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Perfect Knowledge in an Imperfect World

Posted Nov. 2, 2011 by Fallensoul in Open

commented on April 25, 2012
by Fallensoul

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41

Dr. Benford: You are probably familiar with what Western theology calls "the problem of evil": Why does evil exist?

Srila Prabhupada: Evil is the absence of good, just as darkness is the absence of sunlight. If you keep yourself always in the light, where is the question of darkness? God is all-good. So if you keep yourself always in God consciousness, then there is no evil.

Dr. Benford: But why was the world created with evil men?

Srila Prabhupada: Why was the police department created? Because there is a necessity. Similarly, some living entities want to enjoy this material world; therefore God creates it. He is just like a father who gives a separate room to his mischievous children to play in. Otherwise, the naughty boys would always disturb him.

Dr. Benford: This world, then, is something like a prison?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is' a prison. Therefore, there is suffering here. In the prison house you cannot expect comfort, because unless there is suffering, there is no lesson for the prisoners. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita duhkhalayam asasvatam: Duhkhalayam means "the place for suffering." And asasvatam means "temporary." You cannot make a compromise and say, "All right, I am suffering, but I don't care about that -- I shall remain here." You cannot remain here; you will be kicked out. Now you are thinking that you are an American, you are a great scientist, you are happy, you are getting a good salary.... That's all right, but you cannot stay in this post. The day will come when you will be kicked out. And you do not know whether you are going to be an American or a scientist or a cat or dog or demigod. You do not know.

Dr. Benford: I think that I will probably be nothing.

Srila Prabhupada: No, that is another kind of ignorance. Krsna explains in the Bhagavad-gita [2.12], dehino 'smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara / tatha dehantara-praptih: first you are in the body of a boy, then a young man, and in the future you will be in the body of an old man --

Dr. Benford: But after I'm an old man I might be nothing.

Srila Prabhupada: No, no. Tatha dehantara-praptih: after death you will pass into another body. So. you cannot say, "I am going to be nothing." Of course, you may say anything, , but the laws are different. You may know the law, or you may not know the law.' It doesn't matter -- the law will act. For example, if you think, "I will touch the fire -- it will not burn me," that is not a fact. It will burn. Similarly, you may think there is nothing after death, but it is not a fact.

Dr. Benford: Why does a person like me -- someone who's trying to understand the world rationally -- seem to find no way in which to do it?

Srila Prabhupada: You are trying to know things rationally, but you are not going to the proper teacher.

Dr. Benford: But I feel that by studying the world I can acquire knowledge, and there is a way to check that knowledge. You formulate hypotheses, you perform experiments, you verify your ideas, and then you see if you can use these ideas in the practical world.

Srila Prabhupada: That is one more kind of ignorance -- because you do not know that you are imperfect.

Dr. Benford: Oh, I know that I'm not perfect.

Srila Prabhupada: Then what is the use of your trying to study the world this way and that way? If you are imperfect, the result will be imperfect.

Dr. Benford: That's true.

  • 41 Comments  
  • Fallensoul Apr 25, 2012

    dustproduction: chimpanzees can develop themselves with similar consciousness that a 2 year old child has. Yet both cannot be held responsible for any acts that are "evil", because largely their consciousness is not that developed to understand the impact of their evil. They are not really responsible for the results of their actions. However more developed human beings being endowed with higher consciousness can understand the impact of their actions, good or evil and are therefore responsible for them.

    One can devolve in consciousness and reincarate into an animal body, which one could argue is a result of evil actions.

  • Anonymous Icon

    dustproduction Mar 18, 2012

    There is evidence that other animals are conscience. Can they act in an evil way? It was once thought so. Pigs and horses were punished and killed for being evil. What is the origins of evil? The devil, a fallen angel, is a creation of God.

  • Anonymous Icon

    dustproduction Mar 18, 2012

    Sam Harris: Not Being Indoctrinated

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxTc_bpW0FA

  • Fallensoul Mar 15, 2012

    ET phone home

  • Fallensoul Jan 27, 2012

    Hey ET. Thanks it was incredible!

    In order for science to grow and evolve it has to address the sticky issue of authority. This is the missing point. The current paradigm of simply empiric methods cannot even fill the water glass of reality 20%. This cannot be overemphasised. You may say im a rocket scientist theoretical physicist on the cutting edge of science with no teachers, but really what can we understand by our research methods? Even this one universe out of millions cannot be fathomed. So what use is the candle of modern science in the presence of the sun of transcendental knowledge? This is my point.

    Is important to clarify that filling the glass (gaining perfect knowledge) doesn't mean its now as full as the unlimited ocean. (perfect knowledge of the unlimited). We agree the full glass can never equal the unlimited ocean by definition. But we, as limited beings, have obtained full knowledge / perfect knowledge of reality according to our capacity. And that is sufficient to satisfy us.

    Now if "modern" science grows and evolves so that it learns the science of taking information from the unlimited then one has a hope to be able to fill the water glass. The limited has to take help from the unlimited. By his own efforts he cannot fill the glass. In order to gain an appreciation of this position, one has to go beyond the stickyness and become a spiritual scientist. Otherwise one will remain stuck in the deep dark well of scientism.

    "But, under my view and stated explicitly, or implicity, in all religions, there will come a point when physical incarnation is no longer necessary. well, when that's the case, science will have outlived it's usefulness."

    Ironic you say that, is modern science really useful in this regard? Has modern science given us a process to stop our material incarnations? Modern science can't even appreciate reincarnation, despite the significant amounts of evidence for it. So how will that point come about? How many of us scientists know and apply the real science of stopping our material reincarnations and where do we get such information?

    See The Science Authority thread for the answer to the second part of your post.

    p.s Will be less active due to more commitments this year but I'll try to maintain the threads I've started.

