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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).

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Comparing and Contrasting Science and Religion

Featuring Dawkins, Gould, Coyne and Wilber

Frank Visser / ChatGPT-4o

Me to ChatGPT:

  • Please provide an overview of all the logical positions that have been advanced in comparing and contrasting science and religion.
  • Where does Ken Wilber fit into this classification?
  • Please do the same for Dawkins, Gould and Coyne.
  • Wilber agrees with these three atheists on pre-rational, mythic religion, but he adds mystical religion as a separate, trans-rational, verifiable domain. How would they respond to Wilbers thesis?
  • Set up a conversation in which Wilber replies to these critics.
  • How does Michael Ruse fit into the typology of positions you provided?
  • How would Ruse engage with Wilber in a conversational setting?
  • In what sense is Wilbers division of mind vs. body, value vs. fact and Left-hand vs. Right-hand quadrants a special case of Gould's NOMA?
  • Did Wilbers book The Marriage of Sense and Soul have any impact on this academic field of study?
  • Could it be that this book - which dismisses much of what commonly called religious faith - and the more recent The Religion of Tomorrow, will appeal only to the mystically inclined, a by definition limited segment of society?
  • 99% of the population does not subscribe to such an advanced mystical spirituality. What can they learn from Wilbers view of religion?
  • How valid is a mystical knowledge claim such as "I am one with the World Ground"?

Please provide an overview of all the logical positions that have been advanced in comparing and contrasting science and religion.


The comparison and contrast between science and religion have generated diverse positions over time. Here are the main logical positions that have been advanced:

1. Conflict Thesis

Description: This position holds that science and religion are fundamentally at odds and cannot be reconciled. They are seen as competing systems of knowledge with inherently contradictory claims.

Proponents: Historically associated with figures like John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White.

Examples: Debates over evolutionary biology and creationism, or the historical conflicts between the Catholic Church and early scientists like Galileo.

2. Independence Thesis

Description: According to this view, science and religion operate in completely separate domains (non-overlapping magisteria) and thus do not conflict. Each addresses different types of questions: science deals with the natural world, while religion addresses moral, spiritual, and metaphysical issues.

Proponents: Stephen Jay Gould famously advocated for this position.

Examples: A scientist who sees no conflict between their scientific work and their religious beliefs because they believe these aspects of life are entirely separate.

3. Dialogue Thesis

Description: This stance suggests that science and religion can have constructive dialogues and can inform each other. While they are distinct, there can be areas of mutual interest and complementarity.

Proponents: Many contemporary scholars and theologians who engage in interdisciplinary studies.

Examples: Dialogues on the ethical implications of scientific discoveries, or discussions on how religious perspectives can inform scientific ethics.

4. Integration Thesis

Description: Proponents of this view argue that science and religion can be integrated into a coherent system of thought. They believe that scientific discoveries can enrich religious understanding and vice versa.

Proponents: Thinkers such as Teilhard de Chardin and Alister McGrath.

Examples: Theistic evolution, which sees evolutionary theory as compatible with a belief in a divine creator.

5. Complementarity Thesis

Description: This position asserts that science and religion address different aspects of the same reality and, when combined, offer a more comprehensive understanding of the world.

Proponents: Some philosophers and theologians who seek a more nuanced view.

Examples: Using scientific methods to understand the mechanics of the universe while using religious insights to explore its meaning and purpose.

6. Fusion Thesis

Description: This is the belief that the boundaries between science and religion can be blurred or even merged. It involves incorporating scientific concepts into religious beliefs or vice versa.

Proponents: Certain New Age thinkers and some proponents of Intelligent Design.

Examples: Attempts to use quantum physics to explain mystical experiences or religious phenomena.

7. Scientism

Description: This is the belief that science is the ultimate path to knowledge and that it can, or eventually will, explain everything, rendering religious explanations obsolete.

Proponents: Some modern atheists and secular humanists.

Examples: Claims that neuroscience will eventually explain all aspects of human consciousness, including religious experiences.

8. Religious Scientism

Description: This is the view that religious beliefs can or should be subject to the same empirical scrutiny and methods used in science. This often leads to the rejection of religious claims that cannot be scientifically validated.

Proponents: Less common, but occasionally found among more extreme rationalist religious groups.

Examples: Religions that attempt to interpret sacred texts in ways that align strictly with scientific evidence.

These positions reflect the spectrum of thought on how science and religion intersect, ranging from conflict to complete integration. Each position has its own implications for understanding both scientific and religious knowledge and their roles in human life.

Where does Ken Wilber fit into this classification?

Ken Wilber, an influential philosopher and integral theorist, fits best within the Dialogue Thesis and Integration Thesis categories.

Dialogue Thesis

Description: Wilber advocates for a constructive dialogue between science and religion, recognizing the value and insights each domain offers. He believes in a respectful and meaningful exchange between these fields, suggesting that they can mutually inform and enrich one another.

