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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Dr. Alexander W. Astin (born May 30, 1932, Washington, D.C.) is the Allan M. Carter Professor Emeritus of Higher Education and Organizational Change, at the University of California, Los Angeles.He is Founding Director of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. He has served as Director of Research for both the American Council on Education and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. He is also the Founding Director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, an ongoing national study of some twelve million students, 250,000 faculty and staff, and 1,800 higher education institutions.

Comment on
David Lane's "Frisky Dirt"

Alexander Astin

Brief context: Alexander Astin contacted Ken Wilber in 2007 about Integral World postings related to Wilber's misunderstanding of the theory of evolution. He stated that the concept of "random mutation" did not have explanatory value and only served to cover our ignorance of what causes mutations. See: Frank Visser, The 'Spirit of Evolution' Reconsidered, and note 12. In the below comment on David Lane's essay "Frisky Dirt", received January 17th, 2011, he repeats that claim, suggesting that there's even room for "the guiding hand of some deity".

Hi Frank,

I'd like to comment on Frisky Dirt, Why Ken Wilber's New Creationism is Pseudo-Science, David Lane.

Why not postulate the guiding hand of some deity?

Like every other evolutionist I've talked to or read over the years, Lane finesses the greatest uncertainty in evolutionary theory: the notion of "random" mutations. "Random" is simply a fancy way of saying, "we don't know why it happened."

In the field of statistics, the word implies that a great many events of a certain type (e.g., coin flips, collapsed wave functions), when viewed in the aggregate, follow a very predictable pattern (with coin flips this pattern would be something like .5 heads). The fact that we don't know why particular mutations occur leaves a gap in evolutionary theory big enough to drive a creationist's truck through, i.e., why not postulate the guiding hand of some deity?

And if we put our statistician's hat on, there's no way that the aggregate result of thousands of "random" mutations ever forms any kind of predictable pattern (e.g., a dandelion, a cockroach, etc.).

This is not to say that the need for evolutionary theory to employ the concept of "random mutations" proves that the creationists are right, but simply that it leaves plenty of room for intention (or love) to operate.

Alexander W. Astin
Allan M. Cartter Professor Emeritus &
Founding Director
Higher Education Research Institute
University of California, Los Angeles

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