by Denyse O'Leary
But when it comes to questions about life and its origins, this would-be man of science begins to waver. Though he professes to accept evolutionary theory, he recoils at one of its most basic tenets: that the mutations that provide the raw material for natural selection occur at random. Look deeply enough, he suggests, and the randomness will turn out to be complexity in disguise - "hidden causality," the Buddha's smile. There you have it, Eastern religion's version of intelligent design. He also opposes physical explanations for consciousness, invoking instead the existence of some kind of irreducible mind stuff, an idea rejected long ago by mainstream science."
In other words, for Johnson, science is the handmaid of materialism, and a person is scientifically minded to the extent that he is a materialist.
Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace responds:
... mainstream science has largely chosen to ignore such evidence [for the mind as real] on the grounds that there must be a physical explanation for consciousness. Over the past century, cognitive science has focused on third-person measurements of the physical correlates of mental phenomena, while marginalizing introspection, the only means by which mental processes can be observed directly. As a result of this materialistic bias, scientists have yet to come to a consensus regarding the definition of consciousness, they have no means of detecting it or even its neural correlates, and they have yet to identify the necessary and sufficient causes of consciousness, and they have not discovered how neural events influence mental events or how mental processes influence each other. Scientists have made great progress in revealing the physical correlates of specific mental phenomena, but they have left us in the dark regarding most of the fundamental questions about the nature and origins of consciousness.
Materialism, in today's circumstances, is very much an act of faith, as Mario Beauregard and I show in The Spiritual Brain - an act of faith that most people, East and West, are still unprepared to make, and probably always will be. A fascinating study for some of us will be the different ways in which the issues play out, east and west.
Return to beginning: Part One: Intelligent design east? The Dalai Lama kisses Darwin goodbye
Toronto-based Canadian journalist Denyse O'Leary (www.designorchance.com) is the author of the multiple award-winning By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004), an overview of the intelligent design controversy. She was named CBA Canada's Recommended Author of the Year in 2005 and is co-author, with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of the forthcoming The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul (Harper 2007).
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