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
This satirical piece of writing was sent to Geoffrey Falk in 2006, at the time of the Wyatt Earp episode. I have not been able to contact the author, but trust he will not object to my reposting of his essay. For some background on Wilber's (mis)treatment of evolutionary theory, click here. Many of Kon Schwilber's words are actually from Ken Wilber himself, see the Vomitting Confetti blog (now offline).

Integral Parody, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

Spring Branch
High School-itis

Philip Molina

Ken Wilber
“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...”
Kon Schwilber making a guest appearance at Spring Branch High School. Unfortunately for Kon, among the 300-plus in the auditorium is 17-year-old senior Victoria Maria Martinez (Victoria's parents died tragically in a plane crash when she was only four. She was raised by her grandparents, Dario and Maria Martinez—Ph. D. chemist and Ph. D. musicologist, respectively—who always encouraged (and aided her in developing) critical thinking and freedom of expression.
But you have said you write "extememly popularized, simplified material for a lay audience." I don't see how that constitutes working professionally in a field.

John Gilbert (16, sophomore): Mr. Schwilber I think I read somewhere or somebody told me that you misrepresent Darwin's or neo-Darwin theory of evolution in your writings. I think you said that half a wing serves no function and therefore makes no sense, or something like that... [1]

KS: 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...

VMM: Excuse me Mr. Schwilber, my name is Victoria Maria Martinez and I've never heard of a Ph. D-minus-thesis. Is this a type of degree that you will offer at Integral Univerisity...

KS: Hi Victoria, that's actually a great question, but before I answer that I'd like to just unpack a few things here if I may. But before I do that I'd just like to ask you a couple of questions: one is are you concentrating in some particular field here at Spring Branch? And two is, have you read any of my books?

VMM: I don't know if you could call it "concentrate" in the same way you would in a university setting as in a major or minor, but my electives have been in foreign languages, science and art. And no sir, I haven't read any of your books. But to my knowledge there is no such thing as a Ph. D-minus-thesis. I'm sorry if I'm translating or interpreting you wrongly, but did you mean that you dropped out of graduate school or the doctoral program? I am very interested in the way different people and languages word things or express themselves. I'm familiar with the concept and application of the euphemism and I was just wondering if that's what you are doing. I don't want to sound presumptuous, but if this is what you are doing by saying Ph. D minus-thesis, isn't that a bit misleading? I mean, I have three months left here at Spring Branch. If I drop out now, do you think that Yale will accept me saying, I have a high school diploma minus the diploma? Wouldn't they ask me why I dropped out? I'm not so sure it's a good message to send to young people. And I don't mean dropping out. I mean, if I dropped out, why wouldn't I just say I dropped out unless I was trying to "cover my tracks" as my grandfather would say? or make it look different than it is? I don't get it. Is it a spade or a heart?

KS: Well, that's why I say, Victoria, if you'll just allow me to unpack a few things first. You see part of thinking integrally is something that we call AQAL, and basically this means that there are a lot of different ways of looking at things, different perspectives, and I'll get back to your question, but it's important that you understand a few things first, that you have a context, and I think you will find this way cool?

Tom Kaufmann (18 senior): Dude! Come on man! Answer her question. Do you think we haven't seen enough politicians or charismatic preachers on TV to know how a dog and pony show begins? Dude, it's 2006! What are you going to do now... Wow us with something that you've repeated six thousand times and make it sound like you are just thinking off the top of your head? And by the time you get back to answering Victoria's question we'll be so mesmerized and amazed at the way you sound that we'll all drop out because we feel like such idiots? Are you gonna sing us a song?

Principal Freeman: Tom that's inappropriate. That's enough of that. Please everyone, let's show Mr. Schwilber some respect and let him talk.

KS: Like I was saying, 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. The material of mine that is being quoted is extremely popularized and simplified material for a lay audience. Publicly, virtually all scientists subscribe to neo-Darwinian theory. Privately, real scientists -- that is, those of us with graduate degrees in science who have professionally practiced it -- don't believe hardly any of its crucial tenets. 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...

VMM: I'm sorry, Mr. Schwilber, for interrupting but I'd like to "deal with" what you've just said, if you don't mind. Or I guess, to use the language you used a little earlier, to "unpack" a few things. You say you did, in fact do a thesis, so I'll have to assume this was a graduate thesis and not a Ph. D thesis. And then you conclude by this (and I mean by saying that you have a Ph. D. minus-thesis and graduate thesis in photoisomerization), that you know evolutionary theory inside out. But that still doesn't make sense to me. Did you do a graduate thesis on "evolutionary theory"? Or are you saying that anyone who does a graduate thesis on photoisomeriation knows evolutionary theory inside and out? Then a little further on you say, "those of us with graduate degrees in science who have professionally practiced it don't believe hardly any of neo-Darwinian theories' crucial tenents." But you have said you write "extememly popularized, simplified material for a lay audience." I don't see how that constitutes working professionally in a field, and doing graduate studies is not the same as working professionally in a field. So I don't understand how you can say to us something like, "virtually all" scientists subscribe to neo-Darwinian theory in public, but "real" scientists would never do such a thing in private. And you make it sound like you are one of the "real" scientists. Are you saying that if someone is not a "real" scientist that they are embarrassed to publically admit that neo-Darwinian theory doesn't work and if you are a "real," professional scientist that you say things like, it doesn't explain shit. As in nothing?

