Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Buddhism: Science vs. Religion

I have noticed repeated claims that science and religion deal with different types of issues and thus cannot come into conflict--or, though this is less often stated, be in agreement--with each other. Of late, such claims turn up chiefly in the context of the dispute over the teaching of so-called "Intelligent Design" and of evolution.

These claims rather trouble me as a would-be follower of the Buddhadharma, since I cannot help but notice that the idea that the world was created by an intelligent designer does not seem compatible with the Buddhist teachings and that the theory of evolution, on the other hand, is perfectly consistent with--and, in fact, a good example of--the truth of the basic teaching of dependent origination: this arises, therefore that arises.

And when one comes to the relatively recently recognized field of cognitive science it seems to me that the efforts of Buddhist practitioners to understand the workings of their minds cannot be distinguished in theory from the efforts of scientists to arrive at a similar understanding. Marvin Minsky's "Society of Mind", for example, strikes me as being an updated version of the metaphor of the chariot in the Milindapanha.

If it is establishing religion to teach intelligent design in the public schools, then why is the teaching of evolution in those schools not an establishment of (the Buddhist) religion?

I suppose that one answer could be that Buddhism is not a religion; but if that be the case what would happen to the tax exemption of institutions like the Cleveland Buddhist Temple?

May all beings be happy!

Mary Maudlin and Copyright

There is a rather unusual copyright case going on in England right now. Two of the three authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, a purported historical account of the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and the subsequent history of their offspring, are suing the publisher of The Da Vinci Code, an historical novel---a work of fiction---for copyright infringement, claiming that the author of the latter work copied not the text, but the plot of the former.

Frankly I don't see how the plaintiffs can possibly win this case, unless, of course, they are able to prove that their purported work of history is actually a work of fiction.

While we are on the subject of the Magdelene--also known as Mary Maudlin--I can't resist quoting my favorite maudlin couplet describing her eyes:

Two walking baths; two weeping motions;
Portable, and compendious oceans.

I am sorry that I have the compulsion to afflict this upon you.

In compensation, let me quote Rilke quoting the Magdelene:


So seh ich, Jesus, deine Füße wieder,
die damals eines Jünglings Füße waren,
da ich sie bang entkleidete und wusch;
wie standen sie verwirrt in meinen Haaren
und wie ein weißes Wild im Dornenbusch.

So seh ich deine niegeliebten Glieder
zum erstenmal in dieser Liebesnacht.
Wir legten uns noch nie zusammen nieder,
und nun wird nur bewundert und gewacht.

Doch, siehe, deine Hände sind zerrissen-:
Geliebter, nicht von mir, von meinen Bissen.
Dein Herz steht offen, und man kann hinein:
das hätte dürfen nur mein Eingang sein.

Nun bist du müde, und dein müder Mund
hat keine Lust zu meinem wehen Munde-.
O Jesus, Jesus, wann war unsre Stunde?
Wie gehn wir beide wunderlich zugrund.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

More on Danish Cartoons

Although I only posted my entry about the Danish paper's cartoons of Mohammed on January, 31 most of the fuss--republication, embassy burnings, riots, etc.--has occurred since then. At least the danger that I feared, the danger that all on-line copies of the cartoons would be disappeared, is no longer a real threat, even though few American newspapers or television shows have shown them to give their readers or viewers a clear idea of what all the fuss is---or at least originally was---about.

Once again, I posted my entry about the cartoons on January 31, and most of the fuss has arisen since then. But now it turns out that the cartoons, which were first published in Denmark in September, 2005 were republished in an Egyptian paper in October of that year.

See: http://egyptiansandmonkey.blogspot.com/2006/02/boycott-egypt.html

The affair grows stranger and stranger. CNN published an image of one of the cartoons after first obscuring it--as if it were a naked woman's breast--so that one could not see what it looked like. This inspired the Akron Beacon Journal to publish a cartoon making fun of CNN.

Making Fun of CNN

And then I was informed last night by a local TV news show that a local Cleveland-Akron area Muslim group was complaining about this cartoon, calling it "hate speech not free speech."

Now that's a bit much; I doubt that the cartoonist actually hates CNN.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Left Wing Hilary Clinton

The Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlan, reportedly has said that Hilary Clinton is a representative of the left wing of her party.

This may well be true if one believes, as I do, that she actually is a Republican.

My Favorite Footnote

My favorite footnote is footnote 8 in Robert Nozick's State, Anarchy, Utopia (1974) where he quotes an old Yiddish joke:

"Life is so terrible, it would be better never to have been born."

"Yes, but how many are so lucky? Not one in a thousand."

This takes on especial significance in the context of the Buddhist teaching that the goal of Buddhist practice is to free oneself---and others---from the cycle of rebirth.