Re: Words and memes: criteria for acceptance of new belief or meme

From: Francesca S. Alcorn (
Date: Mon Feb 18 2002 - 21:50:03 GMT

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    Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 16:50:03 -0500
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    Subject: Re: Words and memes: criteria for acceptance of new belief or   meme
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    frankie said:

    >>A witch doctor does things *outside* of what is socially acceptable
    >>- calling down lightning, casting curses, poisoning etc - while a
    >>shaman works for and inside of social norms.

    Wade said:

    >I call a spade a spade. Witch doctor is a crude term for a shaman,
    >perhaps, but they are both doing things _accepted within_ their
    >culture, and outside of science.

    You draw a line (empiricism) which lumps them together. But I assure
    you, to the people in my village, a witch doctor and a shaman were
    two very distinct people. One was a hitman, the other a doctor.

      IOW: Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

    >Thus, you will find the modern witch doctor in your local newage
    >book store or homeopathic distribution retail outlet.

    There is not really a modern equivalent of a witch doctor. We seem
    to have found other means of acting out our anti-social
    impulses/enforcing social control. Maybe this is where religion fits
    in. Instead of calling down lightning on someone, we can smuggly
    contemplate their afterlife. :)

    >Many proponents of magical thinking actually call themselves shamans.

    Or psychiatrists. Although Bruno Bettelheim has fallen from favor,
    his "Uses of Enchantment" is still worth reading.

    There is a line of thought that says that magical thinking/emotional
    thinking is a sort of short-hand for combining emotional needs with
    reality - kind of like the ego (in the sense of rational mind)
    mediating between the id (instinctual drives) and reality. I don't
    think you get anywhere by trying to treat human beings as purely
    rational. We just aren't. At least not in a way that makes sense to
    us. :) I think that the article about punishing cheats suggests
    that there is sense in our "irrational" behavior, we just haven't
    been creative enough to figure it out yet. I guess that is one of my
    interests, figuring out the sense behind our "non-sensical" behavior.

    Somewhere along the line, someone has classified the defense
    mechanisms as less mature (denial) and more mature (humor). The less
    mature (more generally) belong to the young, the more mature to the
    older (imagine that). But one thing that distinguishes more mature
    from less mature defenses is the *degree of distortion*. Denial
    actively distorts external facts, whereas humor acknowledges the
    facts, but distorts the emotional impact. I'm not overly fond of
    Freud myself, but I won't turn up my nose at a good idea just because
    I don't like him. Fear isn't the mind killer - anxiety is. And
    that's spelled Bene Gesserit :)


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