Check out my review of Ken Wilber's latest book Finding Radical Wholeness

Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

Reposted from "Norman Einstein" (2009) with permission of the author.
Geoffrey FalkGeoffrey Falk is the author of The Science of the Soul, Stripping the Gurus, Norman Einstein, Rock and Holy Rollers and Hip Like Me. He studied electrical engineering and physics at the University of Manitoba. He currently divides his time between writing, software development, and music composition. See also Falk, Books, blogs and articles.


Geoffrey Falk

From his footnotes and bibliographies alone, Wilber seems omniscient....
And as with meditation, clean living and exercise, one feels so much better after reading a little Wilber....
A Brief History ... is bound to seduce even the most casual reader into plunging into the intoxicating revelations of all the wise old trees to be found in the great magical Wilberness (Van der Horst, 1997).
Since when is one allowed to misrepresent such elementary facts even in popularizing one's ideas?

Notwithstanding his reputation as a brilliant academic, Wilber has grossly misrepresented basic, high-school-level concepts in evolutionary theory, in Chapter One of his (1996) A Brief History of Everything. Those misunderstandings have been analyzed devastatingly by David Lane (1996). The most damaging issues uncovered there relate to Wilber's expressed reluctance to believe that "half a wing" is better than none.

In kw's own words:

Take the standard notion that wings simply evolved from forelegs. It takes perhaps a hundred mutations to produce a functional wing from a leg—a half-wing is no good as a leg and no good as a wing—you can't run and you can't fly. It has no adaptive value whatsoever. In other words, with a half-wing you are dinner.

Richard Dawkins (1986), however, has elucidated the long-established facts of biology, regarding such "half-wings" and the like:

There are animals alive today that beautifully illustrate every stage in the continuum. There are frogs that glide with big webs between their toes, tree-snakes with flattened bodies that catch the air, lizards with flaps along their bodies; and several different kinds of mammals that glide with membranes stretched between their limbs, showing us the kind of way bats must have got their start. Contrary to the creationist literature, not only are animals with "half a wing" common [i.e., they are not automatically "dinner"], so are animals with a quarter of a wing, three quarters of a wing, and so on.

Indeed, Darwin himself, in his (1962) Origin of Species—first published in 1859—recorded as much:

Flying squirrel
Flying squirrel
Look at the family of squirrels; here we have the finest gradation from animals with their tails only slightly flattened, and from others ... with the posterior part of their bodies rather wide and with the skin on their flanks rather full, to the so-called flying squirrels.... We cannot doubt that each structure is of use [i.e., has adaptive value] to each kind of squirrel in its own country.

Nor does that exhaust the examples, even just from Darwin's own long-extant (1962) catalog:

If about a dozen genera of birds were to become extinct or were unknown, who would have ventured to surmise that birds might have existed which used their wings solely as flappers, like the logger-headed duck (Micropterus of Eyton); as fins in the water and as front-legs on the land, like the penguin; as sails, like the ostrich; and functionally for no purpose, like the Apteryx? Yet the structure of each of these birds is good for it, under the conditions of life to which it is exposed....

Completely contrary to Wilber's confidently given presentation, then, half a wing certainly is better than none. Even penguins and ostriches know as much.

From being inexcusably wrong about that elementary idea, Wilber goes on to assert that "absolutely nobody" believes the "standard, glib, neo-Darwinian explanation" of chance mutation and natural selection anymore. In reprint editions (e.g., 2000c), that statement has been modified to read that "very few theorists" believe this anymore. Even being thus watered down, however, it still has no point of contact with reality:

[Wilber's claim] is complete rubbish. Almost everybody who knows anything about biology does still believe this! (Carroll, 2003).

