|TWENTY BOOMERITIS BLUNDERS: SHODDY SCHOLARSHIP, SALACIOUS SEX, AND SHAM SPIRITUALITY|
Version 1.1 (August 7, 2006)
by Jim Andrews
INITIALLY, I WAS VERY IMPRESSED with Boomeritis: A Novel That Will Set You Free by Ken Wilber (KW), especially KW’s presentation of the Spiral Dynamics® model of psychological and cultural development, his vivisection of deconstructive postmodernism, and his intriguing integral vision.
However, this alleged “heart-breaking work of staggering genius” (page 326) had some troubling aspects, notably the unrelenting lascivious sexuality and the fanciful spirituality, and over time, I became increasingly unsettled about Boomeritis. My tipping point occurred soon after reading Geoffrey Falk’s critique “Norman Einstein (Ken Wilber)” which prompted me to present some of my concerns in an essay “Ken Wilber on Meditation: A Baffling Babbling of Unending Nonsense.”
This new essay presents twenty mistakes in Boomeritis that I found to be distracting, disruptive, and disturbing. I’ve grouped these twenty blunders into three categories: Shoddy Scholarship (consisting of minor blunders), Salacious Sex (consisting of moderate blunders), and Sham Spirituality (consisting of major blunders). A friend has asked me how I can challenge the veracity of fiction, especially a novel that includes deliberately false statements; the second of the seven characteristics of a “perfect postmodern novel” (page 324) permits an author to “[i]nclude real references, make some of them up, mix and match, what the hell” (page 325). Will readers agree that I’ve exposed mistakes and errors in Boomeritis? That’s for each reader to determine.
CATEGORY I — SHODDY SCHOLARSHIP (MINOR BLUNDERS)
Blunder 0. There’s Something About Chloe. In the “About the Author Section” opposite page 456, Chloe Walters is identified as KW’s fiancé, which is a man engaged to be married; KW should have described Chloe as his fiancée, a woman engaged to be married. I suspect that many readers are now thinking that this is just a trivial, inconsequential oversight. Well, they’re right, so I’ve numbered this Blunder zero, and it won’t count towards my list of twenty blunders.
Blunder 1. Department of Redundancy Department. KW repeats himself over and over and over and over again; plenty of duplication, reduplication, reiteration, repetition, and replication. I first noticed KW’s habit of redundancy when I read the two Spiral Dynamics® tutorials: one in Chapter 1 then another in Chapter 3. Here are more examples:
Ridicules Boomer enchantment with the New Paradigm on pages 18-19, 37, 150, 293, 306, 311, 342-51
States the Prime Directive on pages 67, 108-09, 110, 376-77, 382, 402, and 403
Describes the total awakening of the universe on pages 275, 276, 301, 368 (twice), 432, 433, and 439 (More about this in Blunder 19)
Proclaims that global problems require Integral (worldcentric/universal) values on pages 53, 66, 109, 138, 144-47, 251, 295, and 369
Insists that Boomeritis/Green is the obstacle to Second Tier on pages 17-19, 31-32, 38, 108, 111, 126, 153, 155, 208, 295, 302, 306-07, 370, and 398-99
Tells us that Boomeritis/Green attacks/hates/exposes hierarchies and social oppression on pages 107, 124, 133-34, 211, 214, 216, 218-19, 254-55, 348-49, and 371-73
Declares that we all start at Square One (Beige, Egocentric, Preconventional) on pages 69, 116, 252, 275, 277, 402, 408, 429, and 434
Explains flatland on pages 53, 94, 102, 124, 134, 181, 250, 295, 332, 359, 370, and 420
Defines boomeritis on pages: 36, 61, 102, 142-43, 149, 150, 152, 169, 181, 233, 235, 302, 303, 327, 329, 332, 348, 351, 358, 359, 395, 398, and 420
Identifies three stages of development on pages 47, 48, 50, 53, 56, 57, 58, 65, 66, 67, 69, 124, 135, 144-45, 147, 167, 251, 254, 277, 295, 373, 375, 379, 408, 409, 410, and 424
Blunder 2. You Deserve a Burn Today. On page 174, Derek Van Cleef lectures:
In 1993, a woman pulled into a McDonald’s, ordered a cup of coffee, got in her car, took the lid off the coffee, placed the open cup in her lap, and stepped on the gas. The coffee spilled and burned her leg. She sued McDonald’s for 2 million dollars in damages, and she won. It was McDonald’s fault for making the coffee too hot.
KW presents an inaccurate, sensational, sound-bite summary of this widely publicized and controversial case. I’ve identified at least one false or misleading statement in each sentence:
“[she] stepped on the gas.” Fact: She was a passenger, and the car was stopped.
“the coffee…burned her leg.” Fact: She received third-degree burns over six percent of her body, including her inner thighs, perineum, buttocks, and genital/groin areas. She was hospitalized for eight days and received debridement (removal of tissue) and skin grafting.
“[s]he sued McDonald’s for 2 million dollars in damages.” Fact: She initially had offered to settle with McDonald’s for a mere $20,000, but McDonald’s refused her offer.
“and she won” [implying that she won “2 million dollars in damages”]. Fact: The jury awarded her $200,000 in compensatory damages (reduced to $160,000 because the jury found her 20 percent at fault) and $2.7 million in punitive damages (reduced to $480,000 by the trial judge) for a total award of $640,000.
“the coffee [was] too hot.” Fact: At 180ş to 190ş, the coffee was not just “too hot,” it was scalding and capable of inflicting third-degree burns in just two to seven seconds.
If you wish to learn more about this case, see the References section for links to opposing views.
Blunder 3. Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do? On page 174, Derek Van Cleef rants:
... in the Menendez brothers trial, where two brothers, who shot their parents as they lay sleeping, were originally acquitted because they claimed they were “abused” by their father.
