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...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Integral Inflation

The signs are not good.

First we had this posting on the blog asking for a CEO, where everything seemed to be historical. The Institute. The fact that it got a CEO. A turquoise one at that. We know about "historical firsts" by now. II was one, IU was another. Every organisation needs a decent CEO, for sure, but why hype the whole thing?

Then there was this announcement that the long awaited book The Many Faces on Terrorism would be published as a trilogy, in Boomeritis format. If there ever was a slight chance that the professional world of foreign affairs would lend an ear to integral political ideas, that chance is now gone, since the ideas will be buried in endless in-crowd conversations between juvenile people who agree so much with one another that it is almost painful. This time, the tone of the writing is full of world saving fantasies. And inflated self-images. "Integral people are 10 times more effective!"

Well, not when it comes to running their own organisations. Now we have rumours of many staff people leaving the Integral Institute, or being sacked, including its CEO. ("Not only did the CEO resign, the COO was fired, the Marketing Director, Art Director, Customer Service Manager, ILP Kit Product Manager and Media Manager walked out with more considering it", as one blogger has it.) It's no easy task to lead an organisation this diverse, sketchy, promising and over-confident. The routinisation, even commercialising of charisma seems well under way. And perhaps writers should only write -- and listen to their opponents, invite a serious debate, offer their ideas to the forum of the world.

So instead of having real influence, let's just imagine we have real influence, in an imaginary Integral Center, fictionalised in a novel, we enjoy reading ourselves. Instead of being taken seriously by universities, let's create our own Integral University. Instead of taking an honest look at what science teaches about evolution, lets promote our own idea of evolution, and make fun of scientists. Call them "reductionists". Or "preachers". Dismiss. Let's pretend we know better what they think then they do themselves.

What the world needs are detailed, informed, grounded blueprints which can be picked up by policy makers. Or opinion leaders in the field of journalism. What it does not need is world saving campaigns from institutes that lack an accurate self-image. After all these years, I am still awaiting a solid analysis of "Iraq" from an integral political point of view, AQAL, SD or otherwise, that can be applied to the real world. Or even if only to understand what has gone wrong.

And as to science, I am currently reading Richard Dawkins' Climbing Mount Improbable, where he gives an absorbing account of the many (40!) ways the eye or the wing have evolved, so different from the "Spirit of Evolution" poetry that pervades Wilber's work. Demonstrating that confidently suggesting that "with a half-wing your are dinner" (as Wilber did in A Brief History of Everyting) is so much off the wall, that any hope to be taken seriously by science is idle. Just ask the pinguins...