March 25, 2008

Religion, Biology and Natural Design

"At TED 2006, Dan Dennett spoke out for the unbiased study of religion as a natural, biological phenomenon. His hope may come true. The Economist writes of recent headway made into understanding of religious belief -- in particular a new project called Explaining Religion, the "largest-ever scientific study of the subject." EXREL's goal is to integrate research on religious faith in biology, anthropology and psychology. It is funded by the European Commission and tethered to the University of Oxford research community."

Dan Dennett at TED (2006):

4 comments:

Kevin said...

To what extent do you think this talk fits into the idea of integralism? While I completely agree that a push towards further study and education of world religions is definitely an attempt toward a more integral perspective, I find Dennett's talk to be more of the bickering argument between religion and science, or perhaps mythic-membership blue/amber and rational orange/orange. If true, to what extent is this argument a necessary one and to what extent is it simply people getting caught up in fighting for their own perspective/stage against different perspectives/stages? Likewise, to what extent is Dennett himself demonstrate an integral approach?

... said...

Hey Kevin,

Great questions, thanks. I'll try to address them all:

YOU: To what extent do you think this talk fits into the idea of integralism?

ME: I don't. Mostly because our group doesn't subscribe to the notion of "integralism" - in fact we detest most 'isms' in circulation. But I should give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you simply mean to ask 'what does this video have to do with integral kinds of thinking'?

Well, let me first say that our approach is one of analytical holism, or holistic analysis - whichever you prefer. We are interested in wholes (systems) and parts (subsystems), experience and meaning, context and pattern - and the practical applications that results from comprehensive and critical thinking.

So in that sense, Dennett's (and Harris') discourse is becoming a force in the evolution of culture (if only as an attack or alternative to more rigid forms of BLUE/amber, facilitating the move to more rational-ORANGE). Thus, we think it is important for people interested in developing their own awareness and increasing their involvement in sociocultural evolution (integralists?) to be aware of such – on the way to promoting dialogue between ‘systems’, values and worldviews.

Also, from a more formal research point of view, we think it is important to learn more about 'memes' and how they might ‘shape’ human life.

So we have two primary reasons for posting this video: 1) we believe the 'culture wars' (meme wars) between mythic religious thinking and rational scientific thinking are something to engage and discuss, and 2) learning more about memes from a scientific perspective provides us with additional considerations with re: to Integral Theory.

YOU: While I completely agree that a push towards further study and education of world religions is definitely an attempt toward a more integral perspective, I find Dennett's talk to be more of the bickering argument between religion and science, or perhaps mythic-membership blue/amber and rational orange/orange. If true, to what extent is this argument a necessary one and to what extent is it simply people getting caught up in fighting for their own perspective/stage against different perspectives/stages?

ME: You are quite right. But I would suggest that the “bickering” is a natural process of cultural evolution, and as such should be respected. I don’t know if Dennett’s arguments are necessary, but perhaps they are part of the dialectic which will enrich healthier versions of both BLUE and ORANGE.

It would be too condescending for ‘integralists’ to trivialize the participants (and their perspectives) in this cultural dialogue by attempting to impose a supposed ‘transcendent’ view on a historically contingent situational dynamic that has been at unfolding since at least the 17th century.

We need to be aware that some people are going think mythologically, and some people scientifically, and that is alright. Maybe we should help facilitate the dialogical processes (heated or otherwise) inherent in the relationship between these various perspectives in order to someday witness the emergence of something healthier… Remember, we must always respect the “lower” dynamics and allow them to unfold.

YOU: Likewise, to what extent is Dennett himself demonstrate an integral approach?

ME: He doesn’t. But he does have a lot to say about memes, how they work, and the relationship between science and culture.

We only want to take what is true and good from his work and incorporate that into a more comprehensive understanding. One of our core goals at the IRG is to deconstruct integral theory and then reconstruct a more rigorous, flexible, practical and yes integral set of conceptual tools in its place. And to do this we need to look at a wide spectrum of research, opinions and insights. And the content of posts at Integral Praxis will reflect this ongoing project…

I hope that clarifies somewhat.

Let us know your thoughts…

Kevin said...

First, thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt. I have found many of things you point to to be of great use, but have not investigated enough to know what precisely you are up to, and thus what appropriate language I should use.

I think one of the major issues for me is that I am not fully comfortable with my own ability to think integrally (and definitely inept at acting integrally). I am relatively new to putting voice and language to many of these things. On top of that, I live in a somewhat isolated geographical location with little in the way of available discourse at an integral level. So, being uncomfortable, I am in part seeking connection and verification that my suspicions and ideas are indeed encompassing the array of perspectives possible.

I appreciate your explanations and find them very helpful. Given your emphasis, which I think is right, on ensuring that we do not "trivialize the participants...in this cultural dialogue", how do we balance that impulse with what for me is a much stronger impulse to push myself and others in the direction of transcendence? I find this issue to be very delicate within me and with what I see from integrally minded folks. On the one hand we risk slipping, perhaps back, into a place where we cannot make judgments and on the other we risk slipping, perhaps further back, into a place where we are overly and overtly judgmental.

And to the final comment, I suppose I read Integral Praxis looking for the verification mentioned above. I understand the caveat of Integral Praxis that you are not claiming that everything in it is encompassing this entirely integral perspective, but that the amalgam of various resources creates a mosaic of all the available perspectives. Have you all thought about providing some additional commentary to some of the posts in order to outline perhaps some of your thoughts on what you got out of the particular resource within the context of a broader, more integral perspective?

... said...

KEVIN: First, thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt. I have found many of things you point to to be of great use, but have not investigated enough to know what precisely you are up to, and thus what appropriate language I should use.

ME: Tricky isn’t it? How do we know what signaling system (e.g., language, form of communication) to use, engage or avoid when trying to effectively communicate with someone we don’t know?

KEVIN: I think one of the major issues for me is that I am not fully comfortable with my own ability to think integrally (and definitely inept at acting integrally). I am relatively new to putting voice and language to many of these things. On top of that, I live in a somewhat isolated geographical location with little in the way of available discourse at an integral level. So, being uncomfortable, I am in part seeking connection and verification that my suspicions and ideas are indeed encompassing the array of perspectives possible.

ME: That is a very genuine statement Kevin. I often feel similar to that. As my conceptual frameworks loosen, I find it difficult to convey to others the rich freedom of consciousness I experience. And certainly most people I encounter on a daily basis are more interested in other things than exploring the post-formalities of integral-esque thinking.

But know that at I.P we are open to a wide range of perspectives, so feel free to express yourself in ways that more deeply convey what will inevitably become your own version of ‘integral’ consciousness.

KEVIN: I appreciate your explanations and find them very helpful. Given your emphasis, which I think is right, on ensuring that we do not "trivialize the participants...in this cultural dialogue", how do we balance that impulse with what for me is a much stronger impulse to push myself and others in the direction of transcendence?

ME: That’s an excellent question Kevin. And one the IRG is fully committed to finding the answer to.

There are, of course, several opinions on this matter but we suggest, first, to know where (what kind of perspective) people are coming from – and not to judge, but to understand them on their own terms. And we must also respect the factors (historical or otherwise) that led to those perspectives as well. Only then we can help facilitate the emergence of more complex perspectives/behaviors/waves of awareness by helping provide the appropriate and necessary ‘resources’ (e.g., discussions, information, or enhanced life-conditions) for people to use, express and build upon their own inherent capacities.

Generally, if we speak/act in ways that help bring out the best in people – by allowing them to maximize their own capacities and talents and become self-motivated to explore beyond – then people will eventually move towards forms transcendence that are most appropriate to them and their situation.

Have you read/learned about the notion of “Natural Design” in the work of Spiral Dynamics? There are a few points where I might disagree with how Beck et al. theorize human development and change dynamics, yet more broadly we have found the work of Clare Graves and SDi insightful and practical.

KEVIN: I find this issue to be very delicate within me and with what I see from integrally minded folks. On the one hand we risk slipping, perhaps back, into a place where we cannot make judgments and on the other we risk slipping, perhaps further back, into a place where we are overly and overtly judgmental.

ME: In my opinion Kevin, many integrally-minded folks haven’t truly ‘gotten’ what we believe is the FOUNDATION of integral thinking per se: PRAXIS. That is to say, that it doesn’t matter what language or terminology we use as long as the overall result is a more healthy, adaptive and pragmatically aligned engagement of nature, self and culture.

Authentically ‘integral’ thinkers care less about holding judgments than they would about generating more practical and mutual enhancing modes of practice, discourse and relation. ‘Judgment’ as discernment is a necessity, but the validity and import of any particular discernment ought to be in its overall practical benefit for all sentient beings.

KEVIN: And to the final comment, I suppose I read Integral Praxis looking for the verification mentioned above. I understand the caveat of Integral Praxis that you are not claiming that everything in it is encompassing this entirely integral perspective, but that the amalgam of various resources creates a mosaic of all the available perspectives.

ME: Wow. We couldn’t have said it better Kevin, thank you for that! “…a mosaic of available perspectives…” – that is exactly what we strive for here. “Integral” for us is a flexible, flowing, compassionate orientation within the world-ecology, while making use of an ability to take on a variety of perspectives whenever necessary – and always working towards the health of the whole species, planet and kosmos.

The Integral Research Group is a means for us to explore and enact as many perspectives and insights as we can, while simultaneously allowing us the opportunity to document, collect and integrate the widest range of knowledge available to us as a species at this time. And, please remember, our primary objective will always be PRAXIS.

KEVIN: Have you all thought about providing some additional commentary to some of the posts in order to outline perhaps some of your thoughts on what you got out of the particular resource within the context of a broader, more integral perspective?

ME: Absolutely. So far we have been reluctant to provide too much in the way of ‘instruction’ or ‘suggestion’ to our readers because we don’t want to proscribe our own version of ‘integral’ on anyone – especially since our vision is not yet fully developed. Yet, as our research and projects develop we intend to provide more and more commentary and perspective on how all our posts and projects relate to integral thinking and the Integral Community more generally. We only hope that readers/collaborators come along with us for the ride.

So, again, thank you so much for your feedback Kevin, it is so important to us. Your comments are very insightful and considered.

Let me extend our gratitude by offering you an opportunity to “guest post” here at Integral Praxis any time. I have looked over your blogs and would be very excited about having you create a post relating what you do to integral theory, integral culture or any other post-formal line of reasoning you might suggest. Please do consider it. And contact us directly at any time.

All the best to you,

Michael~

Related Posts with Thumbnails