Red, Orange and Green

Posted: August 25, 2011 in Current Events, Integral Studies, Media Gleanings, Philosophical Debris, Religion
Tags: , , ,

I was directed to several articles on the subject of belief in evolution among current Republican candidates in an excellent article by PZ Myers in his blog, Pharyngula. Using the colour coded Integral levels of Spiral Dynamics and Integral Theory, lets look at them.  (There are lots of Integral Theory terms in this post that will make it confusing for those not familiar with them.)

In it he points to an article in the Washington Post by Dawkins called “Attention Gov. Perry: Evolution is a Fact”.  It is summed up nicely in the first paragraph.

There is nothing unusual about Governor Rick Perry. Uneducated fools can be found in every country and every period of history, and they are not unknown in high office. What is unusual about today’s Republican party … is this: In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today’s Republican Party ‘in spite of’ is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory. Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.”

This is a statement of frustration and disgust with the right wing political system, and does eventually proceed to a very “orange”, rationalist argument in support of evolution.  I can understand the frustration.  There have been many times when I’ve been arguing with Creationists where I’ve thrown up my hands and conceded that I’m dealing with someone who has a sort of mental illness.  The fact that the insulting condemnation is tactless does not make it any less true.  And yet it is the result of a particular world view that is not going to be accepted by the “red”, authoritarian tribalism level that Gov. Perry is speaking from.  Shouting insults at fundamentalists is not going to contribute to any possible dialogue for progress.

This is stated well by Jamie L. Vernon in an editorial posted in Discovery Magazine.  Unfortunately titled “Richard Dawkins Takes The Crotchety Old Man Tactic…”, Vernon goes on to say:

In one short paragraph, Dr. Dawkins has violated nearly everything we have come to know about effective science communication.  I cannot, for the life of me, understand how Dr. Dawkins believes hurling insults, like “uneducated fools” and “ignoramus,” can advance his position. How far do you think readers of the opposite mind continued into this article?”

This, of course, is the “green” attitude, championing multicultural understanding and accomodationalism.   It is true that we have to respect the opinions of others and work with them at their own level, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t wrong.  Not all perspectives are equal.  Meyers cleverly points out that religious fundamentalism could be viewed as similar to the anti-communist propaganda of the MaCarthy period.  There needs to be an active oposition, and , as much as the accomodationalists want to promote a more polite opposition, they are not really seen as doing anything at all to oppose delusional politicians who believe in magic over science.

Perhaps Dawkins was a little tactless, and perhaps he has not helped the cause of building bridges to the fundamentalists.  However, I doubt that it would have made any difference if his criticisms had been framed more tactfully.  The knee jerk response of the the fundamentalists would have been just as final.  As for doing harm, I’m not sure that I see what is in fact the victim of that harm.  The “green” loby has a point, but seems to be paralyzed by inaction, being content at the moment not to rock the boat.

I’m not sure what the turquoise response would be.  Clearly one must tailer any opposition to the level where one finds the target, but it has to an effective and strategic opposition.  One doesn’t stop pointing out the truth because the odds are against you.  But one might be a little more tactful and strategic about how it’s done.

  1. […] to the previus post, the funeral got me thinking about the question I posed at the end of “Red, Orange and Green” about how it may be possible to have a more integral response to Creationists and religious […]

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