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The Dalai Lama on Science
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So the Dalai Lama has a new book out on the possible synergy between religion and science (free registration required; via EvolutionBlog).

Here's the gist:

"I believe that spirituality and science are complementary but different investigative approaches with the same goal of seeking the truth," His Holiness writes. "In this, there is much each may learn from the other, and together they may contribute to expanding the horizon of human knowledge and wisdom."

Okay. I reckon I'm with the heathen NY Times reviewer who says early on:

Spirituality is about the ineffable and unprovable, science about the physical world of demonstrable fact. Faced with two such contradictory enterprises, divergence would be a better goal.

It's like mixing ice cream with concrete, if you ask me. The mixture is gonna taste like shit, and you sure as hell wouldn't want to build a bridge out of it.

Look, I've somewhat revised my views that religious thinking and scientific thinking don't go well together in a single human head. I used to think that it was due to the human capacities of compartmentalization and denial. But I read Newton in the past year, which revealed just how much wacky crap one of the greatest scientific minds to ever have lived believed in. For instance, Sir Isaac Newton was big into alchemy.

So now I'm going to backtrack from stuff I've asserted before. I don't think religious thought is necessarily an impediment to logical or scientific thought. In fact, it may actually be beneficial. There may very well be a sweet spot between skepticism and gullibility that allows for the kinds of intuitive and creative leaps that great scientists make. In other words, the willingness to believe wacky shit may be a necessary frame of mind to come up with interesting theories in the first place.

But I still hold the position that as institutions, their goals, methodologies, and outlooks are, as the reviewer put it, divergent.

For example, his holiness says he embraces science, but here are two examples of mushy thinking:

Though he professes to accept evolutionary theory, he recoils at one of its most basic tenets: that the mutations that provide the raw material for natural selection occur at random. Look deeply enough, he suggests, and the randomness will turn out to be complexity in disguise - "hidden causality," the Buddha's smile. There you have it, Eastern religion's version of intelligent design.

This idea of events taking place in the universe without a consciousness driving them, thought it may well be the case, is definitely not a scientific viewpoint.

And it's funny that the topic of my last entry comes up:

He also opposes physical explanations for consciousness, invoking instead the existence of some kind of irreducible mind stuff, an idea rejected long ago by mainstream science.

Ha! The Dalai Lama is no sir. I guess he's a dualist, though I'll probably never find out since I'm not gonna read his book.

But one last thing to chew on...if mainstream science has rejected such views, then why the hell is the Dalai Lama giving the inaugural address at the Society of Neuroscience conference this November?

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