The Menendez brothers were never “acquitted.” While their first trials resulted in deadlocked (or hung) juries, their patricidal and matricidal adventures did not go unpunished in their second trials. In 1996, Lyle and Erik were each convicted of two counts of first degree murder, as well as conspiracy to commit murder, and they were then sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Beneath their photo at CourtTV.com is the caption “The Brothers Grim.”
Blunder 4. I Attended Law School at Urban Legends University. On page 178:
Van Cleef began reading clippings from various newspapers. “Consider the legal and cultural climate that inspired the men who were injured while carrying refrigerators on their backs during ‘refrigerator races’ to sue the manufacturer because the appliances carried insufficient warnings of possible injury from such activities.”
My research revealed the following:
This story was not taken from a newspaper clipping, but instead was lifted ver batim from page 126 of A Nation of Victims by Charles J. Sykes
It was also mentioned in The Thinker’s Way by John Chaffee and in a Washington Post Magazine article “Sue, Sue, Sue, Sue-eee!” by Alex Heard in 1988.
None of these sources provide any more details, a legal citation, or an indication whether this suit was dismissed, was settled, went to trial, resulted in a verdict, was appealed, etc.
After too many hours of research, I’ve concluded that this lawsuit most likely never happened, but even if it were a true story, all that it proves is that anybody can sue anybody over anything.
Blunder 5. A Blurb is a Blurb is a Blurb. On page 244, Lesa Powell preaches:
How badly has boomeritis invaded American universities—your very own university, for example? How mean has the mean green meme become? The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses, by Kors and Silverglate, is a thorough survey of the actual state of affairs. Far from being right-wing ideologues, its authors are liberals in good standing. Instead of quoting case after case—I urge all of you to consult this book for yourselves—I will give a few of the responses from critics, simply to try to convey a sense of the urgency and outrage.
Powell then cites a series of flattering endorsements from Linda Chavez, Alan Dershowitz, Christina Sommers, Nat Hentoff, and Wendy Kaminer in support of The Betrayal of Liberty. These alleged “responses from critics” are actually blurbs taken ver batim from the back cover of the 1998 hardcover edition of The Shadow University. In fact, Dershowitz, Hentoff, and Kaminer were thanked for their assistance by Kors and Silverglate on page X of the Acknowledgements. Let me toss a lifeline to KW on this one: in the revised edition of Boomeritis, change the phrase “responses from critics” to “responses from social critics across the ideological spectrum.”
Blunder 6. When the Deep Blue Falls Over Sleepy Garden Walls. KW gets it wrong twice when recounting an epic event in recent chess history:
“Deep Thought already beat the pants off Kasparov....” (young KW on page 57)
“... Deep Thought, the IBM that beat Kasparov at chess.” (Scott on page 161)
Kasparov easily defeated Deep Thought in a two-game match in 1989; it was a heavily upgraded Deep Blue (AKA, Deeper Blue) that defeated Kasparov 3.5 to 2.5 in a six-game rematch in 1997.
Blunder 7. All Quiet on the Fraternity Front. On page 227, young KW’s Dad recalls the horror of his college years when he had a student deferment from military service:
This is what I remember at the beginning, when the war broke out, and they started the draft, started calling up us guys. Started calling the men, just the men, to go fight in the trenches of Vietnam. I would wake up at night, sweating, scared out of my wits, truly frightened to death.
I’ve identified three historical problems with this recollection:
“when the war broke out.” The Vietnam War never abruptly “broke out” like World War II or the Korean War. There were gradual increases in American military support under Eisenhower and JFK, followed by massive troop deployments under LBJ and Nixon.
“they started the draft.” The draft wasn’t started during the Vietnam War. In the US, there was initially the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 which expired in 1947; the draft was reinstated in 1948, then superceded by the Universal Military Training and Service Act of 1951. Draft call-ups increased with troop demands for Vietnam.
“to go fight in the trenches of Vietnam.” The Vietnam War was a dynamic war of both guerilla and conventional warfare. Certainly there were some fixed earthen fortifications (bunkers, trenches, etc.) and a few sieges (e.g., Khe Sanh in 1968), but there was no static trench warfare similar to what occurred during World War I on the Western Front.
Blunder 8. Who Shoved Me Down the 12 Steps? On page 170, Joan Hazelton says:
Over the next few days, what we will be doing is quite similar to what is called “a confrontation” with an alcohol or drug abuser. Family and loved ones gather to confront the individual with evidence of the dysfunction, and a painful—but ultimately, it is hoped, liberating—awareness results.
“Confrontation” (also used by Margaret Carlton on page 383) is an inappropriate term to use here; the much more common term is “intervention.”
Blunder 9. Literary License Revoked: Rebuke Author and Impound Keyboard! Neither of the two discussions of literature—Lesa Powell’s lecture “Derrida and Deconstruction” on pages 196-201 nor Margaret Carlton’s lecture “Literary Theory” on pages 312-5—mentions one of the most insidious intrusions of deconstructive postmodernism, the politicization of literary criticism.
Margaret Carlson’s lecture begins:
We have seen that many of the profound insights of postmodernism—such as the importance of pluralism, contextualism, and interpretation—were taken to extremes by boomeritis and the mean green meme, with results that ranged from comical to criminal to tragic. Few, however, were more entertaining than literary theory.
Her lecture explores the self-reflexivity and narcissism in postmodern art interpretation, but she fails to discuss how literary criticism has been hijacked by pomomucu (postmodern multicultural) critics who denigrate Western literature and promote an overtly political agenda. This troubling state of affairs is brilliantly exposed in Literature Lost by John Ellis; here is a very brief summary:
Traditionally, the study of Western literature was seen to enrich lives by enabling us to see ourselves in perspective, think deeply about vital issues, and become more enlightened citizens. But Western literature is now scorned because of claims that it reflects pernicious and reactionary race, gender, and class attitudes, reinforces these attitudes in the public, and permits the privileged, ruling elite to maintain power and control.
