Universal Acid

Written by Rob Hogendoorn

1 minute

Daniel Dennett explains in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (1995) how the idea of evolution is like “universal acid,” a “liquid so corrosive that it will eat through anything.”

Dennett continues:

“Darwin’s idea had been born as an answer to questions in biology, but it threatened to leak out, offering answers—welcome or not—to questions in cosmology (going in one direction) and psychology (going in the other direction). … Much of the controversy and anxiety that has enveloped Darwin’s idea ever since can be understood as a series of failed campaigns in the struggle to contain Darwin’s idea within some acceptably ‘safe’ and merely partial revolution. Cede some or all of modern biology to Darwin, perhaps, but hold the line there! Keep Darwinian thinking out of cosmology, out of psychology, out of human culture, out of ethics, politics, and religion!” (p. 63).

I feel the same way about the controversy and anxiety that envelope investigations of sexual abuse in Tibetan Buddhist traditions.

In-depth investigations of abuse within Tibetan Buddhist traditions will likely expose the remnants of the same kinds of patriarchy, misogyny, feudalism, despotism, exploitation, deceit, and hypocrisy that emerged time and again during examinations of most every other ancient religious denomination.

If their practice does amount to getting real, as they so often say, Tibetan Buddhists of all persuasions really ought to give up their remaining sense of entitlement and exceptionalism fast.

Whoever tries to keep such investigations at bay, to ‘cede’ some belief while keeping others ‘safe,’ is fighting a rearguard action. It’s self-defeating too, because any such defensiveness replicates the (self-)censorship that covered up the abuse to start with.

Every attempt to derail, redirect or repurpose such investigations only empowers victims/survivors and strengthens investigators’ resolve. Such attempts are just another ‘failed campaign’ to contain that which cannot be contained. And they only serve to make matters worse.

Originally posted as a long-Tweet on October 15, 2022 (slight edits and link added).

About the author

Rob Hogendoorn

Investigative reporter and academic researcher Rob Hogendoorn (b. 1964) began researching the reception of Buddhism in Western society and culture in the early 1990s. His modus operandi remained the same ever since: independent, inquisitive and provocative.