Buddhism and Evolution

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

Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby Luke » Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:21 pm

Astus wrote:Among the many options to choose from about how to look at the relationship between Buddhism and science, to take a Buddhist position we should rather look at the relevance and effectiveness of scientific ideas on the Way. There are many aspects to investigate for sure.


Yikes! I hope you aren't saying that you think that science is some great evil enemy of religion like some infectious virus! Speaking of infectious memes, your use of the word "Way" is a reference to Taoism which shows that Buddhism has always absorbed some influences from its environment while staying true to its core principles.

The Dalai Lama takes the opposite position and has embraced science for decades. Here's a famous quote by HHDL:
"If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false," he says, "then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims."
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/stor ... Id=5008565

But Buddhists shouldn't feel threatened by this because karma and rebirth are beyond what science can observe (although this obviously doesn't help us persuade any scientists).

Here's another quote from HHDL from the same webpage:
"My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science, so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation."

I think that scholars and scientists who explore the common ground between science and Buddhism are doing humanity a great service, as I believe that it would foolish for any modern person to ignore either science or Buddhism.
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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby Indrajala » Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:40 pm

The problem with basing religious practise and doctrine on science is that it is subject to change quite rapidly.

The theories of yesteryear are refuted and the theories of today, while provisionally sensible, are likely to be heavily revised or outright tossed out within a few decades.

Some used to be quite secure with classical physics, but a lot of that was found only useful in a limited context, and the great world of quantum and theoretical physics opened up.

I don't think Buddhism and science are mutually exclusive, but the former is a lot more reliable when it comes to the proposed goal of eliminating suffering and understanding reality. Buddha's methods and theories are still being put to good use thousands of years after he died.
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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby meindzai » Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:11 pm

Luke wrote:
Would the Buddhist explanation be that a human's mind is already reduced to the intelligence of a frog before it enters the frogs body (in the bardo of becoming)? And that the frog's mind increases in intelligence before it enters a human body?


More or less. The best analogy I have heard is like a radio station. Based on things like our Karmic accumulations and the mindstate at the time of death, we will be "tuned in" to a particular realm of existence. That is why those who have accomplished formless attainments can take rebirth in formless realms, those with jhanic attainments linked to the Brahma Viharas can be born in heavanly realms, etc.

I wouldn't speculate much on how often a human gets reborn as an animal, and it's one of the topics the Buddha did not really speak about until pressed, the example being in the Kukkuravatika Sutta: The Dog-duty Ascetic.

In this case it's clear that this person has attempted to "tune in" to that particular realm - by way of a very deliberate, consious, and constant effort. (You actually have to appreciate his capacity to be so diligent in his pursuit, though misguided, as his diligence ultimately led him to awakening when he applied it properly).

Back to speculating :alien: about the evolutionary chain vs. the rebirth cycle... I think that even within any particular realm (like the human realm) one can find them selves in more or less fortunate circumstances in dependance on their kamma. I think there are animal like humans and deva-like humans. People who have some extraordinary capabilities as humans and people who are perhaps...(how to say it nicely) smarter than the average bear, but not by much...

The only apparent contradictions I see are the one's Astus has mentioned, since the Buddha did recall "aeons ago in this place'' when ''this place'' really wouldn't have been there aeons ago. Without resorting to ''it's a metaphor,'' I think this is likely some combination of:

a) our incomplete understanding of the physical universe
b) an incomplete understanding of what the Buddha meant
c) possible textual revisions/additions and cultural misunderstanding

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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby Astus » Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:18 pm

I'm not talking about it being an enemy but careful consideration of taking science and especially scientism-physicalism as something compelling for Buddhism. On one hand it was rarely a problem for Buddhists to adopt to different cultures. However, neither in East-Asia nor in Tibet they gave up basic tenets of their cosmology.

I said Way but that has nothing to do with Taoism, it is for the Way to Enlightement, ie. Marga/Magga in Sanskrit/Pali and Dao in Chinese.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby Indrajala » Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:19 pm

When Faxian visited India in the 5th century he described a number of famous locations that were said to have been significant places for previous Buddhas.

So, at least in India, they believed literally that past Buddhas had walked around the Indian subcontinent.
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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby meindzai » Wed Mar 24, 2010 6:00 pm

Here's my take of Dhamma vs. Science in the form of a Venn diagram. lol

I'm not 100% sure I did it correctly.

