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Mar 29 2012

Parasitism pays, as long as the parasite smiles

This is a little bit like confessing to kicking puppies, or thinking flowers stink, or hating rainbows. But I have to be me.

I don’t like the Dalai Lama.

Not one bit. I’ll go further: I find him repulsive and creepy. Sure, he smiles a lot, and he acts like a nice guy…but the same is true of all kinds of con men and used car salesmen and televangelists. They’ll smile and laugh while they pick your pocket and knife your grandmother; just playing the role of the apparent nice guy wins no points with me. What has he actually done?

The Dalai Lama is founder of the Mind & Life institute for research on science and Buddhism. A series of talks he gave at Stanford University led to the creation of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, which brings together scientists and religious scholars.

Not impressive at all. I looked them up: the Mind & Life Institute is full of babble about “the contemplative sciences”. They do things like fund retreats that “advance collaborative research among scientists based on dialogue and collaboration with contemplatives.” They hang out with guys going “ommmm”, in other words. It sounds extremely silly.

What really creeps me out, though, is that everywhere on that site they refer to this old guy as “His Holiness”. With capitalization. It’s very religious, and I don’t say that in a good way.

Then there’s the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research Education. I’m sorry, Stanford, you’ve been snookered; you’re promoting goofy dipsy-doodle New Age nonsense.

What makes it all particularly grating is that this mask of compassion and altruism and sweetness and light is draped over a smiling medieval theocrat, who believes he acquired his position by the magic of reincarnation, and who wants independence for Tibet (good so far), so that it can be re-saddled with patriarchal religious rule that condescends to women and treats homosexuality as an abomination. Ah, but he has great PR for yet another sex-hating celibate priest with delusions of grandeur.

And now he has won the Templeton Prize. They claim this wacky old priest promotes “serious scientific investigative reviews”. Bleh. No he doesn’t. He promotes himself and his bizarre religious views by pretending to be science-friendly.

Guess what? I don’t like the Templetons at all, either. It’s a perfect match of the odious with the devious.


How much worse could it be? The Discovery Institute thinks the Dalai Lama is just ducky, because his grasp of the fundamentals of evolution are about as pathetically bad as theirs. They quote a whole bunch of creationist gibberish from the Tibetan Twit approvingly.

Guess what? I also don’t like the Discovery Institute.

Cuttlefish and Ophelia have more.

88 comments

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  1. 1
    Sili

    Well. How *should* we address him?

    Mr. Lama?

  2. 2
    deadguykai

    You left out the part about how this ‘advocate of non-violence’ used to get money from the CIA to run a guerrilla army. Who Would Buddha Kill?

    No, can’t say I like guy much either and I’m a Buddhist, of the Zen variety.

    At least he says that if science and Buddhism disagree then it is is Buddhism that has to change. He’s got the Pope beat on that one.

  3. 3
    R Johnston

    Well, at least the Dalai Lama isn’t as horrific a human being as Mother Theresa was. He doesn’t make it his life’s work to see as many women die in pregnancy as possible and to stand over people dying in agonizing pain, withhold all pain medication, and say “suffer, you unworthy piece of shit.” But yeah, he’s still pretty bad.

  4. 4
    johnkennedy

    Your big finger is directly on what my take on the DL is… with appropriate contempt and vitriol. Well done!

  5. 5
    deadguykai

    @ Sili: How about as “Mr. Dondrub”? That is, after all, his real name.

  6. 6
    Glen Davidson

    The Discovery Institute thinks the Dalai Lama is just ducky, because his grasp of the fundamentals of evolution are about as pathetically bad as theirs.

    Yay, they’re just as stupid as a false religion!

    How great is that?

    Glen Davidson

  7. 7
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Is the purpose of said institute to persuade scientists that Religion Might Have Something so be nice to it?

    Mr. Don’t-rub! Well, that’s easy to remember.

  8. 8
    williamfrost

    The “theocrat” part isn’t really accurate anymore. He has ceded political power to a parliament (and, yeah, there are problems due to the status of Tibet, but you can’t blame that on him).

  9. 9
    anon

    The Dalai Lama is quite progressive in a lot of ways. He has voluntarily separated the political and religious powers that the holder of the office enjoys. Also he’s quite vocal about wanting to see a woman succeed him.
    I disagree with his views on abortion and sexuality though.

  10. 10
    vijay kishorevaidyanathan

    He is not demanding for freedom of Tibet. His wants more like autonomy which Hong Kong enjoys.

  11. 11
    joed

    Not only spirit leader but king of Tibet too!
    No wonder he wants Tibet back.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalai_Lama
    “The 14th Dalai Lama remained the head of state for the Central Tibetan Administration (“Tibetan government in exile”) until his retirement on March 14, 2011. He has indicated that the institution of the Dalai Lama may be abolished in the future, and also that the next Dalai Lama may be found outside Tibet and may be female.[2] The Chinese government was very quick to reject this and claimed that only they have the authority to select the next Dalai Lama.[3]“

  12. 12
    Vijen

    He seems to have suckered people by means of his niceness, and it is hard to object to most of his public remarks, but if you dig a little deeper there is a lot of theological twaddle masquerading as a description of reality.

