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Friday, May 27, 2005

Awaken, White Morpheus!

KW responds.

Well, that was quick. Wilber responds on evolution, and his response confirms my thoughts written in the previous post. Which means, either KW reads Vomiting Confetti, or I can read Ken Wilber's mind! Or common sense prevailed. I prefer options one and two. In full:

Folks, give me a break on this one. I have a Master's degree in biochemistry, and a Ph.D. minus thesis in biochemistry and biophysics, with specialization in the mechanism of the visual process. I did my thesis on the photoisomerization of rhodopsin in bovine rod outer segments. I know evolutionary theory inside out, including the works of Dawkins et al. The material of mine that is being quoted is extremely popularized and simplified material for a lay audience. Publicly, virtually all scientists subscribe to neo-Darwinian theory. Privately, real scientists -- that is, those of us with graduate degrees in science who have professionally practiced it -- don't believe hardly any of its crucial tenets. Instead of a religious preacher like Dawkins, start with something like Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. And then guess what? Neo-Darwinian theory can’t explain shit. Deal with it.

The extensive problems with evolutionary theory as it now stands is exactly why “creation science” has made huge inroads across the country, including standing up in court cases where scientific evidence is brought in on both sides. The problem is that creation scientists -- who are almost entirely Christians -- after having convincingly demonstrated that neo-Darwinian theory has loopholes large enough to drive several Hummers through -- then try to prove that Jehovah is in one of the Hummers. But, of course, the fact that neo-Darwinian theory cannot explain the central aspects of evolution, does not mean that a specific type of God can. But they never would make the kind of headway they have unless neo-Darwinian theory is the piece of Swiss cheese that it is.

But all that this really proves, in my opinion, is that there is an Eros to the Kosmos, an Eros that scientific evolutionary theory as it is simply cannot explain. But overall integral theory doesn't hang on that particular issue. If physicalistic, materialistic, reductionistic forces turn out to give an adequate explanation to the extraordinary diversity of evolutionary unfolding, then fine, that is what we will include in integral theory. And if not, not. But so far, the “nots” have it by a staggeringly huge margin, and scientists when they are not bragging to the world, whisper this to themselves every single day of their lives. I know, I lived in that community for the better part of a decade. And it's truly fascinating, to say the least….

This is a great thread, from what I have seen of it, and I hope it continues. But please don't do so by claiming that I don't know evolutionary theory, because in that particular instance anyway, you are absolutely off your nut.

One major criticism of mine:

Get rid of that example. Rewrite it, change it, roll it up in a carpet and throw it off a bridge, sink it without trace. Because it is actively turning people away from Integral theory. A Brief History of Everything (along with Grace and Grit) is the Wilber entry level book. It was described to me as a book 'for the intelligent layperson'. Well, there are many intelligent skeptics, libertarians, scientists, rationalists, materialists etc. who might be willing to engage with Wilberian materials. Who might take up meditation. I know, because I'm going out with one. And these people will explicitly stop reading the book (see skeptical newsletter 38, link forthcoming) at this point. Is that all KW's fault? Not at all. But, can that be easily prevented, with a simple rewrite? Yes.

On other news, no new blogs until Tuesday. Essay due, plus a funeral on monday. This makes for a terrible weekend.


Update: Geoffrey Falk responds to the response. So will we get a response to the response to the response? In all seriousness, if you're reading this Geoff, you should post your blog entry on the relevant thread at IN, if you're still a member. If Wilber would respond specifically to that thread, perhaps he'll respond specifically to your critique? I'd post it, but for some reason I can't register for the forum, even though I'm an IN member (and any IN staff, help? I've sent a couple of emails your way, but to no avail).

Link: Does Ken understand evolution?

Update II: Geoff is no longer a member of IN, so is there anyone who is, who'd be willing to post his critique (with Geoff's permission of course). I'd love to do it, but I can't, for the reasons explained above. Also, KW throwing out Behe's name has added more reading to my 'to read' pile, not just his book, but the many essays both pro and con to be found on the internet. Still, at least we're getting somewhere.