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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:17 am

Astus wrote:It is a known trick to re-interpret ancient passages in a metaphorical way even if it was meant to be literal back then.


"Trick" or not, I see similar re-interpretations throughout Zen/Ch'an, going back to Huineng:

Commentary on the Diamond Sutra wrote: "Born from eggs" means confusion, "born from wombs" means habituation, "born from moisture" means deviation, "born from transformation" means opinionation. Confusion is the reason for creating all sorts of karma, habituation is the reason for constant repetitious routines, a deviant mind is unstable and opinionation tends towards obsession.


Not to mention countless passages in Dogen, and elsewhere. Unless I'm misreading something, the distinction between superficial and deeper readings of sacred texts seems a basic recurring idea in the tradition. Again, it was Huineng who advised to use the eye of insight instead of simply looking at the words. That sounds to me like a clear caution against literalism.

Whenever the terms "mythic" or "poetic" or "figurative" are used, people react as though these terms mean "irrelevant" or "untrue". Personally, I think this is a modern hangup. Other eras and cultures had a richer palette when it came to modes of expression and they used it liberally. As Rupert Gethin writes in his very interesting paper on Cosmology and Meditation, we've become "insensitive to the kind of poetic and imaginative world which, for perhaps most human beings for most of history has constituted reality".

(Here's the link, in case anyone's interested: http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-EPT/rupert.htm)

I can't see any reason why the Buddha, along with the disciples who passed along the sutras, wouldn't have used every available method of getting the point across. Modern dharma teachers do the same thing in their talks, drawing on anecdotes, stories and poems as well as straightforward exposition. Cosmology is another way of presenting that "which is stated in abstract terms in the doctrine". (Tambiah). I think this is what Hakuin was getting at too.

Among the many options to choose from about how to look at the relationship between Buddhism and science, to take a Buddhist position we should rather look at the relevance and effectiveness of scientific ideas on the Way. There are many aspects to investigate for sure.


That strikes me as a good way to proceed. But couldn't we say the same thing about these cosmological "problems"? That is, we should look at their relevance to our practice.
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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby Astus » Thu Mar 25, 2010 9:22 am

Problem is that literal and metaphorical reading should be true at the same time. So, like in the case of absorptions and heavens, it is true that different levels of dhyana correspond to different strata of heavens, and it is also true that there are literally those heavens with many gods. The inner and outer worlds are interrelated, thus all is consciousness only (which is not the same as solipsism or idealism). But in science the basic view is a separate objective world independent of mind. From this disagreement comes contradictions between the two views.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby Aemilius » Mon Mar 29, 2010 1:23 pm

teebee wrote:
Luke wrote:
I don't think Buddhism has any problem with humans evolving from apes,


With all due respect, Darwin
never said or wrote that we
evolved from apes. That is
the Fundamental Christian
misinterpretation of Darwin.

However, we are part of the
same evolutionary stream as
apes.

To your original question, I
think that Buddhism in
general should have no
problem with evolution.

Terry Beresford


Why not say that human beings evolved from Yeast ? Why limit your selfview to apes ? It is a fact that humans share many genes with the Yeast. We have things like YAC (Yeast Artificial Chromosomes),etc... Because human beings are so close ( in evolutionary terms) to yeast, it was possible to make important breakthroughs in the study of human genes using Yeast chromosomes !!
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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby Luke » Mon Mar 29, 2010 3:49 pm

Aemilius wrote: Why not say that human beings evolved from Yeast ? Why limit your selfview to apes ? It is a fact that humans share many genes with the Yeast. We have things like YAC (Yeast Artificial Chromosomes),etc... Because human beings are so close ( in evolutionary terms) to yeast, it was possible to make important breakthroughs in the study of human genes using Yeast chromosomes !!


Cool! Hail yeast brothers!

This leads to another quesion, but I think I'll make another thread for it:
What qualifies as a "sentient being"?
viewtopic.php?f=66&t=1195
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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby Aemilius » Mon Apr 12, 2010 1:17 pm

Astus wrote:I think this brings up an apparent contradiction between scientific and Buddhist view. I mean, according to Buddhist cosmology there have been great empires and highly developed civilizations on Earth before. No scientific evidence for that. In Buddhism karma defines birth, so in case there were no humans here it must have been on a different world humans were born.

Or, it is possible to reinterpret religious cosmology as if it were somewhat metaphoric, for instance about the four continents and Mount Meru. I wonder what could be a solution here.

