Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Tomislav MarkusTomislav Markus works at the Croatian Institute of History, Zagreb, Republic of Croatia. He is the author of "Limits of Spiritual Enlightenment", "Two Roads Diverging: Integral Theory and Contemporary Science", "Twilight in the Integral World: Integral Theory and the Desintegration of Industrial Civilization", "Pitfalls of Wilberian Ecology: A Critical Review of Integral Ecology" and "Paul Shepard and Integral Theory", all published on Integral World.


Integral Theory and
Contemporary Science

Tomislav Markus (1969-2010)

The concept of evolution is crucial for Integral Theory and it chiefly means pop-evolutionism

Modern science[1] is characterized by a naturalistic and empirical approach. Hypotheses are tested by empirical facts. In science, „theory“ means coherent explanation of some problem or appearance, founded on many important facts, gathered over time and hypothesis means just let's suppose or, popularly called speculation. There is no place for supernatural agents – god(s), angels or spirit - in science, not because of some dogmatic materialism but because there is no – so far, at least - empirical verification for that. Scientific naturalism is methodological and not ontological, because science can't say anything about a possible existence of supernatural (or non-natural) agents because of a lack of facts, but in principal their existence is possible (Wilson 1998, Edis 2002, 2008, Bowler-Morus 2005, Perez 2008). It was – and is – incompatible with traditional axial religions, in the West especially Christianity.

But the naturalism and materialism of modern science was a threat for modern secular ideologies as well. Liberalism and several leftist liberal heresies (marxism, socialism, anarchism) inherited a deep-rooted belief in the human exemptionalism from axial religions, namely, a belief that humans are not part of nature (but some special «social world», apart form nature) and not just animals (but something essentially different). Secular ideologies don't talk about supernatural agents and an immortal soul but they talk about «historical progress», «humanity», «culture», «history», „evolutionary upward movement“ etc. Human beings are special, not because of an immortal soul, but because of language, reason, history etc.

In part, secular ideologies are just secular versions of axial religion's metaphysics or humanistic ideologies adapted to new circumstances of the industrial society. But true scientific naturalism doesn't recognize any chasm in the natural realm, including human exemptionalism. Influence of humanistic heritage of secular ideologies can be seen especially in the social sciences, but also in the natural sciences. For example, the majority of darwinian biologists are, in their moral convictions, liberal humanists. That often means the existence of strong tensions between a naturalistic approach in science (evolutionary biology) and a humanistic approach in moral and politics. Some darwininists – Richard Dawkins is only the most notorious case - call for a «rise above» chaotic nature "red in tooth and claw", just as any religious and secular humanist.

This is a secular version of the Christian "valley of tears", dark vision of the natural world, typical for all axial religions.[2] In the last 30-40 years there was a big affirmation of the naturalistic – darwinian and ecological – approach in the social sciences (anthropology, archeology, sociology etc.) but old humanistic and anti-naturalistic convictions remain very strong. Integral Theory maintains strong anti-naturalistic impulses because it often calls for a „rise above“ our „animality“ into the „higher level of spiritual life“. This is essentialy a modern version of the ancient anti-naturalism of the axial religions, with which Integral Theory has many important connections.

Physics, astronomy or geology have not much significance for human history or human behaviour. But evolutionary biology was something different from the start. Charles Darwin (with A. R. Wallace) was the first man who offered a concrete means of working of the evolutionary proceses. Later, in the modern synthesis of 1930-1950, his theory of natural selection was connected with mendelian genetics. Neo-darwinism means that evolution is a random and blind happening, without direction or progress. There is only random adaption on changeful circumstances of the local environment. Darwin officially and sporadicaly used some progressive terms but he knew quite well – and we know that from his correspondence and private footnotes – that his vision of biological evolution is not progressive. But it was not congruent with popular belief, which identified evolution with progress.

