Sunday, November 13, 2005

Dalai Lama on Science vs. Religion

As a Op-Ed Contributor on the NYTimes, in an article titled Our Faith in Science, His Holiness Dalai Lama (who signs the article as Tenzin Gyatso) has the following to say about religion and science:

If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview.


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Later update (11/14): Also see the letters to the editor in which a writer points out the following:

Instead of focusing on whom to hate and what to fear, these leaders would do well to turn their attention to those "principles we share as human beings" about which the Dalai Lama writes so eloquently.

I am not a Buddhist, but I cannot help noticing how often it is the Buddhists who remind us that we do not have to demonize others in our own search for what is good.

4 comments:

sj said...

Science has to embrace religion as much as religion needs to embrace science.

It's the age of convergence. We all have to learn from each other to form a unified truth. We are already seeing these convergences happening in the intra-sciences where we forked them off in search for the truth and which has served its purpose over the past two centuries. It is time for integration and then some introspection and see where we stand today in search for truth. We need more people who can help us cross these artificial schisms.

Even though, its not that explicit, but in a subtle way, the human species has always been wandering in search for truth. Its the same small pattern manifested and repeated over different disciplines.

amar said...

Science has to embrace religion as much as religion needs to embrace science
....


Well said. I think that mutual acceptance as well as understanding of the boundaries of each are important for both of them.

I have some doubts if we can get to a single unified theory. I think a multi-level unified theory is more plausible. This is because, I see philosophy (and religion) at a higher level of abstraction than science.

Suppose a philosophical system says that the world is an illusion. It can not be tested in the realm of rationality, which is the main premise of science. There however, are philosophical systems like Advaita which can be reconstructed in a rational way. This is different from the scriptural way as in this post of mine.

The problem comes when we have things like Intelligent design, which I accept as a philosophical theory, into the realm of science.

sj said...

I have some doubts if we can get to a single unified theory. I think a multi-level unified theory is more plausible.

I agree to a certain extent. Religion (and philosphy) have always tied the search to a mystic element. There is no easier way to explain it and hence they let you discover it and then understand it. When we are in the realm of religion, we don't try to resist this mystic element because we know we are in the quest for "Real" and the real which we know today is in fact an illusion.

The same can never happen with the definition of science which is prevalent today. Science, from its nascence, has taken a different approach in the quest for the same reality. Hypothesising the causal effects in nature, with emphasis on empirical results has been how science has developed and thrived in the last two centuries. But science will soon discover, as Math did with Godel, that "provability is a weaker notion than truth, no matter what axiomatic system is involved" (Quote from GEB).

...

Even though these two approaches look so polar opposite, but they are still tied together by the underlying principle which is te search for truth.

This is because, I see philosophy (and religion) at a higher level of abstraction than science.

I couldn't agree more. Science is the foster child who has attained maturity. There is a need to adopt him to the main stream (which we are already seeing today). We need to exchange notes with him and keep our quest going. There is still a higher ground to be gained and it can be attained only by working in unison.

amar said...

SJ,
Good one! Nowhere was this kind of discussion more needed in history than after second world war. The creation of the Frankenstein monster called "Atom bomb" necessiated this discussion. Sri Radhakrishnan raises some very important points in his essay on Science vs. Religion. We had the discussion possibly 10th std. English.