One simple and easy answer could be that there is a scientific and there is a religious world view, no need to match them. But this is hardly acceptible for those who see science as the source of really real truth about life, the world and everything.


What you say about "scientific evidence" may not necessarily be true. This is to say that contrary evidence just disappears, it is ignored, or it is forgotten, etc... see for example thishttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-8bVEIVUh8&NR=1, humankind is a peculiar thing. I think we should not through away the mythical story of human devolution that is found in some sutras, it might be true again some time in future, science has not been constant and unchanging,
who knows what they are thinking in science after 100 years ?

There has been a book by some indian scientist with the title "Forbidden Archeology" about the evidence that has been brushed under the carpet to make the evolution theory look more neat.
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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby shel » Mon Apr 12, 2010 8:19 pm

Aemilius wrote:There has been a book by some indian scientist with the title "Forbidden Archeology" about the evidence that has been brushed under the carpet to make the evolution theory look more neat.

If I may ask, Aemilius, why is shorter neater?
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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby Aemilius » Tue Apr 13, 2010 5:59 am

shel wrote:
Aemilius wrote:There has been a book by some indian scientist with the title "Forbidden Archeology" about the evidence that has been brushed under the carpet to make the evolution theory look more neat.

If I may ask, Aemilius, why is shorter neater?


"Neat" means short in terms of time, the evidence of this book points to the existence of human beings and developed culture millions of years ago and even hundreds of millions of years ago!
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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby Aemilius » Tue Apr 13, 2010 6:10 am

I think that abhidharma mentions masculine and feminine as a class of Rupa (form), therefore a species would also be Rupa. Species are an equally abstract class of Rupa. This means that a species is impermanent, it originates and it ceases. What Darwin says is thus in line with the Abhidharma, and with the Heart sutra too, form( species) is emptiness, etc...
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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby shel » Tue Apr 13, 2010 8:53 pm

Aemilius wrote:
shel wrote:
Aemilius wrote:There has been a book by some indian scientist with the title "Forbidden Archeology" about the evidence that has been brushed under the carpet to make the evolution theory look more neat.

If I may ask, Aemilius, why is shorter neater?


"Neat" means short in terms of time, the evidence of this book points to the existence of human beings and developed culture millions of years ago and even hundreds of millions of years ago!

I guess that I just don't understand what would motivate scientists to hide evidence regarding evolution theory. If an archeologist found a hundred million year old coin, for example, and could prove it, by carbon dating or whatever, it would be a career making discovery like no other. The archeologist would be instantly famous, and the coin itself would be priceless. It does not make any sense at all that an archeologist would hide such a coin, not that I'm any kind of expert in such things. Perhaps the book explains what might motivate an archeologist to such an apparently senseless course of action?
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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby Aemilius » Wed Apr 14, 2010 6:08 am

"Neat" means short in terms of time, the evidence of this book points to the existence of human beings and developed culture millions of years ago and even hundreds of millions of years ago![/quote]
I guess that I just don't understand what would motivate scientists to hide evidence regarding evolution theory. If an archeologist found a hundred million year old coin, for example, and could prove it, by carbon dating or whatever, it would be a career making discovery like no other. The archeologist would be instantly famous, and the coin itself would be priceless. It does not make any sense at all that an archeologist would hide such a coin, not that I'm any kind of expert in such things. Perhaps the book explains what might motivate an archeologist to such an apparently senseless course of action?[/quote]

The nature of humanity is not like it seems on the surface. You seem to assume that the majority of humans quite naturally follow the five precepts, that they are not basically criminal or worse. Humanity does achieve things, but not at all in a moral way. To make something a public truth requires the co-operation of thousands and hundred thousands persons, it takes time and devoted work, it may even require wars to be waged for it, what yout are saying is simply childish ignorance.

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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby shel » Wed Apr 14, 2010 7:36 am

Aemilius wrote:
shel wrote:
Aemilius wrote:"Neat" means short in terms of time, the evidence of this book points to the existence of human beings and developed culture millions of years ago and even hundreds of millions of years ago!

I guess that I just don't understand what would motivate scientists to hide evidence regarding evolution theory. If an archeologist found a hundred million year old coin, for example, and could prove it, by carbon dating or whatever, it would be a career making discovery like no other. The archeologist would be instantly famous, and the coin itself would be priceless. It does not make any sense at all that an archeologist would hide such a coin, not that I'm any kind of expert in such things. Perhaps the book explains what might motivate an archeologist to such an apparently senseless course of action?

