Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Comments on Steve McIntosh's Paper on Modernizing Islam

The Institute for Cultural Evolution (ICE) and its co-founder Steve McIntosh have just released a new white paper entitled “Fostering Evolution in Islamic Culture,” and have requested comments.

The purpose of the paper is to propose a method for Western societies to address the challenge the “difficult and dire problem” of “the ongoing rise of radical Islamism” we have been witnessing since the end of the Cold War.  The underlying assumption of the paper derives from ICE’s “aim to create significant forward movement in the evolution of the American political landscape, and apply this new ‘evolutionary’ perspective to the developmental challenges of a complex, globalizing world.”  ICE believes that it is possible to “positively influence the evolution of American culture in realistic and measurable ways” by “applying groundbreaking insights taken from Integral philosophy, developmental psychology, evolutionary theory, and the social sciences to help create significant forward movement in the evolution of the American cultural and political landscape.”

Now, apparently, not content with this demanding undertaking, we are invited to apply this same thinking to “Muslim culture” as the beginning of a remedy to the problem of radical Islamism.

I truly love and appreciate these efforts to uncover what, if anything, can be done to consciously expand consciousness on a mass basis.  Having studied this for some time, my own conclusion is “not at this time,” but what do I know?

Still, I find many flaws in the ICE proposition and its analyses, and this particular paper has its share.  Perhaps its author might be willing to consider them. 

Where to begin?

The paper makes regular reference to “traditional Islamic culture” as if that is a uniform system encompassing the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world.  But this is, at best, a misnomer, for many distinct cultures with their own peculiar history, political economy, and customs embrace Islam, from Arabic, Turkish, Egyptian, and Persian to Kazakh, Afghani, Punjabi, Indonesian, and many others.  While they all have Islam in common, they also are all centered in amber consciousness, which, as I will point out, is the actual issue.