Dr. Lane—who has taught Darwinian evolution at a university level—then (1996) pertinently assessed Wilber's apparent comprehension of evolutionary biology:

Wilber does not seem to understand that the processes of evolution are blind. He wants to have it "open-eyed" as if natural selection all of sudden wakes up when it hears that a "wing has been formed" (better start chugging) or that an "eye has been completed" (let's fine tune now). Natural selection does not "start" when the eye is formed; it works all along without any conscious intention whatsoever.
Not to sound like a groggy professor, but if Wilber turned in [his written ideas] to me as a college student trying to explain the current view of evolutionary theory, I would give him an "F" and ask to see him in my office.... Wilber has misrepresented the fundamentals of natural selection. Moreover, his presentation of how evolution is viewed today is so skewed that Wilber has more in common with creationists than evolutionists, even though he is claiming to present the evolutionists' current view....
What makes Wilber's remarks on evolution so egregious is ... that he so maligns and misrepresents the current state of evolutionary biology, suggesting that he is somehow on top of what is currently going on in the field.
And Wilber does it by exaggeration, by false statements, and by rhetoric license.

And how have Wilber and his entourage reacted to such eminently valid points? As Jack Crittenden—who used to co-edit the ReVision journal with Wilber—put it (in Integral [Institute], 2004):

Wilber has not been believably criticized for misunderstanding or misrepresenting any of the fields of knowledge that he includes [in his four-quadrant "Theory of Everything"].

That statement, of course, has been false since at least 1996, given Lane's wonderful work and the fact that Wilber's "Theory of Everything" most certainly includes basic evolution.

In May of 2005, Wilber offered a rather hasty defense of his documented misrepresentations and arguable misunderstandings of high-school-level evolution theory. From the Integral Naked web forum, via the Vomiting Confetti blog:

Folks, give me a break on this one. I have a Master's degree in biochemistry, and a Ph.D. minus thesis in biochemistry and biophysics, with specialization in the mechanism of the visual process. I did my thesis on the photoisomerization of rhodopsin in bovine rod outer segments. I know evolutionary theory inside out, including the works of Dawkins et al.... Instead of a religious preacher like Dawkins, start with something like Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. And then guess what? Neo-Darwinian theory can't explain shit. Deal with it....
The problem is that creation scientists—who are almost entirely Christians—after having convincingly demonstrated that neo-Darwinian theory has loopholes large enough to drive several Hummers through—then try to prove that Jehovah is in one of the Hummers....
But all that this ["failure" of neo-Darwinian theory] really proves, in my opinion, is that there is an Eros to the Kosmos, an Eros that scientific evolutionary theory as it is simply cannot explain. But overall integral theory doesn't hang on that particular issue. If physicalistic, materialistic, reductionistic forces turn out to give an adequate explanation to the extraordinary diversity of evolutionary unfolding, then fine, that is what we will include in integral theory. And if not, not. But so far, the "nots" have it by a staggeringly huge margin, and scientists when they are not bragging to the world, whisper this to themselves every single day of their lives.

None of the above, however, alters the fact that Wilber has completely misrepresented the truth that half-wings do exist, and have been documented as existing since Darwin's own Origin of Species. That has nothing to do with any (excusable) popularizing of Wilber's theories on his own part. Rather, it is simply a gross and brutally dishonest misrepresentation of basic facts by him, to suit his own "integral" purposes. That is true independent of whether or not kw understands how evolution works.

Since when, though, is one allowed to misrepresent such elementary facts as the above, even in popularizing one's ideas? What respected academic has ever done that? Simplifying the Ph.D.-level complexities is one thing; misrepresenting high-school-level ideas (with no caveats whatsoever to that effect in the text) is another issue entirely.

Plus, the points on which kw has messed up are literally taught in high school. For whom was he then "dumbing down" those ideas, if even high-school students can understand them in their real nature?

And as to Michael Behe, minimal research discloses:

Intelligent Design has been a wholesale failure, as both science and strategy. None of its scientific claims, especially the work of the main theorists William Dembski and Michael Behe, have stood up under scientific scrutiny. None of their claims is [sic] published in scientific journals. Numerous books and articles refute their positions in great detail. Not only have their arguments been shown to be flawed, but in several instances, the factual claims on which they rest have been proven false (Stenger, 2004).

Richard Dawkins (2008) further notes:

Whiplike tails, found on many bacteria,
are propelled by nanomotors.
Behe simply proclaims the bacterial flagellar motor to be irreducibly complex. Since he offers no argument in favor of his assertion, we may begin by suspecting a failure of his imagination. He further alleges that specialist biological literature has ignored the problem. The falsehood of this allegation was massively and (to Behe) embarrassingly documented in the court of Judge John E. Jones in Pennsylvania in 2005, where Behe was testifying as an expert witness on behalf of a group of creationists who had tried to impose "intelligent design" creationism on the science curriculum of a local public school—a move of "breathtaking inanity," to quote Judge Jones....