Example in Wilber's Work: Wilber's approach often involves exploring how spiritual and scientific perspectives can converse to provide a deeper understanding of human consciousness and reality.

Integration Thesis

Description: Wilber is perhaps most closely aligned with the Integration Thesis, as his work seeks to create a coherent system that combines insights from both science and religion into a unified framework. He proposes that integrating these perspectives can lead to a more comprehensive and holistic understanding of existence.

Example in Wilber's Work: His "Integral Theory" incorporates knowledge from various disciplines, including science, psychology, spirituality, and philosophy, into a single, comprehensive model. He argues that both scientific and spiritual insights are necessary to fully understand the human experience and the nature of reality.

Specific Contributions and Ideas

AQAL Model: Wilber's AQAL (All Quadrants, All Levels) model is a key example of his integrative approach. This model categorizes reality into four quadrants (interior individual, exterior individual, interior collective, exterior collective) and acknowledges multiple levels of development (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual). This framework seeks to integrate subjective, intersubjective, objective, and interobjective dimensions of reality.

Stages of Consciousness: Wilber's theory posits that human consciousness evolves through various stages, and he incorporates both scientific understanding (e.g., psychological development) and spiritual insights (e.g., mystical experiences) into this developmental framework.

In summary, Ken Wilber's work exemplifies the Integration Thesis by attempting to create a unified framework that synthesizes insights from both science and religion. He also embodies the Dialogue Thesis by promoting meaningful and respectful conversations between these domains.

Please do the same for Dawkins, Gould and Coyne.

Richard Dawkins - Conflict Thesis

Description: Richard Dawkins is a strong proponent of the Conflict Thesis, which posits that science and religion are fundamentally incompatible and in conflict with each other.

Examples in Dawkins' Work:

In "The God Delusion," Dawkins argues that religious beliefs are irrational and that science provides a more reliable and accurate understanding of reality.

He frequently criticizes religion for promoting superstition and dogma, which he believes are antithetical to the evidence-based nature of scientific inquiry.

Stephen Jay Gould - Independence Thesis

Description: Stephen Jay Gould is best known for advocating the Independence Thesis, which suggests that science and religion occupy separate, non-overlapping domains of teaching authority or "magisteria."

Examples in Gould's Work:

In "Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life," Gould outlines his view that science deals with empirical facts and theories about the natural world, while religion addresses questions of ultimate meaning and moral value.

Gould's concept of "Non-overlapping Magisteria" (NOMA) argues that science and religion can coexist peacefully as long as they remain within their respective domains.

Jerry Coyne - Conflict Thesis

Description: Jerry Coyne, like Richard Dawkins, supports the Conflict Thesis, arguing that science and religion are fundamentally incompatible and often in conflict.

Examples in Coyne's Work:

In "Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible," Coyne asserts that religious faith and scientific reasoning are fundamentally opposed methods of understanding the world.

He contends that religion relies on faith and dogma, whereas science is based on evidence and reason, making them inherently contradictory.

In summary, Dawkins and Coyne both align with the Conflict Thesis, emphasizing the incompatibility and conflict between science and religion. Gould, on the other hand, fits within the Independence Thesis, advocating for the separation and non-overlapping domains of science and religion.

Wilber agrees with these three atheists on pre-rational, mythic religion, but he adds mystical religion as a separate, trans-rational, verifiable domain. How would they respond to Wilbers thesis?

Ken Wilber's thesis, which distinguishes between pre-rational, mythic religion and trans-rational, mystical religion, introduces a nuanced view that the atheists Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, and Jerry Coyne would likely respond to in distinct ways based on their respective positions on science and religion.

Richard Dawkins

Response: Dawkins would likely reject Wilber's thesis. He tends to view all forms of religious belief, including mystical experiences, as products of the human mind that are better explained through psychological or neurological phenomena. Dawkins might argue that what Wilber terms "trans-rational" experiences are simply another form of subjective, unverifiable belief, not fundamentally different from mythic religion.


In "The God Delusion," Dawkins emphasizes the lack of empirical evidence for any form of religious experience, mystical or otherwise.

He is skeptical of claims that mystical experiences provide valid knowledge about the world, seeing them instead as illusions or misinterpretations of natural phenomena.

Stephen Jay Gould

Response: Gould might respond to Wilber's thesis with a degree of openness but ultimately maintain his Independence Thesis. He could acknowledge that mystical experiences fall within the domain of personal and spiritual significance, separate from empirical science. However, he would likely assert that these experiences, while valuable to individuals, do not constitute verifiable knowledge in the scientific sense.


In "Rocks of Ages," Gould argues for the separation of science and religion into non-overlapping magisteria, suggesting that mystical experiences belong to the magisterium of religion.

He might appreciate Wilber's effort to elevate mystical religion but still maintain that such experiences do not intersect with scientific inquiry.

Jerry Coyne

Response: Coyne would likely be dismissive of Wilber's thesis. He maintains a strict view that science and religion are incompatible, emphasizing the empirical basis of scientific knowledge and the lack of verifiable evidence for religious claims, including mystical experiences. Coyne might argue that mystical experiences are subjective and cannot be scientifically validated.


In "Faith vs. Fact," Coyne emphasizes that religious experiences, regardless of how they are categorized, do not meet the criteria of empirical evidence and testability.

He would likely see Wilber's trans-rational mystical religion as another form of faith-based belief that does not hold up to scientific scrutiny.


Wilber's distinction between pre-rational and trans-rational religion introduces a complexity that the atheists in question would likely critique based on their existing views:

Dawkins would dismiss the idea of trans-rational religion as another form of delusion or psychological artifact.

Gould might be open to the subjective value of mystical experiences but would insist on their separation from the empirical domain of science.

Coyne would reject the notion that mystical experiences provide any verifiable knowledge, maintaining his stance on the incompatibility of science and religion.

Set up a conversation in which Wilber replies to these critics.

Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, Jerry Coyne, and Ken Wilber in Conversation

Dawkins: "Ken, your idea of mystical religion being a trans-rational, verifiable domain is intriguing, but I must insist that all religious experiences, mystical or otherwise, are psychological phenomena. They are products of the human mind and lack empirical evidence. Without such evidence, they cannot be considered valid forms of knowledge."

Wilber: "Richard, I understand your emphasis on empirical evidence, and I agree that many religious beliefs, especially those at the mythic level, can be irrational and unsupported by science. However, I'm talking about a different category of experience - mystical experiences - that transcend rational thought and can be systematically cultivated and replicated across cultures and individuals. These experiences are not merely psychological but reveal deeper truths about consciousness itself."

Gould: "Ken, while I respect your differentiation between pre-rational and trans-rational religion, I still see mystical experiences as part of the magisterium of religion. They may be deeply meaningful and transformative for individuals, but they belong to the subjective realm of personal spirituality, not the objective realm of science."

Wilber: "Stephen, I appreciate your perspective on non-overlapping magisteria. However, I propose that mystical experiences can indeed provide insights that are trans-rational, meaning they go beyond but include rationality. These experiences often result in profound personal transformation and ethical insights, which can inform our understanding of the world in ways that complement scientific knowledge."

Coyne: "Ken, your argument assumes that these mystical experiences are a form of verifiable knowledge. But without empirical validation, they remain subjective and unverifiable. Science relies on evidence and testability, and without these, mystical experiences can't be integrated into our understanding of reality in any meaningful way."

Wilber: "Jerry, I agree that empirical validation is crucial in the scientific method. However, mystical experiences can be approached through a different kind of verification, one that involves intersubjective agreement among practitioners. Just as scientific observations can be replicated under certain conditions, mystical experiences can be replicated through specific practices and disciplines, leading to consistent transformative insights."

Dawkins: "Even if these experiences are consistent among practitioners, they remain within the realm of subjective interpretation. They do not provide objective evidence that can be measured and tested. Mystical experiences might offer personal significance, but they don't advance our understanding of the natural world."

Wilber: "Richard, I don't dispute the importance of objective evidence in understanding the natural world. However, mystical experiences reveal dimensions of consciousness and reality that are not accessible through objective methods alone. They complement rather than contradict scientific findings, offering a holistic understanding of existence that includes but transcends empirical knowledge."

Gould: "Ken, your approach does seem to bridge the gap between science and religion in a way that respects the integrity of both. Yet, I still hold that science and religion should remain distinct, each addressing different aspects of human experience."

Wilber: "Stephen, maintaining distinct domains is important, but I believe there's value in a dialogue that allows science and religion to inform and enrich each other. By integrating insights from both, we can develop a more comprehensive framework for understanding the complexities of human existence and the cosmos."

Coyne: "Ultimately, Ken, until mystical experiences can be empirically validated in a way that satisfies the rigorous demands of science, they will remain outside the scope of scientific knowledge. They may offer personal or cultural significance, but they do not contribute to our empirical understanding of reality."

Wilber: "Jerry, I respect your commitment to empirical validation, and I agree that mystical experiences must be approached with rigor and discernment. My goal is not to diminish the importance of science but to expand our understanding of reality by incorporating the deep insights that mystical traditions have provided for centuries. Together, science and mysticism can offer a more integrated and profound understanding of the human experience."

How does Michael Ruse fit into the typology of positions you provided?

Michael Ruse is a philosopher of science known for his work on the relationship between science and religion, particularly in the context of evolutionary biology. To determine where he fits within the typology of positions comparing and contrasting science and religion, we need to consider his views on the compatibility and interaction between these domains.

Michael Ruse's Position

Ruse's position can be described as a form of "Accommodation", which is somewhat between Dialogue and Integration, and sometimes Independence, depending on the context. Here's how his views align with and diverge from the typology:

Critique of Conflict Thesis:

Ruse rejects the strong conflict thesis, arguing that science and religion are not inherently in opposition. He criticizes the idea that accepting evolutionary theory necessitates atheism, which aligns him against the Conflict position.

