Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Richard Dawkins: The Master of Flatland has a new interview with Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene and Climbing Mount Improbable and fervent anti-creationist. Dawkins is certainly one of the most brilliant advocates for science, but he is also the leading proponent of scientism, the elevation of science to the status of absolute, unparalleled truth.

Dawkins only gives legitimacy to the upper right quadrant of human experience, reducing the entire buzzing chaos of creation to the immutable laws of nature. The idea of divinity is, to him, absurd. In fact, the idea of placing value in the interiority of experience is absurd. Here is a quote from the interview [emphasis in Dawkins's answer is mine]:
You're concerned about the state of education, especially science education. If you were able to teach every person, what would you want people to believe?

I would want them to believe whatever evidence leads them to; I would want them to look at the evidence, judge it on its merits, not accept things because of internal revelation or faith, but purely on the basis of evidence.

With this answer, Dawkins has effectively dismissed both of the interior quadrants, individual and collective. He seems unable to comprehend that one can apply the scientific methods of truth acquisition to the claims of interiority in the same way that you can to exteriority.

For example, Buddhism makes a truth claim that if one meditates in a certain way for a given period of time, that one will have certain experiences. There is a very precise prescription and a very precise expected outcome. This is testable. Dawkins could follow the prescription, note his experiences, and then compare his results to those of others who have undertaken the same experiment.

Ken Wilber gives the following definition of the scientific method (The Marriage of Sense and Soul), insofar as one specific method can be said to exist:
1. Instrumental injunction: this almost always come in the form of "If you want to know this, do this." It can be a practice, an exemplar, an experiment, and so on.

2. Direct apprehension: "An immediate experience of the domain brought forth by the injunction; that is, a direct experience or apprehension of data." This applies even if the data is mediated, for example, computer generated data on the movement of stars or variations in lightwave frequency for which we rely on machines.

3. Communal confirmation or rejection: This is where one checks the results against those of others who have undertaken the same experiment.
This method allows one to test the interiority of experience to determine its truth claims. One of the main objections some scientists give for rejecting all interiority as purely subjective is the inability to test its claims. It simply isn't true.

This also opens the possibility of separating scientific inquiry into three broad domains, rather than the single domain now considered the realm of science. Instead of "science," there would be sensory empiricism (the upper right quadrant), mental empiricism (both upper right and upper left), and contemplative empiricism (upper left quadrant). More precisely, there would be a monological science (the science of sensory experience), a dialogical science (a science of mental experience), and a translogical science (a science of spiritual experience).

Adopting this understanding would take a lot of the wind out of Dawkins's arguments against anything other than a flatland conception of the universe.

We might also move toward an understanding that evolution is not random or based solely on the survival of the most efficient genes. All of the world's great mystic traditions perceive creation as coherent, meaningful, and self-guided. They arrived at these understandings through contemplative science. Some offer God as an explanation; others do not. Many modern mystics intuit the Kosmos itself to be consciousness and evolving toward full awareness of itself.

I'm not advocating for intelligent design. ID is creationism dressed up for a walk through the mall. I don't think the world is so complex that we need a creator God to explain it all. This isn't a testable hypothesis.

One of the things I do like about Dawkins is his insistence that people should understand the basics of science. Roughly 100 million Americans believe that a God directly created human beings completely independent of evolution. Dawkins calls these people names. That probably isn't the best way to convince them that your own point of view is correct.

If you understand the developmental Spiral, it's clear that people have differing worldviews depending on where they are along the Spiral. Using Orange logic (evolution, scientism) isn't going to convince someone whose spiritual developmental line is centered in Blue, Green, or higher. Even the majority of Orange-centered people do not reject the notion of divinity--they simply define it differently depending on where they are on the Spiral.

A poll taken a few years ago confirmed that 92 percent of Americans believe in "God." The difference is in how they define what that God is in their lives.

I firmly believe in evolution, even if I quibble with some of the details. However, I also believe that the Kosmos is not random, indifferent, and without purpose. To Dawkins, I am traitor to science. To me, Dawkins is cut off from half of what it means to be human.

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