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By Kal on 02-20-09
Great companion piece to Anathem by Stephenson
I can see how some people may be put off by the heavy emphasis on Buddhist religion... however, to just dismiss it as Buddhist propaganda is missing the point entirely. Wallace definitely takes pains to point out that he is not advocating Buddhism over Christianity, stating in the conclusion that Science, Buddhism, Christianity and other world religions have "complementarities", in a very specific way. As a non-Buddhist, I did not find it to be too pushy or offensive in any way.
So, why the emphasis on Buddhism? Simply because it is the best known example of a contemplative "science" that has been in continuous existence for over 2 millennia. As Wallace points out, there were other contemplative traditions (such as Plato) that went out of style with the rise of classical science in the west. Now that we are finding out that classical science cannot explain the ultimate nature of reality, he is making a very compelling case for a new science that blends the modern quantum theories with a contemplative science. Buddhism is proffered as the shining example of what the latter may look like, with the caveat that we have to take it to the next level -- namely subject the claims to scientific scrutiny in a very particular way.
If you have not listened to the speculative fiction book called Anathem by Neil Stephenson, I would highly recommend it. That book is essentially a sci fi look at what a world that has mastered this new science may look like. Since it is a fictional world, Stephenson does not have to resort to using examples like Buddhism. Instead, he creates a special class of scientists called Theors who are Avout and live in a Concent (all made up words, like Anathem), and develop Praxis (aka technology) from this new science. Very innovative and entertaining, and these two books, imo, should be listened to back-to-back. I did Anathem first, then this one, but one could go the other way too.
31 of 32 people found this review helpful
By Michael on 01-10-09
An exciting vision of a new science.
I agree with Bernard, this is deep and thought provoking material. I kept being reminded of Roger Penrose's "Emperor's New Mind" where the topics of consciousness and its relationship with reality are discussed. Similarly, Popper's insights about scientific method also came to mind. Our scientific methods don't really prove anything: "true" in the scientific sense just means 'not yet falsified'. As to the Buddhist slant, this stems from the fact that Buddhism takes a scientific approach to spirituality and has never been about doctrine and faith. Belief is never demanded (or enforced). In Buddhism, as discussed by Ken Wilber, John Daido Loori and others, the approach is always "Do the experiment yourself and see if you get the same result". Unfortunately, most people are not willing to do the experiments, especially if they involve sitting zazen for 10 years! I recommend this work to anyone interested in the intersection of science and religion. It raises as many questions as it answers but they are, in opinion, very important and timely questions.
16 of 17 people found this review helpful