Criticalness, Integralism, and Type

This is in response to the thread titled ‘Should Integralists Storm The Religous Battlefield’.

I’ve been involved in a thread at IIDB, an atheist discussion board. Its a thread about Acharya’s theories about astrotheology which is related to comparative mythology, and Acharya has posted in response some. She has received much criticism and nitpicking which is common on atheist forums. She hasn’t taken it well and probably won’t post anymore in the thread or maybe even in the forum. Recently, the same thing happened with Earl Doherty who is another biblical scholar. He posted on IIDB for a long time, but now has declared he will never post there again.

I find it a bit annoying and I don’t know if I could ever entirely get used to this kind of behavior. However, not everyone there is like this, and I do enjoy forums where there are many intelligent and knowledgeable people. I have a few thoughts about harsh criticalness.

(1) I do think some people there could use an integral perspective. Critically challenging new theories is important for scholarship, but being nice is important for human relations. Also, I feel this critical attitude is narrow and often misses the point the central issue or the bigger picture. Disproving a single claim or piece of evidence doesn’t disprove a theory or discredit the entire scholarly credentials of the theorist. There are many ways to think about a theory, and criticism by itself often lacks insight and can miss the larger context.

Anyways, if actual scholars start avoiding such a forum, that would severely hamper open discourse. In what way is this actually being helpful?

A forum like IIDB may be a more extreme example of this attitude, but its far from unusual. Scholars such as Acharya and Doherty have also received plenty of harsh criticism from mainstream scholarship as well. Peer review tends to reinforce conventional opinions and discourages innovation. Any new theory is seen as suspect. Only the alternative views of people like Robert M. Price get some respect because they came to those views after already being established in the mainstream. Even so, Price’s ideas have received harsh criticism from some of the amateur scholars on the board. There is this attitude amongst some there that if they disagree with a theory, then they automatically dismiss it. Something is either true or false, and uncertainty or mere probability is never to be admitted.

It makes me understand why Wilber has been so committed to getting his work into academia.

(2) My experience at IIDB reminds me of my experience on an INTP forum. INTP types (and NT types in general) can be very combative and nitpicky. An INTP has Introverted Thinking as a dominant function which means Extraverted Feeling is their inferior. A less developed or less balanced INTP can really suck at relating well to other people, and this is multiplied when you get a group of NTs together. What INTPs are good at is looking for logical consistency and honing in on any discrepant details. Introverted Thinking is largely hidden as its turned inward and so its difficult for other types to see the internal standard they’re using to judge. All that is seen directly is their secondary function Extraverted Intuition which allows them to see all of the possibilities. In the case of nitpicking, Extraverted Intuition is serving Introverted Thinking and thus they relentlessly seek out all potential errors.

This is what an INTP is good at. They honestly feel that they’re being helpful and they are to an extent. But if they haven’t developed other aspects of themselves, this talent can be problematic for relating well.

Atheist forums tend to attract many INTPs partly because of an NT interest in computers and debate, partly because Introverts spend more time doing solitary activities such as web browsing, and partly because NPs(Ne) love to discuss ideas endlessly. So, quite probably most of the critical people on IIDB are INTPs or some NT type, but also possibly some INFPs trying to conform to an NT environment. On top of their possible personality types, many of them have spent their whole lives studying ancient texts and biblical studies. Its what they know and its what they’re good at. They feel so certain because they’ve dedicated their lives to it and so they’re personally invested in the conclusions they’ve come to.

I have become more used to personality styles different than mine. I’m much better than I used to be at relating well with those I conflict with or disagree with. I have tried to stay evenhanded in the IIDB thread and have been mostly successful. I’ve tried to redirect the discussion back to the core issue and away from nitpicking, but that has been less successful. I’ve observed Acharya in videos and other places on the web, and I’d guess she is an NF type like me which would explain why she doesn’t have a thick skin towards criticalness, and why she gets critical in return when she is emotionally worked up.

I’m an INFP and Extraverted Thinking is my inferior, and as such my judgment of criticalness is very biased. Criticalness really gets to me after a while, and it takes great awareness on my part not to get emotionally pulled into it. I’d rather discuss possibilities rather than debate details. I’d rather find where I agree with someone rather than look for reasons that the other person is wrong. But this is a typical NF attitude and so I realize that others are different.

If I understand why someone acts the way they do, then its easier for me to accept their behavior. There is a person on the INTP forum who always annoyed me. I couldn’t understand why he was accepted there even to the point of being a moderator. An INTP finally explained it to me in a way that I could understand. This guy wasn’t a psychologically healthy person, but he was psychologically disturbed in a typical INTP way. They accepted him because they could understand him. As I wasn’t an INTP, it didn’t matter that I didn’t get along with him on an INTP forum.

I see IIDB in a similar light. Some people there are not perfectly balanced people, but neither am I. However, they’ve found their niche in the world. They can be respected for being critical on an atheist board. So, why should I let it bother me. They’re only doing what they know how to do, and I admit that they do it well. Maybe such people serve a purpose in the grand scheme of things.


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Replies to This Discussion

marmalade Permalink Reply by marmalade on January 19, 2008 at 7:39am
I just came across a typology poll at IIDB.

67% are NTs
23.35% are INTPs
37% are INTJs

20% are NFs
approximately equally divided between the four NF types
except less than 1% of ENFPs

12% are one of the 8 Sensation(S) types

So, why would an NT be so much more likely to belong to this kind of forum?
Are NT types more likely to be atheist?
Or are NT types more likely to want to debate about atheist views?

