Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Scientific Buddhism

I read a new website Scientific Buddhism. Someone's been reading their western philosophy and believes in hard determinism. I like the idea of free will, whether or not it's a fiction. I actually have a friend who is a determinist. He still strives for self actualization, which hard determinism might seem to be against, but really is neutral. Determinism is probably true, but what I find interesting is the diversity of belief in real people, not the best paper debating free will and determinism. "Logic is a bird twittering in my ear," said Spock to confound the robots.

Buddhism can be combined with anything. Other religions and ideologies. To make a living there are people who consult with companies to help inject mindfulness into business. I like the Atheist Buddhism of Stephen Batchelor for some reason. It's quite appealing to me, and I really enjoy reading his books. I also like Buddhism and psychotherapy. I like Buddhist fiction, whatever that is.

My friend who respects and reveres science does not base his life on it. When I send him articles about how good meditation is, he doesn't care. So how far is his belief in science, if he doesn't act on it. He loves technology, that is his refuge.

It can be smart to reject the mind control of religion. The critique that religion just turns everything on end, fun becomes bad, unpleasant becomes good--feels true in some cases. On the other hand, you need to think about everyone else more. I don't think we all have to be ceaselessly self sacrificing, we're not all going to choose abnegation as our faction. But following Ayn Rand down the rabbit hole of selfishness isn't better. A true individual isn't a scumbag, a piker or a conciencia, and can imagine other's experience, and feel the interbeing. The me/you balance is never solved conclusively.

I don't think there is any avoiding that our theories of life are like pulling rabbits out of a hat. That's what a guy said to me in the philosophy of science class. Science is pretty cool, but if you've read The Logic of Scientific Discovery, you know it's not exempt from fads and pigheadedness. A modern person will balk at the traditional beliefs that seem so naive if you look at them through the lense of science. But if you see spirituality as binding us together, you see it for the social aspect that helps bind us together. When my grandmother was sick, she got so many casseroles. Not having that kind of community is a loss to me, even if you have to put up with some malarkey.

Evidence based practice in social work is a sham. Some study about child welfare in Kansas City might not apply easily to New York City. Child welfare is a hard game that won't yield to easy solutions. We are advancing in our knowledge of the social science, but it's a battle of inches, and can be perverted. Evidence based practice feels like a liberal way of defeating the hooey of conservatives. And yet we're moving too slowly to decriminalize substance abuse, which has been proven to solve many problems in Portugal. The unintended consequences of prohibition were a needed corrective in the thesis and antithesis of early America, which was considerably alcoholic. Johnny Appleseed wanted more apple cider. We're too sophisticated now to just have a moral approach to substance abuse. Marsha Linehan proved DBT works, but she also believes clinicians with good instincts can bring about any system.

What I learned in philosophy is that every theory can be defeated. Not always true might be a motto of mine even if Kant was a rock star. Godel's Theorem or Turing's similar results proved you could not reduce everything to one true science and know it to be true. There's no one area of study you can focus on and then coast the rest of your life. You have to work all the time to keep learning, in many different areas. That is the higher evolution.

Science without heart has lead to nuclear bombs, global warming and the current ADHD of technology. Shakespeare warned us not to divorce our heart from our intellect: "My crown is in my heart, not on my head; not decked with diamonds and Indian stones, nor to be seen: my crown is called content, a crown it is that seldom kings enjoy." (The Third part of King Henry the Sixth Act 3 scene 1)

So if you like science and you like Buddhism, cool. You want to do some head banging philosophy with your Dharma. Try some madhyamaka. OK. Sure, when you meditate, you can develop some amazing sophistications and abilities with your powers. How about some heavy metal Buddhists.

We also need simplicity sometimes and the simple truths of being kind to others because we are all connected, is an insight I can't erase. It's a simple experience that sounds like a cliche, but was profound and hard to express. All those books that prove Buddhism scientifically contribute, I'm sure, but leave me cold. I'm sparked more by poetry, myth and the dialectic. I know in my heart that the dharma outlook is important for me. That's all I need. And it's through meditative experience that I move closer towards the Buddha, my hero.

I hope the blogger of Scientific Buddhism enjoys his journey. I'll be interested to see how things go for them.

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