Buddhism and Science – The Observer Observed

Buddhism and Science – The Observer Observed

Music

Does a researcher who’s conducting an experiment unconsciously influence the results of that experiment? I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Robert Thurman is a professor of Indo-Tibetan studies at Columbia University. He says that the cold light of objective science needs to shine on scientists themselves.

“There has been a tall notion that these are just reproducible, material processes that are mechanical, and there’s no person in there, you see. And that’s of course has always been false. There’s always been the preconception of the experimenter, there’s always been the interpretation of the experimenter, there’s always been falsification of data by experimenters, who have personal motives, of wanting success or fame, or things like that. Because the observer was present and affected the object. The subjectivity affects the objectivity.”

Professor Thurman feels that the mental discipline of eastern traditions such as Buddhism, can help objectify western science.

“There’s an opportunity now to bring to bear the wisdom of the east on a more intense and penetrating subjectivity of the scientist, him, or herself. So that now in scientific education, for example, is as well learning all your mathematical formulas, your chemical theorems, etcetera, etcetera, the scientist might be forced to train in Zen meditation – to develop the ability to stabilize their own awareness to keep their mind at a single point of clarity – to gain deeper insight into whatever they’re working on. It’s not just a matter of believing in something. It’s a matter of cultivating the faculties of the mind itself – as if it were a laboratory – as if it were laboratory equipment. But it’s a matter of complementing the science of dealing with things as material entities, with a science of cultivating the entity that is engaged in the scientific enterprise.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation.

Buddhism and Science - The Observer Observed

A scholar of Indo-Tibetan culture proposes that through cultivation of the mind's faculties, scientists can develop keener observation skills.
Air Date:09/26/2001
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Transcript:

Buddhism and Science - The Observer Observed

Music

Does a researcher who's conducting an experiment unconsciously influence the results of that experiment? I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Robert Thurman is a professor of Indo-Tibetan studies at Columbia University. He says that the cold light of objective science needs to shine on scientists themselves.

"There has been a tall notion that these are just reproducible, material processes that are mechanical, and there’s no person in there, you see. And that's of course has always been false. There’s always been the preconception of the experimenter, there's always been the interpretation of the experimenter, there’s always been falsification of data by experimenters, who have personal motives, of wanting success or fame, or things like that. Because the observer was present and affected the object. The subjectivity affects the objectivity."

Professor Thurman feels that the mental discipline of eastern traditions such as Buddhism, can help objectify western science.

"There's an opportunity now to bring to bear the wisdom of the east on a more intense and penetrating subjectivity of the scientist, him, or herself. So that now in scientific education, for example, is as well learning all your mathematical formulas, your chemical theorems, etcetera, etcetera, the scientist might be forced to train in Zen meditation - to develop the ability to stabilize their own awareness to keep their mind at a single point of clarity - to gain deeper insight into whatever they're working on. It's not just a matter of believing in something. It's a matter of cultivating the faculties of the mind itself - as if it were a laboratory - as if it were laboratory equipment. But it’s a matter of complementing the science of dealing with things as material entities, with a science of cultivating the entity that is engaged in the scientific enterprise."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation.