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RE: [ufodiscussion] The Scientist & Dharma

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  • Jahnets
    Well Regan I can better see your objections here... I had not read the whole article. Only your portions you outlined. ;-) He counsels other scientists on
    Message 1 of 4 , Nov 8, 2006
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      Well Regan I can better see your objections here... I had not read the whole
      article. Only your portions you outlined. ;-)

      " He counsels other scientists on the project to suppress their objections
      to the potential and even inevitable use of the weapon, that they "should
      not attempt to assume responsibility for 'the fruits of their work'" (Hijiya
      145), a phrase that is taken directly from the Bhagavad Gita. He reiterates
      on many occasions that it is the duty of the scientist to build the bomb and
      the duty of the statesman to decide whether how to use it (Hijiya 137)."

      This I feel is a misinterpretation by Oppenheimer... and probably many in
      the west. This in fact is a cop out by Oppenheimer so he does not have to
      feel bad about what his inventions cause. The problem I see is that he is
      interpreting the BG from the perspective of the ego(a scientist works with
      the brain, ego rules the brain) rather than from the perspective of a spirit
      or god.

      "In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna is counseled by Krishna that not following
      one's dharma is a sin: "

      All though I am not up on it I do have a copy I will have to look over. I
      think this sentence taken out of context is the problem for the lower mind.
      Personally the way I understand Dharma is "as it is" what happens is Dharma.
      So it seems to me that it would be an impossibility not to follow your
      Dharma. If however the statement by Krishna above is as he meant it, then
      I do not agree with it either, for it seems to me that it relegates Arjuna
      to forever to be a warrior and not evolve. To stop the circle of Karma one
      has to stop doing and feeling what ever the particular situation is, and in
      the case above to not fight would not make him not a warrior, rather he
      would be changing tactics... sometimes not to fight is fighting...

      I think though that what Krishna is trying to say is he came in to be a
      warrior and to not be a warrior in which ever way he chooses would mean he
      would have to do it over again, seems to me anyway... It would be like an
      abused person never standing up for themselves when that is their Dharma and
      why they keep putting themselves in those situations...

      -----Original Message-----
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      Sent: Tuesday, November 07, 2006 12:27 PM
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      Subject: [ufodiscussion] The Scientist & Dharma

      Dear Friends,


      Love and Light.


      The Scientist and Dharma By Carbonek

      Dharma is a concept that is difficult to define specifically, but it can
      be translated as "the law that expresses and maintains the unity of
      creation" (Easwaran 9), as "integrity or harmony in the universe" (Easwaran
      9) or more simply, as "moral duty" (Easwaran 50). In the Bhagavad Gita,
      Arjuna's understanding and acceptance of his dharma as a warrior is a
      central theme.

      The orthodox interpretation of the place of dharma in discussing the
      morality of war is that is it the moral duty or dharma of warriors to fight
      wars, because that is their nature (Easwaran 50).

      For the contemporary reader of the Bhagavad Gita, this unilateral thinking
      in devotion to a person's dharma seems to obviate the need for moral
      responsibility for one's actions. I had a strong negative reaction to this
      concept. Krishna counsels Arjuna that he must not attach himself to any
      outcome of his actions and told him that the opposing warriors would be dead
      whether or not Arjuna participated, because He, Krishna, had already willed

      He tells him that as a warrior, his highest aspiration should be
      participating in a war against evil, even though Arjuna can clearly see the
      terrible cost it would incur to his family and his people (Easwaran 54).

      I could not help but be reminded of J. Robert Oppenheimer's quotations
      from the Bhagavad Gita: "If a thousand suns were to rise in the heavens at
      the same time, the blaze of their light would resemble the splendor of that
      supreme spirit" (Easwaran 151) which he quoted at the blinding sight of the
      first atomic explosion, the Trinity Test in 1945 near Alamagordo, New Mexico
      (Hijiya 123).

      I was surprised to find that not only does Oppenheimer, in interviews,
      famously quotes verses from the Bhagavad Gita, but has also translated the
      text from the original Sanskrit (while studying with Professor Arthur Ryder
      at Berkeley), and uses its tenets as part of his personal philosophy (Hijiya

      In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna is counseled by Krishna that not following
      one's dharma is a sin:

      Considering your dharma, you should not vacillate. For a warrior, nothing
      is higher than a war against evil. The warrior confronted with such a war
      should be pleased. Arjuna, for it comes as an open gate to heaven. But if
      you do not participate in the battle against evil, you will incur sin,
      violating your dharma and your honor. (Easwaran 64).

      Oppenheimer believes that scientists have a dharma all their own.
      Oppenheimer feels that as a scientist, his job is to do science (and in this
      case, he believes that scientists, as scientists, had an obligation to serve
      on the Manhattan project) and it is up to political leaders to decide
      whether or not to use the bomb (Hijiya 137). He also sees his work in New
      Mexico as part of a greater battle against evil; he must also be part of the
      fight against Germany and Japan, two governments trying to conquer the world
      (Hijiya 133).