If you take Behe seriously, please further read Pigliucci's (2001) critique of Intelligent Design theory and Neocreationism. From which:

To be sure, there are several cases in which biologists do not know enough about the fundamental constituents of the cell to be able to hypothesize or demonstrate their gradual evolution. But this is rather an argument from ignorance, not positive evidence of irreducible complexity. William Paley advanced exactly the same argument to claim that it is impossible to explain the appearance of the eye by natural means. Yet, today biologists know of several examples of intermediate forms of the eye, and there is evidence that this structure evolved several times independently during the history of life on Earth.

Nice example; and ironic, too, given Wilber's own research with cows' eyes, and his consistent use of the same type of sophomoric "arguments from ignorance" to find room for his own transpersonal notions and willing acceptance of parapsychological claims, within real science.


Although the [Intelligent Design] movement is loosely allied with, and heavily funded by, various conservative Christian groups—and although ID plainly maintains that life was created—it is generally silent about the identity of the creator (Orr, 2005).

Not exactly Jehovah in a Hummer, then, is it?

And Wilber's claim that integral theorizers will abide by physical science if it can "explain everything" is extremely disingenuous: He will do no such thing, ever. For, his "theories" have been shot through with koshas (i.e., astral and causal bodies), auras, subtle energies, chakras and the like from the start. That is, he has made his living, from the beginning, theorizing on the basis of completely unvetted and unsound data, and continues to do so to the present day.

So what we have here from Wilber are no documented facts, no relevant details, just his "Einsteinian" authority, his rampant hyperbole, and a laughable appeal to other discredited "thinkers" to back up his own claims to expertise.

If kw wants to make wild claims about the "failures" of Darwinian evolution in courtroom contexts and otherwise, he needs to do way more than simply throw out a smoke-screen of unsubstantiated claims (plus one book title).

And why did it take him nearly a decade to give any response at all to what is effectively just more of David Lane's critique of his misunderstandings of basic evolution, from 1996? Did he think that devastating critique was just going to go away?

In his most-recent (2006e) text, Integral Spirituality—"possibly the most important spiritual book in postmodern times," according to the blurbing roshi Dennis Genpo Merzel—Wilber again made the following claim:

Proponents of ID have one truth on their side: scientific materialism cannot explain all of evolution (it can explain pretty much everything except major holistic transformational leaps). With that, I quite agree.

Since kw gave no examples there of such "major holistic transformational leaps," one could reasonably have assumed that he was referring to the evolutionary development of wings and eyes, etc.—neither of which provide any challenge at all to neo-Darwinian evolution.

None of this, again, has anything to do with simple popularizations of integral theories, were those to be done with proper forthrightness. It is rather just an appeal to basic intellectual honesty and minimal academic competence. Other fields of knowledge have that. That is what makes them worth spending time understanding.

So what does real science, then, have to say about Behe and his ilk?

[I]n 2002, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) passed a resolution declaring "intelligent design" to be a "philosophical or theological concept," not a statement obtained through the examination of hard evidence, and that it should not be taught in science classes. That's 120,000 men and women of science, honored and respected internationally, who have the experience, the knowledge, and the training to be able to understand and authoritatively declare on such matters (Randi, 2005).

Which "real scientists" then, are the ones whom Wilber thinks are siding with him? Perhaps the following, from the website:

In a new paper Ted Dace contends that the dispute between the rival views of evolution is between two failed theories. The mechanistic ideology of neo-Darwinism weakens the case for evolution and leaves the field clear for creationism. Sheldrake and Elsasser have found a basis for the inheritance of adaptations making this endless clash of ideologies redundant.

