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September 21, 2010
The Claims

Karma is a causal concept in Indian religions. The word is Sanskrit for “action” or “deed”, but is typically used to refer to the cycle of cause and effect set in motion by every deed. In particular, the principle of karmic return holds that every act done by a person will return to that person eventually: a good act will be returned with good; an evil act with evil. In Buddhist traditions, this cycle is treated as a natural law of cause and effect, whereas in theistic Hindu traditions, God is responsible for ensuring karmic rewards and punishments.

Since bad things often happen to good people, and vice versa, it is important that the return on good and evil actions is not direct, but can happen much later. For this reason, belief in karma is linked to belief in reincarnation: when an apparently good person endures a life of misfortune, it is the deserved result of evils in a past life. Similarly, when a person apparently gets away with many evil actions throughout their life, karma ensures that this will return to cause them misery in a future life. (In some traditions, the good and evil is returned through reincarnation itself: a person who has done many good deeds may return in a higher caste; an evildoer in a lower caste, or even as a lesser creature.)

The Evidence

Modern science treats cause and effect in terms of mathematical laws which leave no place for the moralistic causality of karma. Furthermore, there is no plausible evidence for the existence of reincarnation (see separate article), without which the principle that good deeds are always rewarded and evil always punished is obviously false – experience provides many counterexamples.

When combined with the theory of reincarnation, the principle of karmic return becomes an entirely untestable supposition. Since we can never know the life history of the entire sequence of past and future selves of an individual, it is impossible to evaluate whether or not the good deeds they have done have been met with equally good consequences. Karma becomes an unfalsifiable principle as soon as it is admitted that the balance of good and evil need not be restored in a single lifetime.

Within most interpretations of the concept of karma, it’s untestability means it is impossible to refute – or support – through evidence.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Paras permalink
    September 3, 2013 3:18 PM

    even accepting that God is there, how does it matter. He does not interfere in any body’s life in any way. so why believe him.

  2. vishal permalink
    April 22, 2011 2:58 PM

    u r a fool if u say that god dosnt exist…i can prove that god exist…
    i can show u god….as u need an instrument to see bacteria called microscope or u require a another instrument to measure distance called scale….now u cant use microscope to measure distance or scale to see bacteria…similarly their is instrument and procedure to see GOD. if u wan see god then u can mail me.

  3. Brian Ritter permalink
    December 12, 2010 2:04 PM

    Could it be, that if you choose to settle on a vulcano, it doesn’t matter how you live you life, eventually you will have lava in you living room?

  4. December 7, 2010 1:55 PM

    If a person is using his/her energy for being dishonest, liar, greedy, violent what will he be rewarded with?

    The presidency of Sri Lanka.

    Matter is energy in a very different way than people mean when they talk about “sending out positive energy”. It’s like saying “human beings are made of energy, therefore I can plug my clock radio into my nose” – it requires a complete failure to understand physics.

    “Blessings” come to people with both positive and negative attitudes in exactly equal measure. “Positive thinking” yields results only through a series of logical and cognitive flaws.

  5. Parul permalink
    December 6, 2010 9:28 AM

    I am not here in debate but just for getting deeper -“Karma” is not described here in its fullest meaning. They are focusing more on reincarnation, good and bad, which is not all about Karma!

    Doesn’t science talk about cause and effect? Doesn’t science talk about energy? and transformation of one form of energy into another form. Human too is formed by energy. If a person is using his/her energy for being dishonest, liar, greedy, violent what will he be rewarded with?

    If we don’t take judiciary system in account- Reward will be-negative emotion, negative energy, negative outcome and destruction. It is very Important to transfer that energy into productive and constructive energy rather than destructive. So I see “Karma” in this perspective. And that is what I learned from my ancestors about Karma. The word coined by science is negative vibes!

    If you do good, good comes to you- Yes because giving and receiving gracefully is established by the science as positive energy and it may give peace to mind and body, and helps in healing the mind! It also helps in collecting positive vibes and blessings. It is a tool to turn negative energy and destructive mind into positive energy and constructive mind.

    About reincarnation, I have no clue but I can see this as one tool to regulate negative energy and outcome, and also to put fear for not to do bad to others and to himself’/herself. Otherwise energy in human may cause destruction. but I will try to figure out Is it true?

    I would really like to hear from the authors and others, what they have to say about this. I am here to widen my understanding.

  6. December 3, 2010 7:40 PM

    I’ve seen too many jerks be rewarded to beleive that there’s any connection between what a person does to what happens to that person

    bad things happen to bad and good people, good things happen to good adn bad people

    but it seems if you really want to get ahead, then being bad with a “me at the expense of you” beleif systems seems to be required

  7. December 2, 2010 6:06 PM

    here is the problem…..with the God issue…you cannot say there is God just as much you cannot say there is not God. Because we do not have any evidence now doesn’t mean anything. any number of reasons could explain that….we dont have the right methodology, our detection methods are not correct, our working hypothesis of God is wrong…conversely, yes there is no evidence to support claims of God….therefore, based on our current knowledge and understanding there is no such thing as God.

    I say it depends on how you best feel/choose to understand and view the world. If you utterly convinced that what science has established thus far is absolute then yes, you are right! there is no God. On the other hand, if you are of the view that we will always keep discovering new things that change existing theories and our understanding of the world, then inherent in this thinking is also the fact the whatever we understand could be undone by a new theory….in essence, what we know so far is a snap shot of how we choose to understand. this can change so we could discover God….in the end your debate or God or no God is moot! Let people lead their lives the way they want to. Offer choices, not propaganda!

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