  • Anonymous Icon

    EthanT Jan 11, 2012

    Hi FS, Welcome Back ;-) Hope you had a good trip throughout the Himalayas!

    FS: "How can our limited science understand something unlimited, unless the unlimited provides information to the limited?"

    Well, it can't, right now. That was sorta my point that it will have to grow and evolve to begin addressing these issues.

    But, under my view and stated explicitly, or implicity, in all religions, there will come a point when physical incarnation is no longer necessary. well, when that's the case, science will have outlived it's usefulness. So, it will never addresss the "unlimited", which by definition, can never be fully explained, anyhow.

    However, we can still go a long ways towards bridging the gap between science and spirit, in the meantime. There is nothing truly inherent within science that disallows this. Only our curretly held biases do that.

    FS: "The scientific method based on our senses & experience or the perfect knowledge from the authority of God."

    The question of authority is a sticky issue. What authority? What perfect knowledge?

    I am under the impression that you would claim this comes from the Vedas. But, somebody who grew up within a Western culture may, with an equal amount of fervor, claim that the Bible is a manifestation of perfect knowledge based upon authority from God.

    And, who is to be judge?

    None of us are impartial, since we have all grown up under certain societal influences and within certian religious spheres of influence.

    In the end, all knowlege comes from God.

  • Fallensoul Jan 04, 2012

    Ethan T: "I personally think science will grow and evolve to where it will work out all these problems and become able to tackle the difficult problems of human experience and spiritual experience. But, as I stated above, it WILL be difficult."

    How can our limited science understand something unlimited, unless the unlimited provides information to the limited?


  • Fallensoul Jan 04, 2012

    Ethan T: "Science places most of its emphasis on experiment. Yoga places most of its emphasis on experience."

    Bhakti-yoga, the science of loving devotion places emphasis on knowledge obtained from God's scriptures as a priority and then on experience and then experiment. Quite the opposite that modern science chooses to prioritize. As one is materially conditioned both experience and experiment are too limited to be used as authoritative forms of knowledge. One has to take help from outside the box.

  • Fallensoul Jan 04, 2012

    Ethan T: "I should probably add that when you're on the cutting edge of science, there are no teachers. You've got to figure it out on your own, period. This is a daily experience for a theoretical physicist."

    And this is the problem that I'm trying to clarify. We say the scientific method has to expand to include experience and to test spiritual truths. But ultimately which is the higher authority? The scientific method based on our senses & experience or the perfect knowledge from the authority of God.

    "Science and spirituality are all part of a conscious evolution that is happening, and it's going to happen in it's own good time" Yes but thats dependent on the individual taking the effort to understand reality as far as possible. If one is not interested, no evolution of the consciousness will occur.

  • Fallensoul Jan 04, 2012

    Ethan T: "...So, there is a slippery slope that must be navigated when uniting science and spirituality. It will take a long time for the two to come together again, but it will happen."

    I agree with all that you have said in this post. Well said.

  • Fallensoul Jan 04, 2012

    Saoirse: "I see a couple of problems with that approach, FS. There is a reason that scientific "knowledge" changes over time. It's because we're constantly learning and reevaluating our ideas as new evidence comes in."

    Yes but how about the consideration that despite millions of years of constantly learning through our empiric methods, we still cannot fathom reality, because our sense perception is limited and will never be able to grasp reality outside of this limitation. We are like frogs in a well trying to understand the ocean. "Is it 2 times bigger than this well? 5 times bigger?" How can we really understand. So the solution offered here is that we have to gain knowledge from someone outside the limits of our sense perception. From, as we're saying, a perfect person, from God.

    "If one simply insists that one's knowledge is perfect as it is, and that no amount of evidence to the contrary will be considered, it's no longer knowledge, but stubbornly held faith. This is okay when it comes to religion, but I would hate to have a surgeon working on me if all he had was knowledge passed down to him from a teacher who practiced in the 19th century, and he refused to consider any medical advancements past that point because he believed that his teacher's knowledge was perfect and should not be changed by new evidence."

    Nice example. Consider a machine. The manufacturer of the machine provides information to us in a manual and by studying the manual one gains perfect knowledge of operating the machine, its intended purpose etc. One could try by empiric methods to try to understand the machine and gain knowledge in that way, but it will take a longer time through trial and error and one may not get to understand all the easter eggs of that machine. Yet if the manual is available, why waste time? One can neither claim that the manual being "as it is" is too rigid vs the changing knowledge of the trial and error method. The manual is superior and authoritative. It's the natural way of obtaining true knowledge of the machine. So the knowledge given by the manufacturer of the body is perfect and complete vs the 19th century surgeon who is following a teacher through trial and error.

    "Also, there seems to be some circular reasoning going on..."

    "One should accept information only if it comes from a perfect teacher."
    Yes.

    "How will you know which teacher is perfect?
    God is the original perfect teacher. Anyone presenting God's information and not his own idea is also a perfect teacher.

    "How will you know the information is perfect?
    You apply God's knowledge and see the result.

  • Fallensoul Jan 04, 2012

    In response to early comments off-topic:

    Saoirse: "What I find interesting here is that Dr. Benford claims to be coming from a skeptical, scientific point of view, but the very question he asks shows that he's not."

    Evil is a very real part of this material world and its natural for ANYONE to question its existence and purpose.

    "The question of why evil exists is only relevant if one assumes that the universe was created by a god or other intelligent being."
    Well theres very good reason to believe that this world IS created by an intelligent being. Its quite ridiculous to say it happened by chance or that there "appears to be design, it has all the elements of design, but actually its not design". You can comment further in the Life comes from Life Thread

    "If one believes this, then of course it's difficult to understand why a being who claims to be perfect and all-knowing, and had the ability to create a perfect universe would choose to create evil."
    A perfect world does exist, but this isnt it. The answer was given above. This is a prison, real freedom/perfect world is outside the prision. A prison is required for a certain class of people to help them and society. It is not that God created evil, but we created our own evil. We have the free will to decide to be a criminal or a good citizen. If we choose to be a criminal you get put in jail. That's not the judges or the government creating the evil situation. You did.

    "But if one doesn't make the assumption that the universe was deliberately created, then the question ceases to exist."
    If one closes one's eyes in front of a lion, does it mean the lion can't see him?

    "If you roll a set of dice, they're going to come up with more or less random outcomes"
    An intelligent person to required to roll the dice in the first place. Dice don't roll randomly by themselves, where is the proof that this extremely well organised world occurred by chance? On the contrary everything in our experience shows that behind the movement of matter is the movement of some conscious being. Is there any machine without a operator? Discuss this in the Life comes from Life thread.

    EthanT: "For example, the "life as a prisoner" analogy above, is one I've never been a fan of. The simple reason being that it is one of victimology. If you view yourself as a prisoner, you will be a prisoner."

    But the reality is that - like it or not - everyone is a victim. Everyone dies. No one is spared. This place is not ideal.

    Youngbear: God is all good all the time, but we being a part of god, having minute independence are not all good all the time, we are limited and therefore under material struggle, we experience evil, but God doesnt. This is why we are not one with God with respect to everything. There is a difference in quantity, we are minute individuals of the same spirit whole.


  • Anonymous Icon

    EthanT Nov 18, 2011

    Saoirse,

    I definitely agree with you that human perception and experience can be a very tricky thing to pin down and handle, especially in a scientific way. However, to me, that just mean it's a difficult problem, but not an impossible one

    For example, if human behavior, perception and experience were completely random and impossible to decipher, why even have the field of psychology in the first place? And, how would communication and any amount of understanding (or even sanity) be possible? We do, however, have all this because there are consistent modes and observations found commonly within human behavior.

    Perhaps even more so within true spiritual experience.

    I personally think science dismisses this latter area all too quickly.

    As another example, these two articles are an interesting read on ODEs/NDEs. I find it hard to claim that science has truly considered either phenomenon to the depth needed to determine if the experience is, or is not, real.

    http://iands.org/research/important-research-articles/69-out-of-body-experiences-all-in-the-brain.html

    http://noetic.org/library/publication-articles/mystical-impact-near-death-experiences/

    I think all this ties back to what really is faith/belief? I think Alan Watts sums it well:

    #1 "And the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging to belief, of holding on."

    #2 "In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe, becomes a person who has no faith at all."

    #3 "Faith is a state of openness or trust."

    #4 "But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be."

    I think the most fruitful religious belief, and faith, comes from one as described in #1, and avoids #2 altogether then.

    Science, in general, also currently falls victim to #1 and #2. It clings to its own materialistic worldview of the Universe and quickly dismisses anything that falls outside it. Well, it's no wonder phenomenon, such as ODEs/NDEs, are not given serious consideration. How can they be if you view the mind as a “machine”, which is the “belief” that science clings to. This view immediately precludes any reality to said phenomenon. And that “belief” is NOT based on evidence, but it IS based on bias!

    So, you really have to ask is science truly living up to #4 (as it should!) – following truth no matter where it might lie. Or, is it only the truth that falls within the currently held materialistic worldview? A worldview which limits what it is capable of addressing in the first place!

    I personally think science will grow and evolve to where it will work out all these problems and become able to tackle the difficult problems of human experience and spiritual experience. But, as I stated above, it WILL be difficult.

    Anyhow, that's my take on the matter ;-)

  • Saoirse Nov 17, 2011

    Maybe faith is the wrong word. What I'm getting at is belief in the absence of evidence. I think everyone in the world believes that his or her perception is reliable, so of course they believe in what they think they've experienced. The problem is, we've seen over and over that it just isn't reliable. When events are staged to test it, witnesses vary widely in their descriptions. They'll often even be unable to agree on the gender or race of the individual they saw. And then there are the change blindness studies where subjects are engaged in conversation with an individual when their view is blocked briefly and the individual leaves and is replaced by a completely different person, and the majority of subjects carry on the conversation without noticing. If asked if they noticed anything they will say that they noticed that someone moved right in between them and interrupted their conversation.

    Also, how an experience is perceived depends to some extent on the person's knowledge base. There are any number of perfectly normal brain functions, and common "glitches" that anyone with a background in medicine, biology, or psychology will recognize easily. So when they have the experience they know what it is. There's nothing mysterious about it. But for someone who doesn't have that background the same experience may be perceived as mysterious, eerie, or mystical, and they may end up attributing all sorts of significance to it. I couldn't begin to count the number of people I've heard describe perfectly common episodes of sleep paralysis as supernatural events, thinking they're the only ones to experience it. It often comes down to common logical fallacy of believing that "If I can't explain it, then no one else can either." In a lot of cases, just a little research online would provide the information, but having a supernatural experience makes a person feel unique and special, so most of them don't want it explained and get quite irate if anyone suggests that it's nothing unusual. All of that contributes to why anecdotal evidence isn't relied upon. I've had many of the same experiences I hear people talk about in paranormal forums -- but I don't call them paranormal because I have enough background in experimental psych to recognize most of the oddities of normal brain functioning. If you have four people reporting ghost attacks and six people reporting sleep paralysis episodes with hynogogic imagery, how many ghosts do you include in the count? It ends up leaving the data in a total muddle.

  • Anonymous Icon

    EthanT Nov 14, 2011

    I should probably mention too, that just because your teachers didn't actualy turn into werewolves and tear you apart, does not mean the dream does not have truth to it.

    It still says a lot about how you may have felt about your teachers in "real life" and therefore has much that is "psychologically true". By the way, I think I felt the same way, lol.

    Carl Jung used to say something along the lines that "All the myths are true when taken on the psychological level".

    And dreams are the stuff that myths (and life) are made of.