As an exercise for anyone with even a high-school knowledge of how evolution works: Poke SUV-sized holes in the following, embarrassingly off-the-mark objections to neo-Darwinian evolution, from the same paper:

Hyacinth macaw
Hyacinth macaw
The Hyacinth macaw can crack a nut with its beak that you or I would need a sledgehammer to open. Is all that colossal strength nothing more than a side-effect of a chance mutation in the macaw's genetic toolkit? How many millions of such coding mistakes had to come and go before the right one announced itself, and at last the bird got its meal?
So stupendously unlikely is the perfect mutation at the perfect time that calculating the odds against it taking place even once exceeds our imaginative capacity. It is, in fact, a miracle (Dace, 2005; italics added).

Note again that Wilber has claimed that he was deliberately oversimplifying his comparable presentation of the mechanism of evolution—and thus apparently intentionally deceiving his readers—in a book intended for the general public. Yet, his cohorts in "integral skepticism" quite clearly believe exactly what he claims to have purposely wrongly presented. (Larry Dossey and Gary Schwartz are both "Associates and Advisors" of the Skeptical Investigations site. They are also founding members of Wilber's Integral Institute.)

Whether or not any of the other avant-garde claims made in Dace's paper are valid, when perfect nonsense (or deliberate deceptions, take your pick) like the above regarding "perfect mutations" and probabilities is presented as if it were insightful wisdom, one is being generous in even reading further.

More recently, Wilber (2007) has touted the immune system as something which supposedly cannot be accounted for on the basis of neo-Darwinian evolution:

[T]he complex forms of evolution that we see—such as the immune system—are not the products of mere chance mutation and natural selection....

Interestingly, Richard Dawkins makes the following related point, in his (2008) The God Delusion:

Another of Behe's favorite alleged examples of "irreducible complexity" is the immune system. Let Judge Jones himself take up the story:
"In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty-eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not "good enough."
Behe, under cross-examination by Eric Rothschild, chief counsel for the plaintiffs, was forced to admit that he hadn't read most of those fifty-eight peer-reviewed papers.... After listening to Behe, Rothschild eloquently summed up what every honest person in that courtroom must have felt:
Thankfully, there are scientists who do search for answers to the question of the origin of the immune system.... It's our defense against debilitating and fatal diseases. The scientists who wrote those books and articles toil in obscurity, without book royalties or speaking engagements. Their efforts help us combat and cure serious medical conditions. By contrast, Professor Behe and the entire intelligent design movement [like Wilber with his Eros-fixation] are doing nothing to advance scientific or medical knowledge and are telling future generations of scientists, don't bother."

In connection with Wilber's recent emphasis on the immune system as ostensibly showing the action of Eros, he has also been unconvincingly insisting that his original claims about half-wings offering no evolutionary advantage were never meant to be taken seriously, i.e., that they were intended just as metaphors. It is not difficult to guess as to why he has changed his emphasis, and attempted to rewrite his own history.

First, note that Behe's Darwin's Black Box was first published (and largely refuted) in 1996, being reviewed in Nature in September of that year. Thus, kw could not, in principle have read it and referenced its ideas while writing A Brief History of Everything, which was published before the end of the same year. (In the publishing industry, there is typically at least a nine-month delay between the finishing of a manuscript and its official publication date.)

Wilber's ABHOE mentions the immune system only once ... and that one mention is given, ironically, in a strictly metaphorical context.

Thus, a very reasonable inference would be that kw has been so comfortable in recently back-pedaling about his "half-wing" claims only because he now has a "better" example, from Behe, which he hadn't even known about back in 1996, when he was writing ABHOE. So, he can dismiss his own earlier, false claims about the supposed uselessness of half-wings as being intended only as metaphors, and can further belittle anyone who took them seriously as having supposedly missed his point:

I am fully aware that selection carries forth each previous selection (which still has problems in itself ... why would a half wing make running easier???), but even if you give that to the evolutionists (which I am willing to do), it still has this gaping hole in it.... [W]ings or eyes ... are metaphors and examples for this extraordinary capacity of creative emergence that is intrinsic to the universe (exactly as Whitehead explained it). So, no, I don't take this criticism of my work seriously, although it is a good example of flatland thinking (Wilber, 2007).

Interestingly, Kenneth Dial has recently showed (see Haugland, 2004) that having half a wing actually does make running easier for partridge chicks, but that is just lucky happenstance in this context. What is more relevant is that there is no reason why both of those skills (i.e., flying and running) should be simultaneously maximized in any species, much less that any single attribute/mutation should increase the ability to do both of them. Obviously, all that is needed for a mutation to be retained by the species is for the net effect of it to yield a slight survival advantage.

