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!


Blogger Seth Finkelstein said...

Well, to take the question at face value, I would say that the answer is: The fact that Buddhism may, overall, not be hostile to science in the same way as prominent factions of Christianity are hostile to science, hardly makes science identical to Buddhism (or vice-versa).

Around 20 years ago, there was a spate of pop-New Age books purporting to show similarities between physics and various Eastern religious doctrines. I never thought there was much there. Again, compatible in a certain very high-level sense is not the same as identical.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Yehuda said...

My film “A Sacred Proof” recently won “Best Science Doc” and ‘Best Director” in the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival 2006. It presents an ancient irrefutable biological proof for the existence of G-d and my film company, Lucky Penny Films, is so confident in this proof that they have offered a $100,000 prize in what they are calling “The Contest of Contests” to anyone who can disprove this proof. You can check it out at www.asacredproof.com

3:33 PM  

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