Zen: Don’t Think Good or Evil

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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.

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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.

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.

Skepticism: Freedom itself.

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I have just finished reading this article by Anne Druyan at the Skeptical Inquirer website. I find often philosophically I am a Stoic, but Skepticism is what I often need large doses of. The tools of skepticism, especially questioning authority, are the basis of freedom. And freedom dictates we abandon anthropic religions and accept being part of something larger than any religious author or motivational speaker could ever conceive to charge you for. Larger than humanity will ever conceive. Freedom itself.

Ann’s memorial to Carl