Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The equation that explains everything?



My cheat sheet says the answer is 42

Did you know that we are nothing but biological machines governed by physical processes which, according to the leading materialist philosopher Sean Carroll, are completely modelled by the above equation?  (Hat tip Jayarava)

Now I wouldn’t claim to understand the various parts the equation, let alone the equation as a whole, but I’m pretty sure, assuming the Church-Turing-Deutsch principle to be true, that the whole equation consists of a concatenation of Turing Machines and nothing else.  The Turing Machine is a mathematical structure (not normally or necessarily instantiated as an actual physical device)  that completely describes the concept of ‘mechanism’ to any level of complexity, including computers and all phenomena that can be modelled by computers.  


This immediately flags up two yawning gaps in this model's claim to be a complete description of the world. This equation cannot deal with (i) qualitative phenomena (qualia) nor (ii) anything that involves meaning and semantics (intentionality), because Turing Machines can only process Boolean, quantitative and syntactical information, and  have zero capabilities with intentionality and qualia.  In fact, no matter how many zillions of Turing machines you concatenate, a zillion times zero is still zero.

And no matter how may megazillions of Turing Machines you concatenate or link in a network, you won't get any mind-like 'emergent properties' emerging from them, because emergent properties emerge from the mind of the observer, not from the data.  The materialists' claim that mind is an emergent property of mechanism seems to be an example of the logical fallacy of petitio principii or circular reasoning.




Is the bunch of cherries an emergent property of the 13x15 pixel array, or does it emerge from the mind of the observer?

Incompleteness and incoherence
So Sean Carroll's equation may be accurate, but it is incomplete. 
 

It may accurately describe all known physical processes, but it says nothing about non-physical processes such as the experience of qualia (and most significanty, from the Buddhist viewpoint, the pervasive experience of dukkha) neither does it address intentional awareness - such basic features of our world as attention and aboutness.                                 
 

The incoherence of materialism
Materialism claims that the basis of all phenomena is matter.  This is incoherent and unscientific and has been demonstrably so since the Michaelson-Morley experiment.   


Michaelson and Morley proved that the foundations of electromagnetic physics  are based on processes, not substances.    Prior to their experiment it had been assumed that light waves and the rest of the electromagnetic spectrum propagated in the same manner as sound and water waves, through a substrate.  Michaelson and Morley proved that this hypothetical substrate (known as the 'luminiferous aether') did not exist.  So light waves are pure 'disembodied' processes which function without any material support whatsoever, with no need for even the wispy and tenuous hint of matter or substance provided by the aether.

Subsequently, quantum mechanics dealt the death blow to the 'substantialist' interpretation of physics by showing that fundamental particles aren't 'things' at all, but are processes.   Electrons and protons etc only appear as 'things' at the moment of measurement.  (They are reified by the observer).  When left to themselves they propagate through space as probability waves, which are of course processes. Consequently, Sean Carroll's equation is not about substances and 'things in themselves', it deals with relationships and dynamics, in other words processes.

The incoherence of substance dualism
Substance dualism is an erroneous attempt to counteract materialism by claiming that there are non-material things and substances, such as souls and ectoplasm.   This fails as a model of the mental world for much the same reasons as materialism fails as a model of the physical world.  Mental phenomena, like physical phenomena, are ultimately processes rather than things.   The root mind is known is Buddhism as the 'mental continuum' or 'mindstream', and like Heraclitus' river is never the same thing for two successive instants.

The Hard Problem
So the Hard Problem of consciousness, which is normally stated as 'how does the mind interact with the body?', could be restated from a  Buddhist viewpoint as 'how do mental processes interact with mechanistic processes?'  One possibility, as suggested by
Henry Stapp is by intentionality in the form of attention acting via the Quantum Zeno effect.


See also Buddhist Philosophy 


Sunday, 18 January 2015

The appalling reputation of religion

Ecrasez l'infâme!


In recent weeks we have seen the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the kosher deli massacre, the Quran-inspired atrocities of the Islamic State and the blogger being slowly and sadistically flogged to death for the crime of insulting Islam.  So is it any wonder that young people are becoming increasingly hostile to religion,  and many children have come to  regard religious people as dangerous and threatening?


Obviously the main culprit nowadays is Islam , but you don't need to look too far back into the history of most religions, with the exceptions of Buddhism, Jainism and Anglican Latitudinarianism (with its spin-offs such as Quakerism and Methodism) to find doctrinally mandated intolerance and incitement to genocide, homophobia, anti-intellectualism discrimination etc.   Even the supposedly liberal Pope Francis has recently endorsed physical attacks on blasphemers.  It seems that old habits die hard.


Guilt by association?
So should Buddhism continue to market itself primarily as a religion? Might this attract guilt by association and collateral damage?    Should Buddhism concentrate on its spiritual rather than religious aspects in order to appeal to modern youth?  


The term  'spirituality' is more acceptable among the young than religion (hence the rise of the 'spiritual but not religious' demographic).  In addition, Buddhism could market itself as a psychotherapy and philosophy.





 



















Is philosophy more acceptable than religion?
 
If Buddhism is referred to as a religion, it needs to emphasise that it is a uniquely special kind of religion - one founded on philosophy.  All other religions are based upon unreproducible instances of 'divine revelation', where unverifiable 'truths' are revealed to one person or a small group of people and claimed to be the word of God, valid for all time.  Critical thinking and doubt are not encouraged.


Hence the sunstroke-induced hallucinatory ramblings, ravings and rantings of a seventh-century psychopathic pedophile are still producing rape, pillage and genocide wherever they are taken literally 1400 years later.  'As dangerous in a man as rabies in dog', to quote Churchill.


