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An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

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David Christopher LaneDavid Christopher Lane, Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy, Mt. San Antonio College Lecturer in Religious Studies, California State University, Long Beach Author of Exposing Cults: When the Skeptical Mind Confronts the Mystical (New York and London: Garland Publishers, 1994) and The Radhasoami Tradition: A Critical History of Guru Succession (New York and London: Garland Publishers, 1992).
Thinkers in an Indeterminate Cosmos


Erin Lopez

“The biggest current threat to Homo sapiens is not earthquakes and tsunamis, nor volcanic eruptions or meteorite impacts, nor indeed corrupt governments and economic recessions; rather, it is a structurally caused stupidity.”
-- Michael Schmidt-Salomon, Manifesto of Evolutionary Humanism: Plea for a mainstream culture appropriate to our times

Michael Schmidt-Salomon was born in Trier, Germany on September 14th, 1967. He attended the University of Trier, where he received a Master's degree in Educational Theory in 1992, as well as a Ph.D. in 1997. He currently lives in Vordereifel, Germany with his non-traditional family, consisting of both biological and adopted children and three other adults. Often referred to as Germany's “Chief Atheist”, Schmidt-Salomon subscribes to the humanist perspective, which places a strong emphasis on the value of the human as an individual. Additionally, his focus remains on science theory, practical ethics, and religious criticism.

Michael Schmidt-Salomon
Michael Schmidt-Salomon

Schmidt-Salomon gained public attention with the release of his children's novel titled Wo bitte geht's zu Gott?, fragte das kleine Ferkel (Which is the way to God, please? Little piglet asked). Published in autumn of 2007, Schmidt-Salomon openly criticized religion on the belief that other religions, such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were brought to elementary systems, thus it was perfectly acceptable for religion to be criticized. Shortly after its publication, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs raised objections about the book deeming it inappropriate for children and youth due to its depiction of religion and the claim that it had anti-Semitic tendencies. Furthermore, a ban was considered due to the idea that it unfavorably portrayed Jews in a negative light, much more than Christians or Muslims. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart claimed the author and illustrator of the book incited hatred--a claim that was later refuted by Schmidt-Salomon. The book was then reviewed by the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons where it was further investigated to be placed on a list of youth-endangering media, which would have banned the sale or distribution of the book to minors in Germany. After further review, the book was ruled equally critical of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and not anti-Semitic, allowing it to be bought across Germany by whoever so pleases.

Michael Schmidt-Salomon currently serves as the Chairman of the Giordano Bruno Foundation, a Germany-based non-profit that furthers the idea that religion is to be criticized. Classified as a think tank, according to Schmidt-Salomon, the foundation is guided on the principle of evolutionary humanism. Furthermore, it seeks to promote a worldview that is synchronous with scientific research and toward the individual's right to self-determination. Established as a critique of religion, evolutionary humanism argues that religion affects the cultural evolution of humanity. The Giordano Bruno Foundation utilizes Schmidt-Salomon's work as its guiding doctrine--following the beliefs outlined by him in their work and research. Most influential is the Manifesto of Evolutionary Humanism: A Plea for Contemporary Culture. In this work, Schmidt-Salomon discusses the detrimental complications that may arise from the symbiotic relationship of high-level technical ability and naivety. He further establishes religious fundamentalism as the biggest enemy to modern society and the dangers of the utilization of religion as a society's all-knowing guiding principle. More specifically, he warns of religious fundamentalism using the values of the Enlightenment in order to prevent its own principles from being applied to their own beliefs.

To further this point, Schmidt-Salomon provides the example of George W. Bush. Acting as the 43rd president, George W. Bush sought to lead the world against “terror” by making use of a technology and warfare that scientists could not have developed if they had contented themselves with the very faith of the President or the Bible. This is to say that in order to fully pledge allegiance to a religion or a faith-based subscription, one cannot simultaneously seek to enact violence or an opposite proposition from that of their faith without contradicting themselves. By George W. Bush consistently describing his faith as a direct principle to his actions, it leaves him vulnerable to critique as violence, killings, and trauma were often consequences of such actions, all of which are harshly opposed in the Bible and Christian faith.

Additionally, Schmidt-Salomon proposed that any person who is capable of understanding science, such as the splitting of an atom, is also capable and should by necessity possess in equal parts intellectual and emotional maturity. With this in mind, he says it is contradictory for these people to subscribe to faith-based religions, since they are lacking the evidence needed to justify a belief in them.

