Dr. Hamner Hill, interim dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Southeast Missouri State University, recently spent a week teaching logic and philosophy of science courses to Tibetan Buddhist monks at the Drepung Loseling Buddhist Monastery in Mungod, India.
Hill was a part of a faculty team for the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, a project supported by Tibetan’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to try to bring Tibetan Buddhism into the 21st century by educating monks in western physics, biology and neuroscience.
The project introduces logic, critical thinking and the philosophy of science before focusing on western science, said Hill.
Hill worked with Dr. David Henderson, Robert R. Chambers distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of Nebraska, to discuss deductive and inductive inference, the role of observation and falsification in sciences, and the role of deductive and inductive inference in generating falsifiable hypotheses.
“Teaching logic with a translator to a class of 120 students and slides written in Tibetan, which I can’t read, is a challenge, but one that I loved,” Hill said.
Additionally, Hill and Henderson spent an evening discussing and debating ideas with Geshe Kyerap Penpa, abbot of the Drepung Monastery, and Geshe Yoten Gyatso, abbot of the Gomang Monastery.
During his visit, Hill and his wife, Dr. Peggy Hill, Southeast professor of physics, also visited historic Buddhist, Hindu and Jain sacred caves in Ajanta and Ellora.
“Everyone we met was exceptionally kind and compassionate, and the experience of spending a week in a monastic setting reminds one of why we get into education,” he said. “The life of the mind is alive and well there.”