The Kalama people of India had many similar charlatans and madmen trying to convert them by claiming their own divinely inspired doctrines were correct, and everybody else was wrong.

One day the Buddha turned up, and the Kalamas asked him why they should believe his teachings rather than all the cult leaders, conmen and false prophets whom they had already seen off.

The Buddha replied:

"It is natural that doubt should arise in your minds.

I tell you not to believe merely because it has been handed down by tradition, or because it had been said by some great personage in the past, or because it is commonly believed, or because others have told it to you, or even because I myself have said it.

But whatever you are asked to believe, ask yourself whether it is true in the light of your experience, whether it is in conformity with reason and good principles and whether it is conducive to the highest good and welfare of all beings, and only if it passes this test, should you accept it and act in accordance with it." 

 
So the Buddha is making a statement which is found in no other religion. Unlike all other religious leaders he is not claiming a hotline to God, a personal, non-reproducible revelation which appears to him and no-one else.

He was saying:

(1) Do not believe anything on the basis of religious authority, or 'holy' books, or family/tribal tradition, or even coercion and intimidation by the mob.

BUT

(2) Test the methodology against your own experience. Does it do what it says on the box?

(3) Is the philosophy rational? Or does it require you to believe six impossible things before breakfast?

(4) Judge the tree by its fruits. Is it beneficial, or does it tell you to act against your conscience and 'The Golden Rule'.


So maybe Buddhism needs to be marketed to an increasingly skeptical and anti-religious public as...

(1) An empirically testable psychotherapy.
(2) An ethical and humane spirituality'
(3) A belief system built upon a solid philosophical foundation.

























Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Controlling pain with mindfulness meditation


Vidyamala Burch
From the BBC



"Vidyamala Burch is helping people in pain through the practice of "mindfulness", the act of paying more attention to the present moment. But it took her many years to discover it for herself first.

When people are having serious difficulties, it can bring out the extreme sides of people's personalities, says Vidyamala Burch, a 55-year-old pain management practitioner based in Manchester. "One is the denial, pushy, driven side and the other is the more passive, overwhelmed, depressive side."

Burch lives with chronic pain having acquired two spinal injuries at an early age. The first happened at 16 when she lifted somebody from a swimming pool during water safety practice. The second was the result of a car accident five years later...




...A lengthy period of rehabilitation followed in which she tried many different relaxation techniques. Three years later, she found that one, called Mindful Meditation, worked well for her.

"We have adapted the 'mindful movement' so that the primary emphasis is on being aware as you move, rather than how far you can move”

Now more widely known as mindfulness, it can be described as the act of focusing on the present moment, acknowledging thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. It is thousands of years old and Buddhist in origin, but has become popular as a therapy in the West in recent years.

Though perhaps most commonly associated with tackling mental health difficulties, and strongly promoted by the NHS for this, one of its first applications in this part of the world was to help with pain.

Burch says that when you have severe discomfort, there's a "rising up" in your body that exclaims "this hurts and I don't like it".

"The intuitive response is to turn away from it and try and get on with life in spite of your pain," she says. "With mindfulness, what we do is we turn towards it, to investigate what is actually happening in each moment."

In 2000, now ordained as a Buddhist, she found herself struggling to find paid work which she could physically manage. The idea occurred to her that she might be able to help others with pain on a professional basis.

She started a social enterprise called Breathworks where people with chronic pain take an eight-week course to learn how mindfulness could help them cope better with their physical symptoms..."

Read it all here




Related articles

Stress and Loneliness 

Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation Alleviates Depression

Teens meditate to reduce stress

The webcrawler in your mind.

Counter-terrorism meditation

Cash-strapped healthcare system looks to Buddhism

Clean your mind while cleaning your room 

Bodhisattva vows - an antidote to depression and mental illness

Doctor Buddha

Vajrasattva Purification of Guilt and Negative Thinking  


 

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Buddhist militancy triggers international concern




by Robert Spencer

"When did you ever see in the Financial Times, or anywhere else in the mainstream media, an article entitled, “Muslim militancy triggers international concern” — unless it was devoted to downplaying that concern or denying that there was anything rightly called “Muslim militancy” at all? When did you ever see in the Financial Times, or in any other mainstream media outlet, a victim of Islamic jihad being quoted saying: “If I could meet those responsible, I would ask: ‘Sir, does your prophet Muhammad teach this?’” When did you ever see in the Financial Times, or anywhere else, an exploration of whether Buddha or Muhammad actually did teach or incite violence?

No violence against any innocent people, Muslim or non-Muslim, is ever justified. This ridiculous piece makes no mention, however, of the fact that all the conflict — in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand — between Buddhists and Muslims was caused by Muslims attacking Buddhists. The Buddhists responded, and this is what they get. James Crabtree and Michael Peel would apparently have preferred that they surrender quietly to the jihad, and submit to being massacred or enslaved.

If Buddhists were organized like Muslims, we would now start seeing the mainstream media filled with weepy articles about “Buddhismophobia,” and laments that opposition to Buddhist militancy was really just a smoke screen for “racism” and “bigotry,” and that there wasn’t really any Buddhist militancy anyway, as it was actually all just a creation of those Buddhismophobes. But they aren’t, and we won’t..."   Full article

 

Related articles 

 
Islam will destroy Buddhism


Islam will Dominate - The Islamic Threat to Buddhism

 



Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Life after death: mental processes continue after brain processes shut down





From The Telegraph 

First hint of 'life after death' in biggest ever scientific study
"Southampton University scientists have found evidence that awareness can continue for at least several minutes after clinical death which was previously thought impossible.

