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Should meditation be taught as a scientific theory?

personperson Don't believe everything you thinkthe void Veteran

I was listening to a psychology podcast today, that I highly recommend. A first nations professor was the guest and he was talking about the experience of indigenous people. It was going good, from my perspective, then he made the argument that indigenous ways of knowing should be included in science curriculum along side western science. He gave the example of Richard Davidson's and others work on studying meditation.

I guess to my mind, what I heard him saying was almost identical to the arguments that creationists use, that intelligent design should be taught along side evolution. Maybe he didn't explain himself well, but the host politely pushed back and he pretty much reinforced the idea. From my perspective I like the idea of listening and respecting these ideas, I think, like with meditation, there can be much wisdom that can be offered. But, imo, the ideas should be treated as hypothesis rather than facts and be subject to clinical trials and the general scientific process, just like meditation has been. I want to be respectful but just accepting and teaching indigenous ideas along side western scientific ideas that have been through the scientific process doesn't seem right to me.

Am I wrong, is there a better way to look at this?

https://scottbarrykaufman.com/podcast/honoring-the-wisdom-of-indigenous-peoples-with-richard-katz/

Comments

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    It’s an interesting question, but I think there is a case for teaching self-exploration and topics such as meditation and yoga at schools. There is not a lot of attention given to the inner world in most schools, and I think there is room to do some of this, it would be beneficial for kids to learn stress management techniques.

    But I do think meditation is a bit of a special case. There aren’t many other topics of which I’d say the same thing. I reckon it’s going in that direction already, I’ve heard of school teachers around here who follow mindfulness courses in order to function as teachers in front of the classroom.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited January 12

    Well meditation is not a scientific theory but it is a method or system of processing. It is also the methodology used by the pre-scientists in the dharmic religions (Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Shikhism).

    Certain ideas such as 'god did it' can be explored but in a science class? Saints preserve us!

    We do not require koranic prayer, reading from the Bible or meditation/yoga before each lesson. Some schools may do this. It may have benefits such as focus, stilling, discipline etc.

    There is no reason why creationist or alternative world views can not be explored. For example we learned very early on from story telling (pre reading teaching) We were read Celtic/Pagan Greek/Pagan creation myths and maybe some from other sources ... We sang songs, danced and gradually found the library ...

    Sadly I had never heard of Skinner who is mentioned in the podcast ...
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._F._Skinner

    Long live Brer Rabbit! :3

    personFosdick
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    It’s an interesting question, but I think there is a case for teaching self-exploration and topics such as meditation and yoga at schools. There is not a lot of attention given to the inner world in most schools, and I think there is room to do some of this, it would be beneficial for kids to learn stress management techniques.

    But I do think meditation is a bit of a special case. There aren’t many other topics of which I’d say the same thing. I reckon it’s going in that direction already, I’ve heard of school teachers around here who follow mindfulness courses in order to function as teachers in front of the classroom.

    The question isn't really about teaching the technique of meditation in school. It's about if the insights and experiences that come from meditation should be taught as knowledge along side western science in science classes?

    ERose
  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran
    edited January 12

    As someone who works in a school, I’d very much like to see meditation incorporated in the timetable. Where I work, the main psychological issue I’ve observed is badly-managed anger. That’s in children and parents.

    The current UK curriculum for primary schools does emphasise tolerance of different faiths (a happy side-effect of the otherwise abominable Prevent Strategy). We have weekly assemblies delivered by visitors from an interfaith centre, at a pretty high cost. And this term, we’ll be teaching about Buddhism in R.E. I’m very interested to see how it goes, as I haven’t told anyone on the teaching staff that I’m a Buddhist myself.

    The first lesson I saw began with Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World and the question, “Is it actually a wonderful world, or is there in fact a lot of suffering?” (Followed by images of starving children in impoverished areas.) Not a great dichotomy, I thought. Most Buddhists I know would probably say it was both.

    But as to your question, should meditation-based knowledge be taught alongside science, I have no idea. Does anyone know if that’s the case in any Buddhist countries? And what would the teaching consist of? What would those lessons look like?

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Should meditation be taught as a scientific theory?