In the 19th century "evolution"[3] usually meant some kind of purposeful and progressive (upward) movement toward «higher» forms of life (pop-evolutionism). It could include some supernatual agents (God), but it could remain within Earth's life as well because many secular thinkers replaced faith in God with faith in «historical progress». In biological evolution, pop-evolutionism meant the «ascent» from «primitive» to «higher» species, with man (then, usually white male European) at the top (anthropocentric vision). In the study of recent human history, «social evolution» meant a «progress» from «primitive» society toward «advanced» civilization with industrial civilization of 19th century Europe, at the top (civilization- and industrial-centric vision). The concept of «social evolution» was mainly abandoned in the first half of the 20th century in the social sciences, but progressive interperations of recent human history remained.[4]

In science, the term «evolution» means primarily biological evolution by (neo)darwinian natural selection. For pop-evolutionism, «evolution» has a much broader meaning, becoming identical with any presumably «progressive» and purposeful change, from the cosmic Big Bang to social macrodynamics of recent human history. «Evolution» is, as quasi-neutral synonym for «progress» or «development», all what someone interprets as «progressive» or «upward» movement. Pop-evolutionism is a remnant of 19th century's myth of progress, still well and alive in the beginning of the 21th century, because the myth of „historical progress“ is a fundamental metanarrative of the industrial societies, still dominant social realities. Many contemporary thinkers, from advocates of the „universe story“ (Swimme-Berry 1992, Berry 1999) to integral theorists, subscribe to an unscientific untestable notion of „progressive evolution“ in which humans are „emerging consciousness of the unfolding cosmos“. But in science one term, like „evolution“ in darwinian biology, can't be arbitrarily transferred to other domains.[5]

The fragmentation of scientific disciplines and a sense of meaningless of scientific explanation always caused dissatisfaction, often even hostility. One recent effort to overcome that is so called "integral theory".[6] The concept of evolution is crucial for Integral Theory and it chiefly means pop-evolutionism (evolution-as-progress or upward movement), not scientific darwinian evolution. Pop-evolutionism means – today, as in the 19th century – some kind of speculative philosophy at best with no empirical foundation whatsoever. So far at least, Integral Theory hasn't any substantial connection with the natural sciences and, especially important, with evolutionary biology. Many critics recently warned about problems with Wilber's interpretation of neo-darwinism and darwinian evolution in general (Kazlev 2004, Lane 2006, Visser 2008a, 2008b, 2009a) and I can mention many Wilber's minor factual errors (e.g. Darwin was Spencer's friend and applied Spencer's evolutionary law on biology, Wilber 2001), but here it's unnecessary.

Integral Theory has no real connection with the natural sciences, but perhaps that is not a crucial defect. The majority of people, inside and outside of academia, can accept without problems, if pressured, that biological evolution is not progressive, but what about human history? Integral Theory has basically an anthropological approach, because it is primarily interested in human beings, their societies, past and future. So, perhaps it is more relevant for an anthropological and historical context? What about the social sciences, especially the historical ones?

Integral Theory starts with some intepretations of recent human history, in the last 10.000 years or so (so called „social/cultural evolution“) and it would have some fundamental connection with anthropology, archeology, historical sociology, historiography and similar scientific disciplines. This is a much neglected topic in the contemporary debates over Integral Theory. There is one big methodological problem here. If one wants to build Integral Theory there has to be a significant consensus in some scientific area as, for example, the neo-darwinian approach in evolutionary bioloy or, broader, a naturalistic methodology in the natural sciences. But in the contemporary social sciences there is no consensus, neither on methodology nor on interpretation.

Many -- probably the majority of -- social scientists, prefer a materialistic approach, with an emphasis on material factors as fundamental in human history: population, technology, politics, state, climate, genetics, soil erosion, warfare etc. This is incongruent with the basically idealistic approach of Integral Theory. True, among many scientists there is some mixture of materialistic and idealistic approaches, especially with regard to human particularity. There is a strong belief in human exemptionalism, the irrelevance of biological factors and the autonomy of „cultural evolution“. Even today, many social scientists completely ignore biological and ecological factors and affirm traditional humanistic explanations: only social factors matter. But many affirm biological or/and ecological factors as important explanative factors.

In the realm of valued intepretations of recent human history there is even much less consensus. Many social scientists still affirm a traditional, progressive outlook: human history is „progressive“ perhaps in a moral, but certainly in a technological and social sense. But many scientiests have abandoned, partly or completely, a progressive interpretation. Today, and in the last 30-40 years, there are fierce debates over „social progress“, „social evolution“ (is there such thing at all?), ancient/recent roots of warfare[7] and social hierarchy, ecological balance of different societies etc.

