Can Buddhist Philosophy provide a Middle Way between Antiscience and Scientism?
|Geology Lecture at Imperial College|
From The Independent, by Jerome Taylor
"Organisers behind a British conference on Islam and evolution say they nearly had to cancel the event after receiving a torrent of opposition from Muslim students at one of the country’s top scientific universities, The Independent has learned.
The Deen Institute, a Muslim debating forum which promotes critical thinking, had hoped to hold a conference entitled “Have Muslims misunderstood evolution?” early next year. Among the speakers invited to attend included Muslim scientists, imams who have promoted the compatibility of Islam and evolution as well as those who preach a form of Islamic creationism.
The initial plan was to hold the event next month at Imperial College London, one of the country’s foremost universities for scientific exploration and debate, in cooperation with the local Islamic student society. But the Deen Institute said it was forced to pull out when it became clear that opposition to the event from supporters of creationism began mounting. It is now being held without input from any Muslim student society at Logan Hall, a conference centre owned by the University of London.
“We eventually had to give up of getting any support from student societies because it was seen as simply too controversial,” Adam Deen, co-founder of the institute, told The Independent. Deen, who describes himself as a “conservative Muslim” who encourages critical thinking, said he was surprised to receive such opposition at a place of scientific study, particularly as he had made sure to invite all sides of the debate including those who preach creationism...
...Mr Deen’s public Facebook account illustrates many of the concerns people raised. In one comment Mohammad Ali Harrath, the founder of the highly influential Islam Channel, wrote: “This debate is a big mistake. It is shifting debate to make it a Muslim issue rather than an issue between atheists and creationists...”
...Another commenter, Zeshan Sasjid, added: “Evolution is not Islamic. Prophet Adam did not have parents. A Muslim can’t believe that Prophet Adam...
...Muslims believe the Qur’an is the indisputable word of God and therefore any scientific discovery which risks proving something within their holy book as incorrect is highly controversial, particularly among the more literalist schools of thought. For example, most Muslim scholars have long accepted scientifically proven cosmology but even up until his death in 1999, Sheikh Ibn Baaz, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, continued to insist that the Sun revolved around the Earth based on his interpretation of Islamic texts...
...Much of this newfound enthusiasm for attacking evolution has been pushed by Harun Yahya, a prominent Turkish theologian whose writings have been seized upon by literalists and those who exhibit a theological suspicion of science. Dr Oktar Babuna, a representative from the Harun Yahya movement, is scheduled to speak at the conference alongside Shaikh Yasir Qadhi, an influential imam who accepts evolution at a micro level but refuses to countenance the idea that man evolved from anything other than Adam himself... Read it all here.
(As an aside, observers of the interfaith dialog scene may remember the Harun Yahya organization as having some definite opinions on Buddhism)
Pseudoscience, Antiscience, Irrationalism and Anti-rationalismIn a previous article I noted how Christianity is deteriorating rapidly, with a headlong retreat into obscurantism, anti-science and general dumbing-down.
However, it would be erroneous to conclude that the same thing is happening to Islam, because orthodox Islam has never attempted to emerge from anti-science and obscurantism. So for the Koran-believing jihadist, fundamentalist creationism is business as usual . In fact, Islam goes further than Christianity in not only rejecting science when it conflicts with scripture, but rejecting rationalism itself!
|Philosophical Debate at Imperial College|
Al-Ghazzali, the prominent Sufi jihadist, anathematized rational belief in causality by preaching that what is perceived as cause and effect between objects is mere appearance, not reality. Instead, only Allah truly acts with real effect; all seemingly natural observances of causation are merely manifestations of Allah's habits, for Allah simultaneously creates both the cause and the effect according to his arbitrary will. . This, of course, undermines the rational basis of all sciences, and for some religious people this is their only way of coping with modernity. All science is wrong and evil.