Sympathy for NOMA:

Ruse has expressed sympathy for Stephen Jay Gould's NOMA (Non-overlapping Magisteria) principle, suggesting that science and religion can occupy distinct domains of inquiry - science dealing with empirical facts and religion with moral values and meaning. This places him closer to the Independence position.

Dialogue and Compatibility:

Ruse is open to dialogue between science and religion. He believes that evolutionary theory can be compatible with religious belief, provided that religious interpretations are flexible enough to accommodate scientific findings. This shows an affinity with the Dialogue position.

Critical of Strong Integration:

While Ruse sees value in integrating insights from science and religion, he is cautious about fully integrating them into a single framework like Ken Wilber's. He recognizes the methodological differences and the potential risks of conflating empirical and metaphysical claims, suggesting a more moderate stance.

Summary of Michael Ruse's Position

Primarily Independence: Ruse often aligns with the idea that science and religion can coexist by addressing different types of questions (NOMA).

Elements of Dialogue: He supports constructive dialogue and believes in the compatibility of evolution and a flexible religious faith.

Cautious Integration: While he sees value in integrating insights, he is wary of fully merging the domains due to their distinct methodologies.


Michael Ruse fits into the typology as a proponent of Independence with strong elements of Dialogue. He rejects the conflict thesis, supports the idea that science and religion can coexist without interfering with each other, and advocates for a constructive dialogue that respects the distinct nature of each domain. He does not fully endorse the Integration position but acknowledges the potential for mutual enrichment between science and religion.

How would Ruse engage with Wilber in a conversational setting?

A conversation between Michael Ruse and Ken Wilber would likely involve a respectful exchange of ideas, given their differing but potentially complementary views on the relationship between science and religion. Here's a hypothetical dialogue illustrating how they might engage with each other:

Conversation Between Michael Ruse and Ken Wilber

Michael Ruse (MR): Ken, I appreciate your work on integrating science and spirituality. Your AQAL model and the idea of integrating different perspectives are quite intriguing. However, I must say, I'm cautious about fully merging science and religion into a single framework. From my perspective, science and religion address fundamentally different kinds of questions - science deals with empirical facts, while religion deals with moral values and meaning.

Ken Wilber (KW): Michael, I understand your caution. My work aims to show that while science and religion traditionally address different aspects of reality, they don't have to remain completely separate. I propose that there are deeper, underlying realities - such as Spirit or Eros - that can unify these perspectives. This doesn't mean conflating them, but rather integrating them in a way that respects their unique methodologies.

MR: I see the appeal of that integration, but I worry about maintaining the integrity of scientific methodology. Science relies on empirical evidence and testability, which is quite different from the subjective experiences and metaphysical claims often found in religion. How do you ensure that the rigorous standards of science are not compromised in this integration?

KW: That's a crucial point, and I agree that scientific rigor must be maintained. In my view, integration doesn't mean diluting the standards of either domain. Instead, it means recognizing that empirical science, subjective experience, and intersubjective cultural values all contribute to a fuller understanding of reality. For instance, the inner experiences described in mystical traditions can offer insights into human consciousness that complement scientific findings in psychology and neuroscience.

MR: But when you introduce concepts like Spirit or Eros as guiding forces in evolution, aren't you introducing a form of teleology that goes beyond what science can verify? Neo-Darwinism, for example, explains evolution through natural selection and random mutations without implying any inherent purpose or direction.

KW: Yes, the notion of teleology is certainly more controversial. My intention is not to impose metaphysical beliefs onto scientific facts but to suggest that the processes we observe in nature might be understood as part of a larger, more purposeful framework. This idea is more metaphysical than scientific, and I propose it as a complement, not a replacement, to the empirical explanations provided by neo-Darwinism.

MR: I can appreciate that approach as long as it remains clear that these metaphysical interpretations are separate from empirical scientific claims. One of my concerns with integrating too closely is the potential for confusion between what can be empirically validated and what remains a matter of personal or collective belief.

KW: Absolutely, maintaining that distinction is vital. My integrative model aims to honor the strengths and boundaries of each domain. By doing so, I hope to foster a dialogue that allows science to inform our understanding of the physical world, while spiritual insights guide our quest for meaning and purpose.

MR: It's an ambitious and interesting vision, Ken. While I remain cautious about fully embracing such integration, I do agree that fostering dialogue between science and spirituality can be enriching. It can help us navigate the complexities of human experience more effectively.

KW: Thank you, Michael. I believe that by respecting the integrity of both science and spirituality, we can build a more comprehensive understanding of reality that benefits from the strengths of both perspectives.


