Western Buddhists seem to want Buddhism to embrace their religion called “scientism” which is the belief that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative world view. For the life of me I can’t figure out why. I don’t think scientists see themselves as a new kind of clergy. They know that science is just educated guessing which makes plenty of mistakes. For those who take scientism as a religion of sorts, most scientists find them ridiculous.
These Western Buddhists don’t seem to understand that science, when you boil it all down, is just a huge kettle of metaphors which still can’t answer, “What is the universe made of?” One such metaphor is the universe is like an encyclopedia of mathematics. But the universe doesn’t speak mathematically. The general theory of relativity doesn’t speak about a universe that we can observe. Another metaphor concerns light. Is it like a particle or is it like a wave? Particle and wave are just metaphors. The help us to understand light, but at the same time, they also hide the real nature of light. Particle and wave are also fictions being limited in that respect. There is scarcely any difference between metaphors and fictions. Both can be apt and very useful—both are, undeniably, fabrications of the mind.
When we compare old religions with modern science they are no different when looked at through the notion of metaphor. In one extensive metaphor, God creates heaven and earth. In a more modern one there is a big bang. God, a creator-builder, is a metaphor for the mystery of creation. The big band is an explosion metaphor for the mystery of creation. Both are also fictional which means they are both artful fabrications of the human mind. Religions of the past and modern science by their metaphors help us to make the unknown seem less unknown which is a form of delusion. Believe in God or science, we still do not know the mystery of creation. And as I mentioned earlier, we have no idea what the universe is made of.
Buddhism seeks to eclipse as much as it can the world of metaphors. It is not interested in realizing truth by way of metaphors and other grand fictions, although they can be useful. The Buddha points beyond all fabrications of the mind. We must come to realize what is most primordial; not straightway begin with our imagination as a given coming up metaphors like God and the big bang. The realization of what is most primordial; which is beyond all fabrications of mind is a very real, realization. It just defies naming. The scaffolding of our imagination cannot rest against it, neither can science.