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How come there are no Buddhist scientists?

  1. Mar 30, 2009 #1
    WARNING: let's not turn this into a Science Vs. Religion thread, please; that gets tiring.

    Long story short: I've recently been trying to get into meditation for health reasons (anxiety problems, attention problems, insomnia) for which I've read it can help.

    In looking for a good book on meditation, I've stumbled upon many Buddhist writings and videos, etc.

    Anyway, inevitably during such pursuits one also stumbles upon mountains of media inciting one to join buddhism. Much of it claiming that Buddhism is the only religion that promotes empirical thinking, science, etc. (as does pretty much every other religion).

    here's where it gets spooky: I can't find a SINGLE notable buddhist physicist, mathematician, biologist, etc. I find this extremely strange!
    Every religion, from islam to hinduism to christianity to roman paganism has innumerable notable scientists within its community. What sets buddhism apart?

    Maybe I've searched wrong, but this bothered me so much that I've literally spent hours trying to find a single example, and have failed.

    In the past, I've read some of the words of the Buddha (or words and teachings ascribed directly to him), and much of it is indeed very enlightening, profound, and rational... more so than any other religious text I have read... so what's going on here, has Buddhism become so extremely dogmatic?
     
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  3. Mar 30, 2009 #2

    mgb_phys

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    If you count Shinto as Buddhist there are quite a few Japanese scientists.
    Other than that it's a fairly small religion limited to a couple of tiny under-developed countries.
     
  4. Mar 30, 2009 #3
    Currently, I have a really good book:
    "Wherever You Go There You Are" by Jon Kabat-Zinn
    One small extract:

    I also had some by the current Dalia Lama. He didn't said anything like that (dogmatic opinions) in those books just one thing I hated was he used concepts of rebirth few times.

    Another good book
    http://books.google.ca/books?id=-Su..._D33Us&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result
    http://www.amazon.ca/Miracle-Mindfulness-Thich-Nhat-Hanh/dp/0807012394


    chose wrong books?
    (When I choose books, I don't search "Buddhism" religious books but rather try to go for mindfulness, love, sympathy etc
     
  5. Mar 30, 2009 #4
    I don't know much about the different classifications of buddhism, but according to wiki, there are over 23 times as many buddhist as there are Jews. It's the 4th largest religion in the world.

    By buddhist I mean a person who follows any of whatever school of thought is classified as buddhism, just as a person who goes to church and believes Jesus to be his lord and savior would be considered a christian, regardless of how orthodox or unorthodox his views or the views of his church are.
     
  6. Mar 30, 2009 #5
    Yikes! Shinto and Buddhism have almost no point in common with each other. Here is some information on the tiny religion of Buddhism:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_by_country" [Broken]
    It's not completely sure that when a scientist is from a 'Christian' country that the scientist is a Christian. Nor is there an absolute meaning to the statement that this or that individual is a Christian. The same goes for Buddhists or any other grouping of people. What's more, people from the PRC who are Buddhist may be reluctant to admit it in public even if they are scientists. I wonder then about Yang Chenning who won the Nobel Prize in Physics and is the Yang in Yang-Mills theory. Is/was he a Buddhist?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  7. Mar 30, 2009 #6

    mgb_phys

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    Interesting - I thought shinto was a Japanese sect of Bhuddism. It looks like they might be a unique case of two religions growing closer together!

    That was the point I was going to make. Are all Chinese scientists automatically bhuddist scientists because that's what the country would be if it wasn't officially athiest?

    I had forgotten about Taiwan and S. Korea - I was thinking of Nepal/Burma/Mongolia as bhuddist countries.
    There must be a few of Korean and Taiwanese scientists.
     
  8. Mar 30, 2009 #7
    I think you might be confusing Shinto with Zen ...




    @op:
    And, I think it's senseless
    1) to compare apples and oranges
    2) Choosing to believe in the incorrect knowledge and then blaming all the religion on the basis of that.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2009
  9. Mar 30, 2009 #8

    mgb_phys

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    Well according to the Wiki article Shinto and Buddhism were closely linked in Japan for 1200 years, until the 19C. But it was an honest mistake - I though Shinto had grown out of Buddhism.

    I meant that it was rather nice that Shinto and Buddhism should go "so we believe in pretty much the same things = lets be friends" rather than the "we dissagree about the translation of a single word in one verse of the same book = lets kill each other for 1000 years" which seems to characterize most religions.
     
  10. Mar 30, 2009 #9
    Sorry, I was talking about the OP:

     
  11. Mar 30, 2009 #10

    f95toli

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    AFAIK it is pretty common for people in Japan to consider themselves to be BOTH buddhists and Shintoist, the two are not mutually exclusive since Buddhism is mainly a philosophy (at least in Japan); there are eg. no Gods as such. I think this is true to some extent in other countries as well, e.g. Buddhism in India is strongly connected to Hinduism and many Buddhists elsewhere (in e.g. Thailand) believe in local Gods/spirits etc.

    Also, I think you confused Buddha and Confucius when you mentioned China above.
    AFAIK most people in China were Taoists before the revolution and many still use e.g. Taoist burial traditions (nowadays the Communist regime is more tolerant), and the "main" philosopher is still Confucius -not Buddha.
     
  12. Mar 30, 2009 #11

    mgb_phys

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    Don't Hindus claim Bhudda is an incarnation of Vishnu? Presumably an attempt to bring the new sect 'onside'.