The nature of humanity is not like it seems on the surface. You seem to assume that the majority of humans quite naturally follow the five precepts, that they are not basically criminal or worse.

I'm assuming that people act in accord with their motives in order to satisfy their particular purposes, whatever their purposes might be. The purposes of a fundamentalist Christian, or a fundamentalist Hindu, differ from that of a typical archeologist, I assume. It is easy to speculate about why a fundamentalist Christian might want to shorten the historical timeline, as it is easy to speculate about why a fundamentalist Hindu might want to lengthen it. I have no idea why a scientist would be motivated to hide evidence regarding discoveries that would certainly make them famous, if not rich and famous. Perhaps this question is addressed in the book?

Humanity does achieve things, but not at all in a moral way.

You have a rather dark view of humanity my friend.

To make something a public truth requires the co-operation of thousands and hundred thousands persons, it takes time and devoted work, it may even require wars to be waged for it, what you are saying is simply childish ignorance.

Rather than 'public truth' I think you mean deeply held beliefs (religious in particular), and yeah, those are usually slow to change. Archeology is a science however, not a religion. Are you suggesting that the global community of archeologists hold some deeply held beliefs which motivate them to suppress scientific discoveries? or maybe that they are forced to suppress discoveries by some higher global authority with deeply held beliefs? if so, what global authority would that be?
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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby Aemilius » Wed Apr 14, 2010 12:38 pm

I guess that I just don't understand what would motivate scientists to hide evidence regarding evolution theory. If an archeologist found a hundred million year old coin, for example, and could prove it, by carbon dating or whatever, it would be a career making discovery like no other. The archeologist would be instantly famous, and the coin itself would be priceless. It does not make any sense at all that an archeologist would hide such a coin, not that I'm any kind of expert in such things. Perhaps the book explains what might motivate an archeologist to such an apparently senseless course of action?[/quote]
The nature of humanity is not like it seems on the surface. You seem to assume that the majority of humans quite naturally follow the five precepts, that they are not basically criminal or worse. [/quote]
I'm assuming that people act in accord with their motives in order to satisfy their particular purposes, whatever their purposes might be. The purposes of a fundamentalist Christian, or a fundamentalist Hindu, differ from that of a typical archeologist, I assume. It is easy to speculate about why a fundamentalist Christian might want to shorten the historical timeline, as it is easy to speculate about why a fundamentalist Hindu might want to lengthen it. I have no idea why a scientist would be motivated to hide evidence regarding discoveries that would certainly make them famous, if not rich and famous. Perhaps this question is addressed in the book?

Humanity does achieve things, but not at all in a moral way.

You have a rather dark view of humanity my friend.

To make something a public truth requires the co-operation of thousands and hundred thousands persons, it takes time and devoted work, it may even require wars to be waged for it, what you are saying is simply childish ignorance.

Rather than 'public truth' I think you mean deeply held beliefs (religious in particular), and yeah, those are usually slow to change. Archeology is a science however, not a religion. Are you suggesting that the global community of archeologists hold some deeply held beliefs which motivate them to suppress scientific discoveries? or maybe that they are forced to suppress discoveries by some higher global authority with deeply held beliefs? if so, what global authority would that be?[/quote]

Well, this is a difficult question, trying to answer it one easily sinks into the swampland of the so called "conspiracy theories", I don't think there are any actual conspiracy agencies involved, like the ones that David Icke et al think there are. Having seen to a small degree how the scientific community works and functions, I think what you say is true, there are many cases where a particular scientist has been suppressed or cast outside the accepted scientific community for various reasons, reasons that often seem very unethical. I think you have to find out this for yourself,...

best wishes !!
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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby Aemilius » Wed Apr 14, 2010 12:49 pm

You can look what they say here about the book Forbidden Archeology http://www.mcremo.com/fabook.htm
They say it was first published in 1993, I find this littlebit strange because I remember reading a book with a similar title in 1970's, may be it was an other book, the earlier one doesn't seem to exist anymore(?) But never mind, there is something to digest anyway.
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Re: Buddhism and Evolution

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Apr 14, 2010 1:20 pm

Not that this necessarily invalidates what they are saying, but the authors are self-declared "Hindu creationists" and members of the Hare Krishna movement.
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