...The largest ever medical study into near-death and out-of-body experiences has discovered that some awareness may continue even after the brain has shut down completely.

It is a controversial subject which has, until recently, been treated with widespread scepticism.

But scientists at the University of Southampton have spent four years examining more than 2,000 people who suffered cardiac arrests at 15 hospitals in the UK, US and Austria.

And they found that nearly 40 per cent of people who survived described some kind of ‘awareness’ during the time when they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted.

 One man even recalled leaving his body entirely and watching his resuscitation from the corner of the room.

Despite being unconscious and ‘dead’ for three minutes, the 57-year-old social worker from Southampton, recounted the actions of the nursing staff in detail and described the sound of the machines.

“We know the brain can’t function when the heart has stopped beating,” said Dr Sam Parnia, a former research fellow at Southampton University, now at the State University of New York, who led the study.

“But in this case, conscious awareness appears to have continued for up to three minutes into the period when the heart wasn’t beating, even though the brain typically shuts down within 20-30 seconds after the heart has stopped.

“The man described everything that had happened in the room, but importantly, he heard two bleeps from a machine that makes a noise at three minute intervals. So we could time how long the experienced lasted for.

“He seemed very credible and everything that he said had happened to him had actually happened.”

Of 2060 cardiac arrest patients studied, 330 survived and 140 said they had experienced some kind of awareness while being resuscitated.

Although many could not recall specific details, some themes emerged. One in five said they had felt an unusual sense of peacefulness while nearly one third said time had slowed down or speeded up.

Some recalled seeing a bright light; a golden flash or the Sun shining. Others recounted feelings of fear or drowning or being dragged through deep water. 13 per cent said they had felt separated from their bodies and the same number said their sensed had been heightened...

 

Mental processes don't depend on mechanistic processes

What this study demonstrates is that there are two kinds of processes at work in our lives: mechanistic and mental. 

Mechanistic processes explain the working of all machines including computers, and all the classical laws of science including biology, chemistry, and physics. The brain is a physical machine no different in principle from a computer, and carries out mechanistic processes.  However mental processes are completely different.

Mental processes consist of irreducible aspects of consciousness that have no mechanistic explanation, for example qualia (qualitative experiences such as pleasure and pain) and intentionality or aboutness (the power of minds to be about, to represent, experience, cognise or to stand for, things, properties and states of affairs).    


When mechanistic processes shut down, mental processes can still continue.

For a more detailed explanation of mental and mechanistic processes see Buddhist Philosophy.

 

Monday, 15 September 2014

Buddhist Philosophy





1.Introduction

Buddhism is founded on two fundamental beliefs, from which the rest of the philosophy is derived. These two basic premises are:


(i) The underlying nature of reality is process and change, rather than stable entities.

(ii) Processes can be divided into two categories -  mental processes  and mechanistic processes.

 

1.1 The process nature of reality.
 
The basis of reality consists of processes rather than static ‘things’.  If any ‘thing’ is analysed in enough depth, and observed over a long enough timescale, it can be seen to be part of a dynamic process rather than a static, stable thing-in-itself.  This becomes obvious when we remember that the universe is itself a process (a continuing  expansion from the Big Bang), and so all that it contains are subprocesses of the whole.



1.2 Mechanistic and mental processes


There are two kinds of processes in the world, mechanistic and mental. Mechanistic processes explain the working of all machines including computers, and all the classical laws of science including biology, chemistry, and physics.

Mental processes consist of irreducible aspects of consciousness that have no mechanistic explanation, for example qualia (qualitative experiences such as pleasure and pain) and intentionality or aboutness (the power of minds to be about, to represent, or to stand for, things, properties and states of affairs). 


1.3  The Buddhist viewpoint


This introduction to Buddhist philosophy will review how process philosophy has long been neglected in the West, but has undergone a recent revival due to the process perspectives of modern science.

I will show how the key Buddhist concepts of impermanence and emptiness are logical consequences of a process view of the world.   I will then discuss why  mechanistic processes cannot account for such mental phenomena as qualitative experience, and ‘aboutness’ (intentionality). This inadequacy of a purely mechanistic worldview is known as ‘The Explanatory Gap’, or ‘The Hard Problem'. 

Finally, I’ll examine how delusions result from the failure of mechanistic processes to give a true picture of reality, followed by some techniques for liberating the mind and transcending these delusional constraints.




2 Process Philosophy

Everything is process



For anyone  new to Buddhist Philosophy, the main thing to bear in mind is that Buddhism is process philosophy, in contrast to most familiar varieties of Western philosophy which are substantialist philosophies.  

Process philosophies hold that the fundamental nature of reality is one of constant change and dynamism, and phenomena that we think of as permanent substances or things, are just snapshots of processes at different stages.   


If we observe any seemingly permanent entity in enough detail over a long enough timescale, then we will indeed discover it is a stage of a process or processes. Thus ‘permanent’  features such mountains and hills are stages of processes involving plate tectonics and erosion etc.  Even the most fundamental particles are processes rather than things, as they exist as ever-changing wave-functions that only appear as well-defined ‘things’ at the moment of observation.

Substantialist philosophies, in contrast, hold that things and substances, or their ‘essential natures’, are the primary fundamental basis of reality, with processes being secondary phenomena.

Substantialism is strongly linked to the idea of essentialism - that things and substances have an ‘essential nature’ that makes them what they are. 



2.1  Neglect of Process Philosophy in the West

Process Philosophy holds that the underlying basis of reality is change, process and impermanence. Becoming is more basic than being, and existence is really just impermanence in slow-motion.

