Sunday, July 5, 2009

Actions and Consequences

Sometimes it seems as though science and technology evolve autonomously, in a way that is disconnected from individual human actions. The purpose of this blog is to explore the ways our actions and their consequences really do make crucial differences, not just in our individual personal lives, but also in the broader patterns, networks, and institutions that constitute science and technology.

There are two extreme perspectives on science and human action, either of which seem to relieve us of responsibility for the results of our actions. One perspective, which we can call nihilism, portrays humans as complex biochemical systems, the evolutionary product of random genetic mutations and the struggle for survival and reproductive success. From this perspective, action and responsibility are illusory.

From the other extreme, the eternalist perspective, the structure of natural processes is an objective truth, which science and technology reflect ever more accurately. Individual actions may speed up or slow down the processes of discovery and exploitation, but progress is inevitable. Individual action is ultimately powerless.

The Dharma taught by the Buddha, and long cultivated by the Sangha, shows a middle way between these extremes of nihilism and eternalism. The foundation of the Buddhist path is the realization of our responsibility for the consequences of our actions.

The purpose of this blog is to look at science and technology as human activities, and to explore how the way we act shapes the world we experience. We can pursue a path into dark dungeons of misery and despair, or we can follow a way that opens up ever greater freedom and awareness. The goal here is to develop a Buddhist perspective on our modern institutions of science and technology.

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