Historically, universities have argued for political and ideological independence, resisting efforts to instill values, seeing their role as analysis and reflection, and insisting on academic freedom and the disinterested search for truth. However, literary criticism now has an overtly political function: seeing politics as a central issue, working for social and political change, and inculcating particular political viewpoints in their students.
Ellis observes that there are now great changes in the way literature is taught; notably, the primary issue in literary texts is the question of race, gender, and class oppression. The politicization of literary criticism is a core element of extreme postmodernism, and I recommend to KW that he research then include this vital “mean green meme” issue in any future revision of Boomeritis.
Blunder 10. The Hanging Judge Gaucho Marx, the Law West of the Kosmos. On page 99, the young KW states:
my dad used to quote Karl Marx all the time: “A capitalist will sell you the rope you are going to hang him with.”
Here are several problems with this Karl Marx quotation:
Dangling prepositions are something that I’m distressed about. It was a bad habit that I was into. I did it often, and it got me down. But it was a practice that I finally got over.
It just doesn’t sound like Marx, a pompous pseudo-scholar who was wrong about almost everything. His recipe for human transformation, Abolition of Private Property = Utopia, instigated massive social engineering experiments in the USSR and China during the 20th Century, resulting in the death of as many as 100M people. Fortunately, Marxism is now totally discredited and survives in just a few backward outposts: Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba, and the humanities departments at most North American colleges and universities.
This statement didn’t appear in any books of quotations at my local university library.
The fortuitous discovery of They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions revealed that this quotation is:
more typically stated as “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which to hang them”
commonly attributed not to Karl Marx but to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, and
almost certainly a fake quote, according to New York Times columnist William Safire and several experts on the former Soviet Union.
Blunder 11. The Incredible Shrinking Brain. On page 136, Jonathan declares:
Hey, did you read the Harvard study showing that tofu causes the brain to shrink? The phytoestrogens in it. Soy products measurably lower IQ.
Hey yourself! This one strikes pretty close to home as I’ve been eating low on the food chain for over a decade, and I’ve had more than my share of tofu and soy products, and I can tell you something. I ... ah ... well ... I mean.... What were we discussing? I’ll have to get back to you....
Oh yeah, now I remember. Lots of excitement when the article “Brain Aging and Midlife Tofu Consumption” appeared in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2000, but compare KW’s hip quip with the thoughtful lead editorial and the Discussion at the end of the article.
The Harvard School of Public Health has a balanced summary of research on soy and memory:
A few studies have raised the possibility that eating soy could help prevent the age-related loss of memory or decline in cognitive function. Two recent trials have yielded contradictory results in this area, with one showing a benefit for soy and another showing no benefit. Others go further, and suggest that too much soy could lead to memory problems. Among older women of Japanese ancestry living in Hawaii, those who relied on the traditional soy-based diet were more likely to have cognitive problems than those who switched to a more Western diet.
Soy and memory is a complex issue with competing claims, yet KW presents merely a glib gibe.
CATEGORY II — SALACIOUS SEX (MODERATE BLUNDERS)
Blunder 12. Sir Gresham and the Quest for the Wholly Male. The low point in Boomeritis was KW’s Dad’s degenerate discourse on the origin of modern feminism as “a movement that was actually invented by five males in the basement of Dartmouth in 1965” (pages 307-11). I was angered and saddened at this crass humor that is best left in locker rooms, fraternity houses, and truck stops (with deepest apologies to all the decent athletes, fraternity men, and truck drivers).
Are you familiar with Gresham’s Law, the principle that bad money drives out good money? (To avoid receiving corrections from economists, here’s a more precise statement of Gresham’s Law: bad money drives good money out of circulation if legal tender laws require that they exchange for the same price.) In 1558, Sir Thomas Gresham explained to Queen Elizabeth I that the “bad” coins adulterated with base metals were driving the “good” coins of pure silver out of circulation. An ancient example is the inflation due to the debasement of the pure silver Greek drachma with the silver and copper Roman denarius. More recently, when copper-nickel clad coins were introduced by the U.S. Mint in 1965, pre-1965 coins that were 90% silver promptly disappeared.
Well, KW’s lewd explanation of the rise of modern feminism was a case of bad ideas driving out good ideas. Rather than this libidinous fantasy, KW could have given us a thoughtful, informative analysis concerning the rise of modern feminism in the 1960’s using his All Quadrant model to explore the intentional, behavioral, cultural, and social factors that generated modern feminism. Instead of presenting his readers with good (integral, transpersonal, superconscious, worldcentric) ideas, KW drove these out with bad (instinctual, prepersonal, subconscious, crotchcentric) ideas.
Blunder 13. Satyrman, Satyrman, Does Whatever a Satyr Can. I was battered by the hailstorm of puerile sexual reveries despite KW’s proud claim in an online interview that “[p]robably the central message of the novel actually occurs in the fantasy sequences.”
While KW’s “tantric” sexual fantasies are bolded so they are easy to skip, they are unrelenting; the first four chapters include 29 explicit sexual fantasies in just 150 pages—a rate of one fantasy every five pages. At a reading pace of about two minutes per page, that’s right on schedule since:
“Extensive research has demonstrated that the average twenty-something male has an X-rated sexual fantasy once every ten minutes.” (Chloe on page 147)
“Through the male mind, every ten minutes, comes this huge erotic fantasy, and what’s the poor boy to do?” (Chloe on page 215)
It seems that KW’s response to Chloe’s question, “what’s the poor boy to do?” is to share each “X-rated ... huge erotic fantasy” with his readers. What psychological dynamic lurks behind the uninhibited, immature eroticism in Boomeritis? One correspondent has speculated that:
... weaving in the mind-space of the sexual, adolescent youngster and others—his dad—etc., seemed, well, tacky and unnecessary. Maybe that’s part of being hip, but it suggested a shadow Dionysian complex that included a measure of sadism, the adolescent shocking—epater le bourgeoise—shock the middleclass mind ... a very mild form of George Carlin, who mixes his genius sensitivity for words and predicaments with what seems to me to be a potty-mouthed cynicism that I deem unnecessary and saddening. Sort of like a great musician preferring to play piano in a whorehouse.