    God and all the heavens manifest through our consciosness and symbols are the fundamental language that expresses the experience.

    The werewolf "symbol" your unconscious mind chose in that dream conveys a lot about a "real life" experience.

  • Anonymous Icon

    EthanT Nov 14, 2011

    Actually, I’m a “rocket scientist” by profession. I only have a bachelor’s in physics with some graduate level work. My actual graduate degree is in another field. But, you’re right, physics is cool! I still do quite a bit of self-study in my spare time for fun! Never met Hawking, but did get to see him and Kip Thorne speak at Cal Tech ;-)

    Personally, I think making this an “evidence-based approach” vs “faith-based approach”, is to oversimplify things.

    First, what I was trying to illustrate below is that religion is not always just about faith. In the East, faith has, more or less, been a “stepping stone” on the path to experience. What do you need faith for, after gaining experience? To dismiss these experiences as “fallible human perceptions” I think is a bit premature. Tracing back the word religion, it means “to link back”. In other words, to link us back to the source – i.e. God. That’s all each religion is – a tool. Once it achieves its objective – linking you back to God – throw it out. What would you need it for?

    One common thing many NDE’ers or ODE’ers say is that the experience is “realer than real”. I believe this statement comes from the experience of an expanded awareness, or higher level of consciousness, not delusion. A simple example/analogy. Ever have a dream that seems really real, while you’re having it. Dreaming is a lower state of awareness than waking consciousness. It seems real, as you have it, but once you wake up, the sense of reality is gone. Being awake seems “realer” than dreaming. Lucid dreaming falls somewhere in the middle, because you are more aware during lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming, therefore, always feels more real than regular dreaming. Well, take NDEs a step higher than being awake. It feels “realer than real” because it is an expanded state of consciousness. When they end, you go back into the “dream” – what we call “real life” – which now doesn’t feel as real as the NDE experience.

    Now, for scientific evidence. I’ve been saying for some time now that this will be a problem for science. It is increasingly moving into realms that are harder and harder to verify with direct evidence. For example, String Theory. The extra compactified spatial dimensions within String Theory are allowed to be large enough to detect in the near future (already failed at the LHC), but they may also be on the size of the Planck scale, which means we may never be able to directly probe them and confirm their existence.

    Also, if String Theory is hard to empirically confirm with direct experiment, what will the next theory be like, that may operate at even higher energies? And, the one after that?

    So, it would seem some of the things science talks about, may also start lying in realms beyond the reach of our experimental probes. How does this stack up against religion, at that point?

  • frequencytuner Nov 13, 2011

    Knowledge is like having a saw and hammer, some wood and nails. Wisdom is knowing what to do with it all. Like Alchemy and Astrology, the foundation for all philosophy, science and religion - Knowledge is but one key.

  • Saoirse Nov 13, 2011

    Ethan, I didn't realize you were a physicist! Now I'M the one being jealous -- theoretical physics looks like the most fun field in existence!!

    I agree that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence -- but neither is it evidence of existence. There's a huge gap between "There's no evidence" and "Therefore we should accept it as real." We know that it's not logically possible to prove nonexistence. So, how do we decide whether something exists? The only logical way I can think of is to look for evidence of its existence. And if no evidence is found, I have two options -- I can stay with logic and accept that there is currently no reason to believe it exists, or I can decide that I'd be happier with a faith-based approach and choose to believe it it without evidence. But faith based approaches are not part of the scientific method, so science can't really say much about them.

    As far as proving that I love my family, I guess I'd need an operational definition of love. Otherwise, how would I begin to prove it? We do have evidence that humans have emotions and act on them, and that there are strong correlations between emotions and brain chemistry, and that we can alter human emotions by changing that chemistry. But I don't think I could make the leap that therefore anything I have a subjective experience of is objectively real. Human perceptions are so fallible. I definitely don't trust mine! I experience a lot of things in dreams that aren't real. Good thing, too! We'd all be in a world of trouble if all our nightmares were real! I know that I survived grade school more or less unscathed, despite recurring, vivid nightmares that my teachers were all werewolves that would tear me to pieces if they ever caught me alone. ;-)

    BTW, what areas of physics are you working in? Did you ever get to meet Hawking??

  • Ankur Nov 07, 2011

    Perfect. I think that science can't explain all the answers. Take for example that there are thousands of scientists each one of them is a performing a different experiment let's suppose on the human body, and still, they can't come to any conclusion. Now think about that supreme being, who has created all those body parts, and knows where to place which part. This is called perfection. I think you're absolutely correct. We humans will always be imperfect and ignorant

  • Anonymous Icon

    EthanT Nov 07, 2011

    There is another issue here that I think deserves mentioning.

    A common definition of empirical is (this one taken from dictionary.reference.com):

    (1) derived from, or guided by, experience OR experiment.

    Note the “Or”.

    Science places most of its emphasis on experiment.

    Yoga places most of its emphasis on experience.

    But, both, by definition, obtain empirical “evidence” of what they seek.

    If “God”, and “heaven”, and all the rest, are references to a higher reality based on consciousness, as I think they pretty much have to be, one way to access this realm is with our conscious minds. (psi would be a rudimentary form of this)

    If this can be objectively done, as Yoga claims it can be, there would be, by definition, a way to gain knowledge empirically, that science will lend very little credence to.

    Do you need science to prove to you that you love your family? No, you have direct experience of it.

    Does a bodhisattva need science to prove he has seen God? No, he has had direct experience of God.

    Something to think about.

  • Anonymous Icon

    EthanT Nov 07, 2011

    Hi Saorise,

    Arrogant may be too strong a word (I'll blame FS for using it first, lol)

    Although it is a small part of it, I don't think it is nearly as simple as the lack of empirical evidence.

    Let’s remember that absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence. When it comes to God, this seems to be conveniently forgotten. When it comes to an even simpler concept like psychic ability, it may even be worse than that.