[QUOTE=ApostateAbe;5070973]I believe that the correlation between atheism and INTJ/INTP is not a trivial thing (I am an INTP).

[*]INTJ forum poll on religion: [url][/url]
[*]INTP forum poll on religion: [url][/url]
[*]Christian forum poll on MBTI: [url][/url]

The Christian forum poll is less clear, since it neglects the E/I. It does at least indicate that the N types predominate. But the members of are split between NF and NT. INTJ/INTP are 43% at a max at, but here it is a whopping 60%. The polls at the INTJ forum and INTP forum are even more striking. Majority of both are atheist or agnostic.[/QUOTE]

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marmalade Permalink Reply by marmalade on January 19, 2008 at 8:27am
I was just thinking about how a higher percentage of Thinking types are male.
Accordingly, the majority of people on IIDB are probably male.

There is a reason this came to mind. I’ve suspected a higher percentage of people on Integral boards are NT. And I’ve heard it said several times that there are more males than females around this place which isn’t something I can personally verify. Also, there is way more heated debate here than on forums I belong to that have a majority of NF types.

So, what is the correlation between intellectuality, heated debate, atheism, NT personality types, and the male gender?

Why shouldn’t atheism and integralism appeal to SF females?


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marmalade Permalink Reply by marmalade on January 19, 2008 at 6:22pm
I was just at Richard Dawkins forum and came across a poll for gender.…

Males are 72% of the population there.
IIDB is the same kind of forum and so it would probably be similar.

I’m wondering how true this is for most people who are on the web.
I’m uncertain about what forums would attract more females… maybe spirituality/religious forums?

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marmalade Permalink Reply by marmalade on January 19, 2008 at 8:13am
I had two other observations of IIDB.

I did a search on Integral and came up with nothing. I did a search on Ken Wilber and only found a few comments in passing in the last several months. This is pretty significant when you consider that this is one of the more popular boards that attracts well-read intellectual types. This demonstrates how integral theory is still an extremely isolated field of study.

The other thing I noticed there seemed to cross the boundaries of thread topics. There is a heavy philosophical emphasis to the whole place with a distinct lack of much discussion of psychology. Spirituality gets talked about, but mostly just as philosophy. The philosophy emphasis creates a heavy focus on language. In every serious thread, the definitions or proper translation of words gets debated to a fine degree. Integral theorists love to argue about words, but the people on IIDB put integralists to shame in this area.

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marmalade Permalink Reply by marmalade on January 19, 2008 at 4:58pm
“After all, both sides fought on what they thought was the same battleground, but they were two totally different battlegrounds, on different levels.”

This is a good way to put it. I find this often happens in discussions. People not only are arguing for different perspectives, but they’re arguing from different perspectives. When you mix in all the factors that make up an individual(personality, moral and intellectual development, cultural background, etc) you can get a very mixed group of people in a discussion. I wish I knew how to bridge such differences, but I haven’t figured it out beyond trying to be more accepting.

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MetroPunk Permalink Reply by MetroPunk on January 21, 2008 at 1:40pm
the problem as i see there was exactly as you pegged in marmalade, people with different worldviews, diff levels, diff types. communication becomes difficult
an integral appproach would help (someone who can bridge the comm gap)

another problem is the nature of the concepts.
atheism is a reactionary confusion
and religion often is dogma
so two dogmatic and limited postions
limit the possible scope of discussion and possible agreement.
nature of the beastS

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Bill Permalink Reply by Bill on January 23, 2008 at 6:57pm
Well, something else to keep in mind, is that all human groups tend to have internal “policing” behaviors, and it’s common to see a kind of tribal ingrouping/outgrouping struggle happening with every group.

I can’t see I’ve ever seen a human group that didn’t practice this kind of internal policing, no matter how advanced or correct they claim to be..

So, the ‘criticalism’ you refer to isn’t just based in, for instance, personality types, or the nature of the ideas being discussed, or the educational backgrounds of the people discussing – it’s got a stronger, older base in ancient hominid group behaviors.

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marmalade Permalink Reply by marmalade on January 24, 2008 at 12:27am
That is a good point to bring up. I have observed this policing behavior on IIDB when newbies defend a position.
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2 thoughts on “Criticalness, Integralism, and Type

  1. Break their hearts is what I say. At least, that worked for me with all my criticality. Somehow, I avoid debates too because I don’t want to hurt people. Usually, I lie in wait like a black panther, if you’re brave enough to enter my territory of impersonal analysis, oh happy day, I can now tear you apart or if you’re just an annoying person who must be taught a lesson.

    Hm, it’s interesting reading your grappling with the mbti, it’s similar to my present grappling. Your method of understanding things is familiar to me. I usually meet the theory, sort of theorising of my own to find what the hell the theory is about and also seeing how it plays in other ways. Mostly, they just lead me elsewhere, not really learning them. You didn’t tell me you grappled so long🙂

    • I spent a couple of years focused almost entirely on MBTI. This post was in the period following that when my mind was beginning to shift to other topics such as integral theory.

      A major reason that interests me in MBTI is that it’s not just about how people are as types. It became clear to me how differently people interact and how difficult it can be for different types to find common ground. I often feel that people are arguing over these differences of type when they think they are arguing about something else. The apparent topic of discussion is rarely the fundamental conflict.

      But I also came to realize that some types are more likely to be interested in analyzing such things. The frustration I often have is most people focus on the external conflict rather than the hidden psychological motives.

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