How can an Integral Theory be built if there is no consensus about anything important? In practice, some integral theorist can pick some opinion or hypothesis congruent with his/her position, because lack of consensus doesn't mean that anything goes. This is the deepest connection between Integral Theory and science. Unfortunately, the weight of evidence doesn't support the dominant interpretation of Integral Theory, which is methodologically idealistic and progressivistic in its interpretation. Among social sciences the materialistic approach is pretty much dominant and anti-progressive intepretations are very numerous and well-documented. In Limits of Spiritual Enlightenment I explained why I think that recent human history is not progressive, but regressive, not in any moral sense, but in the quality of human life (Markus 2009).

Some integral theorist can accept a progressive intepretation, as many scientists still do, but he/she has to be aware of the existence of completely contrary opinions and detailed criticism of the concept of «historical progress» and «progressive social evolution». Naive faith in «historical progress» has not completly disappeared – as happened with «progress» in evolutionary biology – but it has lost scientific credibility long ago. In general, as I pointed out in the last article (Markus 2009), knowledge of historical social sciences is very superficial and limited among Wilber and the majority of other integral theorists. This is big problem for a theory which wants to be historical and to speak of «social evolution».

Wilber and some other integral theorists (McIntosh 2007) even don't recognize several fundamental forms of human social organization, like simple and complex hunter-gatherers, simple and complex horticulturalists, pastoralists, agrarian civilizations and industrial societies. Instead, they often use vague and imprecise terms, with no scientific validity, like „tribal“, „warior“, „mystical“… consciousness (McIntosh 2007). True, Wilber (2000) admitted that industrial society has much more problems than, for example, hunter-gatherers, but, he thinks, because of «more average depth of culture». But what does that mean, except a higher standard of living or techno-gadgetries which are not relevant for human life quality? Vague talk about „price of progress“, «stages of development» or «higher consciousness» was never true, but it is especially not very convincing in the light of the great social and ecological disasters in the the last 100 years.[8]

In Limits of Spiritual Enlightenment (Markus 2009) I mentioned the theory of "bio-social discontinuity" which explains anthropogenic problems as a consequences of the abandonment of our evolutionary social and ecological context, or hunter-gatherer life. Correct or not, this is a true scientific theory, which can be tested, corrobated or refuted with firm historical facts. Wilber and other pro-wilberian theorists don't even mention that theory. For Integral Theory, as an idealistic approach, the roots of anthropogenic problems are some lack of moral/spiritual wisdom or insufficient enlightenment. This is a modern version of the quasi-argumentation of philosophers and theologians of agrarian civilization with their emphasis on some inner moral failure of the human mind.

If history is progressive – namely, „progressive evolution“ of human cosciousness or something like that – why are there no anthropogenic problems – as distinct from the usual misfortunes - in hunter-gatherer societies? Are these problems the „price of progress“? But what does progress mean if it causes ever increasing human misery and a decrease in the quality of human living? Anthropogenic problems – the main features of all civilizations with a culmination in the last 100 years – are the biggest problem for every progressivistic intepretation of human history. Great megacities of industrial societies are the most unnatural environment in human history, in which basic human needs cannot be satisfied and which continually cause pathological and destructive behaviour.[9] What does „progress“ mean here except mindless and destructive consumption, including shopping-for-spirituality? It looks strangely to think that «the most primitive level of consciousness» exists in (hunter-gatherer) society where there were/are no anthropogenic problems at all and even more strange that «the highest level of consciuosness» exists in a society in which absolutly dominates the most absurd and destructive lifestyle ever and in which anthropogenic problems abound.

If the theory of bio-social discontinuity is basically correct, there is no such thing as «modernity». Industrial societies of the last 150-200 years are just a continuation – with some significant changes – of the fundamental proceses of the last several thousand years: demographic and technological expansion, urbanization, state-power, militarism, ecological destruction etc. «Noble aspects» of «modernity – which are particulary often emphasized by Michael Zimmerman (1994, 1998, 2000, 2003a) – are just the limited decrease of some anthropogenic problems (as contagious diseases or big social inequalities) typical for agrarian civilization, but with an increase of many other problems. The fundamental comparison can't be between agrarian civilizations and industrial societies – because they are all product of social macrodynamics which is the root of anthropogenic problems – but between civilization and (simple) hunger-gatherer society, which is our evolutionary context, a way of life which encompases 99,99% of human history and which we geneticallly never abandoned.

