The biggest scientific delusion of all is that science already has the answers. The details still need working out but, in principle, the fundamental questions are answered.
If we take something to be the truth, we may cling to it so much that when the truth comes and knocks on our door, we won’t want to let it in.
As just observed, many of the new revelations and overthrown fallacies are not acknowledged, much less assimilated, even within their respective spheres. The significance of this neglect in regard to cosmology is clear. Our cosmology functions as the very foundation of our conduct. We think, speak, and act in the world in accordance with what our understanding of the world is. The more our view of reality diverges from the way reality actually is, the more unreliable our thoughts, words, and deeds in reality will be. One does not need to be a scientist to recognize we would do well to establish a more reliable cosmology – and sooner rather than later. As if the unprecedented levels of social injustice and environmental destruction worldwide were not reason enough, evidence confirming the accuracy of various forecasts predicting global extinction has long surpassed any rational arguments for denial.
The results of this neglect in the realm of Zen may not be as obvious as it is in cosmology, but the profundity of its consequences certainly is. For, as Zen contends, knowledge (epistemology) and existence (ontology) are not two different things – our ‘cosmology’ is not simply how we see the universe it is how the universe is actualized. The significance of this point is succinctly illustrated in the following observation by Hee-Jin Kim concerning Dogen’s (hence Zen’s) view of the unity of knowledge and reality:
To Dogen, mind was at once knowledge and reality, at once the knowing subject and the known object, yet it transcended them both at the same time. In this nondual conception of mind, what one knew was what one was—and ontology, epistemology, and soteriology were inseparably united.
Hee-Jin Kim, Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist, Wisdom Publications; 3 Revised edition (January 1, 2000), p.117
Kim’s consistent attention to the crucial importance of accurate knowledge (epistemology), commonly treated in terms of the Buddhist notion of ‘right views’, has been a defining characteristic of Buddhist thought since its very beginning.
Before exploring this further I want to clarify that I do not mean to give the impression that positive progress is completely absent in contemporary spheres of cosmology and Zen. There continues to be steady growth among the minority within both calling for an unbiased consideration of the evidence. The efforts of these minorities are having a positive influence; bringing attention to new evidence, as well as to the dangers of scientific rationalism (or ‘scientism’) in the one and of dogmatic formalism and sectarianism in the other. Unfortunately, such progress continues to be hard-won and slow-going.