INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber



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Elliot BenjaminElliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 150 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.

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Love, Evolution and
Higher Values in Darwin

Elliot Benjamin, Ph.D

I find it interesting that in the Integral World articles debating the pros and cons of Wilber's attempt to impart spirituality into evolution (see in particular Frank Visser's recent article: Ken Wilber's Mysterianism [1]), there is no mention of Darwin's “other” theory of evolution. I wonder if this is because Darwin's other theory of evolution is not widely known, or if there is some reason for not discussing it that I am not aware of. The fact of the matter as I understand it, is that Darwin has written quite liberally about a “higher” context of evolution that very much balances his “survival of the fittest” doctrine that he is so famously known for.

This higher context of evolution is very much involved with love, morality, and an uplifting force that appears to me to have something in common with Wilber's theory of spiritual evolution. But perhaps I am already inviting cascades of condescending skepticism by my alluding to this “other” theory of Darwin; therefore I will immediately cite my reference for these remarks.

Evolutionary systems scientist/author and researcher David Loye has written a number of books about this “other” theory of Darwin [2], and quite recently has published his own version of the most respectful way to celebrate Darwin's birthday party [3]. I quote from Loye's recently published essay entitled: "The Ghost At The Birthday Party"[3]:

“Having gained my credentials, prestigious faculty posts, and publication of influential books as a psychologist, sociologist, and evolutionary systems scientist, I decided to apply what is known as content analysis by word count to Darwin's Descent of Man….In The Descent of Man Darwin writes 95 times about love….Of moral sensitivity I found he wrote 92 times….Of competition, he wrote 12 times; of cooperation—called mutual aid in Darwin's time—27 times….For Darwin the prime driver for human evolution—and completion for his theory of evolution….is our capacity for the “moral sense,” i.e. moral sensitivity, an evolutionary inbuilt thrust within us for the development of a sense of right versus wrong.”

Loye drives his point home by quoting the following passage from Darwin on the next to last page of Descent of Man [3]:

“Important as the struggle for existence has been and even still is, yet as far as the highest part of our nature is concerned there are other agencies more important. For the moral qualities are advanced either directly or indirectly much more through the efforts of habit, by our reasoning powers, by instruction, by religion, etc., than through natural selection.”

For Loye, this omission of Darwin's “other” theory of evolution has given rise to the accentuation of the survival of the fittest/selfish gene doctrine without acknowledging that Darwin had clearly and pervasively written about a prominent higher level balancing of evolutionary theory in the very same book in which he is most famous for his “survival of the fittest” theory. Loye also believes that much of what threatens us in the 21st century, including the widening gap between rich and poor, environmental devastation, nuclear overkill, the valuing of male and “macho” values over female and “feminine” values, etc., is connected to this limited understanding of the full range of Darwin's thought.

I wonder how Darwin would respond to the ongoing debate of a spiritual force guiding evolution. Perhaps Darwin would respond in true integral fashion, continuing to convey his biological evolutionary theories that have given him immortal fame, but also clearly communicating his higher level evolutionary ideas about love, cooperation, and morality as well. Perhaps it is a stretch to put Darwin's “other” theory of evolution in the Wilberian camp of spiritual evolution, but I do think that this lost Darwin theory deserves to be acknowledged in its own right, perhaps as a precursor of what later became the forefront of the values of humanistic psychology ([4], [5]). And I must say that this balancing/integral view of evolution does remind me of the core philosophy that Ken Wilber portrayed in his “spectrum” theory of consciousness in his very first book: The Spectrum of Consciousness [6].

I first came across David Loye's work on Darwin in a book chapter for a book about everyday creativity[5], and I can remember how shocked I was to think of Darwin as a “humanist.” I have recently taken a workshop with David Loye (and his famous wife Riane Eisler[7]) as part of my doctoral psychology program residence week. David practices what he preaches, and firmly believes in our species' higher order evolutionary potential, with Darwin's balanced integral vision of evolution at the center of David's visions.

I am slowly getting used to thinking of Darwin in this humanistic fashion, not contradictory to the biological aspects of evolution, but openly embracing the higher potentials of human evolution as well. Admittedly concepts like love and morality were never in my Darwinian vocabulary, but it appears that there is much about Darwin that in all fairness to his “ghost” should become public knowledge. And with this public knowledge, perhaps the whole debate about the existence of some kind of spiritual force to evolution will take place on a higher level of understanding of the full range of thought of the person acknowledged as the prime originator of the theory of evolution.

NOTES

[1] Frank Visser (2009), Ken Wilber's Mysterianism; www.integralworld.net

[2] See for example David Loye (2007), Darwin's Lost Theory; Carmel, CA: Benjamin Franklin Press.

[3] David Loye (2009), The Ghost at the Birthday Party; www.commondreams.org/view/2009/02/12-10

[4] See for example Carl Rogers (1961), On Becoming A Person; Boston: Houghton Mifflin; and Abraham Maslow (1962), Toward a Psychology of Being; Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.

[5] David Loye (2007), Telling the New Story: Darwin, Evolution, and Creativity Versus Conformity in Science; in Ruth Richards (ed.), Everyday Creativity: and New Views of Human Nature: Psychological, Social, and Spiritual Perspectives (pp. 153-173); Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

[6] Ken Wilber (1977), The Spectrum of Consciousness; Wheaton, Ill: Quest Books.

[7] Riane Eisler (1987), The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future; San Francisco: Harper & Row.




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