Industrial societies of the 20th century and today can be «democratic» (perhaps) if we compare them with agrarian civilizations but certainly not if comparison is with (simple) hunter-gatherers. In every civilization there is a rule of manipulative and powerful elites which can refer to the will of God or the People. For me, as a historian, the program of (wilberian) Integral Theory as a whole, in the scientific sense at least, fails if its explanation of recent human history is wrong. A wrong explanation of human history is fatal for Integral Theory as a primarily anthropological (human-interested) approach. We shouldn't even talk about evolutionary biology and other natural sciences.

Integral Theory is basically an idealistic position because it talks about „spirit“, „consciuosness“, „values“, worldviews“ etc. as fundamental factors in human history and even wider.[10] So, there is a tendency to blame some intellectual factors for anthropogenic problems, especially modern science with its fragmentation, reductionism, materialism («flatland»), atomism etc. This is often not only among pro-wilberian integral theorists (Holick 2006, McIntosh 2007) but many other, especially radical ecological critics as well (Capra 1984, Sheldrake 1994, Marshall 1994, Goldsmith 1998).[11] Here Integral Theory is not far away from religious conservatives and their ideological attacks on science. But it is the same mistake as to blame „capitalism“ among leftists or „industrialism“ in radical ecological circles. Fundamental problems of modern civilization – wars, pollution, resource depletion, urban crime and anomie, destruction of wild habitats and species, interpersonal exploitation etc. – existed in the agrarian civilizations as well, more or less the same.

But there was no modern science – and no capitalism or industrialism – in these societies. The same phenomena have to have the same cause(s). The theory of bio-social discontinuity can offer a simple, logical and science-grounded explanation. But it can't be reconciled with any idealistic and progressive approach. Scientific illiteracy – indifference or, even, hostility (creationism in the USA) toward science – among the vast majority of urban-industrial population is another reason why modern science can't be blamed for the sense of absurdity and meaningless. The average adult man of industrial society has no real connection with science and scientific education in his/her life but he/she suffers from an intense sense of meaningless. Perhaps beause of living in unnatural urban-industrial society, an environment completely alien to the human animal, but certainly not because modern science is «naturalistic», «mechanistic», „atomistic“, „reductionistic“ or whatever. Accusations against science are frequently rooted in identification (or, ironically, reduction) of science with physics (fallacy of physicalism), a frequent mistake in Wilber's theory. From physics – or chemistry, astronomy or geology –there really can't be deduced anything normative, only a morally meaningless picture of the world. But evolutionary biology, with its optimal genetic adaption within the natural world, is something different.[12]

Ignorance of Wilber's philosophy in academic circles is well known (Visser 2008a, 2008b) and there is only one Integral Studies Department in one (JFK) university till know. This is too small to call it the „academic emergence of integral theory“ (Forman-Esbjörn-Hargens 2008). Perhaps it will change in the near future because there is much intellectual activity in the Integral Institute, with many young scholars and a well edited Journal of Integral Theory and Practice. The deepening of the mega-crisis and collapse of industrial societies (about that in the next article, "Twilight in the Integral World") can strenghten idealistic convictions and faith in «right worldview» as «solution». But in wilberian form, Integral Theory can't offer anything substantial to science and can maintain just some version of speculative philosophy or intellectual version of New Age spirituality.

So far, integral theorists were completly ignoring the theory of bio-social discontinuity, even in polemical form: it seems that they simply don't know about it. Among authors sympathetic to Wilber, there is only one academic intellectual – prof. Michael Zimmerman from the University of Colorado, Boulder – who has a long-standing academic career, with several academic books and many peer-reviewed articles. But Zimmerman's ecological philosophy is not „wilberian“ in any substantial sense, because he just accepts some of Wilber's general interpretations, like a progressive perspective of recent human history („progressive social evolution“) plus vague talk about „spirit“ and „spiritual development“ (Zimmerman 1994, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003a, 2003b). Basically, Zimmerman's ecological philosophy, after his heideggerian- and deep ecology-phase, is, with some critical remarks, one version of the liberal modernistic, progressive and humanistic approach, founded on the acceptance of contemporary liberal democracy.[13]

Basically, Integral Theory is a modern version of the so called perennial tradition or perennial philosophy (especially hegelianism) adapted to circumstances of the late industrial society, especially pop-evolutionism, «enlightened» neoliberal globalization and New Age's «hunting-for-spirituality».[14] Wilber's disciples and colleagues often represent their Master's theory as a scientifically well-informed and founded position (Howard 2005, Reynolds 2006, McIntosh 2007, Esbjörn-Hargens-Zimmerman 2009), but this is hard to accept. The scientific credentials of Integral Theory are very bad and don't not confirm its pretension about the «inclusion» and «transcendence» of science.

