This is my fantasy: that fundamentalist Christians will read the Dalai Lama’s new book, “The Universe in a Single Atom,” and be converted to his enlightened attitude toward science and spirituality.
James Dobson, just say the word and I’ll be happy to mail you a copy.
I bought this book to give to myself on my birthday, which was last Friday. I’ve just started reading it, but by page three I already was cheering the Dalai Lama’s words:
My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.That is so refreshing, coming from one of the leaders of a major world religion. Can you imagine the Pope saying the same thing, substituting “Christianity” for “Buddhism”? I can’t, though nothing prevents Christians from similarly accepting that science searches for the truth about physical reality and religion searches for the truth about spiritual reality.
Thus science and religion don’t overlap. They don’t compete. You don’t have to choose one or the other. You can embrace both, as the Dalai Lama does. Most people in industrialized countries are able to do just that.
Unfortunately, the United States is the most religious industrialized nation. And, not coincidentally, the most scientifically illiterate. Fundamentalist Christianity has dumbed down the critical reasoning faculty of Americans to such an extent that our citizens casually accept President Bush’s call for creationism/intelligent design to be taught along with evolution in science classrooms.
Yet evolution is an accepted scientific theory that is strongly supported by fact and creationism is simply subjective religious dogma without a shred of solid evidence behind it. Christian theologians should be busily adapting their articles of faith to be compatible with evolution rather than wasting their time defending creationism and intelligent design,.
Peeking ahead to a chapter about evolution, I did note, however, that the Dalai Lama believes that evolutionary theory lacks an understanding of how consciousness is at the root of reality. Such may sound like an endorsement of intelligent design and Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace has felt the need to defend the Dalai Lama’s position as being compatible with modern science.
What is really indefensible, though, is the United States’ scientific stupidity. As noted in this “America #1?” piece, 20% of Americans think the sun orbits the earth while 17% believe the earth revolves around the sun once a day (this bit of information also is quoted in the November issue of Playboy, so clearly it must be true).
Christian leaders of America, after a bit of editing you should insert this advice from the Dalai Lama into your sermons and speeches. I know that you won’t, but you should.
I wish to emphasize to the millions of my fellow Buddhists worldwide the need to take science seriously and to accept its fundamental discoveries within their worldview…Certainly some specific aspects of Buddhist thought—such as its old cosmological theories and its rudimentary physics—will have to be modified in the light of new scientific insights.