      He counsels other scientists on the project to suppress their objections
      to the potential and even inevitable use of the weapon, that they "should
      not attempt to assume responsibility for 'the fruits of their work'" (Hijiya
      145), a phrase that is taken directly from the Bhagavad Gita. He reiterates
      on many occasions that it is the duty of the scientist to build the bomb and
      the duty of the statesman to decide whether how to use it (Hijiya 137).

      Oppenheimer uses his understanding of Krishna's advice to Arjuna to help
      him throughout his management of the Manhattan Project. He himself clearly
      identifies with Arjuna's dilemma, and also chooses to act according to what
      he saw was his dharma. Yet, at the end of Jon Ehle's documentary, "The Day
      After Trinity" Oppenheimer reminisces, without looking up at the camera,
      with what sounds like regret in his voice many years later:

      We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few
      people cried, most people silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu
      scripture, the Bhagavad Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince he
      should do his duty and to impress him, he takes on his multi-armed form and
      say, 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' I suppose we all
      thought that, one way or another. (Ehle, 1980)

      After the end of the war, Oppenheimer's views seem to take a more
      repentant turn in a public lecture at MIT in late 1947, "In some sort of
      crude sense, which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite
      extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which
      they cannot lose" (quoted in Thorpe 70). A quick reading of this comment
      seems to lend it to a Christian concept of sin, but other comments by
      Oppenheimer show that he sees the 'sin' as a loss of vocation. He advocates
      for a rediscovery of science as an inner calling and not as a means to solve
      humanity's problems (Thorpe 70).

      Several years after these public comments, Oppenheimer chaired the General
      Advisory Committee to the Atomic Energy Commission and authored a report
      recommending against a program to develop the H-bomb, a "weapon of genocide"
      the use of which is targeted for large cities. This report includes an
      appendix that outlines the moral and political arguments against the program
      and here Oppenheimer abandons his earlier position that a scientist must
      narrow his responsibilities to just doing science.

      He publicly abandons Krishna's advice regarding detachment and uses his
      reputation to further the arguments against developing super weapons. But I
      believe that Oppenheimer's objection to the H-bomb project was consistent
      with Krishna's directive about fighting a battle against evil; it's clear
      that Oppenheimer saw the new project as outside this directive. It is ironic
      that this report triggers the security hearings that ultimately strips
      Oppenheimer of his government security clearances, pushing him outside the
      scientific field he once led. Behaving much like Krishna, the government
      only wants its scientists to do science and not to moralize about the work
      (Thorpe 72-73).

      I have said on occasion that I "was born to do my job" and now I wonder if
      this was an expression of my enjoyment of my job or if it was a kind of
      self-knowledge of my dharma or even more specifically as a scientist, my

      The expression svadharma means "duty specific to an individual" in terms
      of intersecting identities: gender, caste, stage of life, and the life. The
      expression is also firmly rooted in the belief that svadharma derives from,
      or is equivalent to, svabhava, one's own inherent nature. Duty is not merely
      a contingent moral response to a set of circumstances but a categorical
      imperative flowing directly from one's innate and immutable nature (Olivelle

      As a biological scientist using genetic technology, if my dharma is to do
      science, stemming from my innate and immutable nature, then do I do my job
      without thought to potential consequences, with no thoughts about the
      'fruits of my labors'? My life's work has been confined to discovering novel
      treatments for disease, work that I hear variously described as a "good
      fight", "war against cancer", and "battle against disease and suffering". I
      am obviously aware of the power of the technology that I use in my work, but
      as my work is about relieving human suffering, it seems to fulfill Krishna's
      advice to fight in a battle against evil.

      But what if the power of genetic technology is used for applications other
      than relieving human suffering and disease? If it is the genetic scientist's
      dharma to do this science, then is the application of this science beyond
      therapeutic use fulfill Krishna's directive regarding a battle against evil?
      Is it part of the battle against evil to expand the reproductive choices of
      adults who would otherwise not be able to have healthy children? Is it part
      of the battle against evil to create taller, smarter, faster, more
      beautiful, and longer-lived children?

      At a 1998 UCLA symposium on the manipulation of the genetic basis of human
      reproduction, James Watson, one of the co-discoverers of the structure of
      DNA observes, "… If we could make better human beings by knowing how to add
      genes, why shouldn't we? What's wrong with it?" (Stock and Campbell 79). On
      the other side of the debate, Francis Fukuyama remarks, "… the most
      significant threat posed by contemporary biotechnology is the possibility
      that it will alter human nature and thereby move us into a "posthuman" stage
      of history" (Fukuyama 7). Watson also observes that while he has a great
      respect for the human species, evolution is cruel and capricious; he also
      sees no sanctity inherent in the human genome, seeming to echo the posthuman
      observation but from a position of desirability (Stock 132).

      Much like Oppenheimer's view of the inevitability of the use of the atomic
      bomb was inherent in the project from the beginning, manipulating the human
      germline (the genes passed on to the next generation) to create improved
      children is also seen as inevitable as the technology becomes developed
      (Stock and Campbell 129).