Organisms don't evolve toward every imaginable advantage. If they did, every creature would be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. An organism that devotes some of its matter and energy to one organ must take it away from another. It must have thinner bones or less muscle or fewer eggs. Organs evolve only when their benefits outweigh their costs (Pinker, 1999).

In his (2005a) interview with Alan Wallace on Integral Naked, Wilber further asserted:

The closure principle doesn't explain why dirt gets up and starts writing poetry. It's incomprehensible to me that somebody can actually look at you with a straight face and say something like that. Nonetheless, there are a lot of them out there at Jane Loevinger's stage five and they all seem to believe it.

Wilber's emphasis on poetry there is likely just a convenient "leader" into the transpersonal realms; what he is really trying to sneak in is that "dirt can't get up and consciously experience the astral or causal realms, or rest in the Witness" without Eros to animate it. That is, even if dirt could get up and write poetry, by whatever algorithmically expressible laws, it could never evolve into astral, causal and transcendent stages or levels of consciousness. So, Wilber's frequent mention of poetry is just the "thin edge of the wedge" which he wants to use to sneak Eros into the Kosmos: if he can get you to (wrongly) grant him that poetry is an "emergent" phenomenon, he will be very quick to parlay that all the way up the Great Chain of Being.

And yet, contrary to the idea that there is some esoteric force involved in the creation of art, the prolific inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil has built a "Cybernetic Poet" program, which "analyzes word sequences from patterns of poems it has ‘read' using markov models (a mathematical cousin of neural nets [and also widely used in automatic speech-recognition programs])." It then creates new poetry based on those patterns ... just as other programs have created music in particular styles:

In 1997, Steve Larson, a University of Oregon music professor, arranged a musical variation of the Turing Test by having an audience attempt to determine which of three pieces of music had been written by a computer and which one of the three had been written two centuries ago by a human named Johann Sebastian Bach.... [T]he audience selected the piece written by a computer program named EMI (Experiments in Musical Intelligence) to be the authentic Bach composition (Kurzweil, 2000).

Wilber has, by now (2007), reduced his notion of Eros to potentially being "[not] a metaphysical force, just an intrinsic force of self-organization"—yet still apparently in addition to the self-organization reasonably modeled by legitimate scientists like Stuart Kauffman. That is again being done on the pretense that more self-organization is needed in the Kosmos, to explain poetry and intelligence, etc., than materialistic science can provide.

Yet, as Steven Pinker (in Schneider, 2007; italics added) has noted:

Intelligence is a gadget that is selected when its benefits (in particular, outsmarting the defenses of other plants and animals) outweigh the costs (a big, injury-prone, birth-complicating, metabolically expensive organ bobbling on top of your neck). And that probably happens only for certain kinds of organisms in certain ecologically circumstances. It isn't a general goal of evolution, or else we'd see humanlike intelligence repeatedly evolving. Since elephants and humans have not been primary ecological competitors for most of the evolutionary history of the elephant, it's unlikely that they've been waiting for humans to get out of the way before getting smarter. It's more likely that they are at an adaptive plateau in which still-better brains aren't worth the cost.

If Eros was really behind it all, pushing intelligence to emerge in all species, why wouldn't elephants have evolved the same (or greater) cognitive capacities as humans have? Why would It have pushed our particular species harder, to develop a more complex (but smaller) brain? If the Goal of the Kosmos was to express Divine Intelligence, why wouldn't elephants have evolved to be literal Ganeshes? What was stopping them, particularly since "Every organism alive today has had the same amount of time to evolve since the origin of life"?

In many lineages, of course, animals have become more complex. Life began simple, so the complexity of the most complex creature alive on earth at any time has to increase over the eons. But in many lineages they have not. The organisms reach an optimum and stay put, often for hundreds of millions of years. And those that do become more complex don't always become smarter.... Evolution is about ends, not means; becoming smart [via the interconnections and algorithms of a complex network of neurons, called a brain] is just one option (Pinker, 1999).