Schmidt-Salomon has also argued that religion once firmly established as faith-based does so, in part, to avoid exposure to criticism. He explains this is done through the establishment of certain violate rules and dogmas. The inability for such rules to ever be questioned or to be proven false is the basis for why he has such a distaste for religion.

The Giordano Bruno Foundation was established on March 30th, 2004 with its headquarters located in Oberwesel, a town within the Rhineland-Palatine region of Germany. It was named after Giordano Bruno, a Dominican friar who was convicted of heresy, which eventually led to his death in 1600 when he was burnt at the stake. Giordano Bruno challenged the church's view of the world and the immediate position of humanity as the center of the Earth and the universe. Doing so, he proposed the theory of an infinite universe and multiple worlds. This was similar to the belief system of Galileo Galilei, who was also tried by the Inquisition following Bruno's death. The primary goal of the foundation is to support evolutionary humanism. First and foremost, the Giordano Bruno Foundation is extremely critical of religion, promoting the view that religion is a threat to the cultural evolution of humanity in current society. In addition to this the foundation supports and promotes research in a variety of fields including secularism, epistemology, and ethics. Currently, it is supported by over 10,000 members amongst 50 regional and university groups.

Using evolutionary humanism as the foundation, the Giordano Bruno Foundation seeks to replace religion as the driving principle of thought and instead utilize rationality and evidence-based facts to create a consensus within one's own mind. In addition to this, the foundation seeks to work against the dogma and holy scriptures of religions across the globe. Humanists instead believe in people and the ability of humans to grow in all spheres of thought whether it be spiritually or mentally. Furthermore, it is believed that humans can create a friendlier environment and improve living conditions when the common basis is that of humans helping other humans. Nevertheless, evolutionary humanists see development and improvement of living conditions as necessary and a way to continue to advocate the values of the Enlightenment. Human beings are thought to be not merely the “pinnacle of creation”, but rather as another step in the process of evolution. Because of this perspective, humans are viewed as the next step of evolution. This plays into the role that evolutionary humanists view animals, as being on par and equal within the state of nature. Furthermore, evolutionary humanism believes in the equal consideration of equal-ranking interests. This means that ideologies such as racism, sexism, or ethnocentrism, are not supported by evolutionary humanists.

Michael Schmidt-Salomon continues to challenge the dogmatic nature of religion in current society. Currently, he still works to promote evolutionary humanism throughout Germany and the world through printed media and interviews.

Further Reading:

1. Manifesto of Evolutionary Humanism: Plea for a mainstream culture appropriate to our times

2. Die Kirche im Kompf (The Church in the Head)

3. Hoffnung Mensch


Davide Lane (ed.), The Agnostics

Often in the philosophy classes I have taught in undergraduate and graduate school, I would bring up this point of “unknowingness.” Pointing to a crumpled piece of writing paper, I would ask the class, “What is this?” Almost in unison, the students would respond, "A piece of paper." Taking this as my cue to lead into a deeper philosophical investigation of materialism, I probed further, "Yes, but what is that?” Catching my drift, one student invariably answered, “Oh, it is actually a transformed sheet of wood.”

Not wanting them to stop there, I asked, “And wood is made of what?” “It's comprised of molecules," the more scientifically oriented students would shout. Connecting to the now forgotten inner space ride at Disneyland, which takes one through an imaginary voyage inside a snowflake molecule, I queried, “But what is a molecule made of.” By this time, we had gotten down to the subatomic level, and our words began to betray our modicum of knowledge (electrons, protons, quarks, lucky charms, superstring). The final question I asked was quite simple, but given the line of investigation it led to some severe complications: What is matter?

Well, it should be obvious to the reader as it was to my class and to myself that there's only one truly appropriate response, “I don't know.” Now, this is exactly the response not only of most mystics, but most quantum physicists as well. As Sir Arthur Eddington, the distinguished astronomer put it, “Something unknown is doing we don't know what!”

To be sure, mystics have said that the world (or matter) is nothing but consciousness. But, what is consciousness? Not even a sage as enlightened as Ramana Maharshi of South India could answer that question. To such queries, Ramana would often sit in silence. Ultimately, matter leads to consciousness and consciousness to God or Nature (with a capital N) and both to Mystery. However, no matter how you define it, slice it, categorize it, blend it, intuit it, the fact remains that Reality is a Mystery, and nobody apparently (not me, not you, not Einstein) knows what that Reality is. We are sitting right in the middle of the Mystical Dimension.

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