The converse view - Substantialism, holds that true reality is 'timeless' and based on permanent ideal forms. Change is accidental, whereas the substance is essential.

Traditional Western philosophy has always denied any full reality to change, which is conceived as only accidental and not essential.

Substantialism has dominated Western philosophy from the time of Plato until the early twentieth century, and is still deeply embedded within our culture.

There were indeed Process Philosophers among the early Greeks. For example Heraclitus pointed out that no-one can step into the same river twice. It's not the same river nor is it the same person.

Nevertheless, the early process philosophers were ignored or forgotten, and the theory of ideal forms propounded by Plato was adopted by the later Greeks and dominated Western thought until the early twentieth century.  As the modern process philosopher Whitehead remarked, most of the western philosophy carried out during the intervening centuries was 'a series of footnotes to Plato'.



2.2  The scientific perspective on Process Philosophy

From the mid nineteenth century to the early twentieth, a series of revolutions took place in science which changed the scientific outlook from substantialist to process-based, and simultaneously demolished the 'essentialist' view of material objects and living things.  


2.2.1 How process thinking became dominant in physics and biology

 

2.2.1.1  Evolution 


 Until Charles Darwin published The Origin of the Species in 1859, almost everyone believed that species are unchanging and derive their forms by reference to a divine blueprint. Theology had long been dominated by the ideas of Plato, who taught that the species were invariant, deriving their characteristics from reference to 'essences' or 'ideal forms' which were fixed, eternal and inherently existent.

However, Darwin showed that new species are formed by processes of gradual change from simpler forms. All primates (including humans and apes) have a common ancestor. Going back further, all species of mammals diverged from a common ancestor, and so on into the dim and distant past until we reach one common ancestor of all lifeforms, which originated the DNA coding which is universal for all plants, animals, fungi and bacteria on earth.

Consequently, to evolutionists the biological species concept does not reflect any underlying reality. A species is purely a snapshot of an interbreeding population of organisms at a particular epoch in time, and as time progresses the characteristics of that population will gradually change in response to selective pressures.  The process of evolution is the fundamental basis of all biology, whereas the species of living things are secondary and transient outputs of this process.



2.2.1.2 The non-existent Luminiferous Aether


Just as the theory of evolution emphasised dynamic processes, rather than static species, as the fundamental realities of biology,  a similar transformation of thinking was to affect physics a few years later with the negative result of the Michelson–Morley experiment.

Until the nineteenth century, it was believed that all waves must propagate through matter. In other words, processes such as sound and water waves needed some substance to support their existence.   It was therefore assumed that space was filled with a 'luminiferous aether' through which electromagnetic waves such as light, heat, radio waves, X-rays etc propagated like ripples on a pond.  But the Michelson–Morley experiment demonstrated that this aether did not exist, and thus electromagnetic waves were standalone processes with no supporting substance.   Quantum physics was later to show that the fundamental particles of matter are also processes.



2.2.1.3 Quantum Physics
 
In the early twentieth century, developments in quantum physics revealed that fundamental particles weren't the little irreducible billiard balls of classical physics  The particles, which had previously been regarded as little pieces of matter, are instead processes consisting of continuously evolving and changing wavefunctions.  These processes only give the appearance of discrete and localized particles at the moment they are observed.

So particles are forever changing, and they lack any inherent existence independent of the act of observation.    Consequently, everything composed of particles is also impermanent and continually changing, and no static, stable basis for its existence can be found. 




2.3  Process and Essentialism 

Essentialism is the belief that, for any specific entity (such as an animal, a group of people, a physical object, a substance), there is a defining essence within them that makes those things, groups and substances what they are.

For the best part of two thousand years essentialism held sway over the Western mind, firstly in the form of Platonic essences, then as the unchanging species of the Bible, and finally as nineteenth century atomic substantialism.

Essentialism underpins substantialism, and has no place in process philosophy.  Essentialism has been undermined by the same scientific discoveries that undermined substantialism.





2.3.1  Classical physics

 
The first cracks in the essentialist edifice are apparent, in retrospect, with Newton's discovery of the laws of motion.

Before Newton, the heavenly bodies wandered around the firmament according to their different essential natures as decreed by the 'Unmoved Mover'.

After Newton, the stars, planets, moons, comets and asteroids moved according to the same mathematical relationships.

Before Newton, stars, planets, moons, comets and asteroids were separate entities. After Newton there was a continuity in size and composition from the tiniest 'grain of sand shooting star' through meteorites, asteroids, comets, moons, miniplanets, small planets, gas giants, brown dwarfs and all the different sizes of stars.

Before Newton there was the concept of the 'Unmoved Mover'. After Newton every action had an equal and opposite reaction. As a consequence anything that produced a change was itself changed. Therefore ALL functioning things must be impermanent. These observations were never taken to their logical conclusion by European philosophers in Newton's day, possibly because heresy still attracted severe punishment in most European countries.



2.3.2 Chemistry and Particle Physics

 
Chemistry provided a bastion for essentialism up to the late nineteenth century. All substances were composed of atoms of about 80 (then) known elements. Every atom of a particular element was identical with another atom of the same element, and derived its properties from the essential nature of that element. The atom was fundamental and unchangeable.

The first hint of atomic substructures came from the work of Mendeleev, who published his periodic table in 1869. He left gaps in his table for as yet undiscovered elements and was able to predict their properties.

Work on radioactivity in the early 20th century demonstrated that atoms were not fundamental but were composed of elementary particles - electrons, protons and neutrons. It was found to be the number of these particles within each atom of an element that determined the properties of that element, not some inherent substantial essence.


