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Buddhists Have No Souls

Gone, gone, gone beyond. So what went?

by
Charlie Martin

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July 28, 2013 - 5:00 pm
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Yes, I’m serious. Buddhists have no souls. Or permanent ones at least. That’s really what Buddha taught.

Okay, end of column.

Ven_lama_Tharchin_rinpoche

Well, no.

Let’s talk about souls first. What is this “soul” thing we’re talking about? The ever-convenient Mac built-in dictionary says the soul is “the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal.”

The common conception of the soul in the West is the immortal part of us, the thing that goes to Heaven — or doesn’t — when we die. There’s a whole lot of Western Christian philosophy about the soul that I’m not going to try to go into in depth, but certainly that’s the basic idea: an eternal, undying part that just “wears” the body, like clothes that it takes off and leaves behind. There’s a living, breathing entity there that’s “alive,” and then the breath stops and something is gone.

In fact, the Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, and Chinese words that correspond to “soul” all have roots in “breath.” (I just looked up the etymology of “soul,” which is of Germanic origin, and it turns out to be pretty much perfectly obscure; it appears that early missionaries into Northern Europe picked it up to translate the Greek word psyche.)

In any case, the Sanskrit word is atman, and one of the Buddha’s basic teachings was the doctrine of an-atman (an- being a negative), or in other words, the doctrine of the non-existence of a permanent soul.

This was a radical revision of the Hindu idea that appears in, for example, the Bhagavad-Gita, where Krishna tells Arjuna, “Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” (That’s from Prabhupada’s translation, the one the Hare Krishnas used to sell in airports. Another thing we lost after 9/11.)

Basically, what Buddha was pointing out was that anything that was “us,” was our “identity”, was inherently changing from day to day, instant to instant, and so necessarily couldn’t be “eternal.” So there is no permanent Self, no soul, no spirit that exists forever.

This is probably the thing that is least understood in Buddhism, and this time I don’t mean in the West; I mean everyone. That illusion of Self is persistent and very very stubborn, because it’s a necessary illusion in day-to-day life — if there’s no Self and no others, then who’s going to write the columns? Who’s going to cash the checks?

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Lack of a permanent self is a prominent conclusion of David Hume's extremely skeptical philosophy as well. It's one of the bleaker aspects of Buddhism and other Eastern religions, not to mention materialist and atheistic dogmas here in the West.

Of course, adherents to these philosophies and religions tend to prefer not to follow them to their logical conclusions, such as: lack of self and soul means having no real rights whatsoever. The truths our founding fathers stated to be "self-evident" about being endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness are actually lies based on the delusions of temporary electrochemical breakaways from nature's collective whole. That's why the East and, for that matter, our own Pagan ancestors never produced anything like our Constitution and Bill of Rights. In ancient times, every last idea promoted in those documents would have been laughed out of the forums and possibly punished with death.

Indirectly, it's also the reason why science and the scientific method initially never quite caught on anywhere but Christendom; Aristotle had pioneered an early form of it and Islamic cultures had embraced his writings as the words of the Philosopher with a capital P, but David Hume's philosophy is highly skeptical of cause and effect, as is the cyclical thinking of Buddhism and all those ancient Pagan ancestors. Islam, for its part, made a false start on science, ultimately concluding that nature's causes and effects were the inscrutable mysteries of Allah.

Atheists like to think of our savage ancestors as merely unenlightened and of modern (and post-modern) skepticism as some kind of evolutionary culmination of human philosophy, but the fact is that such skepticism is actually a regression to our ancestors' cyclical way of thinking, in which all achievements (culminations) are merely temporary and therefore all striving for achievement is in vain. That's why skepticism and Buddhism get along so very well: the former takes its adherents right back to where the philosophies of the latter have always been.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (53)
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I gotta say: Buddhism's eightfold path includes some very valuable, very wise basic human psychology.

Where the metaphysics are concerned, however, my ongoing impression is that Siddhārtha Gautama was pretty much just bouncing a graviton particle beam off the main deflector dish.