    To see this, one only needs to follow the work done by IONS, who is just trying to prove the existence of PSI. Even though there is a nice amount of empirical evidence pointing to small, but significant, positive results, it isn't take very seriously. Try and go present this evidence in many scientific circles and you will be scoffed at.

    When I was getting my physics degree I used to ask about this stuff. I was told quite a few times that the idea of a God, or psychic ability, is laughable, at best.

    It is a prevalent idea within the scientific community that the idea of God (and any other idea along the same lines like PSI) is a delusional concept invented by primitive man to assuage a fear of dying.

    Per my usual rant, the real heart of the problem goes back to paradigms, not empirical evidence. Paradigms set up default biases within the individual holding them. If you're working under a materialistic paradigm it becomes hard to entertain any scientific work that deals with topics like psychic ability and most especially God. These ideas just don’t fit under that kind of worldview, and become taboo, at best.

    As another example, take Daryl Bem’s recent submission of his work on psychic ability to a respected psychology journal . If his work turns out to be valid (still in debate!) it will be empirical evidence of psychic ability. BUT, before his work was even refuted, or replicated, it was claimed that the paper should never have been allowed to print because it was “an embarrassment to the field”.

    However, things may be changing. I hear a few scientists starting to say we need to keep an open mind to some ideas, even when it comes to psychic ability. In fact, Michi Kaku was on a show called the Sixth Sense, where he himself said this.

  • Saoirse Nov 06, 2011

    You're right about needing more info on consciousness. There's a lot of it going on. I just heard about a study where they're making progress (albeit on a very basic level) into being able to "read" what people are dreaming about, which I think is pretty cool stuff. They've also found ways to consistently reproduce a lot of what people perceive as mystical experiences. We've learned that in a meditative state, the part of the brain that allows us to define the boundary between self and other is less active, generating a sensation of being "one with god or the universe." Most of it is small steps, but that's the way science works. I think that there's a common, media-fueled misconception that science happens in huge dramatic leaps, where a single study changes everything. That's how it works in the movies where you only have 2 hours to save the world. I guess that's why I enjoy ethology -- the study might not change the world, but the critters are still fun to watch!

    I wanted to go back to something you said earlier that I think is related -- the idea that scientists are too arrogant to acknowledge the existence of God. This doesn't make sense to me. It's not a question of acknowledging a proven fact, but a question of whether they share your religious beliefs. I don't really mean "your" to be personal. I just couldn't find another way to phrase it. Since there is no empirical evidence that any particular God exists, it's a question of faith. Even those who believe in gods can't come to any agreement on what those gods are like. I'm not knocking religion -- I have good reason to be fiercely protective of people's right to religious freedom. I'm just saying that I think it's lack of evidence, not arrogance, that prevents most scientists from believing in gods. We're kind of getting away from FS's original topic here, but he's not looking! We'll just get back on topic and try to look innocent when he gets back. ;-)

  • Anonymous Icon

    EthanT Nov 06, 2011

    I should probably emphasize that I am not saying, when a scientist gets a "warm fuzzy" feeling, he should use that as a data point, as if it consists of proof of anything.

    But, I am saying he should ask what is it that enables him to have a "warm fuzzy" (a subjective personal experience) in the first place!

  • Anonymous Icon

    EthanT Nov 06, 2011

    By the way I am jealous of both you guys - one for being in the Himalaya, and other other for getting to go see Michio Kaku! ;-)

  • Anonymous Icon

    EthanT Nov 06, 2011

    Saoirse,

    Although I do feel what you say on experience and science is valid up to an extent, here is why I don't ultimately agree ( I think!)

    What is the main "tool" that scientists use to gain scientific understanding? Consciousness!

    What is the thing scientists understand the least? Consciousness!

    And, the biggest mystery of consciousness that is understood the least is qualia - the existence of subjective experience and feeling. Also called the "hard problem" of consciousness.

    So, science will never be able to fully understand consciousness without the consideration of human experience. And, it would be rather odd for them to ignore they very thing they must use to have any scientific understanding, at least in my mind.

    Perhaps science is limited and can never access this realm, or have anything to say about it. I'm sure that's the case in its current form. But, I don't believe that is ultimately true. I think science can adapt and learn how to handle this very issue.

    Roger Penrose talks much about this and pretty much says the same thing - that science needs to evolve to explain consciousness. But, he does believe strongly that it can ultimately understand consciouness.

  • Fallensoul Nov 06, 2011

    ET,SOR: Fantastic responses! I agree with alot of what both are saying and also feel there's a way to reconcile the idea presented. The thing is that Im literally up in the himalayas and wont be down for a few days so please hold this thread! Take care.

  • Saoirse Nov 05, 2011

    I meant to add, Ethan, that we're totally in agreement on the cutting edge issue. Even Michio Kaku is -- so they tell me -- only human ;-) In a few months I'll be able to report back on that theory... someone bought me a ticket to one of his lectures as a gift! On the other hand, I suspect that my perception of the man compared to the perception of my (I say that affectionately!) friend who only vaguely remembers that she was forced to study science in grade school is a good example of why we don't rely on individual human perceptions in research.

  • Saoirse Nov 05, 2011

    I think the reason science doesn't place a high value on individual experiences as evidence is a sound one, though. Lots of things affect individual perception. In my town there is a man who has schizophrenia. His experiences seem to be pretty consistent. He talks regularly to the same nonexistent people. But that doesn't make the imaginary people real. Also, we know how transient and unreliable individual observation and memory are. Now that it's been demonstrated repeatedly in empirical settings, it's becoming an issue in legal fields, as well.