    Does Taoism count as a religion? Actually does Bhuddism for that matter (you would have thought a God was pretty much a necessary requirement!)
    The point was mainly about making up numbers for a religion by just saying eg. 1billion Chinese count as X.

    To answer the OP, it's fair to say that countries in which Bhuddism is common haven't exactly been at the forefront of economic and technical growth for most of the 19+20C - but a few of them are in a very good position for the 21C.
     
  13. Mar 30, 2009 #12
    I asked my wife about this and she said that if a Chinese claimed to have any religion at all, it would be Buddhism 80% of the time. I asked her about Confucianism and she said that no Chinese would consider it a religion. Confucius is honored as a philosopher like Socrates. I pointed out that there are Confucian temples but no Socratic temples. She said notwithstanding, Confucianism is not a religion. Further that this I did not dig.

    As for the situation in Japan, Shinto is a locally grown religion based, I believe, on ancestor worship. I can't say how much it has been influenced by Buddhism, but it has remained a separate religion. There are Shinto shrines and Buddist temples and these are separate. The Japanese don't seem to attach themselves to any particular religion. There's a saying that I can't find just now about how they are Shinto for births, Buddhist for deaths, and Christian for marriages. Or something like that.
     
  14. Mar 30, 2009 #13

    epenguin

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    It underlays the culture of most of East Asia! It is a philosophy with a kind of compatibility and nonconflict with other beliefs, recognising their 'spirituality', hence the confusion made with Shintoism and Confucianism - many of its teachings would be recognised and accepted by many Hindus even.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2009
  15. Mar 30, 2009 #14

    f95toli

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    But Taoism is not the same thing as Confucianism, the latter is a philosophy but one that used to dominate China and -as far as I understand- most Taoists (and followers of other religions as well) used to follow which is why the two are interlinked.
    Taoism is most definitely a religion, although it too has strong links to Buddhism.

    I think it safe to say that the kind of sharp divisons (real or imaginary) that exists between different religions in the West simply do not exist in the Far East; e.g religious conflicts seem to have been almost non-existent there until quite recently.
     
  16. Mar 30, 2009 #15
    I'm speaking about any individual who would consider himself a member of that religion, and practice its customs and follow its beliefs to any degree. There are many non-asian buddhists too.
    So for example, A scientist from texas isn't necessarily a Christian scientist, but a scientist from Iraq who reads the bible, prays to Jesus, and celebrates christmas is.

    I know definitions can get a bit murky with some individuals (was Einstein Jewish?), but there are always cases that are not: Mendel, Newton, etc.

    **
    **

    The reason I found this odd, is because Buddhism is the only religion that I know of for which its very founder and original scripture instructs the follower against blind faith and dogma: the Buddha essentially tells people not to blindly follow any "wise man", for they might be wrong, even he himself, but to look for themselves and consider the teachings of wise men for themselves, and only then hold something as true (from what I understand, the degree to which this is taken as such varies between more dogmatic sects and less dogmatic sects, but the meaning is clear if you... well, read the passages for yourself).
    You would think that this sort of philosophy would be a breeding-ground for scientifically minded people.

    One thought that occured to me while reading this book on meditation:
    http://www.urbandharma.org/pdf/mindfulness_in_plain_english.pdf" [Broken]
    was that if one really lived that in the moment, one really would have no desire for deep scientific inquiry. I think I would lose all desire for such pursuits if I were to become as mindful, as they call it, as these monks... scientific studies inevitably involve desire and not being satisfied with letting things just be as they are... this is what leads to and obsession with wanting to understand things and being able fix problems.

    There is also the possibility that such Buddhist scientists would simply not feel the need to "flaunt" their beliefs, as do scientists from other religions for which there are altercations between fundamentalists and science constantly-- and so christian or muslim scientists may feel a need to defend their beliefs. Since there is no such altercations between buddhists and science, it may simply be a non-issue.

    Those are the only two explanations I can think of for the seeming lack of buddhist scientists, and they're not particularly good.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  17. Mar 30, 2009 #16

    alxm

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    Then there's Cao Dai which mixes Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism with some Catholicism, Islam and a helping of good old Animism. They venerate Joan of Arc, Victor Hugo and Sun Yat-sen as saints.

    It has over 2 million adherents!
     
  18. Mar 30, 2009 #17

    mgb_phys

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    Interesting - yes I can see it's attractions for scientists.

    I think the reasons for the demographics of scientists are more historical than philosophical - with a little bit of statistical bias.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2009
  19. Mar 30, 2009 #18
    yea, this accounts for technological advances, but at the same time, there are plenty notable mathematicians and physicists and doctors from India, for example, all throughout the 20th century.

    hm, this might be it.
     
  20. Mar 30, 2009 #19

    mgb_phys

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    I don't know how accessible education and universities were to Bhuddists in India in the past.
    The official position is now that India welcomes Bhuddists and the Dalai Llama - although that might be for political reasons with China
     
  21. Mar 30, 2009 #20
    mybe western culture is more concerned with individualism too?
    for example, one knows the development of algebra and other mathematics in eastern culture, and also of the development of gunpowder and other technologies, but there are no individuals tied to this. western culture is very much interested in the achievements of individuals over the achievements of a community.
    ... but then again, there are plenty well known eastern philosophers. I dunno.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2009
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