In addition,  these elementary particles did not act like classical 'things'. They were only knowable by interactions with other particles, and the mere act of observation changed their properties in an indeterminate way.

Even worse, their 'essential nature' seemed to change radically according to how they were observed. If you set up your experiment to observe them as particles, then they behaved as particles. If you set it up to observe them as waves, then they behaved as waves.



2.3.3 Evolution and Genesis

 
'The Origin of the Species' was the first major blow against essentialism in the West. In 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea' Daniel Dennett writes  'Even today Darwin's overthrow of essentialism has not been completely assimilated .... the Darwinian mutation, which at first seemed to be just a new way of thinking about kinds in biology, can spread to other phenomena and other disciplines, as we shall see. There are persistent problems both inside and outside biology that readily dissolve once we adopt the Darwinian perspective on what makes a thing the sort of thing it is, but the tradition-bound resistance to this idea persists.'

So the full implications of the collapse of essentialism have yet to fully permeate the western psyche. But the radical change in the way that science views the world which took place between 1850 and 1950, has brought western thought far more in line with Buddhist philosophy than at any time in the past 2500 years. This may partly explain the rapidly growing interest in Buddhism among scientifically literate westerners.
 



2.4  Impermanence and existence

The impermanence of all functioning phenomena is an inevitable logical consequence of their emptiness of inherent existence.

No functioning phenomenon can be static, because to function it must change and be changed, it must give something of itself or receive something into itself. A truly unchanging phenomenon would reside in splendid isolation and could never even be known to exist. All functioning phenomena are composite and impermanent.  What we term ‘existence’ is really just impermanence in slow-motion.





2.5  Emptiness

No phenomenon is a ‘thing in itself’.  The more you look for it, the less you find it. Things disappear under analysis.  A car exists as a conventional truth, convenient for our everyday lives - a kind of working approximation.  But on dissection, logical analysis can find no ‘essential’ car, just a heap of parts that at a certain arbitrary stage of assembly is designated ‘car’, and at a certain arbitrary stage of disassembly is designated 'pile of junk'.

Outside our mind there is no defining ‘carness’ .  Similarly,  if you gradually decrease the height of the sides of a box until it becomes a tray, there is no point at which 'boxiness' leaves and 'trayfullness' jumps into the structure, with the box being automatically transformed into a tray. It’s all arbitrary mental designation.  This arbitrariness is the ultimate truth of how things exist to our minds. And it goes all the way down to the fundamental particles of matter.






2.6  The two truths: conventional and ultimate

Although it may be true that all functioning things are processes, it doesn't help us to find our way around the everyday world. Conventionally, we regard any object that exists relatively unchanged for a long enough duration to be useful, as a 'thing' rather than a process.

This is similar to the situation where knowing that matter is 99.9% empty space is of no use whatsoever when we're building a brick wall.

So reification (regarding processes as things) of functioning phenomena is a conventional truth - a working approximation that allows us to function in, and find our way around the world.

In Buddhist ontology process is primary, substance is secondary. So ultimately the entire world that we function in, and find our way around, is itself a process, and will eventually cease to exist. The world and all that's in it lack any enduring identity that has the power to prevent impermanence from sweeping them all away. That is their ultimate truth.
 

And even the concept of 'existence' is itself a conventional truth. To say that any functioning phenomenon 'exists' is a commonsense approximation to saying that it endures for a relatively long time. 'Existence' is really nothing other than a less blatant form of impermanence.

So both conventional truth and ultimate truth are valid for their respective purposes, in the same way that classical and quantum physics are both valid.

If we want to design and build a bridge, we think in terms of classical physics. If we want to explore the ultimate nature of matter, we think in terms of quantum physics.

Likewise, if we want to build a Dharma center, then we use conventional truths to assemble all the conventionally existing things that are needed - stones, bricks, beams, windows, doors, cables, pipes etc.

If we then want to sit inside the finished Dharma-center and contemplate ultimate truth, we may reflect on how the ultimate truth of the Dharma-center is that it exists dependently upon the causes and conditions that built it, the parts from which it was built, and our mental labelling of it as 'Dharma-center'.

But the more you look for it, the less you find it. If we think that the Dharma-center actually exists from its own side, then we may try to pinpoint the exact stage of its construction at which 'heap of bricks' suddenly ceased to exist and the 'essence of Dharma-center' jumped into the structure to make it the thing that it is.

And of course we'll never find that sudden transformation, because 'essence of Dharma-center' only exists in our own mind, not within the structure of the Dharma-center.




3 Minds and mechanisms 



Alan Turing


"When the body dies, the 'mechanism' of the body holding the spirit is gone, and the spirit finds a new body sooner or later, perhaps immediately."
– Alan Turing on the death of his boyfriend.

There are two kinds of processes in the world, mechanistic and mental.

Mechanistic processes explain the working of all machines including computers, and all the classical laws of science including biology, chemistry, and physics.   All mechanistic processes can explained, modelled and simulated by Turing machines

What Turing referred to as the 'spirit' would be what Buddhists would call the 'mental continuum', a process that knows its objects (generates intentionality) and experiences qualitative states such as aversion and attachment, pleasure and pain.  

Thoughts about things, and minds of attachment and aversion (eg an angry mind) arise as subprocesses of this primary mental continuum, and then dissolve back into it, a phenomenon that can be observed in mindfulness meditations.
 

Mental processes can continue to operate when the mechanism of the brain  has shut down.

