Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion, SUNY 2003Frank Visser, graduated as a psychologist of culture and religion, founded IntegralWorld in 1997. He worked as production manager for various publishing houses and as service manager for various internet companies and lives in Amsterdam. Books: Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion (SUNY, 2003), and The Corona Conspiracy: Combatting Disinformation about the Coronavirus (Kindle, 2020).

Evolution as ‘an actual Force in the universe’

Integral Evolutionary Theory is New Age Physics

Frank Visser

In a recent interview integral therapist Raquel Torrent from Spain had with Ken Wilber on the current horrible situation in the Middle East, Wilber wants to end on a positive note. Though things might seem hopeless in this particular case, in the long run things are going to get better, he assures us. He invokes the theory of spiritual evolution I have criticized multiple times on Integral World. This is what he has to say:

KEN WILBER - ISRAEL/PALESTINE, Raquel Torrent Guerrero, 23 november 2023.

KW: Evolution evolves [sic]. And that's one of the amazing things about evolution. It is an inherent Drive to betterness. And that's an actual Force in the universe. The evolutionary drive is a real, existing, physical Force. It is like gravity and electromagnetism, heat [sic]...
RT: And love...
KW: That's correct. And those are actual, physical, existing, reality [sic] forces. And because those forces are an inherent part of the universe, we are going to continue evolving. Things in some broad sense are going to get better and better and better. (1:10)

We can skip the meaningless phrase "evolution evolves", for it is a tautology.

But notice how Wilber tries to anchor his moderately optimistic view about the course human history will take into a quasi-scientific view of evolution. Notice his emphasis on "physical".

The New Age always tries to integrate science and spirituality by on the one hand transcend materialism but on the other hand claim support from New Science—whatever that may be.

The give away is when Raquel throws in love as a cosmic force, and Wilber includes that without any problem.

But postulating a cosmic drive behind evolution is problematic for multiple reasons.

The four known fundamental forces of physics work across the universe (either long-distance like gravity and electromagnetism, or ultra-short distance like the strong and the weak nuclear forces). But a so-called "fifth force" of evolution?

If the evolutionary drive is so similar to the four fundamental forces, how come it doesn't seem to work at all on Pluto, the Moon or Mars for that matter? Why not?

Because the proper conditions for life to arise (and hence evolution to be possible) don't exist there?

But if it is all a matter of the right conditions, why invoke an extra quasi-physical or metaphysical principle to explain evolution as we observe it on earth?

Is that evolutionary "drive" directed at planet earth for some undisclosed reason perhaps? How is that different from creationism?

Is this evolutionary Force perhaps too weak to have a noticable effect when the conditions are unfavorable?

In these wider speculations Wilber has not risen above the level of New Age physics, which explains nothing and only convinces the science illiterates.

“The evolutionary drive is a real, existing, physical Force.”

It is sad that after so many years of thinking and writing Wilber has not been able to add more sophistication to this notion of Eros in the Kosmos.

In defence of Wilber is has been argued that Wilber can be sloppy at times in formulating his ideas about evolution, but I think we can safely assume this is his up to date view.

Wilber often refers to evolution as "Spirit-in-Action". This phrase clearly states that Spirit has an observable effect in nature, that would not exist without it.

This differentiates him from traditional spiritual views that see Spirit as the Ground behind everything, and at the same time everything we see around us.

But if Spirit is behind everything there is, it cannot be singled out as a force at the same level as the four known fundamental forces of physics.

It goes without saying that invoking Spirit to explain evolution explains nothing and worse: will forever discredit Integral Theory in the world of science.

For those interested in this "fifth force" topic, some scientific work has been done, but it doesn't come close to Wilber's proposal.[1]

The really interesting scientific question is: how can evolution happen without the pre-scientific notion of such an evolutionary "drive".[2]


[1] "Fifth force", Wikipedia

[2] Frank Visser, "Why Ken Wilber is wrong about evolution and ignores the evidence for it",

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