Buddhism and Science colloquium
Mar05

Buddhism and Science colloquium

4th-5th March 2010 I attended the second day of a ‘Buddhism and Science’ colloquium at Oxford University and joined in with the concluding discussion which focused mainly on the practice side of Buddhism and its relation to Science. The discussion covered the areas of ‘Buddhist ethics and social relevance,’ ’emptiness as an experience and method’ and the practical implications of the Buddhist doctrine of ‘non-self:’ what Buddhists actually do. The proceedings were video-recorded and are available on the ‘Voices From Oxford’ website. My contribution is in the closing discussion: at 6:20 addressing the question of Buddhist ethics and social relevance; and at 41:00 in relation to the meaning of ‘non-self.’ I couldn’t get to the first day because it was oversubscribed, but the organisers kindly let me come to the second day when I told them I had been writing on the topic of ‘Buddhism and Science’ and was thinking that I might be able to contribute. The colloquium took place in the Sherrington room of the Physiology Department. In my mind I had expected that to be a 300-seater lecture theatre, but when I got there it turned out to be a classroom seating 70 people. On the wall was an oil painting of Sherrington, who had won the Nobel prize for Physiology in 1932. The audience was a mixture of Buddhist practitioners, Buddhist scholars, scientists, and academics from different fields. On the first day there had been an introduction by Professor Denis Noble, well known in the world of biology for ‘systems biology,’ which gives an alternative viewpoint to Richard Dawkins book ‘The Selfish Gene.’ He had co-organised the colloquium along with B. Alan Wallace, who is well known for his written work on ‘Buddhism and Science,’ and his wife Vesna, the new chair of Buddhist Studies at Oxford. There were then a number of half hour presentations from a range of Buddhist scholars and scientists, mostly from the UK and France, and the first day concluded with a general discussion. Buddhism and Science Colloquium – Day 1 Time: March 4-5, 2010 Location: University of Oxford, Department of Physiology, Sherrington Room Co-sponsored by Physiology Department and Oriental Institute of the University of Oxford, Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies and Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. The parallels between Buddhist ideas and those of modern science have been noted frequently. Examples include the ideas of emptiness and relativity theories, those of non-Self and physiology, mental cultivation and cognitive sciences. Are these parallels coincidental or do they represent a convergence that is necessary in comparing the results of introspective and objective methods? This colloquium will bring some of the leading scientists who...

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