Some may bitterly protest that this is a fictional KW in Boomeritis and not the real KW, or is it? Here’s an unsettling account of the real KW that appeared in a post at the Integral Naked Forum:
I wrote in a controversial thread a long time back [1/21/2004] about visiting Ken’s house with a group of students and being surprised by his pantomimed masturbation and his laughing but quite frequent requests for blowjobs from the audience. I laughed with everyone else, but at the back of my mind, I realized I was disturbed and disappointed by it, not because I don’t think a guy should enjoy a blowjob!, but because it just seemed so “in your face” and odd and definitely controversial for someone who is seeking to move more into the public light, where so much controversy surrounds “gurus” and spiritual teachers already. But other people I talked to weren’t bothered by it at all, so maybe he just gauged his audience correctly, realized that the conservative schmucks were few and far between, and decided to have fun. (Balder on 11/2/2004)
Well, I’m not going to condemn KW based solely on a hearsay account of just a single episode. As a professor once told me, “Never draw a conclusion about a population from a sample size of one,” and another professor has advised me that he illustrated this very same point with the joke: “All soldiers march in single file. At least the only one I ever saw did!” But if KW’s misconduct is a pattern, then I recommend that his friends promptly conduct an intervention (see Blunder 8).
CATEGORY III — SHAM SPIRITUALITY (MAJOR BLUNDERS)
Blunder 14. Let’s Get Physical, Physical. On page 411, Carla Fuentes pontificates on Integral Transformative Practice:
“So let us start with the physical. This can be very simple—perhaps adopting a healthier diet. Or taking up exercise—we recommend weight lifting because its physiological benefits are far greater than any others; but it can also be swimming, jogging, hatha yoga, and so on. We find clinically that about 50% of the changes that occur in transformation actually occur at this simple physical level, so don’t pooh-pooh it!” she proclaimed with a jaunty laugh.
What an amazing assertion: “about 50% of the changes that occur in transformation actually occur at this simple physical level.” Where’s the evidence? KW, as usual, cites no supporting evidence in the novel or his online endnotes. If these claims were true, wouldn’t vegetarians, professional and amateur athletes, joggers, body builders, etc. be among the most highly evolved humans on Earth? My response to Dr. Fuentes: “Pooh-pooh,” proclaimed with a jaunty laugh.
Blunder 15. Spirit’s Up! Where’s the Wax for My Ouija Board? Joan Hazelton lectures:
“There is considerable evidence, for example, that certain types of psychic phenomenon and paranormal powers are indeed a reality. But for every person who can actually evidence a paranormal power, there are hundreds who claim they can but in fact cannot, and we have to account for those magical beliefs that are purely superstitious.” (pages 73-74)
“... we had to distinguish genuine psychic capacities—which do seem to possess paranormal powers—from the average magical structure—which thinks it can directly influence the world with omnipotent magic but actually cannot....” (page 85)
These astonishing assertions (“certain types of psychic phenomenon and paranormal powers are indeed a reality” and “genuine psychic capacities—which do seem to possess paranormal powers”) are themselves “purely superstitious.” KW is violating a fundamental principle of logic: the burden of proof is on the person making the assertion, yet he provides absolutely no support. As the late Carl Sagan often explained, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
Surprisingly, KW’s zany claims are not part of the fictional element of the novel; I was dismayed to discover many other instances where KW proclaims his belief in paranormal/psychic powers:
“As I use it, the psychic level simply means the great transition stage from ordinary, gross-oriented reality—sensorimotor and rational and existential—into the properly transpersonal domains. Paranormal events sometimes increase in frequency at the psychic level, but that is not what defines this level.” (A Brief History of Everything, page 183)
“Level seven is called psychic, which doesn’t mean psychic capacities per se, although these might begin to develop here.” (Grace and Grit, page 186)
“It was during this period that Treya and I seemed to develop a genuinely psychic bond; and by ‘psychic’ I mean paranormal (ESP). I personally don’t put a lot of store in psychic events per se. (The ‘psychic level,’ as I use the term, simply indicates the beginning dimensions of the transpersonal domain, which may or may not involve actual psychic events; but they have nothing to do with its definition.) I’m sure they exist, they just don’t interest me much, and in any event they have little to do with mysticism per se, and the charlatan ‘psychics’ have given the whole field a bad name.” (Grace and Grit, page 384)
“On the one hand, you have to be very careful because there are such things as psychic powers or paranormal powers, or occasionally some sort of telepathy, precognition, and so on. Those are actual, to the extent that they occur, those are actual, real events.” (Kosmic Consciousness, CD 3, Track 2, 9:28)
“And again, we have to distinguish, just as we distinguish magic which is sort of, if you will, kind of infantile, from psychic, real psychic powers, which can be highly advanced, highly mature powers, we also have to distinguish the sort of, if you will, childish myth from some form of high archetype or Jungian symbolic occasion or images that carry high spiritual or religious meaning and so on.” (Kosmic Consciousness, CD 3, Track 2, 11:25)
“Some psychics can’t really explain what they’re doing, but some of them have psychokinetic powers, some of them have telepathic powers, some of them are very good at sort of reading people in very subtle energy ways. And a lot of them are prerational and maybe a little bit fraudulent. But some of them, I think we all would agree, are transrational and really very authentic.” (Kosmic Consciousness, CD 4, Track 6, 8:35)
“... we have meta-analysis on psychic phenomena [The Conscious Universe by Dean Radin]. [ ... ] It just completely puts it beyond dispute, and every statistician agrees. [ ... ] It’s already 100% certain.” (Speaking of Everything, CD 2, Track 12, 1:02)
In the above series of non-Boomeritis quotations, KW offers some cautions (“charlatan ‘psychics’ ... a lot of them are prerational and maybe a little bit fraudulent”), but he also presents many explicit expressions of his belief in psychic and paranormal powers; here are the highlights:
... actual psychic events ... I’m sure they exist ... there are such things ... actual ... actual, real events ... real psychic powers ... highly advanced, highly mature powers ... really very authentic ... beyond dispute ... every statistician agrees ... 100% certain.