    Psychology Today has this to say

    Also this

    Goyal argues the lackluster results simply reflect the fact that there is not enough evidence to reach other conclusions, in part because funds for high-quality meditation research are hard to come by. “That's part of the reason why the trials that we're seeing have relatively small sample sizes, and many of them have problems with their quality,” he says. Plus, meditation may provide broad lifestyle benefits that go beyond treating disease and are thus difficult to measure. Allan Goroll, a professor of medicine at Harvard University, who published a commentary in the journal at the same time, hopes that the results—or lack thereof—“will be a stimulus for scientists to address these questions in a scientific way,” he says. “We need to apply the scientific method to therapies both conventional and unconventional so we can find out what works.

    And this from Wikipedia

    Although we can now scan the brain, inferring value from blood movements in a human brain remains debatable.

    Numerous studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of a variety of meditation practices. It has been unclear to what extent these practices share neural correlates. Interestingly, a recent study compared electroencephalogram activity during a focused-attention and open monitoring meditation practice from practitioners of two Buddhist traditions (17). The researchers found that the differences between the two meditation traditions were more pronounced than the differences between the two types of meditation. These data are consistent with our findings that theoretical orientation of how a practice is taught strongly influences neural activity during these practices. However, the study used long-term practitioners from different cultures, which may have confounded the results

    On the surface, scientific literature on Meditation is readily available for anyone/everyone to read about, but experiential knowledge can only come from within the individual...

    One person may study mediation and then greatly benefit from ongoing meditation experience whilst another who also studies meditation but applying the same ongoing meditation technique finds that it does nothing for them...

    Scientists use their mind to study the brain's (tangible) activity...But can't just use their brain to study the mind's (intangible) activity .......or can they ???

    When it comes to meditation being taught as a scientific theory... it's a case of Mind over Matter and I'm in two mind...

    person
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran
    edited January 13

    @Shoshin said:

    Should meditation be taught as a scientific theory?

    Psychology Today has this to say

    Also this

    Goyal argues the lackluster results simply reflect the fact that there is not enough evidence to reach other conclusions, in part because funds for high-quality meditation research are hard to come by. “That's part of the reason why the trials that we're seeing have relatively small sample sizes, and many of them have problems with their quality,” he says. Plus, meditation may provide broad lifestyle benefits that go beyond treating disease and are thus difficult to measure. Allan Goroll, a professor of medicine at Harvard University, who published a commentary in the journal at the same time, hopes that the results—or lack thereof—“will be a stimulus for scientists to address these questions in a scientific way,” he says. “We need to apply the scientific method to therapies both conventional and unconventional so we can find out what works.

    And this from Wikipedia

    Although we can now scan the brain, inferring value from blood movements in a human brain remains debatable.

    Numerous studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of a variety of meditation practices. It has been unclear to what extent these practices share neural correlates. Interestingly, a recent study compared electroencephalogram activity during a focused-attention and open monitoring meditation practice from practitioners of two Buddhist traditions (17). The researchers found that the differences between the two meditation traditions were more pronounced than the differences between the two types of meditation. These data are consistent with our findings that theoretical orientation of how a practice is taught strongly influences neural activity during these practices. However, the study used long-term practitioners from different cultures, which may have confounded the results

    On the surface, scientific literature on Meditation is readily available for anyone/everyone to read about, but experiential knowledge can only come from within the individual...

    One person may study mediation and then greatly benefit from ongoing meditation experience whilst another who also studies meditation but applying the same ongoing meditation technique finds that it does nothing for them...

    Scientists use their mind to study the brain's (tangible) activity...But can't just use their brain to study the mind's (intangible) activity .......or can they ???

    When it comes to meditation being taught as a scientific theory... it's a case of Mind over Matter and I'm in two mind...

    Let me further clarify where I'm having some resistance. It isn't about teaching meditation in school to people. It isn't about teaching the scientific studies on the effects of meditation. Its about teaching the insights gained by people from meditation, like what is the nature of consciousness or what effects anger has on people without needing to do any further studies or research to test the insights under the methods of the western scientific method, that's what I heard him saying and reaffirming upon questioning.

    The bit from the podcast starts at around 44:00. I guess my pushback is the same as the hosts. Its good and desirable to consider other ways of coming to truth, I just can't make the next step to putting them into the same category of certainty needed to teach them as scientific knowledge as observations and methods that have been tested and peer reviewed unless and until they have been tested.

    Science isn't just a list of facts and figures about the world, the knowledge that there are other galaxies isn't science itself, it is a result of science. Science is a method designed to filter out incorrect conclusions and bias from personal observations.