    One of the tasks that has to be done in advance of a real study is determining the reliability of the measure, i.e., making sure that what you're claiming to measure can actually be accurately measured. For example, I did reliability on a study involving the role of gaze direction in controlling conversational turn-taking. This required recording gaze shifts within a tenth of a second from videotaped sessions. So we first had to demonstrate that we could actually reliably detect gaze shifts at that level of accuracy. Otherwise whatever claims we made based on the data would be completely unsupported. So -- if a measure has repeatedly been found to be unreliable, what would be the value in relying on it?

  • Anonymous Icon

    EthanT Nov 05, 2011

    I should probably add that when you're on the cutting edge of science, there are no teachers. You've got to figure it out on your own, period. This is a daily experience for a theoretical physicist.

    The scientific method is designed to help you do just that.

    There is no “wise-man on the mountain” that is going to tell physicists how to solve the 120-order magnitude problem between the observed and calculated value of the cosmological constant!

    But, if they would just accept there might be some validity to the spiritual realm that the “wise man on the mountain” does know about, it sure would help expedite the speed at which science and spirituality could be united.

    BUT, people can only accept certain things in their own time. They really can't be rushed.

    Science and spirituality are all part of a conscious evolution that is happening, and it's going to happen in it's own good time

  • Anonymous Icon

    EthanT Nov 05, 2011

    Saoires makes some good points.

    And, overall I agree or appreciate what you're trying to say FS. Scientists are often too proud to even acknowledge the existence of God, let alone seek knowledge of any kind from that source.

    But, the problem is not that clear cut.

    The emphasis on "being scientific, on experimenting, testing, replicating -- making sure our conclusions are valid, rigorous" really is the best way to proceed with science. That's what science is. In addition, there is no reason this method cannot be applied to spiritual matters. Is not IONS attempting to do this? And they're definitely not the first. Guys like Rudolph Steiner and Gopi Krishna have been talking about this for a while.

    The problem is that the paradigm (or worldview) that folks work under limit the ways they attempt to use those methods. Mainstream science is operating under a materialistic/reductionist paradigm. IONS is not. Therefore, mainstream science is not finding ways to use the methods of science on spiritual matters, whereas IONS is. The scientific methods are very versatile, but they can be limited by who uses them.

    This is the whole point of Yoga too – as outlined very long ago in the Yoga Sutras. The experience of Yoga is consistently repeatable and verifiable, and can be rigorously tested by any individual for his own discovery. It may not take place in a lab setting with data pouring in on a computer, but it uses the same principles. However, the modern scientific mind is not comfortable using the scientific method in this way because of the paradigm they operate under.

    Science places no importance on experience due to the paradigm it operates under - no matter how consistently verifiable an experience is. Until they do so, it will never fully bridge the gap between itself and spirituality.

    In addition, objective reality can elude you just as easily from spiritual texts/doctrines, including the Vedas, as it can with Science and potentially even more so. Just reading something does not give you enlightenment. Understanding concepts doesn't mean you have experienced what the concepts are referencing. One of the first big steps on a spiritual journey is to realize just how far you have to go! Thinking you've achieved perfect knowledge just from having familiarity with a religious doctrine could be an even greater illusion than what science could ever put you under.

    So, there is a slippery slope that must be navigated when uniting science and spirituality. It will take a long time for the two to come together again, but it will happen.

  • Saoirse Nov 05, 2011

    I see a couple of problems with that approach, FS. There is a reason that scientific "knowledge" changes over time. It's because we're constantly learning and reevaluating our ideas as new evidence comes in. If one simply insists that one's knowledge is perfect as it is, and that no amount of evidence to the contrary will be considered, it's no longer knowledge, but stubbornly held faith. This is okay when it comes to religion, but I would hate to have a surgeon working on me if all he had was knowledge passed down to him from a teacher who practiced in the 19th century, and he refused to consider any medical advancements past that point because he believed that his teacher's knowledge was perfect and should not be changed by new evidence.

    Also, there seems to be some circular reasoning going on. One should accept information only if it comes from a perfect teacher. How will you know which teacher is perfect? because his information is perfect. How will you know the information is perfect? Because it comes from a perfect teacher.

  • Fallensoul Nov 04, 2011

    ET: This is more about how to acquire true knowledge than about opposites etc. Perhaps perfect is not the best word. Even in the material sense to acquire knowledge one goes to a teacher and learns from them. If the mother teaches the child 1+1=2 and the child understands and repeats that is perfect/true knowledge in action. The child could try to use his own speculation or his own ideas of mathematics without any guidance from the mother. He could make some hypothesis, some experiment and ask his friends to try the same tests, but that process of acquiring knowledge may present the correct understanding *eventually* but that is not ideal method when compared to the simple knowledge transmission from teacher to student. The most simple and ideal way is to learn from a bona-fide teacher who is perfect in knowledge of the subject matter. This is the essential principle being highlighted here and it applies to equally to material life and spiritual life.

    We place so much emphasis on being scientific, on experimenting, testing, replicating -- making sure our conclusions are valid, rigorous, but the childish scientist cannot accept the fact that this is not the best way to acquire knowledge. Just look at the picture of science. Many of the scientific facts of today will change in another 100 years. So you cannot even say we now "know" that such and such is true. We are still defeated in our understanding. So it doesnt take too much foresight to see that the method science is using to understand reality will take too long to actually make any tangible process for the individual -- you. We have limited time here. A child trying to discover university mathematics by his own experimentation is a fool. Without a teacher, you cannot expect very much progress. There is so much more to reality that meets the eye, but we're stuck in kindergarten trying to speak about integration and ironically claiming that anyone else's method of knowledge is foolish.

    So the child that claims "This is all we can do.", the response is that "No, just go to a teacher who does know and learn under them." And then what you say will actually be beneficial to yourself and to others, rather than speculating and presenting so many mashed-up ideas and in the end after so much experimentation and research the objective reality still eludes us because we're too proud to accept knowledge from the perfect authority or God.

  • Anonymous Icon

    EthanT Nov 04, 2011

    Well, you paraphrased what I said, which took the meaning out of it.

