Friday, May 18, 2007

Integral Design

In The Oxford Handbook of Science and Religion (Oxford University Press, 2006), edited by Philip Clayton and Zachary Simpson, there's an integral chapter written by Sean Hargens and Ken Wilber, called "Toward a Comprehensive Integration of Science and Religion: A Post-Metaphyhsical Approach". The chapter concludes the methodological Part IV of the book, which contains contributions by Owen Flanagan, David Ray Griffin and others.

In itself, this is a milestone. At least the integral view is on record in some of the major handbooks. But note, this handbook is part of the series Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology. In Part V of the tome, the major theoretical debates are listed, among others the controversy over Intelligent Design.

As to the chapter on the integral approach, one should further keep in mind that an integration of religion and science is not the same as an integration of the various scientific approaches of religion, let alone the mere classification of these approaches into 4, 8 or more categories. The chapter relies heavily on the eight primordial perspectives spelled out in Wilber's latest work. It would have been interesting to have Wilber contribute to the science and religion debate itself. After all, he authored a separate volume on precisely this topic: The Marriage of Sense and Soul: The Integration of Science and Religion (1998), which doesn't seem to have stirred a theological debate.

Intelligent Design, which seems to point to an overlap between the two fields, is a case in point. Are biological organisms too complex to have been evolved by natural selection, as Wilber and ID authors suggest? Yes or no? Unfortunately, Wilber has devoted very few comments to this topics, and then only in angry blog postings directed at his critics or hasty footnotes in a book. Someone of his stature should take the time to clarify his position on this hotly debated issue.

A further complication would be that Wilber has compromised himself by grossly misrepresenting the status of evolutionary biology, in his infamous statements about eyes and wings in A Brief History of Everything, when in the very same year that book came out Richard Dawkins spelled out the mechanisms by which eyes and wings could have evolved (in his Climbing Mount Improbable - both books were published in 1996).

That reiterates the point brought up by Geoffrey Falk several times in his critical contributions: what's the point of a supposed integration of religion and science if science is misrepresented in the process? Doesn't Wilber violate his own principles of Integral Methodological Pluralism, if the field in question, i.e. evolutionary biology, isn't done justice, but is crammed into a pre-conceived system of "integration"? Even the Intelligent Design folks are caricatured by him as Jehova believers, where leading ID authors have much more sophistication.

But still, it would be interesting to read about what "Integral Design" would look like.

8 Comments:

Blogger ~C4Chaos said...

"Unfortunately, Wilber has devoted very few comments to this topics, and then only in angry blog postings directed at his critics or hasty footnotes in a book. Someone of his stature should take the time to clarify his position on this hotly debated issue."

yeah, i would love to hear that personally, including his current take on the War on Iraq, Global Warming, at more practical matters.

i mean Dawkins, Harris, Chomsky are out there exposing their asses and taking sides on sensitive issues. i'd like to hear a more integral perspective on those coming from Wilber.

my two cents.

~C

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Rouskutin said...

Yeah it would be nice if there always was someone making strong statements. It's so unfair we now have to try to do the thinking ourselves. Why couldn't there be someone who could do the thinking for us and make the statements so we could just take it easy and hang around?!

Hey wait a minute. Once there was an integral author who made some pretty strong statements in the endnotes of his books. Guess what? Well, people didn't like that approach any better. So..

12:40 AM  
Blogger m alan kazlev said...

Frank, when I saw the title of your newest blog post, I thought at first that Ken was trying his hand at interior decorating ;-)

4:34 PM  
Blogger ~C4Chaos said...

"Why couldn't there be someone who could do the thinking for us and make the statements so we could just take it easy and hang around?!"

we build on the opinions of others, so that we can do our own thinking. last time i checked, all my thinking was based on opinions and information i got from someone or somewhere else, whether it's from a relevant person, or a stranger on the streets.

"Once there was an integral author who made some pretty strong statements in the endnotes of his books. Guess what? Well, people didn't like that approach any better. So.."

jee, i kinda like that. i wonder why he stopped. oh, he didn't. there was Wyatt Earpy.

~C

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Jonny Boy said...

I think you'll find Dawkin's earlier book The Blind Watchmaker dealt with the wings and eyes issue at length - it was thoroughly described along with all the other dependable, supported and mainstream science he presented.

Indeed, this was the very reason I started to suspect Wilber way back then. I'd already read Dawkins trashing those kinds of silly 'incredulous' arguments, and to read Kenny using one in what was more or less populist new-age fluff made me feel sick.

There is actually no reason, then, to remotely cut Kenneth any slack. Dawkin's work on eyes and wings (by which I mean the science it fully rests on - let's be clear) didn't arrive in some short band of time in regard of Ken's rubbish. It was around for years before - only fake scholar Ken with his culty mates just didn't know about it. That's the up and down.

So KW can skulk-off with his friend Richard Sheldrake. Both of them are dead in the water scientifically, and both of them are living on the hope of a ill-informed readership that they can peddle angels and gurus to.

Myself I prefer New Scientist. At least they know what the f***k they're talking about...no Lama's in sight ;)

7:30 PM  
Anonymous rouskutin said...

Let's pause for a moment. What's the reason for these reactions we see on Frank's blog and site?

Big expectations, big hopes.. big disappointent when once more we discover nobody still hasn't been able to put absolute truth about everything on a piece of paper.

The more deeply we fall love with a person the more we get angry when the person turns out be something completely different we had expected. What goes up, must come down.

Reading Frank's site and blog is very much like reading a love story. A very sad love story.

1:32 AM  
Blogger ZAK said...

ak248I think it’s a good thing Wilber doesn’t comment on something he knows nothing about for a change.

We all would be better off if he did this in the first place!

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Rouskutin said...

Yeah.. I mean really! Even though Wilber claims to be the most integral and all that. Why do we want him to comment on everything? We should all contemplate on why do we NEED him or anyone on that matter to comment on everything?

Wilber might be a bit more integral than most of us but for me it would be best if Wilber commented only the things he wants to comment himself. Let there be others who fill in the gaps and perhaps appear even more integral than Wilber in the end of the day.

It's time for us to do some fresh thinking ourselves. I don't know about the chaos-dude and the origins of his ideas but I tend to be a bit more optimistic with the possibility of getting a completely new thought in my mind without co-dependently relying on others.

Hey chaos-dude this one's for you: If all our thinking is based on thinking done by someone then what happened to the theory of evolving structures of consciousness? Last time I checked it looked like thinking is based on a structure which just evolved not too long ago. Maybe I got it wrong and there actually was some thinking in place when the reptilians where the most evolved life form on the earth and nobody had a slightest clue of the neo-cortex or such. Or maybe The Original Thoughts where hanging around there in emptiness before the big bang kinda like the Ideas in Plato's philosophy before there were anybody to catch them and starting to formulate his own thoughts based on these pre-existing thoughts. I don't know. Sounds a bit too confused to my taste. Personally I don't think thoughts have this kind of eternal nature to them as can be derived from the chaos-dude's position. I would say somebody thought the first thought at some point in history and theoretically a lot of our thoughts might be traceable back to this original thought. But still a lot of pure fresh ideas pop out into our minds every day which are not based on any previous thinking done by anybody anywhere. Hopefully. Maybe these fresh ideas are based on some other structures of consciousness in ourselves or others such as feelings but not really on pre-existing opinions and information.

Maybe it's the frikkin' blog culture making people so shallow these days so that all we can actually do is to watch what other people are saying and then go and add our own comments wheter there's actually anything to add or not.

1:18 PM  

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