[Buddha-l] Article: The Death of the Scientific Buddha

Erik Hoogcarspel jehms at xs4all.nl
Sat Nov 3 10:46:40 MDT 2012

Op 03-11-12 15:14, Richard Hayes schreef:
> I think it's possible that the word "scientism" is being used 
> differently by different participants in this discussion. I am using 
> the term to refer to the conviction that scientific method is the only 
> reliable method of gaining knowledge of the natural world. I have that 
> conviction, but I know that many disparage it. 

Here you have a point. Science is a method to produce knowledge, that 
seems to me obvious. Whether it is the only one, I doubt. A lot of 
knowledge in daily life is not scientific, but we are used to call it 
knowledge. The problem with your definition is that it is circular, 
because science is knowledge of the natural world. Artists would also 
claim to convey knowledge of the natural world, but this is  not the 
same knowledge because they have a different concept of nature. Some 
philosophers like Foucault would call this a scientific and artistic gaze.
The dividing lines are not always clear. Latour says that much of our 
ordinary knowledge is produced by scientific instruments like 
thermometers, scales, etc. We take over scientific methods and 
instruments and create a laboratory situation outside the laboratory.
Scientism is when science takes on the role of philosophy and/or becomes 
an ideology or a world view. Good examples are logical atomism, Wiener 
Kreis, Brave New World, Skinners Walden II, or The Tao of Physics.
Heidegger says in his 'Was ist Metaphysik' that science is about 
nothing, he means that science blocks out meaning. Scientific facts are 
what they are, they are just numbers and theoretical terms, they have no 
meaning at all. But they can be very useful. Husserl writes in his Krise 
that science has lost all meaning because it has no connection with the 
life world and he thought that his phenomenology could restore meaning 
in science. Merleau-Ponty uses scientific facts to show that the way we 
experience our body is beyond all facts. In his last work he speaks 
about the flesh of the world as the inextricable crossings over of 
meaning and experience (this is only one aspect). I tend to think that 
Buddhism has phenomenological views together with metaphysical tainted 
ones such as abhidharma and yogacara.
The Four Noble Truths are not scientific facts, therefore I think 
Buddhism and science each have their own facts (generally recognized 
interpretations of events) and mixing them up is only creating 
unnecessary confusion.
In Buddhism there is for instance a conviction that there is no 
beginning of the world, while in science there is (some scientists are 
reconsidering this). The reasons for the Buddha are philosophical: time 
is without beginning and time needs space and space is a world. Science 
creates facts by measurements and calculations and comes up with a date 
for the beginning of the universe, but this is a whole different ball game.
I think that one of the positive sides of post-modernism is that we can 
accept that there is more than one discourse going on, that we live in a 
world which is scientific as well as religious, metaphysical, artistic 
and so one.


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