What is Buddha is an Atheist? Part I: The Flaws of Science

Buddha is an Atheist: a Spiritual Autopsy of Science and Religion is an upcoming 125,000 word book taking apart atheist misconceptions of Science and Religion through a series of specific topics.

In Science, these are: Medical Science, Physics, Climate change, epistemology as philosophy of science, fraud, biology, peer review, and actual statements and beliefs of prominent scientists. (Religion is handled in a separate post.)

To flesh this out, here is a statement from the book about science today.

Skepticism is proper, but nowadays, improperly understood. A number of principles seem to have gone missing from the philosophy of science. Indeed, the very idea of science philosophy has vanished. Without a sound epistemological and procedural scrutiny, we cannot evaluate the direction, value, and integrity of science. It’s much too powerful a force to run unchecked. Part 1 of this book seeks to re-invigorate these lost principles. Also, it counters the trend attempting to fuse science and atheism into a single unit. The following principles should mainly be common sense:

¨        Science is accessible to anyone who can read and maintain concentration.

¨        Science cannot and does not have all answers. It has limits.

¨        Everything is open to question – the root of true skepticism.

¨        Science and religion are not implicitly at odds. Not all scientists are atheists or even materialists.

¨        All preprogrammed views (e.g. ‘scientific outlook’) obscure reality.

¨        All people have metaphysical (unproven, unprovable, and unevidenced) beliefs.

¨        Zealots of rationality have sacrificed the greatest virtue of science: creativity.

¨        Science does great harm.

¨        Logic cannot prove empirical truths. It can only disprove logical untruths.

¨        Logic cannot perceive intuitive truths and assumes their non-existence.

¨        Reality contains logical paradoxes.

¨        To refute a theory it is not necessary to have another theory. These are two distinct functions which have become erroneously conflated.

¨        An atheist is not required to accept any scientific supposition.

¨        Atheism has a single, simple definition – not believing in any god. An atheist can have ‘metaphysical’ beliefs.

¨        Both science and religion are outgrowths of an underlying spiritual essence. Spirituality as defined here is the quest to understand reality and one’s relationship to it.

An important aspect of all this is scientific literacy. Scientific literacy has three forms – standard, alternative and hidden. The standard form, literacy of consensus, understands the mainstream theories and blankly agrees. The alternative form, literacy of skepticism, understands the mainstream theories and allows itself to disagree. An important point – to disagree, it’s not necessary to provide an alternative idea. Despite the common picture, science is not composed of universally accepted theories. All theories exist under rigorous contention – only thus are they meaningful. This book aims to present this second view – the backside of science. Mostly because somebody needs to; otherwise we are trapped in the sleep of consensus.

The hidden form of literacy is process. Science is indifferent to its greatest concern – the brute validity of theory. Theory is not reality. This critical point is simply lost today. Theory is a set of abstract symbols interpreted by the mind. It is a description. Reality is our manifest experience. Just as the word ‘bread’ cannot satisfy hunger, so theory and reality have no actual link save the human mind.

Science has many other problems: Excessive reliance on experts leading to uncritical public acceptance, fraud, incompetence, non-reproducibility, faith in science as absolute truth, groupthink, corporate control, flawed peer review system held as the ultimate validation, career fear, career ambition, social pressures, greed, magical thinking, hero worship, political pressures, desire for fame, publish or die mentality, faith in medical propositions, corporate subterfuge, radical rejection of holism and intuition, contempt for traditional wisdoms, overweening faith in mathematics as underpinning reality and logic as structuring reality, trust in rationality as the only and best means to truth, overt rejection of all metaphysical propositions, covert acceptance of numerous metaphysical propositions, cultish indoctrination, conceiving a machinelike orderly universe against all evidence, rejection of radical ideas, ruthless contempt for truly innovative thinkers, punishing cruelty against differences of opinion, tendency to directed perception, faith in objectivity and causality (metaphysical ideas), woeful ignorance of epistemology and science philosophy, naïve trust in the mechanism of science, rule by entrenched committees, secret governance by corporations, illusion of independence, increasing fractionalization of ‘knowledge,’ control by moneyed interests, pretense that emotionality is absent from science, belief that the central body of scientific theory cannot be mistaken, gratuitous hostility to novice presentations, faith that the proper way to change things in science is the agonizing process of being attacked for one’s opinions, foolish belief that shy scientists can and should endure this to prove their theory, faith that true theories will emerge through this process based on rational argument rather than warfare, connections, or charisma, lack of insight into the sensitive character of genius leading to silence over the most profound ideas, myth of superiority, self-righteousness, secret desire to maintain the ignorance of the masses to feel superior, simultaneously bemoaning scientific illiteracy, lockout – whereby experts have the only key to certain knowledge, an insistence on relying on people with letters after their name, pre-emptive proclamation of consensus to clinch victory for a view, emergence of consensus by force and subterfuge, creation of public belief through repetition rather than explanation, and a default assumption that those who disagree with the mainstream view are crazy. One could extend such a list to an entire book. Like all our projects, science is a symphony of human weakness.

The first part of the book closes with a look into ignored and suppressed ideas. David Bohm, for example, wrote a college textbook on quantum mechanics, then seriously proposed a holographic universe. The scientific community loved his textbook and ignored his actual belief. A number of well-documented incidents that defy modern science are explored and finally, a Buddhist science, focusing on the emptiness of phenomena, is briefly sketched out and summed up in the book:

‘Buddhist theory of knowledge has elements of Western epistemology. Empiricism is valid, but not all-consuming; rationality is a tool, but not a master. The senses can fool us; logic has limits. If we navigate these waters skillfully, then our senses can tell us what we need to know and logic cuts away false ideas. It’s important to realize these two functions. Direct perception knows, but the mind is easily confused by rational deduction. Logic is not used to know or understand – it is used to eliminate false understanding.’ When science begins to gain this ground, it will attain a new level.

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  1. #1 by ashok z on February 4, 2012 - 4:03 pm

    Sounds like a book that I would be very interested to read. It’s a critical issue and one that has been ignored and sidestepped for far too long. I’m appreciating, even just in this summary the rigour, clarity, and force. Looking forward to more…

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