These mental processes consist of irreducible aspects of consciousness that have no mechanistic explanation, for example neither qualia (qualitative experiences), nor intentionality (the power of minds to be about, to represent, to give meaning or to stand for, things, properties and states of affairs) can be modelled, simulated or explained in terms of a Turing machine or combination of Turing machines.

Mental processes do not appear to be physical, for when we seek to bridge the gap from the processes taking place in the brain to those the mind, we inevitably reach a point where the methods of investigation, explanation and simulation pursued by mechanistic science (in the form of Turing machines)  are exhausted, and 'physical' understanding comes to an end.  Logical continuity between matter and mind disappears, and we are left in a perplexed contemplation of mysterianism. 

This explanatory gap is known as 'The Hard Problem of Consciousness'.





4 Delusions

Are we all deluded?


There are two kinds of delusions - innate delusions and intellectually formed delusions

Innate delusions result from our non-physical mental processes being attached to our bio-physical bodily processes, including those of the nervous system and brain, which have been driven by evolution
to give us a picture of the world that is merely fit for purpose, rather than one that represents some true underlying reality. 

Intellectually-formed delusions consist of pernicious mind viruses, memes and memeplexes such as bogus religions.  Another intellectually formed delusion is that of materialism, which is to some extent inspired as a reaction against the excesses of memetic religions.



4.1 Innate delusions

4.1.1  Reification

To reify is usually defined as mistakenly regarding an abstraction as a thing. It is derived from the Latin word res meaning 'thing'.

Reification in Western philosophy means treating an abstract belief or hypothetical construct as if it were a concrete, physical entity. In other words, it is the error of treating as a "real thing" something which is not a real thing, but merely an idea.

In Buddhist philosophy the concept of reification goes further. Reification means treating any functioning phenomenon as if it were a real, permanent 'thing', rather than an impermanent process.


The basic delusion is that we believe that all substances, objects and people have an unchanging, stable, defining nature ‘from their own side’ that makes them what they are. This delusion of intrinsic nature, is known as ‘svabhava’  (Sanskrit for ‘inherent existence’), and can be refuted philosophically by the 'emptiness' argument, and scientifically by recognising the process nature of reality.

Although we may understand intellectually that inherent-existence is impossible, nevertheless we still have great difficulty of ridding ourselves of this delusion.  The reason that svabhava is so deep-rooted, pervasive and systematic is that our brains and perceptual systems have evolved to use svabhava as a useful working approximation (or ‘conventional truth’) to represent commonsense reality. 

This ‘working approximation’ functions quite well in our everyday life, and only breaks down when we analyse phenomena in depth, either philosophically, or scientifically as with particle physics, where we are forced to realise that the observer is an inextricable part of the system. 


 


4.1.2  Other biologically based  delusions
All animals, including ourselves, have genetically programmed drives to eat, reproduce, fight for territory and mates, kill prey, help our kin and so on. These drives appear to our mind as attachment and aversion.

Manifestations of attachment include sexual desire, hunger and the need for security. Manifestations of aversion include fighting, fleeing and avoiding painful and dangerous situations. All these mental reactions have evolved because they gave our ancestors a selective advantage. They are, or were, essential for preservation of the individual and procreation of its genes.


We humans can to some extent distance ourselves from these drives. We can examine them and if necessary rebel against them. From the Buddhist point of view this is especially significant when these instinctive drives become pathological and turn into harmful 'innate delusions', giving rise to mental states such as anger, hatred, sadism, jealousy, greed, miserliness, sexual abuse and so on.


4.2  Intellectually formed delusions

4.2.1  Viruses of the mind
 'Mind viruses' (otherwise known as malignant memes and memeplexes) are contagious delusions, which harness the three poisons of the mind to spread like infectious diseases.  Jihadism is such a meme, which is 'as dangerous in a man as rabies in a dog', to quote Winston Churchill. 

The study of memes, memeplexes and their mechanisms of infection is known as memetics.


The Quran is the meme that provides the justification for beheadings, rapes, mutilations, genocides etc carried out by the Islamic State and their co-religionists.

The Quran demonstrates the self-reference and circularity typical of many memes. The Quran says it's the word of God, and believers know what it says is true because it's God's word!   Therefore its incitement to rape, murder, extort and pillage the kuffars must be obeyed without question.

Of course any logical analysis shows the Quran's truth claims to be a hoax, but logical analysis, and indeed any forms of rationalism, are strongly discouraged by Jihadists. In addition, divinely sanctioned rape, murder, extortion and pillage provide a very useful excuse for the criminal activities so evident among Jihadists in kuffar countries. No wonder Jihadism is spreading so rapidly in jails: it's a criminals' charter.  Just as typhus was the Victorian 'jail fever', jihadism is the modern prison epidemic.

 


4.2.2 Scientism and materialism.

Materialism is the belief that matter is the only reality in life and everything else, such as mind, feelings, emotions, beauty etc are just the by-products of the brain's physical and chemical activity, with no independent existence of their own.  Once their material basis is gone, mind and consciousness just disappear without trace.   Needless to say, materialism denies the validity of all religions and spiritual paths, not just Buddhism.

The debilitating effects of materialism don't just affect religions; they despiritualise all in their path, degrading art and encouraging brutalism.


Philosopher Roger Scruton believes that all great art has a 'spiritual' dimension, even if it is not overtly religious. It is this transcendence of the mundane that we recognise as 'beauty'.

Although materialism undermines the basis of all religions, nevertheless, materialism is of special interest to Buddhists, because Buddhism is the only religion that has a sufficiently strong philosophical basis to confront it.   Buddhism can argue rationally against materialism, whereas less  intellectually grounded religions can only bury their heads in the sand and ignore it, while their congregations decline and their institutions get taken over by small cliques of extremists.
 