    Sorry @Shoshin this isn't personally directed at you. I'm feeling almost as frustrated by this as if the guest were a proponent of intelligent design saying it should be included along side evolution in science education and the insight gained by revelation a separate and equal way of knowing the world. Its different in that there is more time spent in observing nature or the mind so there I think its alright to let into the lab and I think its alright to let ID into the lab, but not into the classroom until it passes through the lab.

    ETA: I guess I'm allergic to this and am starting to vomit. And looking around not seeing other people vomiting (not here specifically, but in the world at large) I'm starting to wonder if I'm going mad or something.

    ShoshinERose
  • The question isn't really about teaching the technique of meditation in school. It's about if the insights and experiences that come from meditation should be taught as knowledge along side western science in science classes?

    No.

    The same insights can be sourced from psychology, anthropology and other more Western, presently acceptable sources. However education is changing. For example special classes on disconnecting from the stupid-phone (not smart phone as widely indoctrinated)

    ... oh ... oh ... is vlogging taught? :3

    person
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran

    @lobster said:

    The question isn't really about teaching the technique of meditation in school. It's about if the insights and experiences that come from meditation should be taught as knowledge along side western science in science classes?

    No.

    The same insights can be sourced from psychology, anthropology and other more Western, presently acceptable sources. However education is changing. For example special classes on disconnecting from the stupid-phone (not smart phone as widely indoctrinated)

    ... oh ... oh ... is vlogging taught? :3

    Thanks for the definitive no, I needed that right now. I'm going to do a long session of meditation tomorrow morning to see if I can't clear up this reaction.

    There's probably some misinterpretation of your words by me but I want to be clear I'm not making a western chauvinism argument. I would love it if something like meditation techniques or some indigenous connecting with nature techniques could be taught to help with tech addiction, after being shown to actually be effective on an equal playing field of standards that western ideas are treated and held to.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Evidence for efficacy would be all well and good, but it could take many years. Scientific studies and analysis proceed at a snail’s pace. For example it was noted that people with serious mental illness seemed to die earlier than the general population. It took decades for a study to emerge proving that this was so, that the difference was at least 12 years, and that it was not down to suicide but that it was evenly spread over all the standard causes of death. That was now nearly ten years ago and they still don’t know what the cause is or how to tackle it.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @person said:... I would love it if something like meditation techniques or some indigenous connecting with nature techniques could be taught to help with tech addiction, after being shown to actually be effective on an equal playing field of standards that western ideas are treated and held to.

    Actually, such treatments can and do exist.
    In Hospices for the terminally ill, alongside all the chemical and pharmaceutical relief those suffering from any form of final disease are obliged to take, there is also the option of Yoga, Meditation, relaxation, Tai Chi and hypnosis available, as supporting but effective remedies.

    I am given to understand that in China, so-called "western Medicine" is applied alongside acupuncture and passive Martial Arts as the accepted norm, because, well, a belt-and-braces approach covers all the bases.

    I happen to know for a myself-fact, that meditation can offer endless relief from mental and psychological machinations, so I think it naturally follows that any tech-addiction would be equally enormously relieved...

    lobsterperson
  • ERoseERose Earth, North America, west. Explorer

    Metaphysics are not physics. Valid insights are not valid scientific proofs. Meditation is more art than science, and while science can study it, meditation is not imo a scientific examination; it's field of interest is bigger.

    Meditation is very good for health, sometimes, but is not a cure, and can trigger confrontation with mental toxins ingested and spewed in life. This can be traumatic.

    Mindfulness however... might support science, and of course health.

    personShoshin
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    Evidence for efficacy would be all well and good, but it could take many years. Scientific studies and analysis proceed at a snail’s pace. For example it was noted that people with serious mental illness seemed to die earlier than the general population. It took decades for a study to emerge proving that this was so, that the difference was at least 12 years, and that it was not down to suicide but that it was evenly spread over all the standard causes of death. That was now nearly ten years ago and they still don’t know what the cause is or how to tackle it.

    That's a good argument on the positive side. The problem, in my mind, is that if you let in practices without objective truth and efficacy standards that opens the door for all of the harmful practices as well, such as the clinics that give sham treatments for cancer sufferers under the guise of traditional or pseudo scientific practices.

    Even western medicine was for a long time based on what they call eminence based medicine rather than evidence based. But is now more and more being subject to proper scrutiny.

    https://consumers.cochrane.org/blog/eminence-vs-evidence

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