Sunday, December 24, 2006

David Lane Returns

David Lane, a sociology professor and former-Wilber-fan-turned-critic around 1996, was one of the first strong critics of Wilber's treatment of biology and other fields of science. From that original series of essays:

"What makes Wilber's remarks on evolution so egregious is not that he is more or less a closet creationist with Buddhist leanings, but that he so maligns and misrepresents the current state of evolutionary biology, suggesting that he is somehow on top of what is currently going on in the field. And Wilber does it by exaggeration, by false statements, and by rhetoric license."

As is well known, Wilber often complains about being misrepresented by his critics. The opposite question therefore becomes relevant: to what extent does Wilber misrepresent the positions he has criticized himself? Evolutionary biology is a case in point.

I have republished Lane's 1996 essay on Integral World, together with a response from Tom Floyd, and David Lane decided to write a fresh response to Floyd, which has been posted as well now. From this response:

"So I completely disagree with you when you claim that I am suggesting that we "totally" discount Wilber as regards evolution, or any subject for that matter. No, I am simply pointing out a fundamental mistake he has made and that it should be corrected. There is no reason to see this as "adversial" just as I shouldn't see your critique of what I have written as "adversial." You have done me a service and I see no reason why Wilber isn't better served by critics pointing out his varying weaknesses. "

Let the debate continue...


Blogger John said...

I think Mr. Lane has a similar style to Wilber. I have not read his essays but calling someone a ‘closet creationist’ is like something Wilber might say. The word ‘creationist’ being a slur among the followers of the cult of scientism. So I guess among the cult of I-I, they would be more likely to call someone a ‘closet reductivist.’ I can hear it now….

My own view is that DNA must have been written or ‘created’ by some superior intelligence. I don’t feel like I’m ‘coming out of the closet’ here, but I buy into the whole ‘monkeys on typewriters’ argument. This idea is codified into Biology’s “Laws of Cells” that state, among other things, that ‘all cells come from other cells.’ This law implies that no cell will ever be whipped up from scratch in the lab. While it’s impossible to prove this last sentence true, I believe it. If no cell can be whipped up even in our most modern laboratory facilities, then how could they have arisen by accident? To me this is a compelling and convincing indication that the idea of [water + methane + nitrogen + blind forces + time = DNA] is false. Our most intelligent researchers cannot do this, even today.

I have no particular take on the ‘half-wing’ debate. I think Wilber got his take on that from Koestler’s book Ghost in the Machine. Koestler argues for pages in that book that the brain could not have arisen by natural selection. I thought his argument there (in Ghost in the Machine) was weak but plausible. My main point here is that I think that DNA structure and cellular metabolism are both far too complex to have arisen by accident. As Wilber says in the beginning of SES, “Something else is going on.”

9:16 AM  

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