Wilber (in Phipps, 2007) has also tried to relate evolution to the idea that higher stages of development necessarily "transcend and include" their precursors:

Evolution goes beyond what went before, but because it must embrace what went before, then its very nature is to transcend and include [and thus to become more complex], and thus it has an inherent directionality, a secret impulse [of progress] toward increasing depth, increasing intrinsic value, increasing consciousness.

But, as Jeff Meyerhoff has noted, in his (2006d) "Dismissal Vs. Debate":

For Wilber, progress ... is determined by increased complexity defined as greater transcendence and inclusion.
Many biological organisms find their adaptive success [i.e., their "survivability"] in becoming simpler after a more complex beginning [and thus not "including" all that went before them in their own evolution]....
So Wilber cannot use survivability as his criterion of progress because then he will have no justification for structuring his entire integral hierarchy around increased complexity. His whole model of universal movement from the Big Bang to the present moment as one of directed evolution towards increased complexity is seriously skewed towards a relatively minor natural phenomenon....

In late June of 2006, Jim Chamberlain posted his own comments on Wilber's misrepresentations of biological evolution, on Frank Visser's Integral World ( website:

Wilber adds the word "clearly" to the last sentence [of a quote from Ernst Mayr's book What Evolution Is, regarding the "progressive" nature of evolution] and he says it with great emphasis, but it does not appear in the book.

Wilber responded with a (2006d; italics added) blog entry, after Chamberlain's above claim had been shown to be incorrect:

[S]cholars in particular should accept no statements on the Visser site about what my position is....
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 [actually, one of kw's integral friends] called it the equivalent of the Penthouse Letters to the editor....
I'm warning scholars to stay away from this when it comes to academic discussions of my work.

From Chamberlain's subsequent apology for his error:

Mayr said "clearly" and Wilber quoted him accurately and I made a stupid mistake by stating otherwise. For that I apologize to Ken.

Not to at all excuse Chamberlain's rather mind-boggling error, but: even the formal "editorial integrity" with which Wilber's own work has been evaluated by his publisher/friend Samuel Bercholz at Shambhala, for one, didn't stop his presentation of evolutionary biology in A Brief History of Everything from being, in Robert Carroll's (2003) words, "a few paragraphs of half-truths and lies." Nor did it stop kw from ridiculously misrepresenting David Bohm's ideas on quantum physics, in his embarrassingly amateurish The Holographic Paradigm and Other Paradoxes. Nor did it constrain his wildly hyperbolic, unprovoked ranting against Bohm in The Eye of Spirit, as disclosed in this book's appendix.

If what Chamberlain has done is to "lie" rather than just make a "stupid mistake," then Wilber is subject to exactly the same charge, many times over, for his numerous provable fabrications of purported "facts." That is, as we shall see repeatedly, he himself could hardly be more guilty than he already is of the very same misrepresentations that he finds in Chamberlain's piece.

Chamberlain, though, at least had the decency to apologize for his inexcusable "stupid mistake." Where is the same integrity in kw when he gets caught provably fabricating information in an attempt to either support his own "theories" or discredit the work of his "competitors"?

Interestingly, in addition to his gross misrepresentations of high-school-level evolutionary theory, Wilber has equally falsely presented the facts of animal warfare and cannibalism.

First, in his (1983a) Up from Eden, kw had this to say regarding the supposed psychological and spiritual causes underlying war and the "substitute sacrifice" of human murder:

[U]nder the desire to kill lies the extroverted death impact, and under death impact lies the pull of transcendence. Murder, that is, is a form of substitute sacrifice or substitute transcendence. Homicide is the new form of the Atman project. The deepest wish of all is to sacrifice one's self—"kill" it —so as to find true transcendence and Atman; but, failing that, one arranges the substitute sacrifice of actually killing somebody else, thus acting on, and appeasing, the terrifying confrontation with death and Thanatos....
I am not denying the existence of simple, instinctive, biological aggression, in mammals or in humans. The coyote does aggress—but not out of hatred. As Ashley Montagu put it, the coyote doesn't kill the rabbit because it hates the rabbit but because it loves the rabbit the way I love ice cream. Manand only man—regularly kills out of hatred, and for that we will have to look elsewhere than the genes....
I am suggesting that, in the cognitive elaboration between simple biological aggression and wanton human murder, death and death terror become all-significantly interwoven into the final motivation....
Aggression and mass homicide, in the form of war, generally began ... with the [agrarian] mythic-membership structure.