    Look, this whole Perfect vs. imperfect thing can be a really neat thing to talk about and philosophize about. But, I think it is really important not to get too wrapped up on it.

    Perfection vs. Imperfection and Superior vs Inferior are just more pairs of opposites. They’re ways of classifying things, and to do that too much is to fall into the same trap that Science is – Science being the ultimate classification scheme, with its attempt to understand nature down to the minutest detail.

    Ultimately, God, being beyond the pairs of opposites, doesn’t really care about any of this.

    It’s like the Buddhist mind trick you can run into on that journey. The Buddhist goal is to eliminate all fear and desire, and thereby achieve Nirvana. What you find yourself doing in the end though, is desiring not to desire. Or, you’re desiring Nirvana. What is Nirvana and Samsara? Another pair of opposites. The minute you think, “aha, I’ve achieved Nirvana!”, you lose it. You’ve set up a reference within the pair of opposites again. You’ve achieved Nirvana, and escaped Samsara – escape meaning you were “fleeing” from something. But, fleeing implies more fear and desire.

    Instead, we just need to let all that go and realize Nirvana vs. Samsara is an illusion. We need to get off the pairs of opposites and stop classifying, or differentiating things. Rather realize Nirvana is “right here and now!”. You’ve had it all along, just didn’t know it.

    Likewise with perfect vs imperfect. Perfection, and God, shine through everything all around us!

    It’s like the meaning behind the Buddhist flower sermon. His followers are waiting for instruction on the meaning of life and similar topics. The Buddha did not speak. All he did was hold up a flower. Nobody understood, except one monk. That monk achieved enlightenment that very moment.

    Albert Einstein knew this, as well, when he said, “There are two ways to live your life. One is though everything is a miracle, and the other is as though nothing is a miracle”

    How can one see a miracle, or God, in a flower, or anything else, if one is busy recognizing imperfection in it instead?

    Or, put most simply in Christianity, “Be still and know that I AM God”

  • Fallensoul Nov 03, 2011

    FS: "Why then do we continue to present our limited ideas?"
    ET: "Because it's all you can do"

    Well that's exactly the question. Isn't this an awfully big assumption that we're making.

  • Anonymous Icon

    EthanT Nov 03, 2011

    "Why then do we continue to present our limited ideas?"

    Because it's all you can do and it IS the path to the "unlimited".

    "One could use the same reasoning for prenrose's idea of consciousness or Geoedel, Pluto or anyones idea if the source of those ideas are themselves imperfect."

    Penorse's whole point is that the source may NOT be imperfect - that's the idea behind the Platonic realm.

  • Fallensoul Nov 03, 2011

    ET: "Yes, I agree with that too, and it's what my prism analogy was trying to convey."

    Well this sentence kind of highlights what im getting at. We agree that we're imperfect, but then that doesn't stop us from presenting our own ideas e.g. your prism analogy which can be argued to also to be imperfect because the source (one's mind) is something imperfect. Why then do we continue to present our limited ideas?

    One could use the same reasoning for prenrose's idea of consciousness or Geoedel, Pluto or anyones idea if the source of those ideas are themselves imperfect.

  • Anonymous Icon

    EthanT Nov 03, 2011

    Yes, I agree with that too, and it's what my prism analogy was trying to convey. If I understand where you want to go with this thread, it may be along the lines of something I’ve been thinking about, since I’ve been reading about Roger Penrose’s OrchOR model for consciousness.

    He talks about the Platonic World. Basically, Plato envisioned a realm that contained abstract/mathematical ideas that REALLY exists “out there” and is the birthplace of all mathematical thought. In other words, mathematical proofs are not invented, they are re-discovered from where they have ALWAYS existed as eternal archetypes – the Platonic Realm, which is accessible via our minds.

    The Platonic realm could be viewed as perfect and the material realm viewed as imperfect. For example, a perfect circle, or a perfectly straight line, can NOT really exist in nature. You can never draw a line perfectly straight, nor can you draw a circle with a radius that has absolutely zero deviation. So, the material world is but a “shadow” of the perfect Platonic realm.

    Geoedel’s Incompleteness theorem has some potentially neat implications. “The first incompleteness theorem states that no consistent system of axioms whose theorems can be listed by an "effective procedure" (essentially, a computer program) is capable of proving ALL truths about the relations of the natural numbers (arithmetic). For any such system, there will always be statements about the natural numbers that are true, but that are unprovable within the system.

    Now, even though a complete formal system cannot be set up for all mathematical truths (that are also NOT reducible to an algorithm), we can still consciously “understand” that they are still true. Penrose uses this to demonstrate that consciousness is a non-computable phenomenon (i.e. AI, as it is currently viewed, is doomed to failure) and, in some sense, this also demonstrates the Platonic realm.

    Where things start to get murky is with dreams and myth. The study of comparative mythology has shown that there is a consistent “logic” within mythology and more generally the language of symbolism, which can “break” the usual mathematical laws we are used too. This symbolic language is Universal and found in all religions and myths and even in our dreams. Here, statements like (1+1=1, the expression of Oneness, where “the two become one”) and (A is NOT equal to A) are completely valid.

    Since mythological proofs seem to reach closer to God than mathematical truths, does this make them more perfect? Especially, in light of the fact that mathematical “logic” cannot seem to account for the full spectrum of human experience, as is demonstrated by comparative mythology.

    Or, is it just that all mathematical and mythological proofs are sourced from their perfect eternal archetypes, as Carl Jung liked to talk about, and the material world, and much of our thinking, is an imperfect shadow of these eternal truths, as Plato might claim?

  • Fallensoul Nov 03, 2011

    Thanks to all who commented thus far. This is a deep subject matter and alot could be discussed, but I hope to focus in on the essential point of this thread:

    Swami: ...If you are imperfect, the result will be imperfect.
    Dr. Benford: That's true.

