Journal
Take the Visser Site as Alternatives to KW, But Never as the Views of KW
June 27, 2006 12:11

Let me start this by saying that, yet again, the Visser site has sunk to unethical levels in it attempts not to discuss but discredit my views. In a post by Jim Chamberlain, several bloggers caught Chamberlain in a blatant lie about me supposedly misquoting an authority. Here’s an excerpt from a post entitled “Busted!”:

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Here's a reason Frank Visser's Integral World needs a proofreader or peer reviewer. In criticizing Ken's discussion of Meyerhoff, Visser contributor Jim Chamberlain makes the claim that Ken dishonestly added the word “clearly” to this Ernst Mayr quote in order to support his views on evolution:

“What cannot be denied, however, is that in every generation of the evolutionary process, a surviving individual is on the average better adapted than the average of the nonsurvivors. To that extent, evolution clearly is progressive.”

Yet a quick Amazon book search reveals that, in the printing sold by Amazon at least, Mayr DID in fact include the word “clearly”:

Amazon search results

[click "from Back Matter" to view the full original text--see #11]"

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Chamberlain not only lies about me doctoring quotes—what a horrible charge to make up about a scholar!—he willfully juxtaposes my own quotes to make them appear absolutely the opposite of what I said. At one point he gives a quote of Mayr, breaks my discussion of it two parts, and then switches the order. Not to mention the fact that I have never seen mainstream biological evolution theories so selectively (mis)quoted and subtly twisted in my life. Remember, I got my graduate degree in this field, and I keep up with it religiously, and Chamberlain is thinly slicing quotes and views from mainstream scholars so as to entirely leave out the nuanced other sides of opinions that he doesn’t want to acknowledge. At another time he…….

Well, okay, I’m not going to drag you through the mud on this. Chamberlain’s blatant lying about my work, and thus unethically distorting it, is only one of numerous examples that populate the Visser site, and this is already enough to say categorically that, because I am not going to check every one of these posts, I am stating that scholars in particular should accept no statements on the Visser site about what my position is; you can categorically ignore assertions about what I believe or don’t believe that are posted on that site. There is simply no responsible editorial control, integrity, or accountability.

I’ve noticed that a favorite tactic at that site now is to quote sections from taped conversations at I-I. But we have a strict rule over there that these discussions are NOT to be taken as any discussant’s actual or academic views, because as everybody knows, in conversations you don’t always state your nuanced views. There can be hyperbole, over-generalization, simplification, and sometimes plain forgetting. So we are not allowed to quote from those conversations in any of our academic papers, because there is some sort of editorial responsibility on this. But at the Visser site, these conversations are quoted all the time; they are a hunting ground for critics with a prior negative disposition, used in a “gotcha” style of journalism that I suppose is okay for the tabloid journalism of that site, but not for scholarly use.

So again, you can take the papers and essays that are posted on that site as statements about what their authors mean, and what they think, and alternative viewpoints they would like to propose—and then that’s just fine. But as for my views, I am saying that categorically the posts at that site are not to be trusted or accepted in any academic discourse as representing my actual views. They lie over there, so be careful. I’m sorry, but the site is so sleazy, one critic called it the equivalent of the Penthouse Letters to the editor.

In any site or publication of integrity, these types of misrepresentations and distortions are checked by editors. Reputations are at stake here, and these types of blatant lies about a scholar’s actions, besides being immoral and reprehensible, are caught and edited out, if the author is even allowed to publish with that type of degrading intent. The Visser site, on the other hand, is a perfect example of exactly what Habermas was lamenting.

So take the Visser site as a wild and wonderful and sleazy and wacky world of alternatives to Ken Wilber, but as for Ken Wilber’s actual views, categorically do not accept anything you see. Not all of it is unethical or immoral and misrepresenting, but since I’m not going to police the entire site, you must take all of the posts with a grain of salt. But I’m warning scholars to stay away from this when it comes to academic discussions of my work.

I will briefly touch on one point that has also been raised elsewhere, and that is whether I have claimed that mainstream biology supports my views. The answer is, what part of my views? Do I think Mayr or Dawkins or Lewontin or Kaufman believe in telos or Eros that is Spiritual in any way? Absolutely not. Virtually all mainstream theorists embrace scientific materialism. So when I say that there are leading-edge problems acknowledged by these theorists, I certainly do not mean that they believe those problems need a spiritual Eros to solve them, nor a transcendental Eros embedded in evolution, nor even a self-organizing drive. Again, virtually all of them believe the problems can also be fully (or certainly mostly) solved by more scientific materialism and physicalism. Whatever I might have said in conversations in hyperbolic style, I would never soberly claim that mainstream biology is anything but physicalist. In fact, next to physics, molecular biology is the great example of reductionism in the last two centuries.

I am simply saying that most mainstream biologists accept that there are problems and issues at the leading edge of their science, and I am saying that I recognize the same leading-edge problems that they do, but at that point we quickly part ways—virtually all of them believe those issues can be fully solved using scientific materialism, and I of course do not accept that quadrant absolutism and gross reductionism, but rather introduce a transcendent-immanent principle that is quite similar to Erich Jantsch’s idea, which he states as “evolution is self-organization through self-transcendence.” Of course, you find some daring scientists who go in that non-reductionistic direction, such as Erich Jantsch and, more recently, James Gardner’s Biocosm and Michael Ruse’s The Evolution Wars: A Guide to the Debate, with a foreword by Edward O. Wilson. But not mainstream biology. I am claiming agreement in that one specific way, but I am certainly not claiming that we both accept the same solutions—they go reductionistic and I clearly do not. (I was confused for a while here as to what the real criticism was, because I didn’t imagine somebody would think I actually thought that mainstream biology agreed that Spirit was involved in the show….)

But it’s a bit of an inside joke to anti-reductionists, and it’s a joke because materialists, by their own accounts, cannot actually solve the problems of materialistic reductionism, and so they issue what Rupert Sheldrake jokingly called “a promissory note”—which says, in effect, “I cannot solve these problems today using materialism, but I will be able to do so tomorrow; I will definitely deliver on this promise in the not-too-distant future.” And as Sheldrake notes, they have been saying that for two thousand years, and they still can’t do it, but they still keep issuing the same promissory note! So I couldn’t help laugh at the ending of Chamberlain’s post, because this is in essence his entire argument against me, and just notice how it ends:

(When Wilber quotes Lewontin he says that the book is recent. 2000 is not as recent as 2005, which is when the National Academy of Sciences published Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origin, by Harvard-educated scientist Robert Hazen. In it, Hazen discusses three possible, plausible, testable scenarios for life's origin, none of them requiring the introduction of some mysterious explanatory factor such as Wilber's "Eros" or some mysterious "drive" that "reaches into the closure principle through an opening." The scenarios Hazen presents are being tested, and while we don't have an answer today, it now appears quite probable that someday in the not-too-distant future we will.)


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