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Buddhist Biology Ancient Eastern Wisdom Meets Modern Western Science

Out of Print
By: David P Barash(Author)
204 pages, no illustrations
Buddhist Biology
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  • Buddhist Biology ISBN: 9780190844332 Paperback Oct 2017 Out of Print #236283
  • Buddhist Biology ISBN: 9780199985562 Hardback Dec 2013 Out of Print #206901
About this book Contents Biography Related titles

About this book

An eye-opening look at the crossroads of religion and science, illuminating the unexpected common ground shared by biology and Buddhism. Many high-profile public intellectuals – such as the well-known "New Atheists" Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and the late Christopher Hitchens – have argued that religion and science are highly antagonistic, two views of the world that are utterly incompatible. David Barish, a renowned biologist with thirty years of experience, largely agrees with them – with one very big exception. And that exception is Buddhism.

In this fascinating book, Buddhist Biology, David Barash highlights an intriguing patch of common ground between scientific and religious thought, illuminating the many parallels between biology and Buddhism, allowing readers to see both in a new way. Indeed, he shows that there are numerous places where the Buddhist and biological perspectives coincide. For instance, the cornerstone ecological concept – the interconnectedness and interdependence of all things – is remarkably similar to the fundamental insight of Buddhism. 

Indeed, a major Buddhist text, the Avatamsaka Sutra – which consists of ten insights into the "interpenetration" between beings and their environment – could well have been written by a trained ecologist. Barash underscores other similarities, including a shared distrust of simple cause-and-effect analysis, a recognition of life as transient and as a "process" rather than permanent and static, and an appreciation of the "rightness" of nature along with a recognition of the suffering that results when natural processes are tampered with.

After decades of removing predators to protect deer and elk herds, ecologists have belatedly come to a Buddhist realization that predation – and even forest fires – are natural processes that have an important place in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Buddhist Biology sheds new light on biology, Buddhism, and the remarkable ways the two perspectives come together, like powerful searchlights that offer complementary and valuable perspectives on the world and our place in it.


Chapter 1. A Science Sutra
Chapter 2. Non-Self (Anatman)
Chapter 3. Impermanence (Anitya)
Chapter 4. Connectedness (Pratitya-Samutpada)
Chapter 5. Engagement, Part 1 (Dukkha)
Chapter 6. Engagement, Part 2 (Karma)
Chapter 7. Meaning (Existential Biobuddhism?)


Customer Reviews


David P. Barash, PhD is Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington. An evolutionary biologist by training, he has been involved in the development of sociobiology, and is the author or co-author of 29 books.

Out of Print
By: David P Barash(Author)
204 pages, no illustrations
Media reviews

"I'm skeptical of attempts to reconcile religion with science. At worst the two are incompatible. At best the reconciliation seems superfluous: why bother, why not just go straight for the science? But if you must essay this difficult reconciliation, Buddhism is surely religion's best shot, at least in the atheistic version espoused by David Barash. And the task is an uphill one, so you'd better pick a very good writer to attempt it. David Barash, by any standards, is certainly a very, very good writer."
– Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion

"Most atheists turn from religion with emotions between disdain and relief. Not so David Barash. He is convinced that traditional Western religions fall because they are refuted by modern science, especially in the evolutionary realm of which he is a master. Nevertheless, in Buddhism he finds deep insights about human nature and our obligations to others and to our environment. Barash is sometimes wrong, and sometimes even irritating. But as this provocative and stimulating book shows, he is never boring."
– Michael Ruse, Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University and editor of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Darwin and Evolutionary Thought

"All who are motivated to search for life's meaning will be stimulated and guided by David Barash's exploration of similarities and differences between Buddhism as a philosophy and modern evolutionary biology. He demonstrates that combining modern biology with that ancient philosophy can yield a deep and satisfying foundation for enjoying a world that does not care about us."
– Gordon Orians, Former President of the Ecological Society of America

"Barash's volume is a fascinating personal manifesto, full of humor and intellectual historical references that mark an exploration of Buddhism from the perspective of a trained scientist embedded in Western culture."
The Quarterly Review of Biology

"The discourse on Buddhism and science has mainly engaged the former with physics, psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience. Trained as a biologist, Barash brings a new perspective with a focus on ecology and evolution."
Religious Studies Review

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