Hence the past-life stories coupled with the vagueness of whether there could be such a thing as past lives.

But then I'd argue that apart from divine revelation from an active and intentional (that is, a capable-of-having-intentions-and-acting-on-them) divinity, one has no option of speaking informedly about such matters. Natural observation can provide some conclusions about God, but not immunity to error when drawing the conclusions; and thus not certainty; moreover, some aspects of God could not possibly become known except through revelation. Siddhārtha Gautama either lacked that revelation, or what revelation he had did not include information about such matters. So when asked, he got a Tribble and some chewing gum, sealed the warp-core breach, and moved on.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If I have lived before, I don't remember it. And don't think I want to. In Bull Durham, Kevin Costner complained, people who believe in reincarnation are always someone famous; no one ever says they were Joe Schmoe. But of course lots of people say they were Joe Schmoe in a past life. Or Jane Schmoe. So it occurred to me; no one ever says they were Benedict Arnold in a past life. Or Jack the Ripper. And I bet no one will ever say they were once Bill Buckner either.

But one day someone might say they were Adolf Hitler in a past life. Look at how Oliver Stone, for instance, has been making excuses for Hitler as a misunderstood, great socialist. Because as far as I know, all Zens are socialists (i have no idea if Stone is a Zen). Or most are. And Zen is the most popular religion amoung the left. Besides Islam.

But something else strikes me. In the book What God Wants, author Neal Donald Walsch (who also wrote the Conversations With God books. and may, or may not be a Zen) reveals, God wants nothing from us. Absolutely nothing. Everything is cool with God. So, there is no reason why we can not be promiscuous hedonists. Join the orgy. And share the wealth. And get the Jews out of Israel because they stole the land from the Palestinians. Imagine! God wants nothing. Nothing to live or die for. No more religion, or war. No more wealth, or Israel.

So Zen is what I call "oneness theory." Because Zen says, ultimately, we are all one. Whose political expression is usually socialism. So there is no reason, again, not to join the orgy and have some fun. And spread the wealth (even though money is evil). And get the Jews out of Israel. Because children, there are no ultimate consequences. God is cool. Because God Wants Nothing.

What's more, lately Zen has been inbreeding. Though it is possible this one is not new. But, not only have we been both sexes in past lives (not that there's anything wrong with that. and there's not, i think), we could have been the wife of our current father too! Yes, in past lives you may have banged your father, or sister, or cousin, or mother. Now there's a sexy idea, isn't there? (no offense to my family. especially my dad. or yours)

And that's why I think of Zen as oneness theory. And as inbreeding. Like socialism itself (which never temped me). Not to mention Hinduism, and Islam. So while I once was more intrigued by the idea of reincarnation (at least in this life), I don't like what the rest of it seems to imply. Or says directly.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And I realize, I didn't get into the question of soul, or identity. But if there is none, it seems to me, one should not use the word "I". I happen to know, for instance, there are primitive tribes who have no word for "I". They only say "we", for "I". Or "they", and so forth. That is where Ayn Rand got the idea for Anthem. It's about a socialist America where there is no word "I". Even using the word once is punishable by death. So, if we want to be fully Zen, there is no such thing as "we" either, is there? If I do not exist, we do not exist either.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
One more. I can't source this right now. And I don't know who to link. But I read once, the real Buddha was a greedy warlord. A real bastard. Just like the Dalai Lama. Yes. That happy, smiling. bald guy. He ruled Tibet with an iron fist. So let's hope he never gets back into power.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It also doesn't help that the Dalai Lama actually referred to himself as a Marxist. Yes, he actually did say that. Look here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304186404576389523194617398.html
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
No one knows enough about Siddhartha to say that -- they can't even place exactly when he was born.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You forgot to credit XKCD for the cartoon (xkcd.com), although everyone should recognize that source by now.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Buddha's teachings as vast and complex as they may seem, have just one purpose and that is to recognize Intrinsic Awareness. Studying the teachings, contemplating them and then meditating so that the mind can experience its nature are essential. And what remains is Awareness, because that is what we really are, and that has no beginning or end.

It is always helpful to study the original texts:

From Samantabhadra:

Everything - appearance and existence, samsara and nirvana -
Has a single Ground, yet two paths and two fruitions,
And magically displays as Awareness or unawareness.

The Ground of all is uncompounded,
And the self-arising Great Expanse, beyond expression,
Has neither the name "samsara" nor "nirvana."
Realizing just this, you are a Buddha;
Not realizing this, you are a being wandering in samsara.


From the Surangama Sutra:

At that time, Ananda and the rest of the great assembly, having received the subtle and wondrous instruction given by the Buddha, the Thus-Come One, felt that their bodies and minds were emptied and hardly seemed to exist. They were free of all concerns and impediments. All in the assembly became aware that their minds pervaded the ten directions and that they could see everything throughout space in all ten directions as clearly as one might see an object such as a leaf in the palm of one's hand. They saw that all things in all worlds are the wondrous, fundamental, enlightened, luminous mind that understands, and that this mind, pure, all-pervading, and perfect, contains the entire universe. They looked back upon their own bodies born of their parents and saw them to be like minute particles of dust drifting about everywhere in the air, arising and perishing, or like solitary bubbles floating on vast, calm seas, appearing and then vanishing without a trace. They fully understood that the fundamental, wondrous mind is everlasting and does not perish.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Nice quote, thanks!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It may help to first wrap one's head around the concept of maya and the fact that, to the Buddhist, all existence is maya or illusion. Time does not exist. All else follows. Be here now.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
No offense, I think you interpret it wrong, seriously. Most things I read is people analyzing, theorizing through the Western Judeo Christian lenses.

>>> So there is no permanent Self, no soul, no spirit that exists forever.

That does not mean the Buddhist teaching says ‘we’ do not have souls. Just that, it is not in a permanent FIXED state. Even upon/after your death. There is always "an afterwards" to continue to improving.

BTW, the chance of either you or I achieving the final cessation to become a Buddha is nil, so why worry about the final Parinirvana state? That is your Western mindset trying to analyze every detail.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Um, so so much for the doctrine of anatman?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yeah, it's the same flame. All fire is the same flame. Even in the Crab Nebula.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There's been a lot of theorizing that Buddhist philosophy equates to modern-day physics, particularly the quantum kind. I prefer to think of the soul as a quantum phenomenon of the universe (however physics might describe it) that doesn't disappear when our physical bodies die. And there is the fact that our genes get passed to the next generation (whether our own children, or the children of other relaitives), so that's one theory of the soul.

In any case, as I told my grandchildren: "You are the latest in a very long line of survivors. Keep it going."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thank you for this thoughtful commentary. Buddhism is too detached for me. The Eight-fold Path is a commendable way to live but I personally need a soul to feel I am not alone. Probably my Catholic upbringing but it is a comfort to me. Thanks for the comments on Hipster Buddhism, ask any hipster what the Four Noble Truths are for a blank stare.
Sally, your thoughts are soul are very sweet and appreciated.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well, if I can ever get to reviewing Brad Warner's book on a Zen understanding of God, I'll go through his notion -- which I largely agree with -- that by giving up a separate Soul you instead get the feeling of not *being* separate. But you'd hardly be alone even among Buddhists -- I defy anyone to really distinguish between the sort of Buddhist-on-the-street notion of reincarnation in China or Tibet and what we think of as a "soul".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I defy anyone to pop their soul out and show it to me.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"There. I have pacified your mind."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Lack of a permanent self is a prominent conclusion of David Hume's extremely skeptical philosophy as well. It's one of the bleaker aspects of Buddhism and other Eastern religions, not to mention materialist and atheistic dogmas here in the West.

Of course, adherents to these philosophies and religions tend to prefer not to follow them to their logical conclusions, such as: lack of self and soul means having no real rights whatsoever. The truths our founding fathers stated to be "self-evident" about being endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness are actually lies based on the delusions of temporary electrochemical breakaways from nature's collective whole. That's why the East and, for that matter, our own Pagan ancestors never produced anything like our Constitution and Bill of Rights. In ancient times, every last idea promoted in those documents would have been laughed out of the forums and possibly punished with death.

Indirectly, it's also the reason why science and the scientific method initially never quite caught on anywhere but Christendom; Aristotle had pioneered an early form of it and Islamic cultures had embraced his writings as the words of the Philosopher with a capital P, but David Hume's philosophy is highly skeptical of cause and effect, as is the cyclical thinking of Buddhism and all those ancient Pagan ancestors. Islam, for its part, made a false start on science, ultimately concluding that nature's causes and effects were the inscrutable mysteries of Allah.

Atheists like to think of our savage ancestors as merely unenlightened and of modern (and post-modern) skepticism as some kind of evolutionary culmination of human philosophy, but the fact is that such skepticism is actually a regression to our ancestors' cyclical way of thinking, in which all achievements (culminations) are merely temporary and therefore all striving for achievement is in vain. That's why skepticism and Buddhism get along so very well: the former takes its adherents right back to where the philosophies of the latter have always been.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Very nice post. I am no expert in Buddhism and appreciate Charlie Martin's articles to explain these topics to the rest of us.

Your post misses one point though. The inordinate contribution of the Jews to scientific advancement.

Many explanations for that have been put forth in the literature. From the social historical perspective it was Judaism which brought forth the idea of linear progressive view of history, guided by a creator with a mission for humanity, before the advent of the Christian religion from which it sprang.

I do not wish to denigrate the accomplishments and advances brought forth by western, Christian civilization. None of what we have achieved could have been without that.

As to the soul. I have always thought that each of us has one. We are here for a reason. The Hebrew 'neshama' is not only the immortal thing going to an afterlife, it is a word with much deeper meaning. It is here and now. Anyway not something for Internet comment post.

Shalom
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Many explanations for that have been put forth in the literature. From the social historical perspective it was Judaism which brought forth the idea of linear progressive view of history, guided by a creator with a mission for humanity, before the advent of the Christian religion from which it sprang."

The Jews were not allowed to own property, and so had to live by their wits. So, they used them.

As for Judaism, well, maybe. Rather, it was the Greek philosophers, who did the deal on science. They were well on their way, when Christianity came along, and destroyed all hope of progress for a thousand years. Yay religion!

Luckily, there were some good Christians, who preserved the ancient philosophers, and the notion of a government of men, not Gods. Thus allowing the Italian city states to splt off from the Church, and form their own man made governments, based on the Greek model. That, and the recovery of the Epicurian texts, brought science back from the grave that Christianity had buried it in.

Science flourished then, because it was used to invent new weapons, which then every state had to have. The Popes could not stop science after that!

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Of course, adherents to these philosophies and religions tend to prefer not to follow them to their logical conclusions, such as: lack of self and soul means having no real rights whatsoever. The truths our founding fathers stated to be "self-evident" about being endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness are actually lies based on the delusions of temporary electrochemical breakaways from nature's collective whole. "

I don't disagree with you OR Charlie Martin. In your case, I agree wholeheartedly that a notion that we lack meaningful identity is absolutely a route to slavery laid out by those who don't buy the whole 'all is one' enchilada. It's happened before, it's happening now, it'll happen again. In its basest form it is called collectivism or communism.

On the other side, the personal side, we do not exist apart from anything. There is nothing in the Buddha's teaching that I'm aware of that has anything to do with politics or government. The point of view, if you will, is a personal one. We cannot live our lives separate from our actions, our actions cannot be separate from their consequences. We're 'players' whether we want to be or not. So wea make choices.

As any buddhist will tell you, words will not and cannot give you the whole picture. Actually, a Christian will tell you the same thing. Come to think of it, so will a parent.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Above to Riprake.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm with MftI: Rubbish. It's the same pernicious nonsense as the assertion that atheists and non-monotheists can't have morals. (The answer, of course, is that if you need a watching God to keep you from beating someone up and taking their money, you're a psychopath.) Buddhism makes a perfectly reasonable morals out of the desire to reduce suffering; Adam Smith, in the Theory of Moral Sentiments, did the same thing with the observation that we have a natural inborn empathy that lets us identify with someone (or something) else's pain. (This, by the way, is also confirmed now by neurophysiology.)

And frankly, the notion that the scientific method never caught on anywhere but Christendom is either a "no true Scotsman", or just ignorant.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's not that they can't have morals. It is by what would evaluate those morals as being correct or true?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Wishing only to "reduce suffering" becomes problematic when what an ordinary human would call simple "existence" is defined as a species of suffering. You'll pardon folks for having little time for such moralists, however reasonable their principles might be on paper.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And there's that word again, dammit. The actual Sanskrit word is "duhkha" and is better translated as "dissatisfaction" or "frustration". Buddha would say, however, that **ordinary** existence is full of duhkha; that's the first great truth. The third great truth is that there is a release from suffering.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I wouldn't consider spending a great kalpa (billions if not trillions of years) being scalded in an iron furnace in the Avici hell for slandering the Buddha Dharma as mere "dissatisfaction" or "frustration". I also wouldn't consider the tragedy of the holocaust, or the suffering of a cancer patient, or the suffering of animals waiting death at the local Pound as dissatisfaction.
Suffering is real and intense and tragic in this fallen world. Christ Jesus offers hope, and redemption, and salvation to those who call on His name.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As I say, the scientific method never caught on *initially* anywhere but Christendom. It spread far and wide after that, as any wildly successful idea tends to. You skipped a word there and misread me.

As to morality, assuming "social mores"are synonymous with morality, the problem is not that atheists and polytheists and pantheists and other odd non-monotheists can't have morals, but rather that they can make up all kinds of morality, and that it tends to be of a very malleable and transitory kind that changes in an instant to suit any short-term objective. This is very much in keeping with David Hume's ideas that morality ought to be determined by our "passions" i.e. our feelings, which are just as impermanent and change-prone as that flickering series of impressions he thought us all to have in place of any real self or soul.

Buddhism and Hume's literally soulless philosophies certainly would argue in favor of basing our morals on empathy, but empathy is merely another of our passions, and like all passions generally capricious and all too easily manipulated. You need only look to the "living Constitution" arguments of our courts and the media's manipulation of public sentiments to see where that kind of morality takes its adherents. Not too long ago, our self-proclaimed moral superiors' sympathies were all with the likes of Zimmerman, oppressed racial minority that he was considered to be. After he shot Trayvon in self defense, however, all sympathies were immediately to be shifted to Trayvon and any facts and reasoning that might interfere with this shift were swept aside in an ecstasy of contrived high moral dudgeon and outrage.

Incidentally, that's an awfully broad definition of "psychopath" you're using. I'm sure it would be most comforting to believe that every petty cruelty such as beating and robbing some poor schmuck the moment one escapes any social oversight can only be born of a psychopath's lack of empathy, but history's record of man's cruelty to his fellow man says otherwise. Many a slaver in the Old South who casually broke up slaves' families and tore screaming children from the arms of their weeping and wailing parents while whipping those uppity slaves as punishment for so rudely causing such a commotion had all manner of empathy and compassion for his own family when he got home from a day's work at the slave auction. We likewise have from a Nazi officer tasked with the extermination of Jews and other despised races a whole series of loving letters home to his wife and his little girl tenderly assuring them he was not at all being moderate in his killing of those Jewish vermin.

One certainly can generate some "perfectly reasonable morals out of the desire to reduce suffering" as you say. The trouble is, as Hume might point out, 'tis not unreasonable to prefer the destruction of all the world to the scratching of my finger. (Not often remembered is that immediately after that memorable statement, he also stated it would not be unreasonable to consign oneself to a horrible torturous death in order to bring the slightest iota of momentary comfort to some completely random total stranger in a far-off land such as the Amazon.) Our empathy can be, and is, awfully arbitrary and selective; and as such makes a sorry guide for morality.