Integral Theory can legitimely argue for a philosophical (non-scientific) approach, but certainly not for the „inclusion“ and „transcendence“ of science. But this is not the worst news. Perhaps Integral Theory can have a purely moral or spiritual significance for middle-clase urban men, some kind of temporary escape from the absurd and stressful everyday life of urban-industrial society, less destructive than drugs, alcochol or fast cars and more «enlightened» than TV or internet. Perhaps Integral Theory can fill big a emptiness in (some) human minds and offer some kind of consolation or „quest for meaning“ (but, then, this is not theory at all, but some kind of spiritual therapy with purely practical goals). But, in our next article, "Twilight in the Integral World", we will see that it won't work well either.


[1] Science here means a theoretical body of hypotheses, theories and knowledge about the natural world, including human societies. Science is different from technology, the goal of which is manipulation and control. As continental European, I include social disciplines (anthropology, archeology, sociology etc) among science, not just natural (physics, biology, astronomy etc.) disciplines. The world is one and human beings and societies are part of nature. So there is no dualism between the natural and the social world. The human social world is one part of the natural world, just as the social world of ants or wolfs (in the name of convenience here I am using the term „natural sciences“ and „social sciences“ but the latter are really human sciences, their topic are the human condition). But theory can also mean a kind of general intellectual position or abstract interpretation. In that second sense I use term «integral theory» here. In the first sense, Integral Theory is much more philosophy – or an intellectual version of New Age spirituality - because it's pretty much speculative and a quasi-integral approach which has no basis in the natural and social sciences. It usualy means a highly selective approach: pick up these, pick up that, and ignore what you don't like. Although misleading, the term «integral» (different authors use that term in a very different context and with very different meaning as convenient phrase) is here maintained because it is used by its adherents. A more convenient term, for much of that kind of thinking, would be «wilberian theory» or «wilberianism» (something similar to «marxism» and with much more convenience because the Master is still here, alive and well), often even "orthodox wilberianism". In his own words, Wilber has ceased responding to critics and is devoting hiself to working exclusively with individuals who understand the integral (that is, wilberian) approach (Ken Wilber Online: This is exactly how marxists talked: you can't criticize Marx, because if you do that, you didn't understand him. Only some internal critique is permissible (perhaps). This is surely not an «including» of the objective scientific approach. It's not strange that many people accuse Wilber of dogmatism.

[2] This fact also confirms that science's naturalism is not a product of dogmatic faith – as constantly argued by religious conservatives, but also by Wilber and many contemporary integral theorists - because all fanatics firmly believe that their dogmas – God, liberal free market, communist utopia or whatever – are something valuable above everything else. Many scientists personally don't like naturalism and materialism which they are practicing in their sciences, because morally they are still (liberal, marxist, christian…) humanists. Many scientists happily accept faith in historical progress, but they know that „progress“ has been banished from the natural sciences completely and from social sciences partly.

[3] From the 1860s to the 1920s «darwinism» usually was identical with pop-evolutionism, not with Darwin's theory of natural selection. Later, after the modern synthesis «darwinism» meant neo-darwinism, a combination of the theory of natural selection and mendelian genetics and with no references to «progress». See: Ruse 2000, 2006, 2009; Bowler 2003.

[4] About the fate of the term «social evolution» in the social sciences see: Harris 2001, Pluciennik 2005, Sanderson 2007. Contemporary social evolutionists, like sociologist Stephen Sanderson, are far away from naive progressivism, which is often typical for Integral Theory and ground their theory in neodarwinism, namely their social evolutionism is one aspect of the broad inroad of neodarwinism into the social sciences. This is anathema for Wilber and other integral theorists, because they argue for a slightly updated traditional social evolutionism from the 19th century (especially the anachronictic analogy between social/personal „stages of development“), or incorporation of traditional social evolutionism into the dynamized Great Nest of Being. For me, there is no such thing as „social/cultural evolution“, just social macrodynamics or fast – from the perspective of slow darwinian evolution - social changes from neolithic domestification to contemporary global industrial civilization.

