Zen: Don’t Think Good or Evil

zen4

If you think good and evil,

You become a person of good and evil.

I recently chanced upon a book sale and was able to purchase a book of Zen koans and a book of Haiku poetry for a fair price.  I had read about Zen in the past, but I had not read actual works by Zen masters.

zeninspirations

I have completed reading Zen Inspirations: Essential Meditations and Text, by Dr. Miram Levering for the first time.  It includes the complete text of The Gateless Gate a thirteenth century collection of koans, commentary and poetry by Ekai, known as Mumon.  The book also includes The Ten Ox-herding Pictures accompanied by ten poems by the twelfth century Chinese monk K’uo-an Shih-yuan It is definitely not something you read only once.  I enjoyed the Zen masters’ admonitions to read the koan and permit yourself to solve it quickly and without hesitation to discover the enlightenment that comes from honesty.  As I read the koans, I let myself be honest about my inner response and the wisdom of the Zen masters became increasingly amusing.  I think I came to be enlightened many times by their frank honesty about the human condition, the Buddha and the Tao.  I think one admonition by Zen master Mumon, that if you encounter someone filled with the Tao, strike him in the face with all the strength you have, sums up what I have learned.

The Zen koans and Taoism I find agree with the philosophy of science, the philosophy of Karl Popper, skepticism, the evolutionary biology of Charles Darwin, the physics of Werner Heisenberg and the mathematics of Kurt Goedel seamlessly.  Uncertainty remains the only certainty.

There is origin without origin, direction without direction, destination without destination.  Any sense of order is localized and transient.  That is the Tao Te and not the Tao Te, and that is what the adherents to Zen struggle with daily.

I don’t claim understanding or overstanding of this paradox.

Advertisements

Philosophy: Kitsch

After expressing my opinion in the last post, it was interesting to reflect on this novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera.

In the novel, this Czech veteran of Communist oppression talks about what he calls, “kitsch”

Kitsch has its source in the categorical agreement with being.

But what is the basis of being? God? Mankind? Struggle? Love? Man? Woman?

Since opinions vary, there are various kitsches: Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Communist, Fascist, democratic, feminist, European, American, national, international.

Since the days of the French Revolution, one half of Europe has been referred to as the left, and the other half as the right. Yet to define one or the other by means of the theoretical principles it professes is all but impossible. And no wonder: political movements rest not so much on rational attitudes as on the fantasies, images, words, and archetypes that come together to make up this or that political kitsch.

The fantasy of the Grand March that Franz was so intoxicated by is the political kitsch joining leftists of all times and tendencies. The Grand March is the splendid march on the road to brotherhood, equality, justice, happiness; it goes on and on, obstacles not withstanding, for obstacles there must be if the march is to be the Grand March.

The dictatorship of the proletariat or democracy? Rejection of the consumer society or demands for increased productivity? The guillotine or an end to the death penalty? It is all beside the point. What makes a leftist a leftist is not this or that theory but his ability to integrate any theory into the kitsch called the Grand March.

What we are facing now is the kitsch of Global Warming and the kitsch of Climate Change. One adopted by the leftist Grand March and one adopted by the rightists. The only real difference between the two is the vocabulary of the particular kitsch. The real issue, what is happening to the environment, is irrelevant to both sides. All that is important is which kitsch generates the greatest emotional appeal.

All religions are philosophies and science is also a philosophy. If we apply the Pareto principle to science only 20% of science uses valid hypothesis, oberservation, method, data, apparatus and events. 80% of science is suspect. And a bunch of priests of science will not persuade me that they are somehow superior morally or intellectually to me or anyone else. When I think about eugenics, lobotomies, unnecessary medical procedures, chemical, biological and nuclear toxins and weaponry, non-biodegradable waste and the plethora of other gifts of science, why can’t I say that scientists in the last century have done more damage to the planet than all of history’s religions combined?

So a bunch of climatologists are saying that science has destroyed the environment in less than a century? Big news. Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Maybe it is time for Scientists to wake the hell up to what they have created. Perhaps, like Prometheus, scientists should have their livers eaten every day. Because, it appears to me that there is no difference whether a person has many, one or zero gods, Mr. Dawkins. It’s just another vocabulary for another form of kitsch. What we need is a new level of consciousness, higher than the philosophy of science.

And that is how Milan concludes his novel. We have to recognize that everything natural has its own level of consciousness. Nothing living is a machina animata. Nothing dead is machina intertia. Man is not as Descartes claimed, “maître et propriétaire de la nature.” Nature is not a universe of unconscious machines over which humanity is master and proprietor. And that, science cannot accept.

Environment: Please, Give Me Better Evidence

I have been following the Global Warming/Climate Change debate for some time and I am frustrated. I am frustrated with the beating that science and free speech are taking.

I watched a TED.com presentation by Al Gore last night and I was deeply disappointed. I saw little science and reason, and a great deal of anecdotal evidence and emotional appeal. Sometimes I wondered what the examples even had to do with global warming.

I regard science as the best philosophy we have. Give me atheism, reason and logic over anything. However, like all philosophies, its adherents are human and subject to all of humanity’s frailties. We have humans who are trying to meet their physiological needs, their safety needs, their belonging needs, their esteem needs, their self-actualization needs and their transcendence needs as scientists. They have to pay their mortgage and 80% will surrender their ideals and objectivity to make that payment. The consequent cost in principle, human life, best practices, material, land and time are enormous.

Because of this human frailty, I am skeptical about every scientific claim. The latest “discovery” that makes the one minute daily news bite does not influence me, because I know there has most likely been an error in the hypothesis, observation, method, data, apparatus or events. I also know that a vested interest was paying for that research.

Another thing I am aware of is naturalist philosophy is as flawed as capitalist philosophy. Naturalists tend to spend their time promoting pastoral myth. Capitalists tend to spend their time promoting progress myth. Both have time and again proven themselves out to lunch. And scientists are in both camps.

In saying all of these things I have been accused of “slander” by both sides. And it has led me to the conclusion that I am attacking the correct problem. The problem isn’t Global Warming or Climate Change, the problem is bad science. Climatology is as complex as artificial intelligence and genetics, and the evidence that the climatologists on both sides provide is far from convincing. The samples are not global and the margin for error is too great.

So as a skeptic I say. “Please, give me better evidence” and less myth.