231st Meeting - Tuesday, December 17th  2002


The Use of Science in Contemporary Western Buddhist Apologetics

A talk by Dr. Geoffrey Redmond M.D.


Minutes of the meeting are not available. This introduction to the talk is taken from a paper Dr. Redmond presented at the XIIth Conference of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, Bangkok: 8-13 December 2002.

Buddhism, like other religions, must now respond to challenges presented by science which had little precedent during its initial 2,500 years. New rhetorical strategies have been employed in what might be termed "science apologetics."

For most of religious history, accounts of miracles added to credibility but now in the context of science, miracles or claims of special powers detract from plausibility, at least for the educated, affluent and cosmopolitan elites, for whom science apologetics are generally intended.
At least eight forms of Buddhist science apologetics can be discerned and will be critically analyzed in the presentation.

 

1.      Demythologizing

2.      Psychologization

3.      Presentation of meditation, and by extension Buddhism, as a form of stress reduction or psychotherapy.

4.      Presentation of Buddhism as a "scientific religion" which follows scientific methodology.

5.      "Physics mysticism" which claims that ancient Eastern mysticism, particularly Buddhism has anticipated the discoveries of modern physics. This includes the widespread misinterpretation of quantum physics as showing that subatomic particles are influenced by human consciousness.  Holography and non-locality in physics have been compared to the interpenetration metaphor of the Net of Indra of Fazang and the Avatamsaka Sutra.

6.      Dialogue between scientists and Buddhist leaders such as the Dalai Lama

7.      Presentation of supposedly scientific evidence for Buddhist doctrines. Rebirth is a common instance.

8.      Scientific experiments which are intended to support the effectiveness of Buddhist practice. The paradox of explaining a spiritual practice in material terms is unnoticed.

An effective apologetic must recognize that religion and science give answers in distinct areas of human concern rather than pretend that they are the same.

Dr. Redmond's CV
Present Appointments       
President, Center for Health Research, Inc.
Director, Hormone Center of New York
Education

1964 Cornell University B.A.  
1965 University of Virginia  (English literature) M.A.
1965-1967 Columbia University - Premedical Courses
1971 Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons M.D.
Post-Doctoral Training
1971-1972 Pediatric Intern
1972-1973 Pediatric Resident
Both of the above at Babies' Hospital, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York City
1974-1976 Postdoctoral Fellow (Pediatric Endocrinology), Columbia University
1976-1977 Postdoctoral Fellow (Basic Reproductive Endocrinology), Rockefeller University                 
Prior Appointments
1990-2000: Director, Center for Health Studies, Inc (Independent clinical research center)
1990-2000: Private practice with staff privileges at Mt Sinai, Hillcrest and South Pointe Hospitals
Academic
1982-1990: Head, Section Pediatric and Adolescent Endocrinology,  Cleveland Clinic Foundation
1977-1982: Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and Pediatrics, University of Vermont July 1975-1977: Associate in Clinical Pediatrics, Columbia University College of Physicians
1973-1975: Assistant in Clinical Pediatrics, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons