Friday, September 07, 2007

The Failure of the Loud Atheists

Right after I posted my speedlinks for today, my buddy ~C4Chaos posted an excellent rant about the failure of integral, and Ken Wilber in particular, to confront the fundamentalism of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and their crew (the loud atheists). It's worth the read.

It got me thinking a bit about the agenda of the loud atheists. They certainly have many valid points, and just as many flaws.

Among the biggest flaws is their failure to distinguish between objective reality and subjective reality. Spiritual experiences (not religious beliefs, which are cultural -- subjective yes, but communally held, therefore not direct experience) are subjective and cannot be proven or disproven by scientific objectivism. As Wilber points out in The Marriage of Sense and Soul, spiritual experiences can be subjected to the scientific method -- select an injunction (for example: Zen meditation produces a specific effect), do the test, then see if your results conform to other similar tests of the same injunction. Simple, but no one does this with spiritual experience. The loud atheists reject ALL spiritual experience without testing the injunctions (although Sam Harris is doing meditation, so maybe he is the most open to the possibility that he may be partially wrong).

Another major failing, in my mind, is to lump all fundamentalisms into one fundamentalism. I think there is a big difference between Christian fundamentalists (the Blue meme in Spiral Dynamics) and Islamic fundamentalists (which I think falls into the Red-blue memetic transition -- more Red than Blue in many ways). Treating all fundamentalisms the same is a recipe for disaster.

When Hitchens, Harris, and Dawkins tell Christian fundamentalists that they are no different than Islamic fundamentalists (and I have made this mistake as well), the Christians will immediately tune out anything else these critics might have to say, no matter how much truth they might bring. This is a huge failure on their part to understand the subtle distinctions in worldviews.

And that brings me to the final big issue I have with the loud atheists -- they have no comprehension of developmental worldviews, which are not specific to integral theory. Jean Gebser was writing about these distinctions nearly 70 years ago, so this isn't new information. Until the loud atheists can grasp that cultures -- just like people -- go through developmental stages in how they relate to the world, their arguments will fail to do anything other create more polarization and anger.

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