    Even as someone who sees the scientific worldview as profoundly limited (though immensely useful and interesting), I have never had any time for this guy.

  13. 13
    Inaji

    Also he’s quite vocal about wanting to see a woman succeed him.

    He certainly is:

    “And I also mentioned in case Dalai Lama’s incarnation one female comes then must be very attractive female. So the very reason, you see more influence to others, an ugly female then may not much effective,”

    All those qualities that go into a Dalai Lama? So unimportant if it’s a woman. In that case, pretty-pretty is the order of the day. So enlightened, that.

  14. 14
    tbp1

    I heard him speak some 25 years ago when I was in grad school. His talk was OK, nothing seriously objectionable, but no real substance either. Lots of platitudes no one could really find fault with, but no concrete ideas about how to achieve his lofty goals, either. Overall maybe a B-.

  15. 15
    anon

    “And I also mentioned in case Dalai Lama’s incarnation one female comes then must be very attractive female. So the very reason, you see more influence to others, an ugly female then may not much effective,”

    I hate to seem like a supporter of his. But if you see the interview where he says that, it’s clear he’s making a joke, albeit one in poor taste.

  16. 16
    ambassadorfromverdammt

    Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but I doubt that the deli llama has any great desire to do anything other than give the impression that he wants a free Tibet so that people will be gullible enough to give him money. It’s likely the only skill he has.

    I think he is quite content with the status quo.

  17. 17
    Inaji

    if you see the interview where he says that, it’s clear he’s making a joke, albeit one in poor taste.

    No, it’s not overwhelmingly clear at all. Even if it is a joke, someone stupid non-cognitive enough to say that needs to keep their mouth firmly shut.

  18. 18
    anuran

    Nope, PZ. Wrong. The Dalai Lama doesn’t represent “New Age” anything. The particular religious sect he represents is very much Old School. Millennia old. You may not agree with it, but those are the plain facts.

    As for calling him “His Holiness”, you are called “Doctor Myers” or “Professor Myers” because that is your title within academia. Whether someone likes you or not that’s how it is. “His Holiness” is the same thing. It’s his proper title as the head of Tibetan Buddhism and as the exiled Head of State of the (former) kingdom of Tibet.

  19. 19
    rorschach

    For one, Tenzin Gyatso could tell his followers to stop setting themself on fire. That would be something useful. Although he seems to consider money and fame more important, after all he took 1.2 million USD from Shoko Asahara, the guy who released nerve gas in the Tokyo Metro, and, after a healthy donation, declared Steven Seagal a lama of Tibetan buddhism.

  20. 20
    PZ Myers

    Nope. He’s pushing New Age sloppy thinking now. Read his websites. Next you’re going to tell me that Deepak Chopra promotes ancient Hindu practices.

    People don’t call me Dr or Professor. My students call me PZ. And you seriously see no difference between an academic title conferred for scholarly work done, and “His Holiness”? Really?

  21. 21
    Vijen

    Good to see so many unreasonable imposters falling by the wayside for the sake of this sacred cowlama

  22. 22
    anon

    Tenzin Gyatso has, as a matter of fact, discouraged his followers from setting themselves on fire.
    http://thesouthasiantimes.info/content/india/china-not-dalai-lama-cause-self-immolation-sangay

  23. 23
    lexie

    Thanks PZ for the opportunity to grumble about this one. The Dalai Lama is a figure head for new age nonsense and he needs to be exposed as such. I think that such new age nonsense is particularly dangerous because so many people respect it. Many people I know will be critical of fundamentalist traditional religions but won’t speak up about mystical bullshit.

    In addition to there is the same nonsense around him as the pope or any other religious leader, because he managed to accidentally pick out some objects belonging to the old dalai lama he got to live in a palace while most tibetans lived in poverty and is treated as special because he could identify a walking stick. He is not special because of a coincidence when he was four! You do not get respect for childhood coincidences.

    Respect is something you get for something you’ve actually done, whether it be widespread respect for doing great things or respect from those around you for being a great friend. I have enormous respect for a lot of people because of what they’ve done, some of them are world famous and some are just regular people whom I know. Strangely enough though those whom I respect never seem to want people to bow and scape before them, they don’t demand respect they get it because they’ve earned it, and they are really humble (can’t vouch for those who I respect that are famous I can only judge them by their actions I have seen) despite the fact that they have many reasons to be proud and boastful.

    You are far more entitled to use your title as you earned it through hard work rather than calling him holy for a coincidence when he was four. Strangely enough though the professors at my uni are called by all the students by first name and it increases rather than diminishes my respect for them because the way they treat us students is great.

  24. 24
    pHred

    @PZ – off topic but – I do have my students call me Dr. I worked hard for the title and really hate being mistaken for the department secretary. That has probably never been a problem for you even before you got distinguished looking. The initial alternative would result in me being called ET and I think the problems with that are obvious.

  25. 25
    Rutee Katreya

    Nope, PZ. Wrong. The Dalai Lama doesn’t represent “New Age” anything.

    New Agers have appropriated him, at the least. Not sure I’d say he represents them.

    The particular religious sect he represents is very much Old School. Millennia old.