[5] The popularity of pop-evolutionism is one of the many symptoms of very small significance for real science, as theoretical body of knowledge, outside narrow academic circles. The vast majority of the population of the so called «advanced societies» and «scientific cultures» in Europe, North America and Australia are scientificaly more or less illiterate. Popular (and wrong) perceptions about the great significance of science is mainly caused by its confusion with technology. Many attacks on science, especially in postmodern and radical ecological circles, are rooted in these confusion. Wilber and other integral theorists are making the mistake of overrating the significance of science all the time. For example, Wilber argues that scientific materialism is the «official» worldview of the modern West (Wilber 2000:224) and other integral theorists concur (Zimmerman 1994, 1998, 2001, Reynolds 2006, McIntosh 2007, Esbjörn-Hargens-Zimmerman 2009). In fact, the official worldview is the neoliberal ideology with a blind faith in «historical progress», consumption-as-wellbeing, free market (and state, in crisis, as now) and technological «miracles». It has nothing to do with science, in which anti-progressivistic convictions are widely accepted. In some earlier works Michael Zimmerman warned that a progressivistic intepretation of changes in natural science, especially wilberian-like, is very rare and problematic (Zimmerman 1998) but in later works he argued for different conclusions.

[6] Here Integral Theory means basically Ken Wilber's transpersonal philosophy and the broad literature associated with him, although there is at least one another significant contemporary thinker – the Hungarian Ervin Laszlo – who also argues for «integral theory». Some positions – like historical determinism or level of reality (a favourite topic in the perennial traditions) or supernatural agents are not crucial for Integral Theory, but the idealistic (primacy of ideas/worldviews/consciousness, but not the negation of objective existence of the exterior world) and progressive (change, especially historical one, is „progressive“) approach is crucial. For Wilber's AQAL-model, ideas of „upward evolutionary movement“ and „progressive development“, especially in human „social evolution“, are certainly fundamental in all his „phases“.

[7] The question of warfare is a good example of the difference of opinions. There was a real explosion in the academic literature of studies about the «origin of war» - the term has very different definitions by different authors - in the last 10 years or so (Keeley 1996, Kelly 2000, LeBlanc 2004, Fry 2006, 2007, Arkush-Allen 2006, Ferguson 2006, Gat 2008). Some theorists argue for the ancient (especially many darwinians) and some (many cultural anthropologists and archeologists) for the recent (after neolithic domestification) origin of war. Not suprisingly, integral theorists argue for the ancient origin of war (Wilber 2000), which has to be „overcome“ by attaining „higher levels of consciousness“. In my opinion, some anthropologists and archeologists - Douglas Fry, Jonathan Haas and Brian Ferguson especially - were convincingly demonstrating that second interpretation, especially if applied to simple hunter-gatherers, as a correct one. This is congruent with logic also, because if war is an ancient phenomenon it would have some genetic roots and genetic adaptation. But human beings – in distinction from some ant species - were and are very poorly adapted to war, as many things testify: conscription, strong military drill, war-mongering ideologies, demonization of the enemy, promise of this- and other-wordly rewards, use of narcotics, in- and post-war stresses etc. Wilber (2000) argued that hunter-gatherers «invented» warfare and slavery, but it was (perhaps, we don't know for sure) so only with complex and sedentary hunter-gatherers, one rare and recent anomaly in human history. The crucial point is when war and hierarchy become regular/frequent phenomena and a means to „resolve“ conflict between and inside human communities and the evidence gives a clear answer: after neolithic domestification. Some integral thinkers quote scholarly literature for a consensus about this issue, for example, the ecological destruction in so called «tribal» or «indigenous» societies (Esbjörn-Hargens-Zimmerman 2009), but such consensus doesn't exist and such vague terms are scientifically useless.

[8] In a future article, "Twilight in the Integral World", I will analyze Wilber's historical and social views, especially about recent human history and industrial society, in detail.

[9] Wilber (2000) has argued that the materialistic approach – which admits the natural world as the only reality – is part of «industrial ontology». But the theory of bio-social discontinuity shows that this is not so. The essence of «industrial ontology» - in liberalism, communism and fascism - is not naturalism or scientific materialism at all, but a faith in «historical progress» and the conquest of (wild) nature with technological and demographic expansion. It sounds very strange that Paul Shepard – perhaps the most radical ecological thinker ever – was part of «industrial ontology» because he belonged to – «descent tradition».