      There are also significant differences in the kind of science being done
      for Oppenheimer's project and the biotechnological science being done today
      that makes the newer science more accessible. Genetic science, for the most
      part, does not hold the kind of physical hazards (specifically the atomic
      radiation hazards of uranium and plutonium) that characterizes atomic
      weapons production. The government does not completely control genetic
      technology; there are certain types of experiments that are banned by the
      U.S. government and a few completely legislated as illegal (reproductive
      human cloning, for example), but the technology, is now relatively
      ubiquitous and even portable. This kind of work is ongoing in every country
      capable of supporting a laboratory, whether governmental, academic, or
      private. A significant amount of technological advances are being made in
      the private sector and not in academic or government funded labs. The
      technology has become simplified and
      accessible, even in a do-it-yourself "kit" form; high-school students
      learn to insert genes into bacteria in their school laboratories, a process
      that was illegal in the United States in the early 1970s.

      While reproductive cloning is banned in the United States and most other
      Western countries, there are plenty of places where the research can
      continue without restriction. While some worry about "opening Pandora's box"
      when it comes to reproductive technologies and genetic enhancement, I find
      this concern dated: the box was opened many years ago. Public opinion and
      policy hasn't caught up with the science. Scientific innovations can and
      often do proceed with a speed that society cannot integrate smoothly.

      The arguments for and against using genetic technology to improve our
      children fall along religious, philosophical, moral and scientific
      categories. The arguments go beyond the prevention or treatment of disease,
      which is not the central issue, but in extending the technology to enhance
      or improve desirable traits.

      Dr. Gregory Stock has distilled the major arguments against using this
      technology for conscious genetic manipulation into five short statements:
      (1) People might turn into biological time bombs. (2) Our genetic
      constitutions might become impoverished. (3) Society might fragment. (4) Our
      relationships and values might become distorted. (5) We might lose our
      spiritual mooring (Stock 140). All of these arguments are concerned with our
      fundamental human nature, the first two, with our biological nature; we
      don't know if what may happen over time once genes have been inserted, and
      we might endanger our future if we being choosing certain genes more
      frequently, narrowing the genetic variation needed by evolution to be
      successful. The last three arguments are concerned with society and the
      inner nature of human beings; will be we become a society of haves and
      have-nots? Will we value manipulated genetic enhancements over those
      inherited from our families? And will we become so
      embodied in our newly enhanced selves that we are no longer interested in
      the spiritual? I would add an additional issue to debate: at what point does
      genetic enhancement makes us posthuman, or no longer homo sapiens?

      The largest "big science" of the late 20th century, the Human Genome
      Project, allocated three percent of its budget to studying the ethical,
      social, and legal implications (generally known as ELSI) of genetic research
      but not everyone felt that the money was spent in a genuine way. One
      perceived problem is that the community of bioethicists grew up in tandem
      with the biotech industry. Another was that bioethicists were often the most
      permissive when it came to debating the new technology. So what did the
      money fund? As Dr. Fukuyama notes, "this can be regarded as commendable
      concern for the ethical dimensions of scientific research, or else as a kind
      of protection money the scientists have to pay to keep the true ethicists
      off their backs." (Fukuyama 204). If this is true, then the role of the
      bioethicist is make ongoing genetic research palatable to the public and to
      answer critical objections towards work that is already clearly inevitable.
      The usage and utility of
      genetic manipulation and enhancement was implicit in the Human Genome
      Project in the same way use of an atomic weapon was implicit in the
      Manhattan Project itself.

      Oppenheimer's Manhattan Project opened the way for the development of
      weapons that could destroy all life on the planet, a mass extinction. The
      Human Genome Project opens the way for the such a fundamental shift in the
      biology of the human race, that Homo sapiens could actually disappear,
      become extinct, by becoming something new, a Homo sapiens novo.

      Perhaps it is the genetic scientist's dharma to contribute towards this
      redefinition of the human species, but we can no longer separate our ability
      to do the science from our responsibility for its results. It is also a
      scientist's moral duty or dharma to educate and inform the public on both
      the potential and danger of genetic manipulation, because the decision to
      use these technologies should be democratic, like our society. We appear to
      we standing on an edge, at the brink, and whether this edge is a precipice
      to a fall or a bridge to something higher is, at this time, unknown. It is
      of paramount importance to continue to ask the question 'why' we are doing
      this work and to continue to imagine the potential consequences of such
      changes to our fundamental biological nature. It is important to continue to
      examine the question of a scientist's dharma in terms of right action and
      moral duty, not just as an individual, but moral duty as it serves the
      larger society.

      Oppenheimer says, "Science, by its methods, its values, and the nature of
      the objectivity it seeks, is universally human" (Oppenheimer 56). Perhaps in
      the biotechnological 21st century, we will discover that science is
      universally 'posthuman'. Is this then our dharma?

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      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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