    I’m pretty sure that’s overly generous. Buddhism may be that old, but I doubt somewhat that tibetan buddhism as a separate sect is.

  26. 26
    Cuttlefish

    The one l lama,
    He’s a priest.
    The two l llama,
    He’s a beast.
    And I will bet
    A silk pajama
    There isn’t any
    Three l lllama.*

    *The author’s attention has been called to a type of conflagration known as a three alarmer. Pooh.

    Ogden Nash, from “Parents Keep Out, Elderly Poems for Youngerly Readers”.

  27. 27
    augustpamplona

    I don’t know. I used to feel that way (horrid medievalist, yada, yada, yada) because that _is_ what he emerged from. I am more lukewarm about it these days due to some of the things which have been brought up.

  28. 28
    DLC

    http://youtu.be/8x-nQ-vPw5k — what I think of when I think of the Dalai Lama.

  29. 29
    Ragutis

    I never understood the big deal about this guy. I knew a guy from Peru and he said they’ve got like millions of ‘em there.

  30. 30
    IncredulousMark

    Your third paragraph about how “nice” isn’t always synonymous with “good” brought one of my favourite songs to mind:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yRMG-q0lu4

  31. 31
    IncredulousMark

    Ugh…HTML fail
    Dinner with the Devil

  32. 32
    timgueguen

    It’s ironic that in some ways the Chinese conquest of Tibet was the best thing that oculd have happened to Tibetan Buddhism. If for some reason Mao and Zhou Enlai had decided not to invade in the ’50s we might be sitting here talking about the problems Tibet had trying to transition to democracy after overthrowing the Lama system.

  33. 33
    left0ver1under

    I learnt years ago has always been virulently anti-gay, which took away any patience I had for him. He was also a supporter of the US’s invasion of Afghanistan.

  34. 34
    echidna

    Vijen:

    Even as someone who sees the scientific worldview as profoundly limited…

    Ok, I’ll bite. What profound limitation does the scientific world view have? Reality?

  35. 35
    robro

    And let’s not even get started with all that messy business about the common people in Tibet being treated as slaves under the theocratic regime he was the head of. Nice guy indeed.

    By the way, Stanford is the same school that’s home to the Hoover Institute, a “conservative policy analysis group” (their words, not mine…really). Highly regarded school but a bastion for right wing “thinkers.”

    Conservatism and religion are a school tradition. Leland Stanford carved out Palo Alto as a Temperance Town for the school, and from what I’ve heard, the town remained dry until fairly recent times. Although founded as a co-ed school, Jane Stanford was responsible for establishing a policy that required a male/female undergrad ratio of 3:1 (2:1 more recently…wow! such progress). Although a non-religious school, she also dictated teaching about the “soul”, after life, etc.

    So, maybe Stanford is the perfect place for Lhamo Dondrub’s institute.

  36. 36
    Vijen

    @echidna

    Science is mind working coherently – which is great – but mind is just another mechanism, like the body. Are you content to identify as a machine? Really?

  37. 37
    Kristof

    I don’t know how reliable it is but I recommend reading “Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth“. Even if it was 1/10th true it is still quite eye-opener.

  38. 38
    Inaji

    Vijen:

    Science is mind working coherently

    No, that’s not science.

    but mind is just another mechanism, like the body.

    What we call “mind” or “ourself” originates in the brain.

    Are you content to identify as a machine?

    There’s no need to identify as a machine. Mind and body are not separate, they are not dual entities. It’s absolute silliness to prescribe to that view. Everything we are, everything we feel is a product of our brain. It’s truly awesome, especially if one spends a bit of time educating themselves on just how things work, rather than relying on vacuous bullshit.

  39. 39
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    I find it quite hard to care about this. It’s Templeton, you expect it to be religious. At least this time they haven’t co-opted a scientist.

    The DL does seem like a nice enough old dude, and he changed his mind about teh ghey at least part way. And supports women’s rights. And he said this:

    If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.

    Remarkable for any religious leader.

    What *does* bother me is people talking about Tibetan Buddhism as if it were some great thing. It’s not and it wasn’t. The historical lamasery was horrific. The Chinese invasion technically improved life for the average Tibetan peasant, in terms of food, education, shelter etc – even though it was also horrific, and ridiculous Maoist agricultural practices killed thousands. The infant Dalai Lamas weren’t the rulers; they were of course subject to the older priests, and their childhoods were abusive. Rigidly regimented, mal-educated, not permitted any fun, friends or family. The Chinese invasion freed him.

  40. 40
    Vijen

    @Caine, Fleur du Mal

    I agree that the mind-body is not dual. As to “education” – I’ve read Flanagan, McGinn, Dennett, Chalmers and many other self-styled “philosophers of consciousness”, but find them unconvincing.

    I am. I experience my own subjectivity. And it’s just not reducible to stuff exists.

  41. 41
    IncredulousMark

    @Vijen

    Are you content to identify as a machine?

    What I am or am not content with has no bearing on what is.

  42. 42
    davem

    Well. How *should* we address him?

    Mr. Lama?

    I always think ‘Doolally Lama’ myself.

