Michael Garfield – How To Live in the Future: Featured on KW's Blog: "The Engine of Development" & Controversy

13 June 2007

Featured on KW's Blog: "The Engine of Development" & Controversy

So this is it, folks: it isn't exactly what I'd call "publication in a peer-reviewed journal," but I am now a featured guest on Ken Wilber's blog.

Which I guess means he found the essay I wrote for JFKU's Integral Theory program,"The Engine of Development: Integral Theory and Post-metaphysical Entelechy," to be sufficiently nonthreatening - in spite of the fact that in it, I argue for him to abandon his bizarre insistence that the transcendental Kosmic force (which he calls "Eros") remains untouchable by current Evolutionary Theory and AQAL itself.*

(*Note: I do actually accept Eros - I just use AQAL to strip it of a few givens. More about this in the paper.)

In my book (eventually to be an actual book), AQAL Integral and Evolutionary Dynamics go hand in hand. But for some reason I cannot fathom, Ken has always been vociferously - even somehwat violently - against one of his own notions: that, because every interior arises together with a correlate exterior, the empirical and systems sciences can find and describe the behavior and pattern of anything that happens. In other words, "How" and "What" are taken care of, just as "Who" and "Why" are handled with equal thoroughness by the interior disciplines. For Ken to deny that science will ever be able to describe the "How" of emergence is an act of violence against the exterior quadrants, according to terms that he himself established.

I do not object when he says that any one field of inquiry cannot possibly reveal everything, but many of the questions that Ken claims remain beyond Biology have actually been answered for years. And the fact that he will not engage in reasonable discourse about it* undermines his whole effort to assist the healthy emergence of a rational world consciousness. It is also eerily remiscent of his long-time guru, Adi Da, whom Ken ultimately condemned, with incredible grief, for refusing to (in Ken's words) "test his truths in the fire of the circle of those who could usefully challenge him."

(*Note: I will always do my best to cite support for my claims, as Ken once did. Here is an excellent summary of Ken's weird stubbornness with Biology. And here and here and here and here is additional information about his relationship to these "unanswerable questions.")

Ken has responded to many, many, many critics. And some of these articles have been sharper than a legendary blade. But Ken has never given a single response to this issue that does not skirt the facts. Until he does, my job is harder because the academic scientists with whom I work will not take AQAL Integral seriously, because Ken will not stop saying things that are obviously wrong. (Or just really, really partial, if you prefer - so partial that he cuts against the grain of Integral Theory's declared ideals.)

Whatever we call it, Ken isn't meeting people where they need to be met on these issues - and in a world so enchanted by personality, his voice is Integral for a great many people. If he won't accept sincere, compassionate help with keeping his ducks in a row - if he won't include what he claims to transcend - he's simply making it more difficult for everyone working to apply Integral in the world. It's a terrible misuse of his immense power and responsibility.

Now, to keep things straight, I love Ken Wilber. I don't have to agree with you in order to love you. And it's the nature of human perception that we emphasize and the discontinuities, the boundaries, the ripples in things. So naturally, there will be a focus on any points of discrepancy, as characterizes so much of human relationship.

But all of this is grounded in Love. Don't fucking forget it.

Anyway, read the essay; tell me whether you think it streamlines Integral Post-metaphysics, and if not, why. Show me more people, like my boy from ILP, Joe Perez, who have the guts to take it in the other direction and actually add metaphysical givens, for God's sake. Come splash with me at "the frothy edge."

But whatever you do, remember that every debate is an opportunity to reconcile perspectives - to weave another thread into the infinite fabric of mutual understanding that is, in a fundamental way, what makes the universe. If we are at all to accept the sound theory that it is, in fact, turtles (and inter-turtles) all the way down. And so as far as I am concerned, debate can be entered consciously, as a healing process for all parties. I see no reason to waste my attention, or yours, on any other kind.

That said, yes indeed, Ken Wilber has just posted a fairly critical article on his blog (one that may have made it through the editorial gates by "meshing" with decency and eschewing anything that could be construed as a personal attack).

Now, will he actually discuss it?

Afterword:

Ken has published an earlier and less contentious essay, "Evolving an Integral Biology: AQAL's Insights into the Big Questions of Evolution," on his blog, as well. This one's fun for the whole family - especially if you happen to be a family of nature geeks. Enjoy!