MaterialismAlthough we laugh at the way the creationists try to defend their religious beliefs, they may have genuine concerns, though expressed in a very incoherent way. What may be motivating them subconsciously is the need to reject materialism - the belief that all phenomena in the universe, in particular the human mind, are explainable in terms of matter. In other words, such concepts and experiences as beauty, love, spirituality, pleasure and pain are reducible to nothing but physical and chemical interactions.
Materialism leads to a rejection of spirituality, both in terms of declining religious belief, and also in the arts, where the cult of ugliness, with its obsessions with the sordid and brutalistic, works to reduce humans to nothing more than biological automata . Of course all religions reject materialism as an article of faith, but none apart from Buddhism attempts to offer any rational philosophical refutation of the materialist worldview.
The religious motivation to reject science as a whole may derive from a need to reject materialism, coupled with a confusion of science with scientism.
ScientismScientism is a misuse of scientific methodology beyond the limits of its applicability, including attempts to reduce all knowledge to only that which can be understood by mechanistic models. It is an overreaching view of science as if it were capable of describing all reality and knowledge, or as if it were the only true way to acquire knowledge about reality and the nature of things.
While Buddhism is quite happy with science in general, and especially with evolution, it does not agree with scientism, and disputes claims that the mind can be explained or understood in physical terms, because its ultimate nature is non-physical: 'when the body dies the 'mechanism' of the body, holding the spirit is gone and the spirit finds a new body sooner or later, perhaps immediately.' - Alan Turing (Code Breaker, Mathematician and Buddhist Philosopher)
For a discussion of why the mind is a non-physical, fundamental aspect of the universe which is not derived from anything else, see Confronting Materialism and the Delusion of the Mechanical Mind.
Buddhist Philosophy - the Middle Way between Scientism and AntiscienceAll physicalist/materialist explanations are algorithmic ( Church-Turing-Deutsch Principle).
However. the 'Hard Problem' of the mind seems incapable of any algorithmic understanding, as no progress has been made since the problem was first formulated by the eminent Victorian physicist John Tyndall 140 years ago.
It is therefore a reasonable working hypothesis that the mind is non-algorithmic, and is thus a good candidate for being non-physical.
A phenomenon that is non-algorithmic is not reducible to the 20 or so fundamental algorithmic building blocks that comprise the instruction set of a general purpose computer, these are SET, MOVE, READ, WRITE, ADD, SUBTRACT, MULTIPLY, DIVIDE, AND, OR, XOR, NOT, SHIFT, ROTATE, COMPARE, JUMP, JUMP-CONDITIONALLY, RETURN.
In particular, the causal JUMP-CONDITIONALLY (usually implemented as IF...THEN...ELSE...) is not applicable to any non-algorithmic phenomenon, for if we could describe in a stepwise manner how the phenomenon functioned, then the phenomenon would be algorithmic!
This puts non-algorithmic systems, such as the mind, beyond the limits of science and scientism without violating any scientific principles, or abandoning rationalism, or otherwise degenerating into antiscience.
Thus Buddhist philosophy can protect spirituality from destruction by the bleak and barren doctrines of materialism and scientism, without the need to believe six impossible things before breakfast, or the truth of Genesis and the Koran as the literal 'word of God'.
However, it seems unlikely that anything can protect the once-prestigious Imperial College from being dumbed down by Islamic intimidation, stealth jihad and creeping Sharia. Western academia cannot withstand attack by the traditional Islamic debating tactics of ignorance, arrogance and aggression.
|THE THREE PILLARS OF ISLAM|
Mysterians, Mysterianism and the Mystery of the Mind
Algorithmic compression and the three modes of existence
Buddhism and Mathematics
Buddhism and Science
Evolution, Emptiness and Delusions of the Darwinian Mind
Bridging the Explanatory Gap of the Hard Problem
The Church-Turing-Deutsch Principle and Buddhist Philosophy
All Watched over by Machines of Loving Grace
Is Richard Dawkins a Buddhist?
- Sean Robsville