  43. 43
    speedweasel

    Careful PZ, if you continue on like that you will piss off Steven Seagal. You don’t want to have to confront his awesome martial arts skills and his painfully empty mind*.

    Yeah, I’m aware that after 30+ years of swallowing Aikido’s metaphysical bullshit Steven would probably consider that a compliment.

  44. 44
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I am.

    Congratulations. I am too.

    I experience my own subjectivity.

    No shit. That kinda fits the definition of subjectivity.

    And it’s just not reducible to stuff exists.

    So, what are we talking about here? Stuff that doesn’t exist but makes you feel fuzzy to imagine it (soul) or just that your own subjectivity tells you that your stuff is super special and calling it brain activity insults it?

    I am. I experience my own subjectivity. And it’s just not reducible to stuff exists.

    Maybe this would make more sense to me if I were high.

  45. 45
    Dabu

    I am. I experience my own subjectivity. And it’s just not reducible to stuff exists.

    So in other words, you have really profound thoughts, which lead you to conclude that something more than what science can ever put its finger on is going on here.

    Yeah, I get it. I have profound thoughts too, especially late at night after a hard day’s coding and a few wines. They’re nonlinear, intricate, and, from my own perspective at least, uncannily perspicacious. Perhaps yours are as well, though a statement like “I experience my own subjectivity” is a bit of a grimy window into the blooming garden of your psyche.

    But no matter how funky they get, I’d never assume my musings were anything more than the end product of natural stuff subjected to natural processes. Doing otherwise would be arrogant. Scientists haven’t quite figured out exactly what makes qualia go, but there’s no evidence of some mystic cosmological constant being needed to make the equation balance, and no reason to ever expect one to be found.

  46. 46
    Alex

    @PZ – off topic but – I do have my students call me Dr. I worked hard for the title and really hate being mistaken for the department secretary. That has probably never been a problem for you even before you got distinguished looking. The initial alternative would result in me being called ET and I think the problems with that are obvious.

    Yes, isn’t it soo annoying to be mistaken for lowly non-anointed coworkers all the time when one is clearly something better? Imagine everyone would realize that having a PhD doesn’t make us magical. I don’t even want to think about living in such a world.

  47. 47
    Ragutis

    Wha? I know that I posted a lame joke here a few hours ago. Did the gremlins get into the FtB servers again?

  48. 48
    'Tis Himself

    @PZ – off topic but – I do have my students call me Dr. I worked hard for the title and really hate being mistaken for the department secretary.

    Since I don’t have a doctorate, I have to settle for subordinates calling me “Your Exalted Excellence” or “Most August Eminence”. Gotta keep those untermenschen in their place by insisting on glorification by one’s lessers.

  49. 49
    Ragutis

    Of course, now it’s there. OK, I’m tired. At least, that’s the most likely explanation if no one else has had any problems. I’ll go to bed, just to make sure.

    G’night!

  50. 50
    Gary Hill

    I must say I’m surprised by what has been said re homosexuality.

    For a few years in the 80s I was a member of a large Buddhist centre of the same sect as the Dalai Lama and got to know quite well several members of the Tibetan religious and lay communities. A number of (western) male and female gay couples were members and were never treated any differently to hetero couples. The whole sexuality thing just didn’t seem to faze either the lamas or the laity. It was totally a non-issue and something that had attracted me to the community.

  51. 51
    Vijen

    @Beatrice, anormalement indécente
    @Agent Smith

    Noting fuzzy, no souls, not even intricate thoughts are needed. Just pay close attention. Do it every day. It’s better if sometimes, for a period, you do it all day. Continue…

    @MarkNS
    Obviously.
    But when you notice that you are not content, then you become open to the possibility that consciousness is non-mechanical.

  52. 52
    John Morales

    Vijen:

    But when you notice that you are not content, then you become open to the possibility that consciousness is non-mechanical.

    I take it by that you mean supernatural.

    (If so, it’s a pretty silly speculation)

  53. 53
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    then you become open to the possibility that consciousness is non-mechanical.

    This doesn’t make sense. No brain activity, no consciousness. Sounds like metaphysical bullshit to me.

  54. 54
    Q.E.D

    What makes it all particularly grating is that this mask of compassion and altruism and sweetness and light is draped over a smiling medieval theocrat,. . .

    IIRC The Chinese government’s party line is that they liberated Tibetans from a medieval theocracy.

    OT Aikido: Speedweasel @ 43

    Careful PZ, if you continue on like that you will piss off Steven Seagal. You don’t want to have to confront his awesome martial arts skills and his painfully empty mind*.

    Yeah, I’m aware that after 30+ years of swallowing Aikido’s metaphysical bullshit Steven would probably consider that a compliment.

    I agree that Seagal is an embarrassment: ditching his Japanese wife and children; intimating/lying that he was a CIA agent; paying money for his Buddhist title etc. As for “Aikido’s metaphysical bullshit” that may be true about Seagal but isn’t generally true about Aikido. Loads of people train in Aikido without subscribing to any metaphysical bullshit (others are deep in the woo). Yoshinkan style Aikido is all about body mechanics. Every member of my club is an atheist, none of whom believes in anything spiritual. As far as I am concerned Ki = taking balance through understanding of body mechanics and a fuckload of practice. As for “empty mind” the concept of mushin no shin is actually quite useful. When you drop something and you reflexively catch it without having had any thought between the object falling and your catching it is a small example of mushin. Being able to do that when someone is trying to smash your face is mushin no shin and, again, takes a fuckload of practice.

