Just now I mentioned some important common ground in Buddhism and science, both in the areas of faith and of aspiration to knowledge. Now I would like to take a look at the object of this faith and aspiration to knowledge. The object is reality or truth. Our aspiration and our faith are rooted in the desire for truth or knowledge. When we have reached the essence of the matter, which is knowledge or truth, our aspiration is fulfilled. This means that humanity must understand the truth of the laws of nature.
I would like to stress one more time that in Buddhism our goal is to use the knowledge of truth to improve on human life and solve problems, to attain a life that is perfectly free. On the other hand, science has as its goal the utilization of its knowledge for the conquest of nature, in order to provide a wealth of material goods. This is perhaps illustrated most clearly in the words of Rene Descartes, whose importance in the development of Western science and philosophy is well known. He wrote of the purpose of science as part of the struggle to render ourselves the masters and possessors of nature.
With different goals, the object of knowledge must also be different. What is the object of knowledge in Buddhism? The prime object of our enquiry is the nature of the human being. Human beings are the objector knowledge, and from there our study spreads out to incorporate all the things with which we must deal externally. Mankind is always the object, the centre from which we study the truth of nature.
In science, on the other hand, the object of research is the external, physical environment. Even though science occasionally looks into the human being, it is usually only as another physical organism within the material universe. Mankind as such is not studied. That is, science may study human life, but only in a biological sense, not in relation to being human' or 'humanness'.
So the field of the Buddhist search for knowledge is the human being, while that of science is the external world. Taking this point as our reference, let us take a look at the respective extents of the nature that science seeks to know, and the nature that Buddhism seeks to know.
Buddhism believes that human beings are the highest Evolution of nature. For that reason, mankind must encompass the entire spectrum of reality within himself. That is, the human organism contains nature on both the physical and mental planes. On the physical plane we have the body, made up of the elements and connected to the external physical world. However, the physical world does not include the world of values, or the mind. For that reason, through studying mankind it is possible to know the truth of all aspects of nature, both the physical and the abstract.
Science studies nature only on the material plane, in the world of matter and energy, and is not interested, and does not recognize, the factor of mind, consciousness or spirit. Science searches frown the outside inwards. Having reached the human organism, science studies only life', but doesn't study the human being. Science knows only the facts of the physical world, but does not know the nature of the human being, or human nature.
I have been talking so far about basic principles. Now I would like to make a few general observations.Just now I stated that Buddhism puts mankind at the centre, it is anthropocentric. Its express aim is to understand and to develop the human being. Science, on the other hand, is interested only in the external world. It seeks to know the truths of things outside of the human being.
Over the years, as science incorporated the intention to conquer nature into its values, science once again put man at the centre of the picture, but in quite a different way from the way Buddhism does. Buddhism gives human beings the central position in the sense of recognizing their responsibilities. It emphasizes mankinds duty toward nature. Buddhism puts mankind in the centre insofar as he must develop himself, to remedy problems. This is what is of real benefit, enabling human beings to attain the transcendence of suffering, freedom and the highest good.
Science, in incorporating the view of the desirability of conquering nature into its aspirations, placed mankind in the centre of the picture once more, but only as the exploiter of nature. Man says I want this,'' from where he proceeds to manipulate nature, to motels it to his desires. Simply speaking, science's placing of man in the centre is from the perspective of feeding his selfishness.
In relation to the object of study, Buddhism places mankind in the centre. Man becomes the truth which must be steadied, and that order to be able to effectively develop human potential. But science, at the outset, in terms of truth to be studied, directs its attention solely towards the material world. Then it puts mankind in the centre as the agent who will make use of these material objects to feed his desires. Buddhism and science are thus both anthropocentric, with the distinction that while Buddhism is man-centred, science is self-centred.
The second observations would like to make is in relation to Pure Science, Is science pure or impure?
The term Pure Science', so named because it is reputed to be science and only science', that is, pure knowledge without any concern for practical application, is used to distinguish it from Applied Science or technology. But nowadays science is not so pure. Granted, in the sense that it has a relatively pure drive to study the laws of nature, it can be said to be pure, but when these other values infiltrate into scientific research it becomes impure.
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