I listened to a couple excellent NPR segments in recent weeks. I strongly recommend them.
On Science Friday (Dec 27th) the host Ira Flatow played an archival interview with Carl Sagan. Sagan is personable, articulate, witty, humble, & brilliant. Importantly, he draws a link between science and democracy. He’s pushing back at, among others climate-change deniers, who make biased accusations of “junk science” when the facts don’t fit their ideology and greed. Sagan righteously (Dhammically) defends reality-based intelligent inquiry into what’s going on and how things work. This inquiry is evidence-based, open-minded, rational (rather than speculative), debates the facts and their interpretation, and is always willing to adjust theories to fit facts. This isn’t egghead science; it’s simply intelligence. Any of us can practice it. Good farmers and mothers do so everyday. Some scientists slip up, we all do, but that’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Buddhists out to take heart. We also need an approach to Buddhism that is intelligent and open-minded, courageously seeks truth (as reality, not metaphysical absolutes), doesn’t shy away from debate, supports truth claims with evidence (both scriptural and experiential, depending on the subject), is rational (without suppressing emotion), and is willing to work hard (rather than clinging to easy consolations). Ajahn Buddhadasa often spoke of “Buddha-Science,” the science of awakening. The Dalai Lama actively cooperates with scientists. Buddhism need not surrender its authority to materialist science, nor is Buddhism at odds or in competition with it. Yet we must be true to the Buddha’s way, which involves intelligent inquiry and is not anti-intellectual. Sagan can help us in doing so.
The other program was on Forgiveness, a call-in with Robert Enright, a researcher at UW-Madison. Enright is a clear and compassionate moral thinker. This is an important practical topic for me; I often speak of forgiveness and lead forgiveness meditations. I learned a great deal from Enright’s experience and wisdom that enhanced my understanding of forgiveness based in Buddhist teachings and refined through personal practice. The stories he shared are moving.
I highly recommend both programs, available through the links provided.