My point stands. Absent a soul, your morality is merely an ever-shifting distinction between what you like and don't like, and your only "rights" are privileges temporarily granted you at the capricious whims of your fellow soulless people and their soulless organizations (especially government). The moment anything you say or do or *are* is thought to be the cause of someone's suffering by anyone in power, your "right" to say or do or be such a thing is eliminated so as to reduce the suffering of others. Such is the perfectly reasonable morality that once governed all the world and may soon do so again.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Riprake you're falling into a propaganda trap laid by movies like Roots, and the North. Were some slaves abused? Yes. Were families split up? Yes. However that was not the case all the time and everywhere. Slaves were a capital investment like a plow horse or tractor, they were EXPENSIVE. Would you further destroy your car because it broke down? How about a plow horse, would you maim it because it was being uncooperative? Most cases of abuse came from plantation foreman and managers not the actual owners. There are wanted ads that still exist that specifically look for managers/forman who did not drink nor resort to the whip. Thomas Jefferson was one such owner who published such ads. There also were many slave traders who refused to break up families, the infamous Nathan Bedford Forrest was one such trader as documented in his advertisements. Please use logic and business sense when assessing the stories about slavery, you'll come closer to the truth. It's like maintaining a car or other piece of equipment (because essentially that's what slaves were the equivilent of, farm equipment) treat it well and you'll get the most out of it, treat it poorly and you'll get less mileage/utility from it. Slavery is a horrible thing, and I say is because it still happens today. We've just decided to call it "human trafficing" so we don't knock the wind out of a certain group's sails.

Did you have people who were terribly cruel? Yes, and there are still people who enjoy abusing those that cannot fight back either because they are physically, financially, politically, or socially weaker. We still have the same horror stories of rape, abuse, and cruelty for cruelty's sake in our news today, it was just convienient propaganda along with the notion that the War of Sucession was fought over slavery to sugar coat the Federal boot that Lincoln put on the neck of the States.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Another thing that doesn't fit the narrative was indentured servents that were essentially slaves for the period of indenture which was several years. There were instances of rape and abuse to indentured servants too. Many slaves were able to buy their freedom in the same amount of time that Europeans spent in indentured servitude. Additionally there were 120 black slave owning familes in Charleston, SC at the time of the War of Succession, that's 120 familes in just one Southern city. There were also blacks that wanted to fight FOR the Confederacy but were not allowed just like in the North, in 1865 they were finally allowed to do so but the war ended before they saw combat. How does that fit that Roots narrative you've been fed?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Rubbish. Or the "no true Scotsman" fallacy. The Chinese were doing experimental science and recording it a thousand years before Roger Bacon and Galileo.

Psychopath: "A person with an antisocial personality disorder, manifested in aggressive, perverted, criminal, or amoral behavior without empathy or remorse." If you need a God to keep you from doing those things, instead of having your own reasons, you fit the definition.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Bible states that even "heathen" who have never heard the law or the gospel have an innate awareness of good and evil, however this light has been given to them by God, by the Word who "lightens every man who comes into this world". You do have a conscience, an awareness of right and wrong, and this awareness of an absolute moral standard was put into you by your Creator.
As to science, the Yellow Emperor was way ahead of anything Darwin ever had to say about the human body. Modern western science has brought us to the brink of extinction with Fukushima and Chernobal, and our modern western medicine has bankrupted our nation with over charged fraud with medicaid and a swelling, corrupt cancer and pharmaceutical industry where doctors "lay heavy burdens on widows (financially) and will not ease their burdens with one of their little fingers".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Touched a nerve there, eh? I'll concede the Chinese certainly did invent gunpowder and do some exploring in their time (though anthropology and sociology are generally considered "soft" sciences) but good luck finding out just who it was, exactly, who came up with gunpowder or other Chinese inventions. For that matter, depending on your definitions of "experimental science" one could claim our own pagan ancestors were doing some of that in their trial-and-error invention of new weapons and irrigation methods and beer, though they and the Chinese both lacked the "natural philosophy" we refer to as science nowadays. You invokers of the "no true Scotsman" fallacy tend to go to the other extreme, tumbling into what might be called the "everyone's a Scotsman" fallacy, by which you broaden your definitions of a term to the point of absurdity, rendering it effectively meaningless.