  55. 55
    echidna

    Vijen,
    you use “mechanical” where you mean “physical”. I interpret you as saying that physical reality is not enough to explain your feelings, so there must be more. Metaphysical, I guess.

    Sorry, but physical reality is enough. I can’t comment on your #36, because it just doesn’t parse into anything meaningful to me, except to say that I am perfectly happy to identify as a physical entity. A machine? Not so much. I don’t recall any evidence to indicate that I am designed and built for a purpose by another entity.

  56. 56
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    [kw*k]
    I went to a prestigious high-school with the DL.
    [/kw*k]

    JK

    However, I did run into the DL and his retinue once as I was hiking across Table Mountain in Cape Town. I may have imagined that their demeanor indicated a complete lack of seriousness regarding the designation “mountain” as applied to that formation. Stupidly, it never occurred to me to take a picture*, I suppose because, even in their lovey orange** wraps, the lamas were not purty flowers.

    *Therefore, didn’t happen, by local custom.
    **Or saffron or whatever

  57. 57
    Q.E.D

    Echidna @55

    I don’t recall any evidence to indicate that I am designed and built for a purpose by another entity.

    What an elegant turn of phrase. I’m trousering it for the next time some religiot uses the mechanistic argument.

  58. 58
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Noting fuzzy, no souls, not even intricate thoughts are needed. Just pay close attention. Do it every day. It’s better if sometimes, for a period, you do it all day. Continue…

    Oh, I hope that doesn’t include “opening your mind”. Although, that would explain some of the senseless drivel you have been writing.

  59. 59
    jamessweet

    I always forgot about the Lama’s anti-sex anti-gay bent. Had no idea about the Creationist prattle.

    Previously, my take has always been, “It’s nice that he’s pro-peace and pro-environment, but if everybody walks around saying you are a god, and your response is anything other than, ‘I’m flattered, really, but guys, I’m not a god,’ then you are a dick.” Apparently it’s even worse than that…

  60. 60
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    Gunga galunga

  61. 61
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    But when you notice that you are not content, then you become open to the possibility that consciousness is non-mechanical.

    Sure you could go that sloppy yippie dippie way or you could get a sandwich.

  62. 62
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    I am. I experience my own subjectivity. And it’s just not reducible to stuff exists.

    Well it’s reducible to incredulity.

  63. 63
    gussnarp

    I knew this post would show up in my feed this morning as soon as I heard the story on NPR on the way to work. They mentioned that the prize includes about $1.7 million dollars. I’m not normally one to talk about wasted money, especially with our week economy, anything that spreads it around is good, but I’ll go against my usual economic philosophy on this: what a colossal waste of money. I don’t know what “his holiness” will do with it (I think they call him that because it’s easier to spell), but I expect it will be fairly unproductive and lacking in multiplier effects. More to the point, it instantly made me get why you hate the Templeton Prize so much. That’s $1.7 million that could have gone to real, productive, scientific research. Nearly two million dollars that could have helped expand human knowledge, led to cures for disease, laid the groundwork for new technology that could enable us to live more sustainable lives and stave off overpopulation issues, provided grants for graduate students so they could get stipends to help them afford the educations that will make them tomorrow’s pioneering researchers.

    Instead it went to a clown, a guy who has essentially built up a spiritual empire dedicated to making tons of money to replace the aristocratic life he would have lived Tibet had China not interfered, all so that Templeton could have a nice poster child for his religious views and falsely conflate woo with science.

    p.s. Anyone know why WordPress tells me I have an invalid username when I try to log on through them to comment?

  64. 64
    gussnarp

    Off topic on professorial titles:

    When I was a grad student there were about four of us in the department who were “non-traditional” students, meaning in our thirties. I had the carrel nearest the door to the grad student office and often had to direct people looking for: physics professors (we were in the Geology/Math/Physics building, but we kept all of them in the basement), geology professors (especially since we were the geography department, anthropology professors (they at least shared the floor), the library, the bathroom, and occasionally TAs or geography professors. Whenever they asked for one of my fellow non-traditional grad students who was teaching their course they would invariably ask for “Dr. Smith”, or whoever. The first few times I was completely puzzled and suggested maybe he or she was in physics, or geology (the math students never seemed to get lost…), we went round and round with them insisting it was Dr. Smith in geography… finally I realized who they meant. Eventually I got a little more fluid in responding. But the one who got asked for the most I started calling Dr. Smith all the time. He’s finally earned it.

  65. 65
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    As to “education” – I’ve read Flanagan, McGinn, Dennett, Chalmers and many other self-styled “philosophers of consciousness”, but find them unconvincing.

    How, specifically? “I find them unconvincing” has no substance.

    ***

    I’ve found that it seems much easier for people who are granted more automatic authority by virtue of their sex, skin color, etc., to assume that less privileged people could do away with the trappings of status like earned titles with the same results.

