Saturday, November 25, 2006


This would be a version of what Joe Perez calls an external criticism of integral--from Jeff Meyerhoff.

A basic summary (6 points) of JM's criticisms of Wilber here.

But following the integral maxim of no one being 100% wrong, I'll apply in this case. Meyerhoff uses traditional deconstruction techniques and postmodern awareness-es, i.e. the relativity of all thoughts patterns (except the non-relativity of that statement), the local, the mixed, imperfect, etc.

I think his criticisms do help break open closed thought systems, congealed asumptions, but in no way deconstructs (as he sees it) the core integral methodologies or claims imo. Integral can be translated from its proper worldview (teal, turquoise) down to earlier value systems--at least in part if not in whole--so that there can become, as others have noted, a mythic dogmatic version of integral (of whatever variety). In this sense Meyerhoff, for me, can be helpful to criticize those mis-appropriation of the theory-practice.

The major problem for Meyerhoff, as a deconstructionist, is that he begins by criticizing orienting generalizations (from Wilber-4). Orienting generalizations, see Sex Ecology and Spirituality, is that in any discipline: dev. psychology, ethics, spirituality--we can arrive at basic orienting general statements by backing up to where all parties within the field agree.

The notion of og, however valid it may be in theory, is in practice I think a poor one. At least given the incredible inertia and emotional-intellectual closed nature of academic debate. It just sends up red flags immediately and I think causes more problems than it is worth. That is why Wilber, I imagine, has dropped the notion in Wilber-5.

Most of the rest of his criticisms fall into a similar pattern contra o.g.: his vision being one of a perspective instead of being aperspectival; the choice to select certain texts and hermeneutics as key over others, in essence saying there are better/worse readings, better/worse scholars on a subject; mysticism as bringing aspects of unity and convergence or diversity and divergence.

It could be easily argued that Meyerhoff commits the same errors he accuses Wilber of. For example, he selectively quotes Sheldon White (from 1983?) as proof that there is not unity (og) in developmental psychology.

But a more important critique to me is found relative to this quotation:

Social evolution, for which Habermas is used as an exemplar in SES, is a (small) minority position in the field (see Philosophy of Development by van Haaften et al).

That is true, but it might also that Habermas is right and is building a new platform, a new consensus (og?) that will be the dominant discourse going forward for years to come.

It's the guiding assumption--without self-question--that all diversity is primary. Of course any integral, any philosophical system in general, is seductive in its power to make us think that everything fits into neat compartments. As I said, a Meyerhoff type analysis, is always helpful for opening spaces in the mind. But there is no heterogeneous piece of evidence in the world that proves that heterogenity is ultimate (which is a non-plural statement).

But one other general point, a criticism generally leveled in this vein is the biological debate. Whether Ken in other words understands evolution. Biolgoical evolution that is.

Much is often made of Wilber recommending Michael Behe's book Darwin's Black Box to people. I've read Behe's book, saw him give a presentation when I was in college. The reason Wilber recommended (I don't know if he still does or not) the work was that it criticized fundamental mistakes within Neo-Darwinian thought. He in no way, repeatedly he emphasizes this point, was advocating Behe's own Intelligent Design (ID) position. Intelligent Design of course has no scientific evidence for a "designer" only elements that are not explained through materialistic neo-Darwinian thought.

But Neo-Darwinian thought--the merger of Darwin's ideas of evolution via natural selection with Mendel's Laws of Genetics--essentially says that evolution works through random genetic mutation. Though random is a definitely non-scientific value judgment. As Wilber says, the best science is agnostic.

There are some deficiencies in that theory--again it is fine as far as it goes but is incapable of explaining all data.

Areas of weakness with ND:

--Natural and sexual selection work through survival of the fittest. That was Darwin's idea of the mechanism of natural selection. It is relativized by science that shows co-operation through the natural world. Think it completely unconnected that Darwin is a man--individualistic, aggressive metaphors--and the co-operative models (Marguils) came mostly from women? Or that Darwin wrote at the same time as Marx when class conflict was on the rise, particulary in England?

--How entire populations arise in the fossil record at the same time. [In AQAL that is handled by tetra-creation, though it leaves open through EROS the question as to how evolutionary leaps are made].

--The evidence of long periods of relative stability broken by periods of massive change and transformation, which can not be accounted for mathematically through "random" chance mutation. ND picked up, again via Darwin, the philosphical (not scientific) notions of gradualism and uniformitarianism. Darwin got these from the geologist Charles Lyell. These are products of the modern worldview. Again, coincidental that Dawkins comes from the same economic and national background (English middle/upper middle class) as Darwin?

Goes on and on. No, none of that brought up, but how the Black Box was recommended [oh and bat wings].


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