In this conversation, Michael Ruse and Ken Wilber engage in a thoughtful discussion about their differing views on integrating science and spirituality. Ruse emphasizes the importance of maintaining the methodological integrity of science while being open to dialogue with spirituality. Wilber advocates for a holistic integration that respects the unique contributions of both domains. Despite their differences, they find common ground in the value of dialogue and mutual respect.

In what sense is Wilbers division of mind vs. body, value vs. fact and Left-hand vs. Right-hand quadrants a special case of Gould's NOMA?

Ken Wilber's division of mind vs. body, value vs. fact, and Left-hand vs. Right-hand quadrants can be seen as a special case of Stephen Jay Gould's concept of Non-overlapping Magisteria (NOMA) in several ways. Here's a detailed comparison:

Gould's NOMA

Concept: NOMA (Non-overlapping Magisteria) suggests that science and religion represent two separate domains of teaching authority and inquiry. Science covers the empirical realm of facts about the natural world, while religion deals with questions of ultimate meaning and moral values.

Objective: To avoid conflict by clearly demarcating the boundaries of each domain, ensuring that they do not encroach upon each other's territory.

Wilber's Quadrants

Concept: Wilber's AQAL (All Quadrants, All Levels) model divides reality into four quadrants:

- Upper-Left (UL): Interior individual (mind, subjective experience)

- Upper-Right (UR): Exterior individual (body, objective behavior)

- Lower-Left (LL): Interior collective (cultural values, shared meanings)

- Lower-Right (LR): Exterior collective (social systems, objective structures)

Objective: To provide a comprehensive framework that integrates subjective and objective dimensions, as well as individual and collective perspectives, into a unified understanding of reality.

Comparison: NOMA and AQAL

Separation of Domains:

Gould: Science and religion occupy separate domains (empirical facts vs. moral values).

Wilber: The Left-hand quadrants (UL and LL) represent subjective, interior experiences (similar to Gould's moral values domain), while the Right-hand quadrants (UR and LR) represent objective, exterior realities (similar to Gould's empirical facts domain).

Integration of Perspectives:

Gould: NOMA strictly separates science and religion to avoid conflict.

Wilber: While recognizing the distinction between subjective and objective domains, Wilber integrates these into a holistic framework, suggesting that all quadrants are interrelated and contribute to a fuller understanding of reality.

Addressing Subjective and Objective Realities:

Gould: Religion addresses subjective, moral, and existential questions; science addresses objective, empirical questions.

Wilber: The Left-hand quadrants (mind and cultural values) address subjective realities, while the Right-hand quadrants (body and social systems) address objective realities. This parallels Gould's division but is expanded into a more complex, interrelated system.

Wilber as a Special Case of NOMA

Wilber's model can be seen as a special case of Gould's NOMA in the following ways:

Expansion and Elaboration: While Gould's NOMA delineates two broad, non-overlapping domains (science and religion), Wilber's AQAL model provides a more granular and detailed framework that differentiates between various types of subjective and objective experiences and knowledge.

Integration vs. Separation: NOMA emphasizes strict separation to avoid conflict, whereas Wilber's model seeks to integrate these domains, suggesting that a holistic understanding requires acknowledging the validity and interdependence of all four quadrants.

Comprehensive Framework: Wilber's quadrants offer a comprehensive way to address and integrate the various dimensions of human experience and knowledge, including those covered by Gould's NOMA. In this sense, Wilber's model can be seen as an extension or elaboration of the idea that different domains have their own legitimacy and methods.

Practical Implications

Gould's Perspective: Would likely maintain that while Wilber's model is insightful, the essential non-overlapping nature of science and religion should be preserved to prevent encroachment and conflict.

Wilber's Perspective: Would argue that acknowledging the interrelatedness of all quadrants enhances our understanding and that integrating these perspectives can lead to a more holistic approach to knowledge and existence.

In summary, Wilber's AQAL model can be seen as a special, expanded case of Gould's NOMA, providing a more detailed and integrative framework that respects the separation of domains while also highlighting their interconnections.

In what sense does Wilber violate the principle of non-overlapping magisteria when he appeals to Spirit or Eros in his dealings with neo-Darwinism?

Ken Wilber's approach to integrating spirituality and science, particularly his appeal to concepts like Spirit or Eros in the context of neo-Darwinism, can be seen as a violation of Stephen Jay Gould's principle of non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) in several key ways:

Principle of NOMA - Separation of Domains:

Gould's NOMA asserts that science and religion address fundamentally different kinds of questions. Science deals with empirical facts and theories about the natural world, while religion deals with moral values and spiritual meaning.

The principle aims to prevent conflict by keeping these domains distinct and non-overlapping.

Wilber's Approach - Integration of Science and Spirituality:

Wilber seeks to integrate scientific and spiritual insights into a unified framework. He doesn't strictly separate the empirical from the spiritual but rather sees them as interrelated aspects of a larger, holistic reality.

