How Buddhism Agrees with Science
Compatibility is defined as the degree of agreement between two separate ideas. In relation to the Dalai Lama’s discussions of modern physics and evolutionary biology as well as the article “Cosmology and Meditation” by Rupert Gethin, we can find several similarities and differences between Buddhism and scientific realism. Also, it would be appropriate to argue the compatibility between these two like-minded concepts.
Buddhism is very simple in its teachings. The essence of this school of thought promotes a way of thinking and looking at the world. Because Buddhism doesn’t support the theory of other religions such as supporting and worshipping a God or creator, most people don’t see it as a religion, specially in the modern, Western world. It could be argued that this way of thinking is leaning more towards scientific views of naturalism. The Buddha himself emphasized that he didn’t want to be treated as a God, since he didn’t consider himself one. Buddhism is a religion with a strong philosophical background. It focuses on eliminating suffering and achieving happiness.
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The essential aspects of Buddhist teachings are quite forthright and practical. They believe that nothing lasts forever, they support change, and have a firm opinion that actions have consequences. This is the main reason to why Buddhism addresses itself to all kinds of different people regarding race, nationality, sexuality, gender, and ethnicities. In epistemology, the Buddha tires to find a middle way between both the extremes of skepticism and dogmatism by highlighting personal endeavors, and the usefulness of critical thinking towards all the different types of knowledge.
The Buddha proposes a mental, verbal, and bodily three-way understanding of action in ethics. While in metaphysics, he claims that there is no such a thing as a self-caused entity and that everything dependently exists from something else. This claim helps the Buddha for a criticism of self identity. This criticism creates the basic foundation of his views and beliefs about the truthfulness of birth and the ultimate liberated state known as “Nirvana”.
Scientific naturalism is the philosophical view of nature and scientific knowledge; however, it is different from the practice of science because science is a study while scientific naturalism is a belief. Scientific realism focuses on the most appropriate way of understanding scientific beliefs that refer to non-observable development, entities, and properties. It is associated with much ancient philosophical positions such as rationalism and metaphysical realism. Realist belief that entities suggested by scientific theories are in fact real entities.
According to realists, an optimal scientific theory would have very distinct claims to those of other theories. They would argue that the claims the theories makes have to be either true or false, but always depending on whether the entities talked about exist and can be accurately described. Also, these defined by the theory have to mind-independently and objectively exist. Lastly, for this ideal theory to be completed, there has to be reasons to believe a big amount of what the theory explains. Scientific realism usually believes that science has to make progress. For this logic, many individuals believe that realism should match the progress of scientific theories being similar to the ideal theory that scientific realists describe.
Scientific naturalism and Buddhism might seem to be two completely different concepts that could never coexist in a world like ours, but contrary to the general opinion these two can be compatible since they share many similarities, although some differences as well. Scientific naturalism and Buddhism share similar views in a couple of areas.
The practice of Buddhism and that of scientific inquiry are mutually based on finding truth through experimental observation. The Dalai Lama once said that if science ever ends up contradicting Buddhism, then it must change. Buddhism has philosophical and psychological teachings that can be connected to modern scientific and philosophic thought. An example of this can be seen in the way that Buddhism encourages the analysis of Nature, which is the study of being one-self. These conceptions of Buddhism can be linked to some very renowned scientific theories such as quantum theory, evolution, and cosmology.
Some scientists have even stretched and called out Buddhism as a speculative and scientific philosophy. Other commonalities between Buddhism and scientific realism have been found such as a reliance on causality and empiricism, the theory that all knowledge is derived from sense-experience. However, Buddhism and scientific realism also have differing viewpoints on a couple of topics. Realist only focus on one object, the physical universe, while Buddhism focuses on two, nature and mankind. They also do not include mankind in its picture of the universe unlike Buddhism.
In conclusion, there are many similarities and differences between scientific realism and Buddhism as well as some notable differences. It could be safely said that scientific realism and Buddhism are compatible in a world like ours. Generally, the beliefs of science and Buddhism work on different sectors that only intersect each other in some areas. Which explains that there’s no valid reason to why scientific realism and Buddhism wouldn’t be able co-exist and even sometimes brighten each other.