[10] The idealistic approach of Integral Theory can be seen also in explanations of the creation of modern (industrial) civilization. Integral theorists usually mention science, «enlightenment», «modern worldview» and similar things. In fact, one single factor – the discovery of new energy sources (fossil fuels: first coal, then oil and gas) – was absolutely crucial (see my next article, "Twilight in the Integral World"). But such interpretation belongs to the… flatland.

[11] Widespread hostility toward science within radical ecological circles, especially deep ecology, is regretful, because there are some fundamental common points, like ecological (man is a part of nature) and biological (man is just an animal species) continuity. Paul Shepard's theory is an exemplary case what scientifically informed – but also radical - ecological philosophy should be (Shepard, 1996, 1998, 1999). I wrote one extensive article about Shepard's ecological philosophy on my web-page ( but for now only in Croatian.

[12] The theory of bio-social discontinuity answers affirmatively on the long-standing question: can science tell us how we should live or what a good life is. We can't accept the so called naturalistic fallacy because if moral principles can't be founded and deduced from facts, from what can they be deduced? Certainly not from illusion or lies. If science can tell us nothing about the good life, who or what can? The State? The Church? Mass media? Spirit of Evolution? Or is the good life something completely subjectivistic and relativistic (anything goes), depending on personal whims and caprices? But here science means only darwinian biology, not physics or astronomy. There is one normative principle which can be deduced from evolutionary biology: every living being and every species should live in a natural context – or environment of evolutionary adaptation – that is, an ecological and, for social beings, social environment for which that species is genetic adapted and for which natural selection prepared it. A lion should live in Africa's savanna, polar bears should live in the North and South Pole etc., because that is their evolutionary context, not a zoo-cage. And human beings? Of course, he/she should live as hunter-gatherer, in small nomadic groups in wild nature, as our ancestors have been living for millions of years. This is in true in principle, regardless if it's practically possible or not. Typical accusations of the „noble savage“ are irrelevant here, because – it must be constantly repeated - the theory of bio-social discontinuity has nothing to do with morality, only with genetic adaptation (see: "Limits of Spiritual Enlightenment", Markus 2009). Contemporary darwinians rarely mention that, even those who talk about the adaptive gulf, because of their personal political and moral convictions (for liberal and other humanists civilization must be some kind of „achievement“ and „elevation“ above the brutal and chaotic natural world). True, Darwin and many darwinians were and are over-emphasizing competition, but it's a remnant of the malthusian hypothesis (ever increasing demographic pressure in the finite world), which was abandoned in evolutionary biology long ago. Darwin's theory of natural selection can exist without the malthusian hypothesis and, hence, without the primacy of competition and a dark vision of the natural world. In nature, both cooperation/symbiosis and competition have a more or less equally significant place. Without the malthusian hypothesis, the natural world doesn't become paradise, but it's not hell or a bloody battlefield either against which man must to «rise above».

[13] I have written a detailed critical review of prof. Zimmerman's (co-authored with Esbjörn-Hargens) new book Integral Ecology (Esbjörn-Hargens-Zimmerman 2009), "Pitfalls of Wilberian Ecology", which has many good points and high-level scholarship but suffers from all defects of the wilberian approach. Their book is an interesting case, not of integral, but wilberian ecology.

[14] I agree with Frank Visser who has argued, in a recent article, "Perennialism Lite", that Wilber's theory, even in its post-metaphysical phase, is much closer to the perennial tradition than to modern science (Visser 2009b). Emphasizing „Spirit“ (i.e. evolution as Spirit-in-Action) his theory remains firmly anchored in axial metaphysics despite his statements about „integral post-metaphysics“ in the Wilber-5 Phase. Wilber has frequently critized the New Age, but there are many common points between his theory and New Age spirituality, especially his critique of „modern materialism“ and the typical postmodern „search for meaning/spirituality“. From the perspective of science at least, Integral Theory has to be seen as one aspect of New Age spirituality. The main objections to Wilber's Integral Theory can also be addressed to Laszlo's theory of the akashic field (a fundamental energy and information-carrying field), because it also has no basis in neo-darwinian biology and the social sciences (Laszlo 2007, 2008).


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