Putting the Buddhism/Science Dialogue on a New Footing: Executive Summary
While the dialogue between Buddhism and science—especially mind sciences—continues to expand, its reigning assumptions narrow its potential for forging new ways to investigate questions of experience, meaning, and human values. This proposed Institute aims to develop this untapped potential. Transdisciplinary at its core, our Institute will bring together scientists, Buddhist and Christian scholars, and phenomenologists to challenge conventional disciplinary boundaries. It will focus on two big questions:
1) Can the encounter of scientists with Buddhist contemplative traditions—which emphasize close observation of first-person experience—expand the scope, design, and explanatory power of scientific investigation, which typically focuses on third-person measures?
2) Can foundational Buddhist ideas such as dependent arising, emptiness, and the constructed self enrich emerging theoretical and methodological approaches in the mind sciences that seek to move beyond subject-object dualism?
The Project centers on an intensive 10-day Institute attended by 20 leading scientists and scholars, all committed to attend and advance its intellectual aims. We will also invite 20 graduate students to absorb and contribute to these emerging perspectives, likely leading to new collaborative projects. Participants will share how their personal contemplative practices (Buddhist and Christian) help shape their craft and influence their research. As concrete deliverables, we will record archival videos, create curated narratives of each session, post at least five video interviews with Institute participants, and mount a public, videotaped panel to increase awareness of Institute themes.
We expect this project will move the Buddhism/science dialogue beyond simple binary oppositions that either segregate science from religion in toto or ignore substantive differences between them, generating outcomes that balance scientific rigor with contemplative and self-critical reflection.