Uniting Contemplative Theory and Scientific Investigation

Not two, not one, modified 1 Year ago at 4/11/23 2:47 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 4/11/23 2:47 PM

Uniting Contemplative Theory and Scientific Investigation

Posts: 1038 Join Date: 7/13/17 Recent Posts
Hi there, readers of DhO might be interested this article, just published in Mindfulness journal. The best part is that it is free to access at the link below!


The article explains core Buddhist doctrine in modern scientific terms, uses the explanation to develop a functionalist model of the mind (or indeed of any autonomous entity), and then applies the model to generate testable neurobiological hypotheses about how jhanas develop. 

DhO readers might also find the work useful for the description of Dependent Origination, or indeed for help with Stage 9 of Anapansati - Experiencing the Mind.

Jim Smith, modified 1 Year ago at 4/11/23 8:41 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 4/11/23 7:11 PM

RE: Uniting Contemplative Theory and Scientific Investigation

Posts: 1738 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
I am not against this kind of research, it can provide useful information for meditators and psychologists, and eventually it will have to lead to the correct understanding, but I think it is unfortunate that they have to operate under misguided assumptions that could influence their conclusions. And I don't mean to criticize their research only point out to readers that their conclusions might be adversely influenced by the limits our current scientific culture puts on possible conclusions. It is a subtle and insidious influence that pervades modern science that many people might not be aware of.

As mindfulness meditation and other contemplative traditions have become more widely practiced in western cultures, there are increasing reports of associated emergent phenomenology, that is, unusual subjective mental events with a spiritual, mystical, or energetic character that emerge from meditative practice

"Emergent phenomena" means "we can't explain subjective phenomena (such as why blue looks like blue, or happy feels happy) in materialist naturalistic terms so we use this term because if we suggest consciousness might be non-physical our research money will dry up and we will be ostracized from all scientific circles such as meetings, journals, and university employment." Nobel Prize winning physicist Brian Josephson understands this.

"The brain is a filter of consciousness" is a better explanation than "the brain produces consciousness", because the filter model explains more of the data. You can break a filter two ways, you can clog it and you can puncture it. And you can also remove the filter completely. Some brain injuries reduce function (clog the filter) some produce new abilities (puncture the filter - eg. acquired savant syndrome) and some remove the filter completely (NDEs).

By digging deeper into Buddhist doctrine, we hope to go further than prior work toward the goal of developing a functional model of mind consistent with modern science.
"Modern" science will never explain the mind as long as it rejects apriori the possibility that consciousness is non-physical. Some of the best scientists have understood this and formed their opinion from scientific evidence but few scientists are willing to discuss it today. I don't understand how they can consider restricting possible conclusions before they do the experiments to be "scientific". It is the opposite of scientific. It is dogmatic.

First, we propose some axioms to inform interpretation of the Thin Model.

1. The model is materialist, in that descriptions are intended to be consistent with, or at least directly testable by, materialist approaches from the neurosciences and other empirical disciplines

A materialist model of the mind can only study the radio receiver (the brain) not the transmitter (consciousness). 

The quoted statement is also wrong. Science can test non-materialist theories using materialist technology. You can tell a radio receiver is not a transmitter if you have a correct theory of radio waves. Eventually neuroscientists will figure out that the brain is incapable of producing consciousness (an entity that can have subjective experiences)  but I don't think it is going to happen for a very long time. I linked to this above but nobel prize winners Max Planck, Erwin Schrödinger, Brian Josephson, Sir John Eccles, Eugene Wigner, George Wald and other great scientists and philosophers such as John von Neumann, Kurt Gödel, Wernher von Braun, Karl Popper, and Carl Jung believed consciousness is non-physical because of scientific evidence.

However, traditionally inclined Buddhist readers might note that our account does not rule out other forms of rebirth occurring at different levels of temporal aggregation of DO, particularly given that modern science and philosophy do not yet provide a complete account of the origin of perceptual data, causation, time, space, or consciousness.

They don't really know what it rules out because they have artificially constrained their model of consciousness to materialist explanations. When you put your mind in a straight jacket you can't rely on it to give you the correct solutions you apply it to.
Eudoxos , modified 1 Year ago at 5/11/23 4:13 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 5/11/23 4:13 AM

RE: Uniting Contemplative Theory and Scientific Investigation

Posts: 136 Join Date: 4/6/14 Recent Posts
Thank you; besides Ruben Laukkonen's study on nirodha samapatii, this is one fo the few research papers I recently enjoyed and found very much worth reading. They cast 5 agreggates, 6 senses and dependent origination into something which makes sense together. I am also glad that Leigh Brasington's work and MCTB2 are recognized as worthwhile sources.