I could direct KW and my readers to books and websites that debunk this nonsense, but instead, how about the following challenge: KW, please promptly submit a “person who can actually evidence a paranormal power,” i.e., one with “genuine psychic capacities,” to the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), then collect the $1,000,000 prize. The JREF is offering this “prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.” See the References section for a link to information concerning the JREF’s “One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge” and an application.
Furthermore, I recommend that KW conduct a dramatic, decisive, front-cover-of-Time-magazine experiment presenting conclusive proof of psychic and paranormal powers using a protocol proposed by Bob Park in Voodoo Science. Instead of testing psychokinetic powers (a power specifically identified in Kosmic Consciousness, CD 4) with a typical pseudo-random device that can produce ever so slight statistical deviations from pure chance, employ an ultramicrobalance that can measure the force of less than a billionth of a ounce. Then instruct the psychokinetic psychic to deflect the microbalance; according to Park, “It’s sensitive, simple, even quantitative, with no need for any dubious statistical analysis.” KW can receive worldwide fame and $1M!
And what’s in it for me for making this lucrative suggestion? Well, I request that KW express his gratitude by giving me a 5% fee (a mere $50K) when he earns the $1M prize. KW, is it a deal?
Blunder 16. Remedial Integral Math 101. On page 396, Charles Morin’s audience “was transfixed, both jolted and stunned” by the following analysis and prediction:
“Studies show that yellow [level seven] is approximately ten times more efficient than green [Boomeritis level six].”
“This means that, if 10% of the population is at yellow, it will very likely be at least as effective as 25% at green....”
“... that 10% of elderly, wealthy, yellow Boomers will have at least the impact that the 25% of young green Boomers did....”
I freely admit that I’m not an acclaimed integral scholar who purports to be developing a new branch of mathematics, but I was “jolted and stunned” by KW’s big goof in basic math. It seems to me that if 10% of the population is at Yellow, and if Yellow is approximately ten times more efficient than Green, then the 10% of the population reaching Yellow would be approximately four times as effective, not merely “at least” as effective, as the 25% of the population at Green.
Blunder 17. Who’s in Charge Here? Boomeritis/Green dominates contemporary culture:
“... boomeritis is now the dominant form of thinking in liberal politics, social services, legal policies, health care, and academia.” (Mark Jefferson on page 155)
“... green came to dominate the cultural elite. The green meme effectively ruled academia, the media, social services, liberal politics, all levels of the educational system, and most health care services.” (Charles Morin on page 209)
In my view, if 2% of the population is currently at Yellow (pages 31, 153, 154, 318, 395, 396, and 419), and if Yellow “is approximately ten times more efficient than green,” then the 2% at Yellow would already have an impact on contemporary culture comparable to the 25% at Green. Now ask yourself: today, do the 2% at Yellow have anywhere near the impact “in liberal politics, social services, legal policies, health care, and academia” as the 25% at Green? If not, then KW’s mystical claim that “yellow is approximately ten times more efficient than green” (an assertion that KW also made in an online interview posted at his publisher’s website) is very severely mistaken.
Blunder 18. Going Up, Anyone? KW thrice endorses meditation:
“... meditation moves you to the highest levels....” (Jonathan on page 114)
“... most of them [the Integral Center crowd] meditate, so they can speed up this evolution in their own cases.” (Kim on page 293)
“Well, the time-honored spiritual exercise is of course meditation, and it is still our number-one recommendation. Moreover, empirical research has consistently demonstrated that meditation can induce vertical transformation in adults—a shift upward of two or three levels of consciousness.... ” (Carla Fuentes on page 415)
For a dismemberment of KW’s claim that meditation accelerates the development of human consciousness, see my essay “Ken Wilber on Meditation” which discusses these nine concerns:
KW asserts that meditation accelerates the development of human consciousness, yet he typically provides no supporting evidence
KW suggests that 20 to 25 years of meditation can yield full enlightenment, yet he admits that he has not achieved this state nor met anyone who has
KW states that only meditation has been demonstrated to accelerate the development of human consciousness, yet he also recommends other spiritual practices
KW praises the research of Skip Alexander and his colleagues, yet he also acknowledges that their studies are subject to “valid criticisms”
KW claims that meditators can advance two levels in only three or four years, yet the cited study is subject to “valid criticisms”
KW reports that 38% of meditators advanced to the highest levels on Jane Loevinger’s scale of ego development, yet the cited study is subject to “valid criticisms”
KW advocates the use of meditation and community verification to establish spiritual truths, yet this recommendation is not “good science”
KW asserts that even skeptics acknowledge that “the Maharishi effect” is authentic, yet skeptics have repeatedly rejected “the Maharishi effect”
KW is aware that meditation can have “negative effects on practioners,” yet he provides only a very few warnings of the potential hazards
Blunder 19. Unified Field of Unconsciousness. Late in the novel, KW introduces a most remarkable teaching—“a huge Omega Point pulling all others into that final enlightenment”:
“Some people believe that if even a small percentage of the population makes it to third tier—perhaps around 1 percent—then that will act as a huge magnet pulling others forward.” (Joan Hazelton on page 275)
“But the fact remains: there is a very distinct possibility that if a small percentage of the population reaches third tier, that will indeed act as a huge Omega Point pulling all others into that final enlightenment, pulling everybody into cosmic consciousness.” (Joan Hazelton on page 276)
“... if, say, maybe thirty years from now, some Bot [Artificial Intelligence Robot] emerged at purple [third tier], then a nanosecond later the third-tier Omega Point might be reached by all Bots, and that would pull all of us into final enlightenment, a perfect spiritual realization.” (young KW on page 301)
“I have this theory that AI—that Artificial Intelligence—will get to third tier first, and that will act as an Omega or a magnet for the rest of us, pulling all of us into a final awakening.” (young KW on page 368)
“So that both carbon-based life forms and silicon-based life forms will be in a race to reach third tier, to reach the final Omega, and whoever makes it first will pull the others into final awakening—the total awakening of the universe, really.” (young KW on page 368)
“There is intriguing evidence that when even a small percentage of the population reaches third tier, and they awaken to that Omega point, then the intensity of their cosmic consciousness tends to act as a kind of supermagnet pulling all other individuals toward third tier, toward that ultimate spiritual awakening.” (Joan Hazelton on page 432)
“... maybe Artificial Intelligence would get there first—get to third tier first—and that would help pull everybody into that Omega state.” (Joan Hazelton on page 439)
What is the “intriguing evidence” that supports these astonishing claims? Well, here it is:
There is a very large body of empirical evidence showing that when 1% of the population of a town, say, begins to meditate, then crime statistics all go down sharply. Murder, rape, theft, they all go down. It’s called “the Maharishi effect,” and even skeptics admit that it’s a real phenomenon. The best explanation is ... that when people touch third tier, it acts as a magnet for others. So you can extrapolate that to its conclusion: it’s as if, once a significant number of individuals awaken to this Omega point, then it will create a type of intense center of gravity that sucks all other states into this cosmic consciousness, that helps pull all people into a spiritual awakening, which is actually awakening to their own true Self. (Jonathan on page 433)
Absolutely false. Total bunk. To paraphrase comedian Dennis Miller, if you want to see this claim stomped like a narc at a biker rally, see Concern 8 in my essay “Ken Wilber on Meditation” which explains how academicians and skeptics have repeatedly discredited “the Maharishi effect.”
