffee:

it never goes away. just latches onto new ideas is all, but the endgame is the same.
Heruka
 
Posts: 1069
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 2:34 am

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby biojuris » Fri Dec 17, 2010 2:56 am

determinism & eugenics


There is a tension between recognizing that genes influence behavior and personality and the dangers of eugenics and belief in determinism. There's an old U.S. Supreme Court case, Buck v. Bell, in which the sterilization of a young woman was found to be legal because she was supposedly mentally disabled, and had supposedly been parented and grandparented by mentally disabled persons. In one of its worst moments, the justice writing for the decision stated: "Three generations of imbeciles are enough," and went on to find that eugenic sterilization was legal under the U.S. Constitution. So how do you draw the line between recognizing the role of genes in determining who we are ... and drawing conclusions about who we are based on our genes ... and discriminating against people based on their genes? Maybe the more interesting approach is the Buddhist's Guide to Neurobiology ... which might say, regardless of our genetic makeup, we can use Buddhism to free ourselves from our genes, recognizing that genes may influence who we are and what our weaknesses are ... but we have the power to change that?
biojuris
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2010 3:03 am

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby Heruka » Fri Dec 17, 2010 6:04 am

purify ones karma to be re born free from a predetermined caste system......brilliant insight!

:tongue:
Heruka
 
Posts: 1069
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 2:34 am

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby Nirveda » Fri Dec 17, 2010 5:11 pm

biojuris wrote:
in the end, I think that this is 99% neuro-science, and about 1% Buddha.


Very true. But no one here believes that genes have anything to with the ability to be compassionate and achieve inner peace?



Of course there are genetic influences on compassion and inner peace. My post above clearly expresses that. Genetics are one of many influences, even if they are strong influences in some cases. However, they are not deterministic. A variety of influences, including environmental, can affect how genes are transcribed, epigenetic changes, post-translational modifications, neuroplasticity, etc. The brain is a self-organizing, dynamic, non-linear system.

This is a quote by Vasubandhu, a prominent Mahayana philosopher:

"Some seeds are innate,
handed down by our ancestors.
Some were sown while we were still in the womb,
others were sown when we were children."


"Seeds" are influences that can manifest into behavior or other characteristics. So not only are genetics, but also prenatal influences and early childhood influences taken into account. None of this is inconsistent with core Buddhist principles.
Nirveda
 
Posts: 31
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 4:46 pm

Re: Neurobiologist on Buddhist theory

Postby biojuris » Mon Dec 20, 2010 1:25 am

"Some seeds are innate,
handed down by our ancestors.
Some were sown while we were still in the womb,
others were sown when we were children."


That is a very interesting and relevant statement. I wonder what the term "seed" means ... the source of what we are and what we become?
biojuris
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2010 3:03 am

Next

Return to Open Dharma

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: MSNbot Media, smcj, theanarchist and 16 guests

>