As the Abrahamic religions have failed to tackle materialism, and instead are  degenerating into antiscience, idiocy and bigotry, Buddhism could become the only object of refuge for intelligent spiritual seekers wanting to escape the bleak and barren consequences of materialism.



5. Liberation of the Mind


Get me out of here!

5.1 Stepping outside the system

The concept of liberation from delusions by 'stepping outside the system', or ‘jumping outside the loop’ occurs repeatedly in different contexts within Buddhist philosophy and practice.  The archetypical example is, of course, the Buddha himself, who escaped from the endless loop of Samsara (cyclic existence) when he became enlightened.

In a philosophical and religious context, this stepping outside a system is known as transcendence, but there are also more mundane examples that serve as useful analogies.

 

5.2 Cultivating qualitative states of mind

Both formal meditational practice and a more informal approach using art may be employed to produce beneficial mental states.


5.2.1  Meditation

Many meditations consist of a two-stage process, analytical meditation followed by placement meditation. For example, in meditation on compassion a procedural mental process is used to generate a qualitative state of mind.  The qualitative mental feeling of compassion is what is known in Western philosophy as a 'quale' (singular of qualia).   It is an internal subjective state generated from the observation or recollection of external eventsThe objective of the placement stage is to familiarise and 'mix' the root mind with this beneficial state.

The ultimate and most profound meditation is that of tantric bliss and emptiness.



5.2.2  Art and aesthetics

"The experience of art often fulfills yearnings similar to the inspiration offered by religion. One more profound relationship between art and religion has historically been how it acts as a vehicle for expressing religious teachings. The worldly appreciation of cultural beauty is infused with a sincere belief that the aesthetic of religious art is not for its own sake, but to transmit ultimate truths..."

'Scruton believes that all great art has a 'spiritual' dimension, even if it is not overtly religious. It is this transcendence of the mundane that we recognise as 'beauty'.

In Buddhist terminology we would say that true art, even when it reflects samsara (the realms of chaos, addiction, squalor and suffering), shows that there is a path out, and often acts as signposts along the path.' 



'The three main ways of accessing intuitive levels of the mind are symbolism, visualisation and ritual. Symbolism may be used on its own, or in combination with visualisation and ritual.

The concept of symbolism has two aspects - Representational Symbolism and Evocative Symbolism, though sometimes a representational symbol can, with familiarity, become an evocative symbol.

Evocative symbols are interpreted by and affect the more subtle levels of the mind.  Evocative symbolism is associated with art, architecture and poetry, especially where there is a spiritual aspect. Examples of evocative symbolism in the visual arts are icons, thangkas, mandalas, stained glass windows and statues of holy beings.

Evocative symbolism often doesn't use direct representation, reference or explicit analogy. As the symbolist Mallarme said "Don't paint the thing itself, paint the effect that it produces".


"Japanese aesthetic ideals are most heavily influenced by Japanese Buddhism. In the Buddhist tradition, all things are considered as either evolving from or dissolving into nothingness. This "nothingness" is not empty space. It is rather a space of potentiality.[5] If the seas represent potential then each thing is like a wave arising from it and returning to it. There are no permanent waves. There are no perfect waves. At no point is a wave complete, even at its peak. Nature is seen as a dynamic whole that is to be admired and appreciated. This appreciation of nature has been fundamental to many Japanese aesthetic ideals, "arts," and other cultural elements. In this respect, the notion of "art" (or its conceptual equivalent) is also quite different from Western traditions"
 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Islam will destroy Buddhism

Islam will dominate the world and destroy Buddhism

The non-Muslim world was horrified recently when the Islamic State (aka The Caliphate, ISIS, ISIL)  attacked a small population of Yazidis (an ancient religious group), raped and enslaved  the women, murdered the men and tried to starve fleeing survivors [a, b, c, d e, f, g]       .     


The Islamic State has also attacked Christians, though not with the same ferocity. Christians have been able to buy their lives by paying huge amounts of protection money under the Koranic 'jizya' dispensation, which allows three groups of people, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, who are known as 'people of the book', to retain their religion and their lives by accepting 'dhimmi' status.   

Yazidis and Buddhists are not ‘people of the book’ and are not eligible for dhimmi status (or dhimmitude, as it is known) and must convert or be exterminated, or in the case of the Yazidis, simply be exterminated.  So what has befallen the Yazidis is a forestaste of what will happen to Buddhists as the Caliphate extends its reach globally [ a, b, c, d, e,  f, g, h, i, j, i]

Some  naïve Westerners have been puzzled why 'moderate' Muslims have not condemned the Caliphate’s genocidal activities, [a, b, c, d ]  but the reason is that the Islamic State’s actions are in complete accordance with the Koran, [a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h  i,  j , k, l, m, n ,o, p, q, r, s, t] so to condemn them would be to condemn the Koran and its author, which is blasphemous and punishable by death [ a, b, c, d, e f g h i j] .



Extreme versus moderate Islam
Islam is a supremacist, totalitarian system [a] that cannot and will not coexist on equal terms with any other worldview, and seeks to impose its own ideology throughout the world [a, b c].  

This imposition cannot be brought about by rational argument, since Islam rejected reason long ago [a b].  But instead, Islam spreads by violence,  intimidation, political subversion, bullying and mass murder. Dissent and freedom of expression are ruthlessly suppressed by vicious savagery [a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h ,i j].