Principal Freeman: Please, Victoria, let Mr. Schwilber finish.

KS: The extensive problems with evolutionary theory as it now stands is exactly why "creation science" has made huge inroads across the country, including standing up in court cases where scientific evidence is brought in on both sides.

VMM: I'm sorry Mr. Freeman, but my grandparents would kill me if they knew that someone made a statement like that and I just simply agreed with it because they had a name. I have to speak out here to Mr. Schwilber. Mr. Schwilber, in gov't class we've had many discussions about the political power of the religious right. And we've also talked about what heavily funded lobbies and lawyers are capable of taking to court and how the system can be tied up for years and even beaten sometimes. I would ask you what is really more plain, that the religious right has strong lobbying and political power by virtue of how ardently they are willing to defend their beliefs (no matter what they are and no matter what they attack with all the time, effort and money they can throw at it), or is it that the neo-Darwinian theories are so full of holes that even the religious right won't accept them?

KS: Yes, well, 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, of course, the fact that neo-Darwinian theory cannot explain the central aspects of evolution, does not mean that a specific type of God can. But they never would make the kind of headway they have unless neo-Darwinian theory is the piece of Swiss cheese that it is.

VMM: Do you really believe that? Do you really believe that the only reason that the fundamenalist religious right makes "headway," as you call it, is because the things they attack are like Swiss cheese? I'm sorry, Mr. Schwilber, I may only be in high school, but that just doesn't make sense to me. I think your logic here is flawed. I don't mean to sound disrespectful, but if I forced myself to follow your line of thinking, I wouldn't feel very good about myself. I would have to deny things that seem obvious and accept things that sound good, but are, in my opinion, misleading and lack the evidence to show otherwise.

KS: Look Victoria, all that this 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.

Are you fundamentally religious, Mr. Schwilber? Do you have religious beliefs that are so strong that you would like them to be more than opinions?

VMM: Thank you, Mr. Schwilber. I can live with that. You said, "in my opinion." And I think opinions are well and fine, but I don't think we should mistake our opinions for evidence that proves or disproves things. If the religious right would take more of this attitude, I think we would all be better off. But that is just my opinion. Are you fundamentally religious, Mr. Schwilber? Do you have religious beliefs that are so strong that you would like them to be more than opinions?

KS: Victoria, listen, 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.

VMM: Yes, Mr. Schwilber, that sounds wonderful, but what concerns me is that if your presentation to us today reflects the way that thinking "integral" is, I'm not sure you would be capable of accepting these "forces" of science, as you call them, no matter how much proof you were given. Not necessarily because it isn't true but because, like the religious right, your mind is already made up. And if you already have very strong religious beliefs that mean a lot to you, the chances of you being able to accept such a thing whole-heartedly and intelligently are not very good. At least, that's what we learned in our over-view of developmental psychology in coach Harding's social-science class. People that have strong religious beliefs like you seem to have a very strong drive to make amazing and grand apologies to make things fit into their world view, even when they are very intelligent.

Mr. Freeman: Victoria, please. Don't be insulting. It's not grown up.

KS: It's okay, Mr. Freeman, I can handle this. I'm no stranger to being insulting, I mean insulted. Victoria, first off, I forgive you for what you've said, so we can move on, but I will add that if you want to throw away your life with such a limiting way of seeing the world, that's your prerogative. But if you want to be part of an elite 2% of people in the world that know better, I would think twice. And in our opinion the "nots" (not believing neo-Darwinian theory and believing in Eros) 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. I know, I lived in that community for the better part of a decade. And it's truly fascinating, to say the least....

VMM: I'm sorry Mr. Schwilber, you're whispering. I can't hear you. Did you say that you are bragging to the world that you are fascinating to say the least?

KS: No Victoria, what I said was don't go claiming that I don't know evolutionary theory, because in this particular instance anyway, you are absolutely off your nut.

Mr. Freeman: Okay everyone, I regret to say that our time is up. We'd like to thank Mr. Schwilber for coming and for NOT pantomiming masturbation and NOT asking randomly for students to give him blow jobs.


[1] "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 will not do. 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. The wing will work only if these hundred mutations happen all at once, in one animal--also these same mutations must occur simultaneously in another animal of the opposite sex, and they have to somehow find each other, have dinner, a few drinks, mate, and have offspring with real functional wings.
Talk about mind-boggling. This in infinitely, absolutely, utterly mind-boggling. Random mutations cannot even begin to explain this....But once this incredible transformation has occurred, then natural selection will indeed select the better wings from the less workable wings--but the wings themselves? Nobody has a clue." (Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything, 1996, pp. 20)

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