Friday, February 03, 2012

B. Alan Wallace, PhD - Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic

This is a cool excerpt from B. Alan Wallace's new book, Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic: A Manifesto for the Mind Sciences and Contemplation - this was posted at Noetic Now, February, 2012, from the Institute of Noetic Sciences.

Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic

“Among scientists and Buddhists, there are many who are willing to question their most deeply rooted assumptions in terms of both beliefs and valid methods of inquiry.” — Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic

The establishment of the Church Scientific [a term coined by biologist Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–95), one of the founders of the journal Nature] in the late nineteenth century was an attempt to replace Christianity and all other religions with a new, all-encompassing vision of reality. With the many advances of science since the sixteenth century, the role of God in nature was replaced by a series of scientific discoveries, first in the fields of physics and astronomy, then in geology, and finally in biology. Only those areas that could not be explained scientifically were left to theology and a “God of the gaps.” At the start of the twenty-first century, many believed that there was simply no need for God or religion of any kind to explain the whole of the natural world.

The historical development that has resulted in this triumph of the scientific worldview began with the first great scientific revolution in the physical sciences, launched by Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton. The second great revolution took place in the biological sciences, ignited by Darwin and Wallace’s theory of natural selection. Only after these two great scientific developments was a science of the mind initiated in the late nineteenth century. In light of this historical evolution of science, it was inevitable that the Church Scientific would come to insist that all mental phenomena emerge solely from biological processes, that all of life emerged from inorganic physical processes, and that the universe as a whole inexplicably emerged from a mindless, lifeless singularity at the dawn of time.

By the mid-nineteenth century, the methods and theories of physics were well established as the dominant paradigm for the natural sciences as a whole. So it was only “natural” for biologists to conclude that life originally formed from the inorganic stuff that is the domain of physics. And by the time the mind sciences began to develop, psychologists, behaviorists, and cognitive neuroscientists naturally concluded that the mind is formed from the organic matter that is the domain of biology. In the scientific worldview, the universe began with the emergence of lifeless, unconscious configurations of matter and energy; over the course of billions of years, these gave rise to living organisms, which gradually evolved into conscious, sentient beings. Although many fundamental questions remain concerning the origins of life and of consciousness, scientists take a “matter-of-the-gaps” approach, assuming that any future discoveries will necessarily take place within their familiar, materialistic framework. Anything else is unthinkable.
 Read the whole article/excerpt.
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