Parallels, Departures, and What Science Can Gain from Buddhism Essay

Parallels, Departures, and What Science Can Gain from Buddhism Essay

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Parallels, Departures, and What Science Can Gain from Buddhism


According to our experience there is a tremendous variety of stuff which exists in the world. Furthermore, any specific sample of this stuff seems to be extremely active, constantly moving, interacting with and reacting against all the other stuff. How are we to explain this - both the stuff and the activity? How does it work, and what purpose does it serve in what appears to be a well-designed, functionally cohesive system? And where do we fit in; what is our relation to this stuff and our place in the system? These are some of the questions that underlie all spiritual traditions. Likewise, they are questions that drive modern science. In this paper I would like to examine the approach that modern science takes in answering these questions and compare it to the approach of the Buddhist tradition. I will support the claim that both approaches parallel each other in many ways. At the same time I will point out some fundamental differences between them. Finally, I hope to show that by borrowing from the Buddhist approach the scientific community could increase both the overall value of science and the benefits it offers.
Modern science and Buddhism are similar in approach in at least these four ways:
· Both are skeptical.
· Both are pragmatic.
· Expert training is important for each.
· For each a causal understanding is fundamental.

Both science and Buddhism can be said to be traditions of radical doubt. Neither tradition has been wholly comfortable with accepting our everyday experience of the world as being real. Instead, they hold the position that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way we normally view the world. Both scien...


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...eye. Perhaps this would allow for a reevaluation of what is really worthwhile in regards to scientific study. Second, certainly the ethical approach of Buddhism would require that scientists give pause and consider the potential impact that their discoveries might have if not managed wisely. So not only would the scientific community be asking "What do we study?", but they would also be asking "What should we do with what we find?" This may seem a bit strange at first, but a quick glance at the world today will show us the dramatic effects of a science without ethics. It was only little more than half a century ago that atomic energy was used to destroy the lives of thousands of innocent humans. And now we are confronted with the possibilities of commercial genetic selection and human cloning. It seems that science now more than ever needs ethical guidance.

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