  66. 66
    Vijen

    Lots of people are trying to “interpret”, or to “take it that I mean”; or assuming “in other words”; or failing to “parse into anything meaningful”; or simply telling me “what I mean”.

    Of course, everybody is perfectly free to hear my words according to their own understanding – indeed they can do nothing else.

    So, just for the fun of it, I will attempt a more concise expression:

    Mind is a purely mechanical phenomenon, and notwithstanding my overwhelming inclination to imagine that I am the mind, all thoughts and intentions actually arise independently. Consciousness is not a function of mind, and continues even when the mind is quiescent. It is possible to identify as consciousness, rather than as the mind. All of this can be witnessed directly, but the necessary process of observation is non-trivial.

  67. 67
    Ingdigo Jump

    Shorter duelist “I refuse to believe that all there is to locomotion is the internal combustion reaction…there is now way that device can do what it is doing”

    One wonders whether after being show the schematic for their toaster they insist on searching it for fire elementals because such a miracle is beyond any physical machine.

    One also wonders why they carve out a supernatural need for the mind…but somehow don’t deny the science of kinetics or anatomy elsewhere and postulate slyphs aiding birds in flight (though for a while they did with bumblebees). They basivally act in regards to the natural world like skeptics do in movies; insisting that the alien device cannot possibly be doing what it is doing.

  68. 68
    Rutee Katreya

    I’ve found that it seems much easier for people who are granted more automatic authority by virtue of their sex, skin color, etc., to assume that less privileged people could do away with the trappings of status like earned titles with the same results.

    Yeah, I was thinking that as I read down. It’s terrible that “Doctor” is insisted on, but it’s probably more terrible to be assumed to be incompetent despite a doctorate.

  69. 69
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    all thoughts and intentions actually arise independently.

    Unsupported allegation, which can be dismiss without evidence as it was made without evidence. Citation needed. Until then, bioware –> mind –> consciousness (by your inane definitions), and if the chain is broken, it falls apart.

  70. 70
    gussnarp

    Consciousness “continues even when the mind is quiescent”? WTF does that even mean?

    Let’s define terms here. I’m not sure what a mind is, other than than the product of what the brain does, which makes it synonymous with consciousness. You seem to be creating a third thing so that you can claim to realize that the mind is just what the brain does, but still claim a dual nature. So let’s first scrap the weasel word “mind”, or scrap consciousness, but pick one. There is the brain, a physical organ of the body that produces our thoughts and consciousness.

    Now we can get on to defining “quiescent”. Maybe you can do that for me, since I don’t see how it applies to the nonexistent “mind”. It doesn’t make much sense when applied to the brain, which is either active or dead. If quiescent means dead, then no, consciousness does not continue when the brain is dead. If it just means less active, well, yeah, there’s a whole spectrum of states of brain activity and related consciousness, I imagine, but I don’t see how that proves duality in any way.

    @Ing – I hate to pick on a typo, but yours made me laugh. Aren’t duelists people who are really good with pistols or swords or some such? That’s a great title. If I could call myself a duelist I imagine I would be a total badass…

  71. 71
    Ingdigo Jump

    Science is a limiting worldview== it doesn’t give the conclusions I prefer and is therefore flawed.

    I would like to point out the irony of how scienctific world views would point out your fallacious disregard for science but that’s not what you want to hear so its wrong.

    As an aside while I think banking and credit repoorts are often accurate I find that worldview limiting in light of student loans

  72. 72
    pipenta

    I was wandering the halls of the American Museum of Natural History a few months ago, and strayed from the invertebrate halls into a series of displays on world religions. I found myself staring, with horrified fascination, at a small metal sculpture of a what I took to be a demon. The face was fanged and bug-eyed with a protruding tongue. He was bipedal and marching across human bodies and crushing them, foot planted squarely on the chest, terrified victim below. Killing must have aroused it, for it was sporting an enormous woody upon which what looked to be an attractive human female was, um, impaled. I could not see the expression on her face, so I am not sure if she was a willing participant or not.

    I read the label. The monster was not a demon, but a deity, a Tibetan buddhist deity.

    Yeah. Yeah.

    It would have made a great album cover for a Sublime cover band.

    Oh, and I understand that DL is very fond of a good steak. At official functions, he eats vegetarian. On his own, oh PLZ make those momos BEEF!

  73. 73
    Q.E.D

    pipenta @ 72

    Picture please. Or at least a name so I can look him up!

  74. 74
    julietdefarge

    I think the Dalai Lama would do or say anything to loosen China’s hold on Tibet – and I find it hard to oppose that motivation.

  75. 75
    Gregory Greenwood

    Vijen @ 66;

    Mind is a purely mechanical phenomenon, and notwithstanding my overwhelming inclination to imagine that I am the mind, all thoughts and intentions actually arise independently.

    So, thoughts are not a product of the neurological activity of the brain? I think you need one hell of a citation for that claim.

    Consciousness is not a function of mind, and continues even when the mind is quiescent.

    I think that you are using the term ‘mind’ oddly here. Most people would find the terms ‘mind’ and ‘consciousness’ to be largely interchangeable, whereas you seem to be using the term ‘mind’ to refer to the brain.