Appeal to Spirit or Eros:

Spirit: Wilber often speaks of Spirit as a fundamental aspect of reality that permeates all quadrants of his AQAL model. This includes not just the subjective experiences and cultural meanings but also the objective, empirical domains studied by science.

Eros: Wilber uses the concept of Eros (a drive towards complexity and higher forms of organization) as an underlying principle that guides evolution. This idea introduces a teleological element (purpose or direction) into the process of evolution, which is typically explained by neo-Darwinism in terms of natural selection and random mutation without inherent purpose.

Violation of NOMA

Blurring the Boundaries:

By introducing Spirit or Eros as explanatory principles in the context of evolutionary theory, Wilber blurs the clear boundary that Gould's NOMA establishes between empirical science and spiritual/religious explanations. He is not content with keeping spiritual insights confined to the realm of personal meaning and moral values but extends them into the scientific domain.

Teleology in Evolution:

Neo-Darwinism is rooted in a mechanistic and non-teleological understanding of evolution. Wilber's notion of Eros as a guiding force introduces a purpose or direction to evolution, which conflicts with the scientific explanation that relies on random mutation and natural selection.

This infusion of teleology is seen as bringing a religious or metaphysical concept into the empirical domain of science, thereby overlapping the magisteria.

Empirical Claims:

Wilber's appeal to Spirit or Eros suggests that there are aspects of reality (such as the directionality of evolution) that cannot be fully explained by science alone and require spiritual understanding. This implies that spiritual or metaphysical insights can provide empirical knowledge about the natural world, which goes against the NOMA principle that empirical facts are the sole domain of science.

Responses to Criticism

Wilber's Perspective:

Wilber might argue that his framework does not violate NOMA but rather expands it by recognizing that spiritual insights can complement scientific understanding. He would assert that a truly comprehensive view of reality must integrate both empirical and spiritual dimensions.

Critics' Perspective:

Critics would maintain that Wilber's approach undermines the foundational principle of NOMA by not respecting the clear demarcation between empirical science and spiritual/religious domains. They would argue that this leads to confusion and potential conflict, as it mixes methodologies and epistemologies that are intended to remain separate.


In summary, Ken Wilber violates the principle of non-overlapping magisteria by introducing spiritual concepts like Spirit and Eros into the empirical discourse of neo-Darwinism. This blurs the distinct boundaries that Gould's NOMA seeks to maintain between the domains of science and religion, leading to an overlap that NOMA was designed to avoid.

Did Wilbers book The Marriage of Sense and Soul have any impact on this academic field of study?

Ken Wilber's book "The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion," published in 1998, aimed to bridge the perceived gap between science and spirituality. While it brought attention to the discussion of integrating these two fields, its impact on the academic study of science and religion has been mixed. Here are some key points regarding its influence:

Influence on the Field

Increased Dialogue:

Wilber's work contributed to increased dialogue between proponents of scientific and spiritual perspectives. His efforts to create a comprehensive framework that respects and integrates both realms have resonated with some scholars and practitioners interested in interdisciplinary approaches.

Popular Appeal:

The book gained a significant following among readers interested in spirituality, personal development, and holistic approaches to understanding reality. It popularized the idea that science and spirituality need not be in conflict and can instead complement each other.[1]

Framework Development:

Wilber's AQAL model and his concept of integrating the "Big Three" (subjective, objective, and intersubjective perspectives) provided a novel framework for considering how different types of knowledge and experience can be synthesized. This framework has influenced some interdisciplinary studies and integrative approaches.

Criticism and Limitations

Academic Critique:

Within academic circles, Wilber's work has faced criticism for its lack of empirical rigor and for sometimes being perceived as speculative or overly ambitious. Some scholars argue that his integrative approach does not sufficiently adhere to the methodological standards of either science or religious studies.

Reception in Science and Religion Studies:

The academic field of science and religion, which includes contributions from scholars like Ian Barbour, John Haught, and others, tends to focus on more empirically grounded and philosophically rigorous approaches. Wilber's work, while influential in popular and new age circles, has not become a central text in academic discourse on science and religion.

Methodological Concerns:

Critics point out that Wilber's attempt to integrate scientific and spiritual perspectives often involves metaphysical assumptions that are not universally accepted within the scientific community. This has led to debates about the appropriateness and feasibility of his proposed integration.

Overall Impact

Broader Influence: "The Marriage of Sense and Soul" has had a broader cultural impact by encouraging lay readers and some interdisciplinary scholars to think more holistically about science and spirituality.

Academic Impact: While it has sparked interest and discussion, its impact on the formal academic field of science and religion has been more limited. Academic work in this field continues to rely heavily on rigorous empirical and philosophical methodologies, which some critics feel Wilber's integrative approach lacks.

In summary, Ken Wilber's "The Marriage of Sense and Soul" has played a role in promoting dialogue and holistic thinking about the relationship between science and spirituality. However, its reception in the academic field of science and religion has been mixed, with significant influence in popular and interdisciplinary contexts but less acceptance and integration within the more rigorous academic study of these subjects.