The Islamic State’s neighbor and ally [a, b ], Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said:  “There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it.” [a]  and  “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers” [a]      

Coercion, intimidation, thuggery and outright terrorism are intrinsic and essential features of Islam [a, b, c, d, e, f, g ,i, j ] without which it could not spread, or even survive [a].  Islam is so intellectually moribund and ethically repulsive that it cannot compete for followers in a free marketplace of ideas, but must eliminate its competitors  by whatever means may be necessary.    This supremacist combination of ignorance and arrogance, with reliance on violence in place of reasoned argument, is in marked contrast to the rationality of Buddhism.
 

It is clear that Islam is not a religion in any normal sense [a] , but has more in common with those vicious tyrannies Nazism and Stalinism [a].  The religious aspect is a thin veneer to dupe and manipulate  the gullible masses, and raise an army of sexually frustrated youths hoping for 72 virgins in Allah's brothel in the sky, while the leaders enjoy the fruits of their powers. 

Islam is a classic mind virus - a contageous meme causing aggressive insanity which shares many of the features of rabies.


How Islam sees others
Islam divides humanity into two implacably antagonistic groups - Muslims (collectively known as the Ummah) versus Kaffirs (aka Kufr, Kuffars, Infidels or non-believers).

Kaffirs are subdivided further - Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians who accept the supremacy of Islam are known as Dhimmis, and are allowed to live as second-class citizens, provided they pay the extortionate Jizya (infidel tax) to their Muslim masters. The state of being a submissive Dhimmi is known as Dhimmitude. [a].  


Humiliation of Kafirs, especially by sexual humiliation and gang-rape of their children, is extremely important to Jihadists, with Islamic child abductions and gang-rapes being a feature of jihad in such widely different locations as Iraq, Russia, Nigeria, Britain and Burma  [ a b c d e f g h, i, j , k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r s t, u, v, w x y]

Buddhists, Pagans and members of all other 'non-Abrahamic' religions, together with secularists, and those Jews and Christians who do not accept Muslim domination, are regarded as Harbis - targets of war destined for extermination.  However ultimately ALL Jews, even those who live submissively under Islamic domination, will be exterminated [a, b].  

 
'The Qur’an tells Muslims that they are the “best of people” (3:110), while unbelievers are “the most vile of created beings” (98:6), and that this dichotomy inculcates a pride and arrogance'[a].  Muslims describe Buddhists as 'Mushrik' or 'Mushrikun' (idolaters) - a term of abuse which places them in the lowest category of 'najis kafirs'.


Execution of a harbi

Islam is at permanent war with harbis, even if the harbis don't actually do anything to annoy Muslims. The harbis' mere existence is itself an act of war. A Harbi has no rights, not even the right to live, as was shown recently in the Caliphate's execution, after prolonged torture,  of James Foley for being a harbi  [a ,b, c, d, e, f, g ]  

Jihadist children are taught from an early age to hate and kill harbis [a, b, c, d, e ]


Harbi doll --  before...



 
 ...and after



Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam
Areas under Muslim control are known as Dar al-Islam. Areas under Harbi control are known as Dar al-Harb - the domain of war. The Koran commands Muslims to wage perpetual war (Jihad) against Dar al-Harb until the entire world is Dar al-Islam. These attacks are ordained by Allah [a] and are non-negotiable in the long term, though the practice of taqiyya (holy deception) allows temporary deceptive peace agreements (’Hudna’) to be made while the forces of Islam are too weak to attack the Harbis successfully [a, b].






Islamization of Dar al-Harb



Buddhists as Harbis
Buddhists have always been favorite targets for jihad because:

(1) The Koran (Surah 9, ayah 5) commands that polytheists and idolaters should be exterminated  wherever they are found. Buddhist statues and icons provided the perfect excuse for a bloodbath. Modern Muslims continue to believe that since Buddhists are not monotheists they must be forced to convert to Islam or be killed.

(2) Being pacifists, Buddhists were unable to defend themselves.

Given this long history of uncompromising hostility towards Buddhism, which has 'sanctified' the slaughter of Buddhist sangha and destroyed Buddhist civilizations throughout Asia,  the future of Buddhism looks bleak indeed, as the Caliphate commands the loyalty of more and more Muslims and spreads throughout the world [a].     



Religious liberty under Islam

The Islamic memeplex is terrifyingly unstoppable [a,b]. Hence Buddhism is unlikely to survive as the world inevitably becomes more Islamized by conquest, subversion, immigration and demographic growth.   We can expect the anti-Buddhist jihad to intensify globally, with the increasing likelihood of attacks on Buddhists and Buddhist institutions in the West, as well as the usual terrorist operations in Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka etc  [ a, b, c, d, e,  f , g, h, i, j, k, l , m, n ]


Islam cannot coexist with Buddhism or other religions


Islam is a brutal, hyper-masculine, barbarian, tribal warrior cult that glories in machismo, murder, mutilation, gang-rape, genocide, terrorism, destruction and anarchy.


Islam is as ruthless as the rabies virus in ensuring is own propagation. It appeals to the lowest motives in human nature, with its divine approval for murder, sadism, extortion and rape in this life, and the promise of an afterlife spent in Allah's brothel in the sky with 72 subservient virgins.

Women, girls and all the feminine aspects of human nature are chattelised and subjugated. Weakness is despised and seen as ripe for predation. Women and children are gang-raped, and kuffar captives and defenseless minorities tortured and slaughtered.

With its institutionalized misogyny, Koran-sanctioned wife-beating and prophet-inspired pedophilia, Islam is a predatory, bullying, domineering despoiler and destroyer of all that is beautiful, spiritual, gentle, peaceful, innocent and vulnerable.

In the face of this militant all-conquering savagery, Buddhism doesn't stand a chance!