Sunday, March 08, 2009

A Confluence of Ken Wilber & Reality...

I've had a breakthrough in the work I've been doing, sort of (a real breakthrough would be to transfer my problem-solving methodology to someone else so I can solve more problems, but that hasn't happened yet).

However, I have had a breakthrough in the work I've been doing, that basically is predicted by a theorem of information theory. What wasn't predicted though is how the particular realization of what I'm working on is realized. Because of the complexity of the systems involved, it's quite a bit easier to assign the problem of how to choose the best design to be solved by a computer, more or less (less than you might think from this description however). But it requires the old Edison trick of trying 99 things before the 100th. So while it wasn't a sure thing that the 100th thing I tried would be da bomb, as it was once said, it was a certainty that something would be "it."

In an interesting coincidence, I've also been involved in a discussion on methodological naturalism versus (I guess) metaphysics here, where this Ken Wilber stuff came in again.

Now I've taken various kinds of personality tests, and I have found - perhaps it's a result of my zen practice, or perhaps the fact that I'm a low level manager - that I'm the type of person that wants a summary, I want you to tell me the concise story and key points in 5 words or less.

Ken Wilber doesn't do that for me, to say the least, and the fact that it appears that he's trying to construct intellectual edifices with a verbosity and jargon that makes his writings hard to penetrate engenders skepticism in me. Seriously, I've found Sartre, Derrida and Kierkegaard much easier to read, and Mr. Wilber cannot tie their shoelaces intellectually. The fact that he appears to opine on science and methodological naturalism is embarrassing, or ought to be to him.

Anyway, from the link above, one link lead to another and finally to here. Quoting Mr. Wilber:

Why can't evolutionary science seem to bring us any closer to understanding our own interior experiences, as scientific materialists attempt to explain consciousness by explaining it away?

This is kind of like asking "Why doesn't Galois Theory bring us any closer to an understanding of Differential Geometry?" except for the fact that evolutionary biology does seem to have a great deal to say about observations of other species, which in turn do have implications about the nature of our own awareness. I'd refer to the interested reader to folks like Richard Dawkins or other biologists, but I'd just note in passing that elephants and other mammals appear to get death on some level.

That last link's writer kind of gets it:

If Wilber still has doubts about the possibility of "chance" evolution of eyes and wings, he would do well to consult Ernst Mayr, who writes in What Evolution Is (2001, Appendix A: "What Criticisms Have Been Made Of Evolutionary Theory?", p. 269):

The story of evolution as it was worked out during the past fifty years continues to be attacked and criticized. The critics either hold an entirely different ideology, as do the creationists, or they simply misunderstand the Darwinian paradigm. An author [such as Wilber] who says: "I can not believe that the eye evolved through a series of accidents," documents that he or she simply does not understand the two-step nature of natural selection [i.e. random variation and [quasi-]non-random survival and reproduction, see p. 119-120]."

I had to add the [quasi] in above as there is something elegantly random about death and reproduction (i.e., the famed "birth death process") which are actually hardly "accidents"; this brings us to another point about these topics: most people who are critics of evolution (or for that matter, derivative securities) who talk about random events and such also don't know what they're talking about.

There is also a non-random element to survival and reproduction as well, which the author rightly notes.

Also read Mr. Visser here.

Ken Wilber really does not seem to understand evolutionary biology or science at all, which would imply of course that his understanding of philosophy is lacking in the basics (science didn't spring from somebody who wanted to come up with an alternative pastime to Scrabble), and in particular, his shtick, "Integral Theory" has in fact a huge gaping hole.

Wilber doesn't seem to get that science indeed has predictive uses, and can predict things that have not been previously observed. Lucky for me though, I've been able to show a very interesting preliminary result. And the feeling I get is...awe.

Ken Wilber is present in his words, and geez, I'm present in mine. I'm very grateful that I can make a living, especially in these times, observing things and predicting things and doing the science of engineering.

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