Could it be that this book - which dismisses much of what commonly called religious faith - and the more recent The Religion of Tomorrow, will appeal only to the mystically inclined, a by definition limited segment of society?

Ken Wilber's books "The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion" and "The Religion of Tomorrow: A Vision for the Future of the Great Traditions" present a nuanced view of spirituality that might indeed have a limited appeal, particularly resonating with those inclined toward mysticism. Here are several reasons why this could be the case:

Focus on Mysticism

Mystical Orientation:

Both books emphasize the importance of mystical experiences and higher stages of spiritual development. This focus on mysticism aligns with individuals who are already interested in or open to such experiences, which tends to be a smaller segment of the broader religious population.

Critique of Conventional Religion:

Wilber's critique of pre-rational, mythic forms of religion may alienate those who adhere to more traditional, faith-based religious practices. By dismissing much of what is commonly called religious faith, Wilber narrows his audience to those who are willing to explore spirituality beyond conventional boundaries.

Integration of Science and Spirituality

Complex Integration:

The integration of science and spirituality into a coherent framework, as proposed by Wilber, appeals to those who seek a more intellectual and comprehensive approach to understanding reality. This integrative perspective may be too complex or abstract for those who prefer straightforward, faith-based religious practices.

Holistic Framework:

Wilber's holistic framework requires an openness to multiple perspectives and a willingness to transcend traditional dichotomies between science and religion. This appeals to individuals who are comfortable with complexity and ambiguity, a trait more common among mystically inclined individuals.

Appeal and Impact

Limited Segment of Society:

Mystically inclined individuals are typically a smaller subset of the general population. The majority of people tend to align with more conventional religious beliefs and practices or secular perspectives. As a result, Wilber's work may primarily attract those who are already interested in mysticism, personal transformation, and integrative approaches.

Depth of Spiritual Exploration:

Wilber's emphasis on deep spiritual exploration and personal transformation through practices like meditation and contemplation may resonate most strongly with those who are committed to a serious and sustained spiritual practice. Casual readers or those with a superficial interest in spirituality might find his work less accessible or appealing.

Broader Cultural Impact

Intellectual and Cultural Appeal:

Despite its limited appeal among the general religious population, Wilber's work has a significant impact within intellectual and cultural circles that value interdisciplinary and integrative approaches. It has influenced fields such as transpersonal psychology, integral studies, and holistic health.

Influence on Spirituality and Self-Help Movements:

Wilber's ideas have permeated various spirituality and self-help movements, contributing to a broader cultural shift towards more integrative and holistic views of personal development and spiritual growth.


In summary, Ken Wilber's books "The Marriage of Sense and Soul" and "The Religion of Tomorrow" are likely to appeal primarily to mystically inclined individuals who are open to integrating scientific and spiritual perspectives. This segment of society, by definition, is limited compared to the broader population that adheres to more conventional religious beliefs and practices. However, Wilber's work continues to have a significant impact within specific intellectual, cultural, and spiritual communities that value holistic and integrative approaches.

99% of the population does not subscribe to such an advanced mystical spirituality. What can they learn from Wilbers view of religion?

While Ken Wilber's advanced mystical spirituality might primarily resonate with a niche audience, there are several valuable insights that the broader population can glean from his view of religion. Here are some key lessons that can be learned:

1. Integration of Perspectives

Holistic Thinking: Wilber's approach encourages integrating multiple perspectives - scientific, spiritual, subjective, and objective. This can help people appreciate the complexity of human experience and the value of considering diverse viewpoints in understanding the world.

Broadening Horizons: By recognizing that different domains of knowledge (science and spirituality) can coexist and inform each other, individuals can become more open-minded and less inclined to see science and religion as mutually exclusive.

2. Developmental Stages of Consciousness

Personal Growth: Wilber's model highlights the idea that personal and spiritual development can occur in stages. This can motivate individuals to pursue continuous self-improvement and personal growth.

Understanding Others: Recognizing that people operate at different stages of consciousness can foster empathy and reduce judgment, as individuals appreciate that others may have different but equally valid perspectives based on their developmental stage.

3. Critique of Mythic Religion

Critical Thinking: Wilber's critique of pre-rational, mythic religion encourages critical thinking about traditional religious narratives. This can help individuals question dogmatic beliefs and seek a more nuanced understanding of their faith.

Modern Relevance: By moving beyond literal interpretations of religious texts, people can find ways to make their spiritual beliefs more relevant to contemporary life and compatible with scientific understanding.

4. Importance of Inner Experience

Mindfulness and Meditation: Wilber emphasizes practices like meditation and mindfulness, which are accessible to anyone and have well-documented benefits for mental health and well-being.

Inner Awareness: Fostering an awareness of inner experiences can help individuals achieve greater self-awareness and emotional regulation, leading to a more balanced and fulfilling life.

