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

From: Francesca S. Alcorn (
Date: Tue Feb 19 2002 - 01:26:43 GMT

  • Next message: Wade T.Smith: "Re: Words and memes: criteria for acceptance of new belief or meme"

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    Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 20:26:43 -0500
    From: "Francesca S. Alcorn" <>
    Subject: Re: Words and memes: criteria for acceptance of new belief or   meme
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    >On Monday, February 18, 2002, at 04:50 , Francesca S. Alcorn wrote:
    >>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
    >A line I've always liked. It's kind of empirical....
    >>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.
    >Yup, good witch, bad witch. Depends on who bribed the constable
    >first. Reputation. Favors. Influence. Not efficacy.
    >>You draw a line (empiricism) which lumps them together.
    >The line I draw is evidence. Neither has any.
    >- Wade

    I am not arguing for the truth of their beliefs, at least not in the
    sense that you mean. But I am arguing for their "fitness" in terms
    of what they offer the group. To borrow a term from attachment
    theory there is a "good-enough" memetic cosmology which allows it's
    believers to function quite successfully in their environment for
    many generations. And the advantages which it confers on it's
    adherents are social/emotional as well as scientific.

    If you want to look at truth, then both the witch doctors and the
    healers had an element of it on their sides. Ground glass was one of
    the poisons which the witch doctors used. And the healers were
    starting to work with Western medical workers to teach them about the
    local pharmacopeia. There was even a show on pbs recently about the
    Zulu defeat of the British, and the drugs which they gave to the
    warriors before the battle. Pretty potent stuff. Every
    self-respecting cosmology has an element of truth to it, otherwise no
    one would buy it.

    This is part of the argument *for* cultural diversity: every culture
    has uniquely evolved to exploit it's local environmental niche. When
    we destroy these cultures we lose all kinds of knowledge and ways of
    relating which we, unfortunately, appreciate only in hindsight, when
    it is too late.


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