But wait! In an interview posted at his publisher’s website, KW confessed that he really doesn’t believe that “the Spiral of development seems to be heading toward some sort of ultimate Omega point, a type of full-blown cosmic consciousness.” Alas, it was a fictional element in the novel—just some sort of fake psi-fi, I guess. While KW makes my case by admitting that the Omega point is bogus, I suspect that very few Boomeritis readers have read that online interview and that most of them will be unaware of the fabricated nature of KW’s facetious spirituality.
Blunder 20. Arise, Ye Geeks and Ye Geezers, Arise! If you’re between the ages of 25 and 55 and hope to develop greater wisdom and compassion, then you’d better skip to the Summary:
“Psychologists who track adult life-span development find that most individuals go through a series of major transformations from birth to adolescence, whereupon transformation tends to taper off. Although many horizontal translations subsequently occur—the ‘seasons of a person’s life’—vertical transformations to higher levels tend to completely stop. From age 25 to around 55, very few vertical transformations occur. There are some exceptions, which we will discuss later, but they are indeed exceptions. We have a great deal of research on this. Tests measuring cognitive, moral, interpersonal and self development have been given to adults doing all sorts of things that claimed to be transformative, and basically no vertical development whatsoever occurred. It’s almost impossible to get an adult human being to transform.” (Charles Morin on page 393)
“What this means is that it is much easier to transform when you are a young adult and when you are an old adult. There’s a type of U-curve here, with lots of transformations occurring earlier and later, but few in the middle years. Warren Bennis, who is a valued member of IC [the Integral Center], refers to this phenomena as ‘geeks and geezers.’” (Charles Morin on pages 393-94)
“... if 10% of the population reaches integral consciousness—we will see a major cultural revolution, comparable at least to that of the sixties. [ ... ] And it will be led by the geeks and geezers.” (Charles Morin on page 396)
“But I was thinking more along the lines of what Charles was saying. As more geeks and geezers move into yellow ... the percentage of people at second tier goes from 2% to 5% to maybe 10% or more....” (Mark Jefferson on pages 418-19)
KW also makes these claims elsewhere:
“It’s just that transformation/development tends to kind of come to a halt in the early 20’s in most of these lines, on average, and then people kind of settle into their existence at wherever they are until 50 or 60.” (Kosmic Consciousness, CD 2, Track 7, 5:56)
“Though we’ve also found that it’s very, very hard to take somebody between the age of 25 and 55, and on any of those scales we’ve talked about, let’s say they, just for the heck of it, there’s some scale that has 10 levels, and they measure level five, it’s very hard to get them to six. It’s very hard to take any scale and make an adult human being move one stage up. It’s just hard.” (Kosmic Consciousness, CD 2, Track 7, 8:16)
“... in the average adult human being, again, roughly ages 25 to 55, there’s just no growth at all. It’s just very hard. There are exceptions, but for the average person, there’s just not much vertical growth going on.” (Kosmic Consciousness, CD 7, track 4, 1:47)
“So the coming groups that will have a significant portion of their population at second tier are going to be aging boomers and the upcoming kids. What my friend Warren Bennis calls ‘geeks and geezers.’” (“On Critics...: A Shambhala Interview with Ken Wilber”)
The initial quotation in the first section promises that “[w]e have a great deal of research on this,” but no research is cited in the text or in the online “Endnotes to Boomeritis.” I was unable to find any evidence supporting this “geeks and geezers” thesis in the book Geeks and Geezers: How Era, Values, and Defining Moments Shape Leaders by Warren Bennis and Robert J. Thomas.
Geeks and Geezers proposes a new model of leadership that is based on a cross-generational study—interviews with 25 of today’s oldest leaders and 18 of today’s youngest leaders:
Geezers: age > 70, born ~1925, formative period 1945 – 1954 (Era of Limits)
Geeks: age < 35, born ~1975, formative period 1991 – 2000 (Era of Options)
The leadership model, as the subtitle indicates, proposes that the historical era, the values of that era, and personal defining moments shape leaders. Geeks and Geezers provides no support for KW’s repeated claim that there is a latency/dormancy period between ages 25 and 55.