    When I first read this dialogue I couldn't help but respond as Dr. Benford has: "That's true." I doubt anyone is in disagreement with this point.

    Now this raises some very interesting questions that are relevant to the emphasis we place on our scientific knowledge our philosophical rational knowledge and I hope to explore this theme here.

  • Youngbear Roth, RYT/CYT Nov 02, 2011

    Good and evil are "culturally conceived" philosophical benchmarks used to establsih a social organism we hope will universally interact in a positive fashion. Any element that is perceived as perfect, positive, good, or evil is only momentary; however, that momentary unit of transition or transcendence is certainly real and in The River of All Time (the karmic great chain of being) a single moment effectively contains all moments. In addition, all qualities and elements are a result of all other qualities and elements - they co-originate. To separate good from evil is like saying that a tree's energy which roots deep, increases in width, and grows high only possesses a single direction. God is perfect in God's "apparent" imperfections but certainly not all good at all times for all beings.

    I feel that the question is not truly one of good and evil; rather, it is, "Why is the human condition one of struggle?" Why must humankind suffer pain within a co-originating, transcendent, homeostatic state? The best way I can pull together an Eastern philosophical concept of an infinite God and a Western search to end human struggle is through a short, well-known story:

    Twenty-five hundred years ago, a young prince named Siddhartha grew curious about the world beyond his palace walls. He arranged to take a series of short trips into the outside world. For the first time he came eye to eye with the human conditions of poverty, starvation, old age, disease, and death. Siddhartha's recent knowledge of the human condition, his condition, carried such profound effects as to compel the prince to leave his wife and newborn child in search of an answer, a way to liberate one's self from this deplorable state of being. He felt deeply that his search must take place within the very condition from which he sought transcendent liberation. Nothing less than a direct suffering of the "evils," if you will, of poverty, starvation, disease, and near-death presented him with the answer that he sought for many years as an impoverished renouncer, student, and teacher.

    Why does the world hold evil sufferings and strife? Because in a universe where God's face, the face of creative co-origination is the quantum factor, it ihas been since before Siddhartha, and after Siddhartha became Gautama Buddha, that the direct experience of such a condition has always been the greatest teacher of how to transcend and liberate while in living stasis the very same condition. Therfore, from evil is born good, from suffering is born liberation, and all is as one.

  • Anonymous Icon

    EthanT Nov 02, 2011

    I think the whole question of good vs. evil and "why does evil exist", are questions that indicate a matter of perspective, and a limited one at that.

    For example, the "life as a prisoner" analogy above, is one I've never been a fan of. The simple reason being that it is one of victimology. If you view yourself as a prisoner, you will be a prisoner. In Buddhism, it is fear and desire that attaches us to this world and keeps us in the cycle of rebirths, and thereby creates suffering. How does a prisoner live: in fear, and with many unfulfilled desires. Eliminate fear and desire from your mind, and you will become free. And, here's the REAL key: you will be free EVERYWHERE AND ANYWHERE you may find yourself - even in a prison! We are victims of our own minds, and the patterns and illusions we set up with them - the old Indian idea of Maya. Once you are free, you'll realize you never were a prisoner: only that your "mind" made you feel as one. Suffering is “real” only to that extent.

    Good and Evil are similar. Within the world there is no absolute good, nor is there absolute evil. We all have some of each in every one of us, and we continually create them with our minds. That is life - it is the interplay of all opposites, including good and evil. As long as there is “life”, there will always be some “evil”. You may call God absolute good if you want, but God is ultimately beyond all pairs of opposites including Good and Evil. Assigning him to one or the other, is once again operating from a limited perspective.

    It's like asking what came "before" the Big Bang. The question makes no sense, since time itself was created in the Big Bang, which means there was no "before". The question is coming from a limited perspective. The concepts somewhere and “somewhen” may not apply to the realm (i.e. God?) the Universe was born out of.

    (Interestingly enough, some physicists and other scientists are starting to think that the flow of time may be an "illusion" created by our minds! Time, as we ordinarily view it, may not really exist. Our old friend Maya again.)

    So, the questions "When was God created" or "Where did God come from" are, once again, not really sensible questions. They all apply to the flow of linear time and cause and effect. They are questions of limited perspective that don't fully apply to God's nature.

    So it is with the question of God being absolute good, or "how could evil come from God".

    Evil seams real, just as time seems real. They both seem to have VERY real effects on us. In fact, Good and evil NEED time to play themselves out. As long as there is “time”, there will be “life”, and there will be “evil”. They all interplay with each other.

    But, think about it, if subject and object disappear in God, in Oneness with God, and the flow of time and cause and effect disappear, where is there room for good OR evil, once you are coming from that perspective?

  • Saoirse Nov 02, 2011

    What I find interesting here is that Dr. Benford claims to be coming from a skeptical, scientific point of view, but the very question he asks shows that he's not. The question of why evil exists is only relevant if one assumes that the universe was created by a god or other intelligent being. If one believes this, then of course it's difficult to understand why a being who claims to be perfect and all-knowing, and had the ability to create a perfect universe would choose to create evil. But if one doesn't make the assumption that the universe was deliberately created, then the question ceases to exist. If you roll a set of dice, they're going to come up with more or less random outcomes. Not entirely random, because they're going to roll in accordance with the physical parameters of the universe, but more or less random. Some of the outcomes are going to be favorable, some aren't. Moreover. the process of evolution is driven by competition -- competition for resources like food, and for breeding rights and habitat. So there is nothing mysterious about the fact that humans have a ruthless, aggressive, "dark" side. Most of what we see as "evil" in other humans is aggression and predatory behavior -- and this is to be expected in an apex predator. Because early humans found it safer to live together in groups, they had to develop some "rules" that allow them to coexist, but that's a veneer which breaks down frequently, because it's still natural for humans to compete.

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