Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Integral Naked Interview on Science and Religion

This week's Integral Naked interview is a little different. Usually, it's Ken Wilber or Stuart Davis interviewing someone directly or indirectly involved with the Integral movement. This week, it's someone else interviewing Ken Wilber about his philosophy. Since the Wilber interview is part of a five-hour series on science and religion to be distributed to NPR stations this fall, it focuses on the possibility of reconciling science with religion.

Wilber argues that those who say that science and religion can't be reconciled are operating from a limited view of science that needlessly confines itself to investigating only the realm of empirical, physical phenomena, or from a primitive view of religion that revolves around antiquated attachment to literal myths.

Wilber maintains that science, in its broadest sense, studies both the physical world and the world of consciousness by using systematic means to observe its object, generate data and conclusions based on this data, and verify the data and conclusions within a trained community qualified to replicate the observations and evaluate the results.

He further maintains that there are essentially two types of religion: the aforementioned mythical or "exoteric" religion and "meditative" or "esoteric" religion. The latter is a kind of science in that it uses systematic methods of meditation and other disciplines to study the contents of consciousness and arrive at experiential results that are subject to replication and confirmation by others who have undertaken the same training. The science of meditative religion generates replicable results--e.g., states and stages of consciousness that can increasingly be correlated with results obtained by such physical science disciplines as neurophysiology. That is, certain states or stages of consciousness are accompanied by corresponding changes in brain functioning that can be observed with sophisticated EEG's, MRI's, and the like. And people who undergo the practice necessary to have these experiences and insights do not need to read and embrace scriptural myths in order to have or confirm their experiences and insights.

A question raised by the interviewer that Wilber only began to touch upon in Part 1 of the interview (the second part will appear later on Integral Naked) was, Do the replicable experiences or insights of meditative religion point to realities beyond themselves? For instance, I and others who undergo certain meditative or spiritual disciplines may experience oneness with God, but does this establish that there actually IS a God with which we are all one?
This is a question I continue to grapple with, and I hope Wilber addresses it more fully in Part 2. If I remain unconvinced that these replicable religious or spiritual experiences are true rather than mere hallucinations or delusions, I'll be hard pressed to consider any kind of religious or spiritual practice as scientific and to accept any proposed reconciliation of science and religion.

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