If there’s one thing (modern western American whatever) Buddhists love is to make the claim that not only is Buddhism freakin’ awesome but we’ve got the science to prove it. Here, let us show you these monks with electrodes taped to their heads; let’s conveniently ignore two millennia of ghost stories and karma theory because we’re uncomfortable with stuff that isn’t readily explained by science; and, here, check this out chanting the divine syllable makes you a better person, and we’ve got the science to prove it!
There may be something of a large hullabaloo across the Buddhist internets in recent days in regards to the whole Buddhism v. science thing. The issue has to do with an opinion piece written by Athena Andreadis (whose name, by the way, is awesome) about how people love to find compatibility between science and Buddhism. Her argument, in sum, is that people who arenâ€™t experts at something should really keep their yaps shut. Oh, and she said some stuff about Buddhism that was, shall we say, a little outside her area of expertise. That last little point was what got Barbara Oâ€™Brienâ€™s hackles in a huff over on the eponymous Barbaraâ€™s Buddhism Blog where she thoroughly bemoaned Ms. Andreadisâ€™ piece for its pot-and-kettle routine. I heard about all of this via NellaLouâ€™s Enlightenment Ward. And I can only assume that this debate has spread far and wide because, at the end of the day, it is exactly the sort of thing that will turn a host of otherwise well-intentioned people into a hoard of charlatans, dilettantes, and indignant banshees. I’m going to stay well out of it.
Something buried in this post â€” this delightful, insightful, post-colonial critique-ful post â€” by Arunlikhati (of course) caught my eye. â€œDharmic evolution.â€
Iâ€™m going to say it. Evolution has nothing to do with the Dharma.
Now look. I love evolution as much as the next guy. In fact, Iâ€™m a big fan of science in general. I mean, how can you not like science? Itâ€™s given us USB flash drives, penicillin, and the new Star Trek movie. Câ€™mon. How cool is that? But the theory of evolution cannot be applied to human culture, society, or religion. It just canâ€™t.
A couple of interesting bits from the Internets have found their way on to the ol’ desktop today. First up is an article from a 1962 issue of Time magazine celebrating the 70th anniversary of Buddhism in America. You do the math. The second, along with my thoughts on the nature of consciousness, is the conversation between Stephen Batchelor and Robert Thurman about reincarnation, brought to you by Tricycle.
“The well-known quip in social scientific circles, “the plural of anecdote is not data,” should caution non-social scientists against generalizing about North American Buddhists based on minimal, unsystematic, or no actual fieldwork. In my mind, insistence on empirical grounding would be the most significant social scientific contribution to an interdisciplinary field of study on this this topic, especially when dealing with questions about Buddhist identity and organizational dynamics.”
Just ask this scientician. He’ll tell you that, in nature, one creature invariably eats another creature to survive.