B. Alan Wallace

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the New Zealand cricketer, see Alan Wallace (cricketer).
B. Alan Wallace, Padma Samten, Marlene Rossi Severino Nobre, and Roberto Lúcio Vieira de Souza, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, 2009

Bruce[1] Alan Wallace (born 1950) is an American expert on Tibetan Buddhism. Wallace founded the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies, and has focused on the relationships between science and Eastern philosophy. A 2006 Salon article said that Wallace "may be the American Buddhist most committed to finding connections between Buddhism and science."[2] His books outline contemporary findings among Eastern and Western scientific, philosophical, and contemplative modes of inquiry.

Wallace promotes an hypothesis about consciousness that he says is in opposition to that of neuroscientists.[2] It has been criticized for referencing paranormal phenomena and employing pseudoscientific terminology characteristic of quantum mysticism.[3]

Life and career[edit]

Wallace received a Ph.D. in religious studies from Stanford University. His doctoral dissertation in 1995 was on The Cultivation of Sustained Voluntary Attention in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. He taught for four years in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara.[4] In 1987, he obtained a B.A. in physics, philosophy of science and Sanskrit from Amherst College.[5]

Wallace founded the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies in 2003, with the objective of "furthering such interdisciplinary and cross-cultural investigation of the nature and potentials of consciousness and extending its benefits to the general public." [6] One of the institute's projects is the Shamatha Project, a longitudinal scientific study of the effects of intensive meditation training.[7] This matured, after preliminary phases of this project, into the International Shamatha Project (ISP).

Wallace worked with psychologist Paul Ekman and Eve Ekman on the Cultivating Emotional Balance (CEB) project. [8][9]

View of consciousness[edit]

Wallace puts forward the hypothesis that individual consciousness emerges from "substrate consciousness", an idea that he says originates in Buddhism. He explains, "The psyche is not emerging from the brain, conditioned by the environment. The human psyche is in fact emerging from an individual continuum of consciousness that is conjoined with the brain during the development of the fetus... There’s another dimension of consciousness, which is called the substrate consciousness."[2][3] He describes this view as being opposite to the view taken by neuroscientists who see consciousness as the product of brain functioning.[2]

The evidence cited for this hypothesis includes references to quantum mechanics and paranormal phenomena such as clairvoyance and extrasensory perception.[dubious ] These have been criticized on the grounds that evidence strongly points to such paranormal phenomena not existing, and that the use of quantum mechanics amounts to "quantum woo" or quantum mysticism. For instance the phrase "vacuum state of consciousness" is employed to describe "substrate consciousness". Neurologist Steven Novella remarks that this is a case of "using the language of quantum mechanics without applying its meaning - a classic feature of pseudoscience."[3]

Wallace believes that evidence of "substrate consciousness" may be obtained through meditative states and that the purview of science should be expanded to include the subjective testimony of meditators.[2] Novella sees this as analogous to an aspect of intelligent design, "Just as the [intelligent design] proponents want to change the rules of science to allow entry to supernatural causes, Wallace wants to change the rules of science to allow evidence from Buddhist contemplatives."[3]

Selected works[edit]

Books published by major academic publishers:

  • The Taboo of Subjectivity: Toward a New Science of Consciousness Oxford University Press, 2000
  • Buddhism and Science: Breaking New Ground (ed.) Columbia University Press, 2003
  • Genuine Happiness: Meditation as the Path to Fulfillment John Wiley & Sons, 2005
  • Contemplative Science: Where Buddhism and Neuroscience Converge. Columbia University Press, 2007
  • Hidden Dimensions: The Unification of Physics and Consciousness Columbia University Press, 2007
  • Mind in the Balance: Meditation in Science, Buddhism, and Christianity. Columbia University Press, 2009
  • Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic: A Manifesto for the Mind Sciences and Contemplative Practice, Columbia University Press, 2011

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Cultivation of Sustained Voluntary Attention in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism". PhilPapers. 1995. Retrieved July 19, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Paulson, Steve (November 27, 2006). "Buddha on the brain". Salon. Retrieved September 4, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d Novella, Steven. "B. Alan Wallace and Buddhist Dualism". Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  4. ^ Alumni of Stanford's Buddhist Studies Program
  5. ^ B. Alan Wallace - curriculum vitae
  6. ^ Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies
  7. ^ "Meditation Research". 
  8. ^ "Home - Cultivating Emotional Balance". cultivatingemotionalbalance.org. 
  9. ^ Kemey, Margaret; Foltz, C.; Cavanagh, J. F.; Cullen, M.; Giese-Davis, J.; Jennings, P.; Rosenberg, E. L.; Gillath, O.; Shaver, P. R.; Wallace, B. A.; Ekman, P. (Dec 12, 2011). "Contemplative/Emotion Training Reduces Negative Emotional Behavior and Promotes Prosocial Responses" (PDF). Emotion (Winter). doi:10.1037/a0026118. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-10-22. Retrieved 2015-07-15. 

External links[edit]