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Slide Notes

The focus of this small scale qualitative study is to explore an alternative way of gaining knowledge about the 'world' and the impact this has on pre-service secondary science trainees in England.

This study will examine the interplay between Buddhism and science with a particular emphasis on the Abhidhamma. Abhidhamma translates as 'higher reality' or 'higher teaching' from the Theravada tradition of Buddhism. (Gorkom, 2014, p1)

Seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, sights, sounds are Abhidhamma. This moment is Abhidhamma. The study removes unverifiable elements from both Buddhism and science, concerning itself only with 'How They Work?'.

Author: Alan Weller, Senior Lecturer in Physics,

This presentation was delivered to the UEL Research Conference on 24/6/15.

Paper available here:
http://roar.uel.ac.uk/5513

NB. Reference are on the notes page of the last slide.

'Higher reality'? Higher learning.

Published at Nov 06, 2015
Buddhism versus science. How they work to understand the world.

PRESENTATION OUTLINE

Higher Reality, Higher Learning

  • 'Higher reality', higher learning? Challenging trainee science teacher’s conceptions of the Nature of the World and the Nature of Science.
The focus of this small scale qualitative study is to explore an alternative way of gaining knowledge about the 'world' and the impact this has on pre-service secondary science trainees in England.

This study will examine the interplay between Buddhism and science with a particular emphasis on the Abhidhamma. Abhidhamma translates as 'higher reality' or 'higher teaching' from the Theravada tradition of Buddhism. (Gorkom, 2014, p1)

Seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, sights, sounds are Abhidhamma. This moment is Abhidhamma. The study removes unverifiable elements from both Buddhism and science, concerning itself only with 'How They Work?'.

Author: Alan Weller, Senior Lecturer in Physics,

This presentation was delivered to the UEL Research Conference on 24/6/15.

Paper available here:
http://roar.uel.ac.uk/5513

NB. Reference are on the notes page of the last slide.

Photo by qwertyuiop

Why?

We teach in one of the most diverse religious and ethnic populations in Europe. We need to teach with empathy and understand the faith issues and conflicts which surround the teaching of science without compromising on the science itself. We also need to understand the boundaries of science and not make assumptions which go beyond what we know.

London has centres of worship for a multitude of faiths. According to the 2011 Census, the largest religious groupings are Christians (48.4 per cent), followed by those of no religion (20.7 per cent), no response (8.5 per cent), Muslims (12.4 per cent), Hindus (5.0 per cent), Jews (1.8 per cent), Sikhs (1.5 per cent), Buddhists (1.0 per cent) and other (0.6 per cent). ('Religion in London', 2015)

Although Buddhism only represents 1% of the faiths in London, it is taught in many schools as a part of a broad religious curriculum. Therefore, there are benefits to understanding the relationship with science and being able to answer possible conflicting views.

Cross Curricula, of benefit to both? Religious classes have a different way of working to science and so can perhaps both can benefit from each other's way of working. Also perhaps Buddhism can help science and vice versa.

However there are two key issues that this study raises. Consider the following slide.

Can you cycle faster than the speed of light?

If you ask science trainees this question: "Can you cycle faster than the speed of light?" This answer is invariably no.

They are wrong!

There is an assumption behind the answer namely that the speed of light is 300 million metres per second. It is , but only in a vacuum.The speed ofht is 300 million metres per second. It is , but only in a vacuum.The speed of light can be slowed down to 17 metres per second in some substances and you can cycle faster than that! (Lene Hau,2015)

We all make assumptions about religion and the nature of the world.
Photo by Tau Zero

How Science Works

Card Exchange
The above Card Exchange (Kind, 2008)is a typical activity for science teacher trainees to clarify their views on the nature of science. Cards are sorted in order, according to their closest match to the way science works. The above highlighted statements sit very uncomfortably in the mix.

Emerging from this are these two key issues.
Firstly:

Is there

All of the understanding we have of the world is through intellectual understanding (conceptual understanding) but is there anything else?

Safeguarding

Photo by redi-medic

Dear Teacher, I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness: Gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates. So I am suspicious of education. My request is: Help your students become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.

This quote was sourced from a TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) assignment by one of my students.

"It has been difficult to trace the source of this letter, it seems to be from an unknown survivor, and the letter is first quoted by Haim Ginott in his book Teacher and Child (1993)." (Huleatt, 2015, p10)

"Science is a magnificent force, but it is not a teacher of morals. It can perfect machinery, but it adds no moral restraints to protect society from the misuse of the machine. It can also build gigantic intellectual ships, but it constructs no moral rudders for the control of storm-tossed human vessel."

William Jennings Bryan's summation of the Scopes trial (distributed to reporters but not read in court). ('Scopes Trial', 2015)

This is not a problem of science but a problem of making science your god. There are many well known scientists who are religious.
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Richard Dawkin: (Dawkin, 2015) "I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world." "...when two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly halfway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong."

Richard Dawkin (Dawkin, 2015)

The top statement by Richard Dawkin is ambiguous unless the word religion is defined. Arguably science is a religion for some, in that they make it their god and do not consider anything else. Therefore the statement could to refer to himself?

