What is Science?
Science is the study of the
reality of the universe based on observed facts, and systematic research, analysis
and experimentation. Science provides the basis of modern technology that improves
the living standard of human beings.
The Contribution of Science to Human
One of the main characteristics of science is its great emphasis on
facts gathering and systematic research. During the process of investigating what
is right and wrong, what is true and false, science has remarkable advancement.
Science has broken up the ignorance and stupidity that had been with mankind for
thousands of years. Things that were unknown to us have now become necessities
in our daily lives, such as lighting, electric fans, televisions, electric kettles,
oven, etc. To fly to anywhere in the world, you do not have to rely on mystic
and psychic power. You just board a plane and relax. While you are resting, enjoying
your meal or engaging in a conversation, the plane flies through the cloud, over
the mountains and the oceans. You need no effort to arrive at the destination.
Moreover, with the aid of telephone, you can talk to anyone thousands of miles
away. Moon is no longer a mystery nowadays with spaceships launched to explore
it. Deep seas have become bases for submarines. All these indicate that the continuous
advancements of science and technology have benefited our lives tremendously.
The Classification of Sciences
Though the scope of science is very wide,
it can be basically classified into three branches:
1. Natural science - It
is the study of the structure and properties of all matters. Based on generally
agreed axioms and the methods of deduction and induction, new theories are developed.
Examples are astronomy, physics, chemistry, zoology, botany and mineralogy.
Applied science - It is the study of applications on the natural sciences such
as applied chemistry, applied mathematics, applied zoology and applied botany.
3. Social sciences - It is the study of all phenomena in human society. It
focuses on human relationship and interactions, attempting to develop patterns
of human behavior. Examples are economics, political science, law and sociology.
Natural Science and Buddhism
of the greatest topics of natural science is the formation and destruction of
the world. Though astronomers realize that the Earth, the Sun and other planets
in the Solar System will eventually be destroyed, they are unable to say definitely
whether the Earth and the other planets and stars will be reborn. This remains
to be a mystery in the scientific community.
Over two thousand years ago,
the Buddha gave the answer to this problem with his discovery of the Law of Dependent
Origination. Though the Earth will one day be destroyed, there is a chance that
it will be re-formed. This is because all phenomena (material and spiritual) change
continuously in the cycle of manifestation and extinction. What we encounter and
see is the summation of all transient phenomena. All matters are interdependent
and interact with each other, resulting in numerous and continuous causes and
effects. In Buddhism, this interactive law of cause and effect is called the Law
of Dependent Origination.
Dependent Origination means conditions. All phenomena,
including our Earth, cannot violate this principle: it is formed when the causes
and conditions come together, and it becomes extinct when the causes and conditions
are apart. Governed by this principle, the world and the Earth have to undergo
four stages, namely formation, dwelling, decaying and emptiness, which is a continuous
cycle without cessation. From this point of view, the study in natural science
is one step behind Buddhism.
Applied Science and Buddhism
With the many
modern technologies arising from the research of applied sciences, some people
may think that we can totally rely on the versatile scientific knowledge to satisfy
the desirous demand of human beings. However, no matter how advanced science is,
the desire of human beings is boundless. Moreover, the development of modern technology
inclining towards satisfying material desires further aggravates the imbalance
of the material culture and the spiritual culture.
With the rapid development
of science and technology, people always neglect the value of internal spirit.
The richer they are in material sense, the more lonely, anxious and desperate
they feel. Prosperity often brings along worries that cannot be expressed in words.
Therefore, the Buddha teaches us to give up the seeking of material desires, and
instead to build up our spiritual wealth, so that we have no suffering of disappointment.
Social Science and Buddhism
The purposes of social sciences are to improve
the morality of the society, to build up a wealthy and strong country, and to
promote the worldly peace and harmony. However, in the era when culture is biased
towards materialism, the society is overwhelmed with materialistic desires. People
are concerned only with their own interests without righteousness. Despite all
the defensive and security measures, without building up the spiritual life, there
are bound to be conflicts in families, struggles, conspiracy and even murder in
society, and wars between different countries fighting for land and power. It
is so miserable that many people suffer and die.
Just relying on material
civilization cannot solve social problems. We must follow what the Buddha says.
Firstly, our mind need to be purified so that we understand to benefit others
is benefiting ourselves, to harm others is harming ourselves. We have to control
ourselves from excessive desires, then we can love, care for and help each other.
Only then can our families be happy, our societies stable and prosperous, and
our countries friendly and peaceful, achieving great harmony in our world.