In fact, that definition you just gave for "psychopath" manifests the "everyone's a Scotsman" fallacy quite perfectly, as every part of it is so open to interpretation as to render every last person on the planet a psychopath. Children at a certain age are egoistic, meaning they are simply incapable of perceiving that anyone has a point of view different from their own; hence they have a total lack of empathy or remorse for any victims of their selfish behaviors. Of course, you and I have both been children, which by your absurd definition means that we've both been psychopaths.

Oh, but it gets worse! You're guilty of *both* fallacies. You see, your definition states that if I need a God to keep me from doing aggressive, perverted, criminal, or amoral things (let us leave aside for the sake of argument how very broadly you and a great many others may define aggression, perversion, criminality, and amorality) rather than my "own reasons" for keeping from doing things, then I'm a psychopath. But suppose my "own reasons" for not abusing and murdering my fellow man are that I'm afraid of what my government, or my social circles, or even my dear old mother will do to me? I must not be a psychopath, since for my "own reasons" (fear of man rather than of God) I don't engage in heartless cruelty to others. Obviously, a guy who'd greatly enjoy raping and torturing a child to death but has never actually done so because he never could come up with a way to evade his society's punishments for this is No True Psychopath! Unless it was God's punishments he feared instead of society's...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think people in antiquity knew more than we think. What was Greek Fire? What's the Antikythera Mechanism? Stories suggest there were lots of clever clockworks in Alexandria. What about the lost and very subtle arts involved in making the Parthenon?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
No, but the point here is to inform. Ignorance leads to suffering. You make my point about no true scotsman though; the Chinese did not, in fact, have Roger Bacon to refer to for "natural philosophy". They none the less had experimental science, including publication of results. To claim that's not "science" is more ignorance.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Science!" You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means. To claim that anything involving experiments and publication of results is necessarily "science" is more ignorance. The pre-scientific Pagan cultures had trial-and-error experiments that occasionally produced inventions, and they did even occasionally record their results. To call that "science" would be to expand the word's meaning to the point of absurdity, however.

I've been reading up a bit on this alleged Chinese science of yours, and from what the sources had to say about it, it sounds a lot like another false start of the same kind the Muslims had, except that the Muslims actually got a lot further before the fatal flaws in their philosophies dragged them down. In the words of some of these sources (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_science_and_technology_in_China):

As Toby E. Huff notes, pre-modern Chinese science developed precariously without solid scientific theory, while there was a lacking of consistent systemic treatment in comparison to contemporaneous European works such as the Concordance and Discordant Canons by Gratian of Bologna (fl. 12th century). This drawback to Chinese science was lamented even by the mathematician Yang Hui (1238–1298), who criticized earlier mathematicians such as Li Chunfeng (602–670) who were content with using methods without working out their theoretical origins or principle, stating:

The men of old changed the name of their methods from problem to problem, so that as no specific explanation was given, there is no way of telling their theoretical origin or basis.

Might explain why the same stargazers who noticed the Moon was spherical somehow failed to posit a likewise spherical Earth until the early 17th century, yes?

Ignorance does indeed lead to suffering; if we accept your fallacious definition of experimental science, our culture shall suffer an even greater loss than the Muslims and Chinese did, for their mysticism and magical thinking smothered their potentially scientific endeavors before they could really get going, whereas our science being choked out by your fallacious philosophy is fully developed. Your absurdly broad definition would make acupuncture, alchemy, feng shui, and all kinds of "experiments" in occultism and sorcery out to be science, so long as their practitioners recorded their results!

How nicely you've made my point about the "everyone's a Scotsman" fallacy here. I guess we must *all* be true scientists... because "science" can be anything.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You forgot to quote the next couple of grafs from Wikipedia. You also are making the assertion that *because* scientific advances stagnated in China and North Africa, and haven't here, it proves Western science is "real" science.

You neglect the possibility that Western science just hasn't stagnated *yet*.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
cool comments. thanks.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Rubbish.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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