    Also, the brain is never entirely ‘quiescent’ in a living human – even during sleep or unconsciousness induced by injury or chemical means, the brain is still functional and some level of ‘consciousness’ is maintained, even though the mental state is greatly altered

    The brain is the physical substrate of the mind, and consciousness is demonstrably a product of brain activity. The scientifically observed phenomenon of certain forms of brain injury causing radical alteration to the sufferer’s personality, and the effect of chemical intoxicants on behaviour, seem to strongly support a mind/brain monist model of consciousness.

    For your seemingly dualist approach to be credible, such alteration of consciousness through physical damage or alteration to the brain should not be possible.

    It is possible to identify as consciousness, rather than as the mind.

    It is also possible to ‘self-identify’ as Napoleon, god, or the FSM – how an individual self-identifies has no impact on the physical reality of what is going on inside their cranium, and all the scientific evidence indicates that the phenomenon of consciousness is generated by purely materialistic, physical processes that occur in the brain mass and central nervous system.

    All of this can be witnessed directly, but the necessary process of observation is non-trivial.

    How? What methodology are you employing to come to a consclusion that, if accurate, would fundamentally revolutionise nueroscience? As of now, there is no scientifically credible evidence for any source of consciousness external to the brain. If you have such evidence, you should contact academic institutions immediately – you are in possession of arguably the greatest discovery in the history neurological science, and indeed quite possibly the entirety of biology…

    … You do have actual evidence though, right? Not just a feeling that your consciousness is waaaayyy too profound to be the product of squishy biology or anything like that, because that won’t get you very far at all…

  76. 76
    Rutee Katreya

    I think the Dalai Lama would do or say anything to loosen China’s hold on Tibet – and I find it hard to oppose that motivation.

    I find it easy, until we have proper assurance that it will not revert to being a theocracy with inferior standards of living than Chinese Tibet.

  77. 77
    emilykathryn

    I’ve been to Dharamsala, where the Tibetan government in exile is located.
    Any money he generates goes directly to the Tibetan refugees in India and Nepal. Him and his sister have built refugee reception centers that clothe, house, feed, and educate the people who basically walk from Tibetan Autonomous Region in China. Him and his sister founded the Tibetan Children’s Village which houses, feeds, clothes, and educates Tibetan children in India. Every dollar generated by his fame goes toward his people.

    There are obviously elements of Tibetan buddhism that I think are dumb.
    I’m merely saying that he hasn’t done nothing. Not to mention the part where he separated church and state. He handed democracy to his people on a silver platter and then stepped down as political leader, which actually really upset them.

    I’ve also met him. He is pretty old and frail. He may be inappropriately revered by people, but he’s a pretty cute old man. He doesn’t proselytize so he doesn’t really bother me.

    I have a problem with the institutional misogyny within the Monastic system (their version of University, but very religiously influenced). But it’s being influenced heavily by Indian culture, so maybe with time the culture will evolve for the better.

  78. 78
    Gregory Greenwood

    I can’t decide whether the Dalia Lama is simply a con artist who is attaching himself, leach-like, to the cause of reducing the oppressive influence of Chinese rule on the Tibetan people so that he can wrap himself up in the flag of progressivism in order to garner greater international celebrity status and thereby gull the credulous into giving him more money; or if he is actualy a theocrat-in-waiting who really does want to force the Chinese out of Tibet, or procure greater autonomy from Chinese rule, so that he can get his slaves back.

    Either way, I am not buying the carefully cultivated ‘nice guy of religion’ image that he strives to project, an image that his latent homophobia, misogyny and sex-negativity has comprehensively tainted even without the ugly and brutal theocratic history of Tibetan Buddhism.

  79. 79
    David Marjanović
    The particular religious sect he represents is very much Old School. Millennia old.

    I’m pretty sure that’s overly generous. Buddhism may be that old, but I doubt somewhat that tibetan buddhism as a separate sect is.

    It’s about 1300 years old.

    mind is just another mechanism, like the body.

    No. Mind is what the brain does.

    Are you content to identify as a machine? Really?

    Completely irrelevant question.

    his awesome martial arts skills and his painfully empty mind

    Day saved!

    Yes, isn’t it soo annoying to be mistaken for lowly non-anointed coworkers all the time when one is clearly something better? Imagine everyone would realize that having a PhD doesn’t make us magical. I don’t even want to think about living in such a world.

    …though… another aspect is the misogyny in the assumption that a woman has got to be the secretary (and vice versa). I think that’s what comment 65 is alluding to.

    That said, if you worked hard for your PhD and didn’t enjoy it, something went wrong.

    …On the third hand, I knew an assistant professor who, despite her youth had students call her “professor”* – precisely because she was young and short. Being mistaken for a fellow student by students is not the good kind of confusion.

    * I don’t think anybody is called “doctor” at an Austrian university. Part of the reason is that “professor” isn’t, or wasn’t, a job description the way it is in the USA – it’s largely an academic degree just like “doctor”.

    IIRC The Chinese government’s party line is that they liberated Tibetans from a medieval theocracy.

