In Cambridge, MIT opened the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values this past spring. It’s a bit of an old story, but I’m just coming across it now.
The Dalai Lama had some interesting soundbytes in the piece:
“The majority of the 6 billion people on earth, I think, we can categorize as non-believers,” he said. “So we must find a way to promote ethics and values with these nonbelievers … We need promotion of secular ethics through education.”
I don’t think he means it this way, but it’s like he’s saying we’re not capable of having ethics and morals on our own.
It’s not like religion does a good job of instilling those values. (Do I need to make a list to prove that? Mark Sanford. There’s your list.)
The exiled spiritual and political leader of Tibet described “secular” not as an absence of belief, but as a mode of treating belief and non-belief with equal respect
Again, I think he means well. When it comes ethics and morals, certain ideas (be kind, don’t kill, Golden Rule, etc.) transcend religious beliefs.
But belief and non-belief do not deserve equal respect. People do. Ideas don’t. Bad ideas certainly don’t. If you want to promote “secular ethics,” it’ll be in spite of religious belief, not because of it. No doubt religious believers will say such goodness could not happen unless you worship their version of god.
The bigger story here, anyway, is that a university with the highest reputation of scientific integrity is joining together with a spiritual leader.
What does that mean?
“Buddhism has no history of conflict with science,” says B. Alan Wallace, president of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies. “In that regard, it may seem non-threatening to certain scientists who’ve grown very wary of Christians, who they think always have an agenda to try to plug intelligent design or their own particular theological creed.”
The center also reflects a growing movement in higher education to explore how science and religion might be complementary, rather than perennial foes.
Buddhism has no conflict with science?
Buddhists may not believe in a creator God, but they do believe in Rebirth, in the sense that when you die, your consciousness lives on in another form. That directly contradicts scientific evidence. There’s also the belief in Karma, a “magical” energy that says what you think matters just as much as (if not more than) what you do, which has no evidence to support it.
Again, I understand the good intent… but I’m puzzled why there’s so much deference given here to a man whose beliefs may contradict what the students and faculty already know is true.
(Thanks to Rob for the link!)