Of course, it’s possible that co-author Bennis, a founding member of KW’s Integral Institute, had conversations with KW and agreed that psychological transformation occurs only before age 25 and after age 55. Or maybe KW read only the front cover of Geeks and Geezers in the same manner that he may have read only the back cover of The Betrayal of Liberty (see Blunder 5).
Category I — Shoddy Scholarship (Minor Blunders)
Blunder 0. There’s Something About Chloe. KW mistakenly identified Chloe as his fiancé instead of correctly describing her as his fiancée.
Blunder 1. Department of Redundancy Department. KW repeated himself over and over and over and over again.
Blunder 2. You Deserve a Burn Today. KW gave an inaccurate, sensational, sound-bite summary of the controversial McDonald’s hot coffee spill case.
Blunder 3. Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do? KW incorrectly stated that the Menendez brothers were acquitted in their first trials.
Blunder 4. I Attended Law School at Urban Legends University. KW referenced a “refrigerator races” personal injury lawsuit which most probably never happened.
Blunder 5. A Blurb is a Blurb is a Blurb. KW cited flattering “responses from critics” in support of The Betrayal of Liberty which were actually back-cover blurbs.
Blunder 6. When the Deep Blue Falls Over Sleepy Garden Walls. KW said Kasparov was defeated by Deep Thought when it was actually an upgraded Deep Blue.
Blunder 7. All Quiet on the Fraternity Front. KW’s account of his Dad’s recollection of the Vietnam War was laden with historical inaccuracies.
Blunder 8. Who Shoved Me Down the 12 Steps? KW used the term “confrontation” when the correct term is “intervention.”
Blunder 9. Literary License Revoked: Rebuke Author and Impound Keyboard! KW failed to discuss extreme postmodernism’s politicization of literary criticism.
Blunder 10. The Hanging Judge Gaucho Marx, the Law West of the Kosmos. KW cited what is almost certainly a fake Karl Marx quote.
Blunder 11. The Incredible Shrinking Brain. KW presented merely a hip quip concerning the impact of soy on memory, a complex issue with contradictory findings.
Category II — Salacious Sex (Moderate Blunders)
Blunder 12. Sir Gresham and the Quest for the Wholly Male. KW’s discourse on the origins of modern feminism was an instance of bad ideas driving out good ideas.
Blunder 13. Satyrman, Satyrman, Does Whatever a Satyr Can. KW bombarded his readers with an unrelenting hailstorm of immature sexual reveries.
Category III — Sham Spirituality (Major Blunders)
Blunder 14. Let’s Get Physical, Physical. KW made the unsupported claim that about 50% of the changes in personal transformation occur at the simple physical level.
Blunder 15. Spirit’s Up! Where’s the Wax for My Ouija Board? KW repeatedly claimed that psychic phenomena and paranormal powers are a reality.
Blunder 16. Remedial Integral Math 101. KW made a math goof when he claimed that 10% of the population at yellow would be at least as effective as 25% at green.
Blunder 17. Who’s in Charge Here? KW’s mystical claim that “yellow is approximately ten times more efficient than green” was very severely mistaken.
Blunder 18. Going Up, Anyone? KW’s claim that meditation accelerates the development of human consciousness was thoroughly discredited in my prior essay.
Blunder 19. Unified Field of Unconsciousness. KW claimed eight times that the Spiral of development is heading toward an Omega point, but then he denied it in an interview.
Blunder 20. Arise, Ye Geeks and Ye Geezers, Arise! KW provided no evidence for his claim that there is a dormancy/latency period between the ages of 25 and 55.
I ended my Introduction: “Will readers agree that I’ve exposed mistakes and errors in Boomeritis? That’s for each reader to determine.” So, how did I do? Or more importantly, how did KW do?
You can decide by formulating your own answers to the following three key questions:
In Boomeritis, was KW’s scholarship solid or shoddy?
In Boomeritis, was KW’s sex skillful or salacious?
In Boomeritis, was KW’s spirituality sound or sham?
I have determined that these twenty(-one) blunders demonstrate that KW’s Boomeritis contains, as the subtitle of this essay indicates, “Shoddy Scholarship, Salacious Sex, and Sham Spirituality,” with the most serious blunders occurring in Category III. In my judgment, the most disturbing item was Blunder 15 that exposed KW’s belief in psychic and paranormal powers.
My recommendation to KW is that he direct his publisher to hire a experienced editor to perform an independent, comprehensive revision (“extreme makeover”) of Boomeritis by:
reviewing all purported facts and correcting erroneous statements
identifying any deliberately bogus claims in the Endnotes
deleting crude language, sexual fantasies, and claims about psychic powers and meditation
discussing with KW whether to add the politicization of literary criticism (see Blunder 9)
overhauling the organization and removing the excessive duplication
My recommendation to KW’s admirers is that they “transcend and include” KW’s ideas by:
appreciating his contributions—my personal favorites include his Integral Philosophy (esp. All Quadrant Model and Pre/Trans Fallacy) and his popularization of Spiral Dynamics®
accepting only those claims that he supports with compelling evidence
questioning/challenging/doubting all other assertions that are based merely on his say-so
eschewing his belief in psychic powers (see Blunder 15) and meditation (see Blunder 18)
My e-mail address is Deep Trout as one word (with no space) at msn.com.
NOTES TO READERS
Please write me if you’ve detected any errors in this essay. Also, tell me about any other blunders in Boomeritis that you’ve identified; maybe I’ll receive 20 new blunders and publish Part 2.
