Wednesday, October 19, 2005

NY Times Dalai Lama story?

Did anybody else see the story about the 544 Neuroscientists protesting the Dalai Lama speaking at their conference in the NY Times today? The Times called mindfulness “….topic(s) once left to weekend mystics and religious retreats.” I don’t guess the (surely millions) of Budhists practicing mindfulness in their daily lives count?The best quote, I thought, was from Dr. Zvani Rossetti of the University of Cagliari in Italy, “No opportunity should be given to anybody to use neuroscience for supporting transcendent views of the world.” God forbid! I wonder if Dr. Rossetti favors subjectivism, objectivism, or nihilism.
I’ve got to say I was pleasantly surprised by the last two chapters of The Embodied Mind. After chafing at the long, philosophical, theoretical chapters leading up to it, when they finally got down to practical application I really enjoyed. To a large extent, the philosophical discussions are over my head. But the use of the discussions of color to illustrate the codependency and coevolution of the environment and brain was helpful.
I thought the question in Chapter 11 (p. 252) “How can such an attitude of all-encompassing, decentered, responsive, compassionate concern be fostered and embodied in our culture? was a little odd though. Are these people completely out of touch with the current moral and ethical attitude, even in 1991? It seems to me that if an individual reads the book and is convinced by the arguments it contains and decides to begin the practice of mindfulness the authors have been wildly successful. I suppose if one accepts the arguments put forth here, that the logical response to the death of objectivism is nihilism and only Budhism is capable of accepting and embracing groundlessness, then one understands why the authors would hope to effect a cultural change; but, is that likely? It seems much more American to me to believe in what you know is not true.


Blogger asw said...

You have an interesting post regarding the NY Times article. It is timely in being published as it relates to our reading.:)

Yes, I did see the article and I kept thinking about this comment that the authors mention in the book:
"There is a profound discovery of groundlessness in our culture - in science, in the humanities, in society, and in the uncertainities of people's daily lives."

I think the neuroscientists had a right to sign the petition (it's their prerogative) but at the same time how ignorant can they be in the world of science? Isn't it the point of science to explore and discover new pathways in reviewing a concept or phenomena? I am amazed by the ignorance and the lack of openness of these scientists. This research by the Dalai Lama may not be the answer to all the research questions in cognitive science, but as Syverson has said, it may help to raise better research questions.

I thought this quote in the NY Times article was interesting and shows at least some scientists that are open to the idea of exploration: "This research is a first pass on a new topic, and you just can't do perfect science the first time through," said Dr. Robert Wyman, a neurobiologist at Yale. "You get curious about something and you mess around. That's what science is in the beginning, you mess around."

8:32 PM  

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