The below statement shows the precision of the scientist and is a useful parameter for this study in that it guides us to a distinct conclusion.

HArmony or Conflict?

    There are two heavyweights at understanding the world: Buddhism and Science.

    Is one right, the other wrong is there a parallel universe?
    What is the relationship between them? Can we know the relationship between them?

    Yes by the end of this presentation!

    What are some conflicts?
    28 physical elements (Gorkom, 2009, p66) or 100 elements?

    A person knows the truth about the world about life, but does not mention any science. No Newtons laws, no theory of evolution, no cures for disease?

    What do they have in common?

    Looking at 14 Big Ideas of Science (Harlen et al., 2010), and 14 Big Ideas of Buddhism ('14 Big Ideas of Buddhism', 2015). They only have 1 Big Idea in common.

    Photo by asafantman

    What do they have in common?

    All 'wordly' Phenomena are conditioned.
    All 'worldly' phenomena are conditioned.

    However Buddhism extends this principal also to mental phenomena such as anger. Therefore immorality is also conditioned.

    Perhaps scientists may make better Buddhists as they are used to working with this idea?
    Photo by OCReactive

    The National Curriculum guidance for RE, 2007 suggests that RE:

    • The National Curriculum guidance for RE: "...encourages pupils to learn from different religions, beliefs, values and traditions while exploring their own beliefs and questions of meaning. It challenges pupils to reflect on, consider, analyse interpret and evaluate issues of truth, belief, faith and ethics and to communicate their responses."
    National Curriculum
    (cited in Holt, 2015, p6).

    Using these ideas. Trainee science teachers are challenged with the following question.
    Photo by Bill Liao

    The Debate

    • The earth is flat or round? What evidence can you give?
    • The Earth is flat or round? What is the evidence?
    Conventional evidence comes in the form of; ships masts on the horizon; angle of the sun at different circumferences; pictures from space; circumnavigating the world.

    Note the Greeks calculated the radius of the Earth to a good approximation around 200bc.('Eratosthenes', 2015)

    Higher Learning, Higher Pedagogy?

    • Diagnostic Test
    • The Science
    • Lego
    • Shortbread biscuits
    The opposing argument is put using four strategies underpinned by a single pedagogy.

    The background picture comes from the Matrix:

    The lead character Neo lived in an 'artificially fabricated reality'. He was in fact plugged in to a super computer which controlled all his perceptions.

    Analogous to this we live now in a 'fabricated reality' a parallel universe.

    In order to get a glimpse of this we have to recognize what is truly real and what is merely an idea or false perception.

    The underpinning pedagogy is:

    We use concepts in the right way to make known realities.

    We use concepts in the right way in order to make known realities. Derived from:
    (Boriharnwanaket, 2006, Concepts)

    What do you see?

    The diagnostic test. Two simple questions, two simple answers, but enough to diagnose understanding of reality?

    Photo by Ju Muncinelli

    What can you touch?

    Typical answers such as chair, table, person shows the reality is hidden.
    We can only touch: hardness or softness, hot or cold, motion or pressure.
    We experience a reality and this is immediately followed by thinking. Table is a concept the object of thinking.

    'We used to think that a cushion or a chair could be experienced through touch. When we are more precise, it is hardness or softness that can be experienced through touch. Because of remembrance of former experiences we can think of a cushion or chair and we know that they are named "cushion" or "chair". This example can remind us that there is a difference between ultimate realities and concepts we can think of but which are not real in the ultimate sense.' (Gorkom, 2009, p2)

    "What is experienced is hardness, not a table, but it has to be known by developed understanding."

    What is experienced is hardness, not a table, but it has to be known by developed understanding.
    (Abbott and Weller, 2010)

    The developed understanding here is not intellectual understanding but understanding of reality by direct experience.
    Photo by Benson Kua

    The Eye is only sensitive to colour.

    The eye is only sensitive to colour. Three colours: red, green, blue.

    The description of what is seen typically computer screen, person, table. However this does not accurately describe what is seen. There will always be an object that is missed out. Seeing sees what is visible, immediately this is followed by thinking in concepts.

    Person, computer, table, chairs cannot be seen, they are perceived.

    "We may find it difficult to know what visible object is, since we are usually absorbed in paying attention to the shape and form of things.

    When we perceive the shape and form of something, for example of a chair, we think of a concept. A chair cannot impinge on the eyesense.

    Seeing does not see a chair, it only sees what is visible. Seeing and thinking occur at different moments. We do not think all the time, also moments of just seeing arise, moments that we do not pay attention to shape and form. Only one citta (consciousness) at a time arises experiencing one object, but different experiences arise closely one after the other.

    When one cannot distinguish them yet from each other, one believes that they occur all at the same time. If we remember that visible object is the rupa (physical phenomena) which can be experienced through the eyesense, right understanding of this reality can be developed." (Gorkom, 2009, p14)
    Photo by labguest

    Lego

    The Art of Brick
    (brickartist, 2015)

    With just three colours, an idea of person is formed. The process is the same no matter we are seeing 'real people' or in a film. Person is an idea, conditioned by the visible object which is seen.
    Photo by chooyutshing

    Lego

    The Art of Brick
    A closer look at the bricks and the idea of person dissolves.

