~Living a life of sophisticated domestication deep in the heart of Texas~

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Reply to Dr. H ....

I felt called to write a response to a fine guest column in the Standard-Times by a physician of our acquaintance, on religion. This was kindly printed today, if edited to leave out the doctor's name, as the SAST prefers not to "use the writer's name in rebuttals. This is to ensure that discussions revolve around issues and not individuals."

Concurring, will leave his name off here -- if permitted to mention that he is an outstanding, accomplished physician whose father was my father's doctor. Rebuttal perhaps, but meant to be respectful, my commentary:

“Buddhism doesn't go to war against exact scientific principles”

Dr. H’s column of May 30 replied to a rationalistic challenge to the Christian religion by offering assertions of plain presupposition that various divine events in the Bible really occurred. I respect his frankness and faith, but found little in such comments to satisfy a rational-humanist inquiry.

I took particular notice of Dr. H’s viewpoint because I recall conversation with his father on this very topic, years ago. He tried to help me understand how medical doctors can heartily believe events of the Books of Moses actually took place.

I see that to this day many physicians are Christian and, even more perplexing, some go as far as to embrace biblical literalism or inerrantism, i.e., the dogmatic province of creationist and fundamentalist denominations. Aren’t those the folks who scorn science? Germ theory, genetics, particle physics and – yes – evolution biology are integral to current medicine and incompatible with literalistic Bible belief.

Metaphysical/spiritual teachings, if they are sound, will not conflict with science and reason. Some of us are just not honestly able to accommodate the Bible’s reliance on myth and compromised logic.

Happily, there is Buddhism – the sovereign truths of which are ever corroborated by science, rather than undermined. More than other religious systems, this one entails pure and potent discernment of the true nature of reality. Buddhist teachings (as reverently systematized during 2,000 years through China toward Japan) set forth discrete principles, like a mystic physics or calculus.

Though gods, demons and miraculous phenomena abound in the sutras, a Buddhism of the present age identifies divine energies and functions of the cosmos in the light of an up-to-date understanding. Certainly there is appreciation for wisdom of ancient vintage, but no Buddhist with sense is about to go pitting the extravagant lore of 2,600 years ago against today’s high-confidence scientific knowledge.

A religion that is not dead will undergo development and adapt through the centuries, drawing gratefully on progress in human knowledge. In my particular sect, faith turns upon what is known about our connection to the living law of the universe – an improvement, I should hope, over faith measured by one’s capacity for believing unlikely things without proof.

For believers in Moses (who lived 700 years before the lawgiver Gautama Buddha), perhaps something of the profound primary reality is referenced in Exodus 3:14, when Man receives a title for invoking God: I AM THAT I AM. The fundamental law is not a result, not the effect of any prior cause, but a perfect and eternal singularity that contains its own purpose.

My faith tradition likens this sovereign absolute to the lotus, wherein flower and seed – which cause one another – appear at the same time. Sure enough, quarks have a similar arrangement, revealing how it might be that the intelligent design and the intelligence doing the designing are, as we Buddhists are fond of saying, “not two.”

Left to their own devices, quarks and leptons make the atom, a living engine of order that carries construction codes in its heart. From there, stellar birth-death cycles cook up the hundred elements out of just hydrogen and helium, ordaining the phenomenon we call chemistry. Thus, a basic proposition about forces and particles has been blueprint sufficient for all the intricacy and value we see around us, and all purpose. How wondrous!

Photo credit:  Tom Hammang Photography

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