In my estimation the answer is decidely no, but I am interested to hear what others think from a Mahayana or Madhyamaka perspective.

First, to try and clarify terms I am using scientific realism/materialism as described here:

While the above links do a pretty good job of describing these worldviews I don't think they are perfect. In my own imperfect language I'd say these worldviews presuppose an objective world that exists in an independent manner and inherent manner. I think this is the default worldview of most lowly beings and certainly of western or modern society. The idea is that the practice of science gets us ever closer to the true and fundamental underlying material reality with the presupposition that there is a true and fundamental material underlying reality that exists in the first place.

In this worldview, the laws of physics inherently exist and everything can be reduced to some fundamental building blocks of nature evolving in time according to those very laws. That there is a truth of the matter about every historical event that is independent of any subjective consciousness. In short, that things exist inherently and not as mere conventions.

To my mind, anyone who believes in these worldviews has not fully grokked the deep and subtle meaning of Mahayana/Madhyamaka emptiness. To be clear, I am not talking about the practice of science which I see as distinct from the worldviews above.

To define by way of contrast, consider this alternative scientific worldview that does not presuppose an underlying observer independent physical reality. By the way, here is an article written by the author of Relational QM on the comparison of his work to Nagarjuna.

Is this correct? What have I gotten wrong?

  • I don't know these philosophies. The 2nd link you quoted says, "Non-physical or quasi-physical substance, such as information, ideas, ..." -- doesn't that say that these (including laws) don't exist -- i.e. that really only the material (and energy) exists? – ChrisW Aug 27 '18 at 21:28
  • Also I don't understand what the 1st link (about scientific realism) is saying, but it says that it's "as opposed to instrumentalism" -- and Wikipedia's Instrumentalism article says, "instrumentalism is largely the prevailing theory that underpins the practice of physicists today" -- so maybe that contradicts your assertion that it's scientific realism that's "the default worldview of most lowly beings and certainly of western or modern society". – ChrisW Aug 27 '18 at 21:31

I agree with you. These are material World views and can’t explain mind or karma. But I am glad that you added that you see these as different to other scientific methods which are compatible with Buddhism. The basic scientific process of observing cause and effect can be applied to religion, and using logical reasoning to establish phenomena that cannot be directly observed is common to both.

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