    "Seeing sees visible object. What is seen is not a person. We have attachment to individuals, but individuality has no separate characteristic."

    If we see people or things it shows there is ignorance of what is seen as just a reality.

    Going back to the round earth. What is seen is not round. Roundness is an idea. What is seen is visible only.

    Derived from Concepts
    (Boriharnwanaket, 2006, Concepts)

    I LIKE the TASTE of shortbread biscuits. I am in a lecture theatre LISTENING to Alan SPEAK. I SEE on the board several statements concerning concepts and REALITIES. I LIKE the SOUND of Jimi Hendrix's guitar. When I TOUCH the gas tap my finger FEELS COLD. I THINK therefore I am. The UNDERSTANDING which understands conditioned REALITIES is also conditioned

    We are using words to make known realities (in capitals).

    The words in capitals represent real phenomena. They arise whether we think or do not think.

    The lower caps words only arise with thinking, they are concepts the object of thinking.

    Abhidhamma uses words to make known realities, but the realities of life are not words.

    Derived from (Boriharnwanaket, 2006, Concepts)

    "Nobody can condition any reality."

    Nobody can condition any reality
    (Abbott and Weller, 2010)
    The understanding which understands conditioned realities is conditioned.
    Photo by tjdewey

    BUDDHISM: Understanding has a 'reality' as its object. SCIENCE: Understanding has a concept as its object.



    Photo by Camil Tulcan

    Absolute Truth

    The Shadow: Conventional truth
    The birds represents Absolute Truth. The Shodow, convential truth.

    With science we can build many gadgets, cure diseases but what can we do with understanding realities as they are?

    Understanding reality conditions detachment.

    Photo by bmooneyatwork

    Tunbridge Wells

    The Pantiles Tunbridge Wells.

    We are attached to many things: Trendy shops, smart people, beautiful environments.

    Resident 'Devastated'

    Poundland shop to open in Tunbridge Wells
    Attachment is a condition for aversion.

    BBC1, Have I got news for you, 29th April 201
    Photo by jovike

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    • Do you consider the session to be relevant to your teaching? "Because we are going to teach in a very diverse environment with people with very different beliefs." "It provides me with information just in case students ask about it in class." "Because it encouraged us to consider other world views, & other views on reality, which is, ultimately, what most scientists would like to consider science as being about." "It allowed me to see another perspective that some of my students may hold."

    Alan Weller Senior Physics Lecturer Cass School of Education University of East London Reference and notes: https://www.haikudeck.com/higher-reality-higher-learning-education-presentation-0X8JKQ1W87

    Author: Alan Weller, Senior Lecturer in Physics, University of East London. 24/6/15
    Paper (18/12/16):
    http://roar.uel.ac.uk/5513/

    References


    14 Big Ideas of Buddhism [WWW Document], 2015. URL https://www.haikudeck.com/14-big-ideas-of-buddhism-education-presentation-JO34vH3Vnm (accessed 5.22.15).

    Abbott, S., Weller, A., 2010. phrases.pdf [WWW Document]. URL https://ia600608.us.archive.org/16/items/PhrasesOnBuddhism/phrases.pdf (accessed 5.22.15).

    Boriharnwanaket, S., 2006. A Survey of Paramattha Dhammas. zolag, London.

    brickartist [WWW Document], 2015. URL http://www.brickartist.com/ (accessed 5.22.15).

    Dawkin, R., 2015. Richard Dawkins quotations and quotes about God - Religion - Faith - Religious Beliefs [WWW Document]. URL http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/quotations/quotes/richard_dawkins_god.html (accessed 1.27.15).

    Eratosthenes, 2015. . Wikipedia Free Encycl.

    Gorkom, N.V., 2014. Abhidhamma in Daily Life, Fourth revision edition. ed. zolag, S.l.

    Gorkom, N. van, 2009. The Buddhist Teaching on Physical Phenomena. zolag.

    Harlen, W., Bell, D., Association for Science Education, 2010. Principles and big ideas of science education. Association for Science Education, Hatfield.

    Have I got news for you, 2015. . April 29th BBC1.

    Holt, J., 2015. Religious Education in the Secondary School: An introduction to teaching, learning and the World Religions (Paperback) - Routledge.

    Huleatt, D., 2015. How Might PhET Simulations Enhance Learning? A Critical Evaluation.

    Kind, V., 2008. Teaching Secondary "How Science Works", Pap/Cdr St edition. ed. Hodder Education, London.

    Lene Hau [WWW Document], 2015. URL http://www.physicscentral.com/explore/people/hau.cfm (accessed 5.22.15).

    Religion in London, 2015. . Wikipedia Free Encycl.
    Scopes Trial, 2015. . Wikipedia Free Encycl.

    The Matrix - Synopsis [WWW Document], 2015. URL http://thematrix101.com/matrix/synopsis.php (accessed 5.26.15).
    Photo by Torcello Trio

    Alan Weller

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