5. Values and Ethics

Moral Development: Wilber's framework underscores the importance of evolving moral and ethical standards. This can inspire people to reflect on their values and strive to act in ways that contribute to the greater good.

Global Ethics: Understanding the interconnectedness of all life can lead to a more compassionate and ethical approach to global issues such as environmental sustainability and social justice.

6. Transcendence and Unity

Unity of Human Experience: Wilber's vision of an underlying unity that transcends individual differences can promote a sense of global solidarity and interconnectedness.

Spiritual Fulfillment: Even without subscribing to advanced mystical spirituality, people can find inspiration in the idea of transcending ego and experiencing a deeper sense of connection with the universe.

7. Practical Application

Balanced Life: Applying Wilber's integral approach can help individuals achieve a more balanced life by attending to physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions of their being.

Integration of Practices: People can learn to integrate practices from various traditions - such as scientific inquiry, artistic expression, and spiritual disciplines - into their daily lives, enriching their overall experience.


While Wilber's advanced mystical spirituality might not be widely adopted, the broader population can still benefit from his insights on integrating multiple perspectives, personal growth, critical thinking, inner awareness, moral development, and the pursuit of a balanced and interconnected life. By applying these principles, individuals can enhance their understanding of themselves and the world, leading to a more harmonious and meaningful existence.

How valid is a mystical knowledge claim such as "I am one with the World Ground"?

The validity of a mystical knowledge claim such as "I am one with the World Ground" depends on the perspective from which it is evaluated. Here are several ways to consider its validity:

1. Philosophical Perspective

Epistemology: From an epistemological standpoint, mystical knowledge claims are often seen as subjective and personal. They are considered valid within the context of the individual's inner experience but may not be subject to the same criteria as empirical knowledge claims.

Phenomenology: Phenomenologists might argue that such claims are valid descriptions of an individual's lived experience. They provide insights into the nature of consciousness and the subjective experience of unity or oneness.

2. Scientific Perspective

Empirical Validation: From a scientific viewpoint, mystical knowledge claims lack empirical validation. They are not testable or falsifiable using scientific methods, which rely on observable and measurable data.

Neurology and Psychology: Some scientists might investigate the neurological and psychological correlates of mystical experiences, identifying brain states or psychological conditions associated with feelings of unity. However, these findings describe the conditions under which such experiences occur rather than validating the content of the mystical claim itself.

3. Religious and Spiritual Perspective

Tradition and Authority: Within many religious and spiritual traditions, mystical knowledge claims are considered valid and are often supported by centuries of mystical literature and practice. They are seen as accessing a deeper or higher reality that transcends ordinary experience.

Intersubjective Validation: Mystical claims can be validated within a community of practitioners who share similar experiences. In such contexts, the claim "I am one with the World Ground" might be understood and accepted as an expression of a common spiritual insight.

4. Philosophical and Metaphysical Perspective

Metaphysical Truths: Some philosophers and metaphysicians argue that mystical experiences point to deeper truths about the nature of reality. For instance, claims of oneness might be interpreted as insights into the fundamental interconnectedness of all existence.

Non-dualism: In non-dual philosophical systems, such as Advaita Vedanta or certain interpretations of Buddhism, the claim "I am one with the World Ground" is seen as a realization of the true nature of self and reality, transcending the illusion of separateness.

5. Pragmatic Perspective

Practical Impact: The validity of mystical knowledge claims can also be assessed based on their practical effects on the individual's life. If such a claim leads to greater well-being, compassion, or ethical behavior, it might be considered valid in a pragmatic sense.

Transformation: Many mystical traditions value the transformative potential of mystical experiences. A claim like "I am one with the World Ground" might be validated by the extent to which it fosters personal growth and spiritual development.


The validity of a mystical knowledge claim such as "I am one with the World Ground" is multifaceted and context-dependent:

Subjective and Phenomenological Validity: Valid within the individual's experience.

Scientific Validity: Lacks empirical validation but may be studied in terms of its neurological and psychological correlates.

Religious and Spiritual Validity: Supported by traditions and communities that value such insights.

Philosophical and Metaphysical Validity: Seen as pointing to deeper truths about reality in certain philosophical systems.

Pragmatic Validity: Considered valid if it leads to positive transformation and practical benefits.

Ultimately, the validity of such a claim depends on the criteria and framework used to evaluate it. Different perspectives offer different insights into its significance and truth.


[1] Checking the Amazon bestseller's chart for the category Science and Religion, we find:

  • #10 - Stephen C. Meyer, The Return of the God Hypothesis (audiobook)
  • #14 - Hugh Ross, Why the Universe is The Way it Is (paperback)
  • #15 - Stephen C. Meyer, The Return of the God Hypothesis (hardcover)
  • #22 - Stephen C. Meyer, The Return of the God Hypothesis (paperback)
  • #1.093 - Ken Wilber, The Marriage of Sense and Soul (paperback 1999 edition)

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