Someone wrote: Science is not intrinsically materialistic. It's intrinsically skeptical. ... Opinion polls show that a substantial number of American scientists, perhaps a majority, have religious beliefs. I have objected to the term "scientific materialism," which suggests some theory of materialism.
I think that science is intrinsically and inherently materialistic by definition.
Science is based on the assumption and theory of matter and materialism.
Materialism, the philosophical theory that regards matter and its motions as constituting the universe, and all phenomena, including those of mind, as due to material agencies.
Matter, as distinct from mind and spirit, is a broad word that applies to anything perceived, or known to be occupying space.
In Buddha Dharma, as articulated in the Lankavatara Sutra, the Sanskrit for "materialist" and "materialism" is lokayata which literally means "limited to the world."
Red Pine wrote: The Sanskrit for ‘materialist’ is lokayata. This term included all those whose approach to knowledge was based on knowledge gained from the five senses. (Note 128, p. 202.)
Because science deliberately limits itself to the five senses perceiving an external world, it is by definition materialism, and by definition is not what Buddha articulated.
That is not to say that Buddha Dharma is incompatible with science, only that the materialist basis of science should never be confused Buddha Dharma as it all too frequently is confused. Buddha Dharma is based on the personal realization that all manifested phenomena are only mind, and this is called the personal realization of noble knowing/knowledge (aryajnana) or Buddha knowing/knowledge (buddhajnana)
For example, in Zen especially, we see the confusion of materialism and Buddha Dharma in the raw examples of every day life such as “a cup of tea” or “hitting the floor” or “raising the stick” or “the plum blossom” used as examples of suchness. But without the personal realization of suchness, the person who has not the realization has only the sensory experience of “a cup of tea” or “hitting the floor” or “raising the stick” or “the plum blossom” and thinks of these as “things” (i.e., dharmas) and mistakes the experience of the thing-as-a-sensory-object for the realization of the thing as the manifestation of suchness.
To view things as external to our mind is called the “externalist ways” (外道).
Externalism. of or pertaining to the world of things, considered as independent of the perceiving mind: external world.
To mistake a thing in the sense being a thing-as-a-sensory-object, i.e., an external thing, is the practical meaning of materialism. Materialism comes in very many varieties and some of them are very subtle and sound like “immaterialsm,” but they are still materialism. In section LXXIII of the Lankavatara Sutra, the Buddha tells Mahamati unequivocally, “I do not articulate materialism.” The Buddha goes on to tell Mahamati about a previous encounter with a materialist Brahman (世論婆羅門). It is an amusing story. The internally quoted matter is quoted directly from the Lankavatara.
The materialist Brahman approaches the Buddha and rudely without seeking permission to question and without waiting he rudely calls the Buddha by his family name “Gautama” and asks, “Is everything actually created?”
The Buddha replied declaring, “Brahman, that everything is actually created is the initial materialism.”
The other then asked, “Is everything not actually created?”
The Buddha said, “That everything is not actually created is the second materialism.”
The Brahman starts a rapid fire succession of questions about permanency, impermanency, birth, and no birth and the Buddha replies, “That’s six materialisms.” A few more such questions and the Buddha says, “That’s eleven materialisms.” the Brahman keeps asking philosophical questions, and the Buddha keeps saying “that’s also materialism,” and then the Buddha says, “As long as there are mental outflows erroneously reckoning on the external dusts (i.e., sensory data), in all cases it is materialism.”
The Brahman in exasperation then asked, “Rather, there is that which is not materialism isn’t there? For the propositions of every one of the externalist ways, I correctly articulate every kind of flavor of phrasing, causes and conditions, parables, and rhetorical embellishments.”
The Buddha declared, “Brahman, there is that which is neither your possession, nor doing, nor propositions, nor articulations. nor is it not articulating every kind of flavor of phrasing, nor is it not causes, metaphors, and rhetorical embellishments.”
The Brahman declared, “What is the position that is not materialism and neither not a proposition, nor not articulating?”
And the Buddha declared, “Brahman, there is the non-materialism that your various externalist ways are not able to know, because they use the means of external natures, untruths, antithetical conceptions, deceptive reckonings, and attachments. I designate not giving birth to antithetical conceptions and the complete realization that existence and nonexistence are nothing but the manifestations of one’s own mind. By not giving birth to antithetical conceptualizations and not receiving external dusts, the antithetical conceptualizations are forever stopped. This is called non-materialism. This is my Dharma, and not what you have!
“Brahman, to articulate in outline: their consciousness supposes coming, supposes going, supposes death, supposes birth, supposes ease, supposes suffering, supposes the submerged, supposes the visible, supposes contacts, supposes attachments to every kind of characteristics, supposes harmonious continuity, supposes reception, or supposes attachments to causes and reckonings. So, Brahman, that which compares to this position is your position of materialism and is not what I have.”
To clarify how materialism is used, Red Pine includes a note from old Chinese commentary:
Red Pine wrote: In his commentary, T’ung-jun notes, “The stance of those who understand the way of truth of self-existence is firm. They teach materialism all day, yet it is not materialism. Meanwhile, the stance of those who don’t understand is unstable. They teach what is not materialism all day, yet it turns out to be materialism. (Note 135, p. 204.)
The truth of “self-existence” means the truth of one’s own nature, the ultimate truth of svabhava, the third of the three own-natures (trisvabhava). This important note shows us that when the Buddha and Zen teachers point to a flower, hit the floor, comment on the sound of the rain, etc., it may seem like they are teaching materialism, but in fact this is not a teaching of materialism and is actually the teaching there is nothing but the manifestations of one’s own mind. But, when the non-Buddhists speak of non-materialism such as energy, space, gods, heavens, spiritual matters, etc., they still believe in an external reality and external things so they are in fact teaching materialism.