deepbluehum wrote:I agree that testability would great, but their are limits to what one can gather in terms of data. For example, there is no test that can falsify rebirth. The best we can hope for are two things: 1) anecdotal evidence and 2) one must enter the path up to the fourth jhana and aver one's mind toward past lives and see what happens. The second would only be one's own subjective experience. The same applies to karma. We can look at examples like Ghaddhafi and apply the lives by the gun dies by the gun adage. Then, we can "test" in our own experience whether what the Buddha said is true, that good deeds result in pleasant condition and bad deeds result in painful condition. As to compassi-o-bots, you are missing a crucial element, the dharmakaya. This also has absolutely nothing to do with science, and cannot be tested, because it is simply awareness's own subjective experience, and by definition, is immeasurable.
I feel this is really underestimating the power of Buddhist phenomenology. What might be Buddhism's most appealing factor to the Western intellectual mindset is that its primary system of inquiry is a very advanced form of phenomenology, so advanced that it overtakes anything similar ever produced in the West by millenia. It is also independently verifiable in a way that other beliefs are not - a highly intelligent person stranded on an island with no access to human knowledge may, in theory, arrive at the conventional meaning of dependent origination, even karma and rebirth and so on, by logic alone. You can't really make this claim of other systems. Truth, being absolute, must be able to be universally realised and derived, assuming necessary mental capacity, or it can never be trusted as truth. I think the Buddha realised and taught this - who, we remember, didn't have any of the anecdotal evidence we have now. Would he really try to encourage us solely by appealing to future experience? I don't think he did.
If we rely on anecdotal evidence, we are only reinforcing our previous beliefs - that's why it isn't accepted generally as scientific, even though its based in scientific thinking. If we attribute truth value to claims of NDE's, or yogic recollection (even our own) it is only ever because we assign the source credibility that we don't assign to other, competing anecdotes. That credibility is based on other assumptions, which sooner or later are found to be unfounded in any rigourous way. This is why it is a flimsy argument, the same every belief system uses, and not necessary
. Right view mean nothing without right understanding.
We cannot yet falsify rebirth completely, so it is disingenuous to call it an empirical hypothesis. However, fortunately and possibly more importantly we can falsify nonrebirth and nonkarma. That is, it is impossible, for example, for energy to do anything other than continue. The conservation of energy is a "law" in physics. So literal non-causation and non-rebirth, at least of physical things, is impossible. We haven't quite proved the progression of a mental continuum, of course, but this is much more powerful an argument than one that appeals to anecdotal evidence, which science doesn't consider valid, and appeal to future experience, which philosophy considers a fallacy.
It is bizarre to me that so many Buddhists are critical of "Western science". I have no idea why. Everything we see in modern science is exactly what we would expect if the core tenets of Buddhism are correct. Empiricism and materalism/"New Atheism"/physicalism etc. are not mutally exclusive.
Sorry for the wall of text, needed a vent.
As a strict skeptic you are in danger of remaining a thought-o-bot.
True, and this is the biggest problem for this approach, the risk of becoming an armchair-Buddhist. The best philosophers are scientists, meaning skepticism is the proper attitude for experiment. But we should remember there is nothing to fear from skepticism or science, either way. They are on our side. The good thing about truth is that its invincible. Hooray!