the excluded middle way

both Dawkins and Dharma

“There are two ways of looking at the world. Through faith and superstition, or through the rigors of logic, observation and evidence, through reason”


Dear Mr Dawkins.

I love you, really I do. But please try to see that there are not just Either/Or ways of looking at the world.

What about Both/And?

I’m glad you’ve so beautifully divided the world into two. But can you please put it back together again?

You point out the difference between irrational religious belief and rational scientific logic. But it will be impossible to unseat the minds of the ‘believers’ without first understanding how they are right.

What is it about the astrological system (for example) that works? What is it about their state of consciousness, in that moment, that accurately describes what it is that they’re trying to say? What does it say about the believer’s world and their consciousness?

It’s not just a bunch of huxsters and money makers but people who really believe this worldview. People who deeply believe this.

We see this again and again. In the case of the dowsers we can see the cognitive dissonance – they don’t understand how they can be wrong. Then they’re shown. But they still believe because of a deeply felt and held worldview. It is my contention that rather than dismiss them as ‘childish’ we need to understand these deep feelings before we can move forward in a positive way.

I think you will probably object to me using the Yin-Yang here as an example. Because it’s a load of old nonsense.

Yin Yang

But the beautiful thing about the yin-yang figure is that rather than the black and white world that you describe in your introduction we see how the two sides are not only perfectly interlocked, supporting the other side, but there is also a tiny drop of the other in each.

What Buddhism teaches is that everything is dependant-related – that is, the more people react to astrology as a discipline and attack it, the more people will become entrenched in their view and retreat from reason. It’ll create crazy people, but only because he seems crazy to them. Of course superstitious people have retreat from reason, pure reason alone won’t answer all the big questions. Perhaps because their expectations are too high, the questions too lofty, and they retreat from reason totally. Ditto the scientific camp – religion didn’t provide the answers they wanted so they went and found inspiration in genetic models, matter, equations and dirt.

If we only have one eye we’re unable to judge depth. Not only that but we have a blind spot that the other eye helps us to fill. Perhaps the author of the Blind Watchmaker could contemplate this analogy and see where it takes him? If we can say that belief without science is blind isn’t the corollary of this that science without belief is lame?

Mr Dawkins you are a great scientist – I have always loved your work and insight – but you must recognise that you cannot mak absolute claims (I don’t think you’ve ever wanted to). Similarly Buddha was a great internal scientist – but Buddha must not make any final relativistic claims (because the universe described today will be different tomorrow).

In this sense there are non-overlapping magisteria (to borrow from Gould) . I think this directly shows us the classic problem between relativistic and absolutist views. Neither are right but the absolutist would deny the relative and say it’s not the real truth, the relative is a lie. Science, however, is saying ‘come on guys, let’s look at the facts, there is so much going on out there, so much process and incredibly rich, real, stuff. Our science shows how it all works and fits together and by comparison you’re astrological model is rubbish, screwed up, really weak by comparison’.

And it’s true.

But also, from the absolute view, when viewed from the end-point of the result of goal of religious and mystical truths, believers know they’re right. They have access to non-rational knowledge and Dawkins is committing a PreTrans fallacy – in short, not on non-rational knowledge is pre-rational knowledge. Some of these people are able to trans-rationally intuit from their experience that there is a much deeper truth to behold, there must be an absolute truth.

And on that level, in the short term, the non-science science (astrology in this case) is fucked. They can’t show you the absolute using relative stuff. They are trying very hard with their ‘science’ and it’ll never help them to explain (or prove) the goal.

So real Science will always going to be much better in that sense – but it’s not the whole story. Because when you’ve reached enlightenment, or reached ‘the final goal’ you’ll know, by direct empirical experience, that not only are there both relative and absolute truths but also that they are identical in nature.

Binocular vision of the two truths

With two eyes, eyes that can see conventional/relative and ultimate/absolute truths, and focus both eyes on a single object then the image we see will be without a blind spot and our depth of understanding will increase.

From the point of view of the result of religious knowledge it is science that is is a triffling irrelevance, thoroughly anthropomorphic and narcisstic (sound familiar?) . From the point of view of the path (or method) old religious dogmas are an irrelevance and it is science that shines – it truly is the best method we’ve got.

When we can reconcile these two polarities we’ll have a science that sees the magic of it’s own creations and a spirituality that is not afraid to ask itself tough questions.

I’m going to finish with a quote that’ll drive you nuts.

Love from the left-hand quadrants.


We place no reliance On virgin or pigeon; Our Method is Science, Our Aim is Religion” — Aleister Crowley


Filed under: both/and, Dawkins, dharma, emptiness, form, Integral, Science, Skepticism, Two Truths, UL, UR, Video

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