Here are eight spoofs that I incorporated in this essay:
began Category I with Blunder 0
added redundancies at the beginning of Blunder 1
coined a neologism/protologism (“pomomucu”) in Blunder 9
included a string of dangling prepositions in Blunder 10
made a quip about Marxism on campus in Blunder 10
feigned a moment of forgetfulness in Blunder 11
requested a 5% reward if KW wins $1M in Blunder 15
instructed those between 25 and 55 to skip ahead in Blunder 20
Why these spoofs, the whimsical Blunder subtitles, and the occasional satire in this essay? Well, I was infected by the contagious irony in Boomeritis and inspired by a delightful quotation:
The liberation of the human mind has been best furthered by gay fellows who heaved dead cats into sanctuaries and then went roistering down the highways of the world, proving to all men that doubt, after all, was safe—that the god in the sanctuary was a fraud. One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms. (H. L. Mencken, 1924)
Special thanks to Geoffrey D. Falk for:
authoring his provocative “Chapter XXI: Norman Einstein (Ken Wilber)”
posting (with elaboration and gusto!) my e-mailed Boomeritis blunders in his blog:
mentioning Balder’s post at the Integral Naked Forum in “Norman Einstein (Ken Wilber)” and his blog “Integral Party Animals” on October 2, 2005 (which I utilized in Blunder 13)
alerting me to KW’s belief in psychic phenomena in Speaking of Everything in his blog “Crackerjack Genius” on October 11, 2005 (which I utilized in Blunder 15)
Wilber, Ken. Boomeritis: A Novel That Will Set You Free (Shambhala, 2002). Endnotes at http://wilber.shambhala.com/
Falk, Geoffrey. “Chapter XXI: Norman Einstein (Ken Wilber)” in Stripping the Gurus
Andrews, Jim. “Ken Wilber on Meditation: A Baffling Babbling of Unending Nonsense”
“Mythbusters: The McDonald’s Coffee Case and Other Fictions” (a pro-plaintiff view) at http://www.centerjd.org/free/mythbusters-free/MB_mcdonalds.htm
“McDonald’s Coffee Revisited” (a pro-McDonald’s view) at http://www.overlawyered.com/archives/000589.html
Menendez brothers’ trials at: http://www.courttv.com/trials/menendez/ and http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/famous/menendez/
Sykes, Charles J. A Nation of Victims: The Decay of the American Character (St. Martin’s Press, 1992)
Chaffee, John. The Thinker’s Way: 8 Steps to a Richer Life (Little, Brown & Co., 1998)
Heard, Alex. “Sue, Sue, Sue, Sue-eee!” Washington Post Magazine on June 12, 1988
Taylor, John. “Don’t Blame Me!” New York magazine on June 3, 1991 (pages 26 to 34) may discuss the “refrigerator races,” but my local community and university libraries do not have this issue. If you can secure a copy of this issue, please notify me. Thanks!
Kors, Alan Charles and Silverglate, Harvey A. The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses (The Free Press, 1998)
Vietnam War at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War
Draft in U.S. at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscription_in_the_United_States
Ellis, John M. Literature Lost: Social Agendas and the Corruption of the Humanities (Yale University Press, 1997)
Boller, Paul F. and George, John. They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions (Oxford University Press, 1989)
White L. R., et al., “Brain Aging and Midlife Tofu Consumption.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition at http://www.jacn.org/content/vol19/issue2/index.shtml
Harvard School of Public Health. “Protein. Straight Talk About Soy. Memory and Thinking Ability” at http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/protein.html
Gresham’s Law at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gresham's_law
KW’s All Quadrant Model explained at http://www.integralworld.net/quadrants.html
Wilber, Ken. “Shambhala Interview with Ken Wilber: On the Release of Boomeritis, and the Completion of Volume 3 of the Kosmos Trilogy” (2002) at http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/interviews/interview_bms_kk_1.cfm/
Correspondent. E-mail message received on September 8, 2005. Used with permission, and name withheld by request.
Balder. Posts on Integral Naked Forum:
Carl Sagan quotation at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/aliens/carlsagan.html
Wilber, Ken. A Brief History of Everything, Second Edition (Shambhala, 2000)
Wilber, Ken. Grace and Grit: Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber, Second Edition (Shambhala, 2000)
Wilber, Ken. Kosmic Consciousness (Sounds True, 2003)
Radin, Dean. The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena (HarperSanFrancisco, 1997)
Wilber, Ken. Speaking of Everything (Enlightenment.com, 2001)
James Randi Educational Foundation “One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge” at http://www.randi.org/research/index.html
Park, Robert L. Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud (Oxford University Press, 2000)
Wilber, Ken. “On Critics, Integral Institute, My Recent Writing, and Other Matters of Little Consequence: A Shambhala Interview with Ken Wilber” (2000) at http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/interviews/interview1220_3.cfm/. Referenced quote:
Evidence suggests that, when it comes to task completion, yellow is approximately ten times more efficient than green, if for no other reason than that endless processing doesn’t derail the endeavor.
Wilber, Ken. “Shambhala Interview with Ken Wilber: On the Release of Boomeritis, and the Completion of Volume 3 of the Kosmos Trilogy” (2002) at http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/interviews/interview_bms_kk_1.cfm/
Wilber, Ken. Kosmic Consciousness (Sounds True, 2003)
Wilber, Ken. “On Critics, Integral Institute, My Recent Writing, and Other Matters of Little Consequence: A Shambhala Interview with Ken Wilber” (2000) at http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/interviews/interview1220_3.cfm/
Bennis, Warren and Thomas, Robert J. Geeks and Geezers: How Era, Values, and Defining Moments Shape Leaders (Harvard Business School Press, 2002)
Warren Bennis as a Founding Member of KW’s Integral Institute at http://www.integralinstitute.org/history.htm
Notes to Readers:
H. L. Mencken quotation cited in Rauch, Jonathan. Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought (University of Chicago Press, 1993). Source is Mencken, H. L. Prejudices: Fourth Series (1924); initially published in American Mercury (January 1924).
NOTES CONCERNING VERSION 1.1
This version supercedes Version 1.0 dated November 15, 2005 and features these changes:
incorporation of various minor editing changes
in Blunder 8, change “correct term is intervention” to “much more common term is intervention” based on a reader comment that some forceful interventions also have been referred to as “confrontations”
in Blunder 18, change “six concerns” to “nine concerns” and list the nine concerns
in Blunder 19, change “Concern 5” to “Concern 8”