And yet, from the December, 1995, National Geographic article by Peter Miller on "Jane Goodall," concerning Goodall's decades-long field studies of chimps in Tanzania:

Frequently tender and compassionate, humanity's closest living relatives are also capable of scheming, deceiving, and waging war....
By the end of the conflict, the Kahama community—seven males and three adult females and their young—had been annihilated. Researchers witnessed five of the attacks, in which the Kasakela chimps tore at their victims' flesh with their teeth as if they were common prey.

Goodall's best guess as to the origins of that extermination? That the territorial Kasakela males were taking back land which they had previously occupied. That was purely a guess on her part, though, to try and make sense of the chimps' actions.

The warring of those chimps was actually disclosed by Goodall as early as a May, 1979, National Geographic article—several years before Wilber's copyrighting of Up from Eden.

So, quite obviously, Wilber has again inexcusably gotten his basic facts wrong, there. That is even aside from his more-recent (1996) admission that 58% of foraging (i.e., pre-agrarian, pre-mythic-membership) cultures engaged in "frequent or intermittent warfare." Yet amazingly, as recently as 1996, in the same A Brief History of Everything, he was still insisting that apes do not make war. (Chimps are apes of equatorial Africa.)

If one sticks to the properly vetted data, it is clear that chimps (and dolphins too, apparently) are just as capable of extended warring as are human beings, for what look to be quite comparable reasons and emotions.

One assumes, though, that any "cognizance of their own mortality," and consequent transpersonally hypothesized "substitute sacrifice" on the part of the chimps and dolphins, wouldn't really enter into it!

From kw's (2003c) Kosmic Consciousness, CD 5 Track 3, beginning at 4:39, we further learn:

[T]estosterone is one component of a dickhead, kick-ass attitude that we all know and love as the human male. And it's also human males, rats, and weasels are the only three animals that kill their own kind. So I think that sort of says something as well.

However, we already knew, from our respective days in high-school biology, that the female praying mantis cannibalizes the male after sex. Indeed, even as early as 1978, Time magazine published an article, "Animals That Kill Their Young." The piece begins:

In his classic work On Aggression, Nobel Laureate Konrad Lorenz argued that man is the only species that regularly kills its own kind. This concept, which contrasted the order and restraint in the animal world with the chaotic aggressiveness of man, reflected the mood of the time: the shadow-of-the-Bomb pessimism of the '50s and early '60s. But Lorenz was wrong; since 1963, when his book was published, naturalists have identified dozens of species that kill their own, including lions, hippos, bears, wolves, hyenas, herring gulls and more than fifteen types of primates other than man.

Lorenz's On Aggression is item #267 in the bibliography for Wilber's (1983a) Up from Eden—being a woefully outdated source of information even at that point. Note, though, that even when kw has updated his "expert" knowledge (as of 2003), he is still more than twenty-five years behind anything resembling a competent, current understanding of the field.


Carroll, Robert T. (2003), “The Skeptic’s Dictionary Newsletter 38” (

Dace, Ted (2005), “The False Dilemma Between Neo-Darwinism and Intelligent Design” ( controversies/Dace_evolution.htm).

Darwin, Charles (1962 [1859]), The Origin of Species (London: Collier-MacMillan, Ltd.).

Dawkins, Richard (2008 [2006]), The God Delusion (New York: Mariner Books).

Dawkins, Richard (1986), The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (New York: W. W. Norton & Company).

Haugland, Jan (2004), “But what good is half a wing? - The Evolution of Flight” ( HalfAWingTheEvolutionOfFlight.html).

Integral [Institute] (2004), “History” ( 20041011034858/

Kurzweil, Ray (2000 [1999]), The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence (New York: Penguin Books).

Lane, David Christopher (1996), “Critique of Ken Wilber” (, also posted with greater usability at [Also available at Integral World as "Ken Wilber and the Misunderstanding of Evolution",]

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