    Yep. It was yet another monumental fight of evil against evil.

    Aren’t duelists people who are really good with pistols or swords or some such?

    Yes.

    DL is very fond of a good steak

    Show me.

  80. 80
    gussnarp

    @emilykathryn – You’ve been to Dharamsala so you’re an expert on the finances of the Dalai Lama? Can you show me an annual report showing that ALL of the money goes to needy Tibetans? The Catholic Church gives lots of money to the poor, builds schools, orphanages, etc. Should they therefore get a pass on anti-LGBT bigotry, immoral lies about AIDS and demonizing condom usage and other birth control, rampant child abuse and cover ups, and being a tool of the right in their efforts to reduce Americans’ access to affordable health care? I could make the same argument about any religious group and its leaders.

  81. 81
    WharGarbl

    @David
    #79

    Yep. It was yet another monumental fight of evil against evil.

    Well, might as well pick a lesser of two evils.

    Or we could always go liberate them and bring democracy to their country.

  82. 82
    emilykathryn

    @gussnarp

    nah I don’t have anything to show you. My professor researches the refugee situation and that’s what I was told. I do know for a fact that when he came to give a speech at our University (we invited him), he didn’t ask for an honorarium or anything. We just had to pay for him to get here and stay here. This was confirmed by the head of the Distinguished Lecture Series and the Director of the Honors College who did most of coordinating with the Dalai Lama.

    I also understand if you don’t want to take my word for it.

  83. 83
    Ingdigo Jump

    Aren’t duelists people who are really good with pistols or swords or some such?

    Grumble grumble grumble.

  84. 84
    aztekenprinzessin

    I don’t know, his opinions seem pretty soft and tolerable. He’s not saying anything like “Homosexuals are an abomination”, he’s saying that it could be harmful for Buddhists, but for everybody else it’s completely harmless and can be an enriching, enjoyable thing. That’s light years away from what other religious leaders say.
    He doesn’t like sex in general, but he’s not condemning it as a perversion either. He’s treating it like any other form of attachment.

    The One Big Difference between the DL and other religious leaders is that he doesn’t talk dogmatically about what you can or can’t do, even if you’re NOT a Buddhist. He doesn’t try to force his ideas on people who don’t agree with him.
    Buddhism is about learning and growing, and as one of your own linked articles said, the DL practices this himself and is learning about – for example – LGBT issues, adjusting his opinions accordingly.

    However backwards and wooey he may still be, he’s nowhere near as toxic and destructive as other religious leaders. And seeing that he could easily be without major repercussions…
    He’s pretty fly for a religious guy.

  85. 85
    Ingdigo Jump

    I don’t know, his opinions seem pretty soft and tolerable. He’s not saying anything like “Homosexuals are an abomination”

    except for the part where it’s an abomination of course.

    he’s saying that it could be harmful for Buddhists, but for everybody else it’s completely harmless and can be an enriching, enjoyable thing. That’s light years away from what other religious leaders say.

    Right and he thinks Buddhism is correct and that Buddhism is beneficial to people. *taps on head* putting 2 and 2 together now?

    He doesn’t like sex in general, but he’s not condemning it as a perversion either. He’s treating it like any other form of attachment.

    Which is a problem in the core of Buddhism which he promotes. Buddhism is an institutionalized fear of life. It’s path to peace is horrible advice that basically tells people to sacrifice every possible opportunity or benefit of living because of the chance of suffering. It’s a doctrine of denial and antagonism towards human nature. Don’t love because they’ll be loss, don’t have anything cause you’ll be sad if you lose it etc etc etc. And it’s bullshit.

    Buddhism is about learning and growing

    No at it’s core Buddhism is about retreating and hiding.

    However backwards and wooey he may still be, he’s nowhere near as toxic and destructive as other religious leaders. And seeing that he could easily be without major repercussions…
    He’s pretty fly for a religious guy.

    It’s an empty claim. He has no power and is reliant on the public opinion of others. He hasn’t been in the position to have power to abuse so claiming that he doesn’t abuse power is pointless.

    He does however try to convince people to hide like scared rodents from the one and only life they’ll have under the guise of enlightenment.

  86. 86
    What a Maroon, el papa ateo

    Wha? I know that I posted a lame joke here a few hours ago.

    Seemed like a lama joke to me.

  87. 87
    Alex

    OT

    @David Marjanović re pHred

    …though… another aspect is the misogyny in the assumption that a woman has got to be the secretary (and vice versa). I think that’s what comment 65 is alluding to.

    Good point, I didn’t pick up on that in pHred’s post. This makes the case more subtle. And yes, I agree that unfortunately women still have no choice but to brandish their degrees more obviously in many situations. I am usually taken seriously by my looks and chromosomes alone. That being said, I still don’t like the “mistaken for the secretary” line at all.

    That said, if you worked hard for your PhD and didn’t enjoy it, something went wrong.

    It is a very special kind of enjoyment. Mostly tough love.

  88. 88
    edgewiseinannarbor

    My impression was that secular mindfulness based stress reduction (Jon Kabat-Zinn) was proven effective. Is that accurate?

    I’m not sure if there is anything else of value amidst the dross of metaphysics.

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