Re: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes

From: Dace (
Date: Mon Mar 11 2002 - 19:26:37 GMT

  • Next message: Kenneth Van Oost: "Re: Shotgun wedding for evolution and culture"

    Received: by id TAA03447 (8.6.9/5.3[ref] for from; Mon, 11 Mar 2002 19:31:28 GMT
    Message-ID: <005401c1c932$aab7bb00$5d24f4d8@teddace>
    From: "Dace" <>
    To: <>
    Subject: Re: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes
    Date: Mon, 11 Mar 2002 11:26:37 -0800
    Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary="----=_NextPart_000_0051_01C1C8EF.9B98B5E0"
    X-Priority: 3
    X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
    X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 5.50.4133.2400
    X-MIMEOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V5.50.4133.2400
    Precedence: bulk
    Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1" Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable


    > >So I guess that makes me firmly anti determinist 'cos I think that traits
    > >are programmed in to us for the purpose of making us vulnerable to
    > >culturally appropriate memes and defensive against culturally
    > >inappropriate ones.
    > >I hope that this makes some sort of sense as I am a bit tired too.
    > >Cheers
    > >Jeremy
    > >
    > In this month's Discovery magazine, there is an article about the friendship
    > between Einstein and Godel and their view of the universe.
    > "For us believing physicists," Einstein once wrote, "the distinction
    > between the past, the present, and the future is only an illusion." It was a
    > melancholy remark, made as Einstein faced death, but it flowed directly
    > from Einstein's special theory of relativity.

    Not quite. I think the key word here is "believing." If you believe that
    reality is physical existence, then time is indeed an illusion. But if time
    is intrinsically real, then it's not reducible to physical existence. What
    exists physically is what is *present* to the senses. Physicalism reifies
    the present and reduces time to a static sequence of present moments. This is why the physicalist faith embraces time travel. Past and future are both present if we know how to move at will in four dimensions.

    Real time, on the other hand, is the *motion* that continually abolishes the
    present, making room for novelty. The arrival of something new then makes
    room for memory. Novelty and memory have no basis in physics. Nothing is really new, though it seems that way to our limited, 3-D perception, and
    nothing is really remembered, since we're just retrieving stored information
    that exists entirely in the present.

    > Imagine a group of observers scattered
    > carelessly throughout the cosmos. Each is able to organize the events of
    > his life into a linear order -- a world line of the kind just described. Each is
    > convinced that his life consists of a series of nows, moving moments
    > passing from the past to the future. Special relativity urges a contrary
    > claim. The observers scattered throughout space and time are all
    > convinced their sense of now is universal. Now is, after all, now, is it not?
    > Apparently not.

    Now is not the present, identifiable moment but its abolition. Once you've
    identified the moment, it's not present anymore. Now is the motion of time,
    not the physical fossil it leaves behind. It's no accident that life is also physically unverifiable. The only thing physics comprehends is mechanism, whether organic or inorganic. Life is forever now, always a step ahead of physics.

    > Time passes at a different rate depending on
    > how fast a person is moving: While one hour passes on Earth, only a few
    > seconds might pass on a rocket ship hurtling away from Earth at nearly the
    > speed of light.

    Again, this assumes that reality is physics. From the perspective of the
    physical, nothing is absolute, not even time. In space, the rate by which
    time passes depends on velocity. But time isn't contained in space. It's
    self-contained. What space records is always one step off from time itself.

    > It is entirely possible that one man's now might be another
    > man's past or future.

    Back in high school I was a hard core physicalist. I imagined a pair of 4-D
    glasses that would enable the person wearing them to see all of time--
    past, present, and future-- in any given location. The thing that baffled
    me was why I was 17 years old. Why was I stuck in this illusion of
    adolescence? Then it dawned on me: Everyone is 17 years old! Julius
    Caesar, King Henry VIII, Abraham Lincoln-- they were all experiencing their
    lives at the age of 17, just as I was! They just happened to occupy
    different points in the 4-D universe. For my dad it was 1937. My Mom was
    lying on a beach somewhere in 1958. My own children were somewhere in the 21st century. The clock of human consciousness had begun ticking 17 years earlier, and everyone who had ever lived or ever would live was 17 years into their lifespan.

    I held to this view for a couple years. But then I realized I was completely alone. Unless I ran across someone who was born at the exact same moment as me, I would be forever interacting with someone's future or past, never with the person himself.

    Fortunately, these sci-fi fantasies run their course over time.

    > "Godel's solution to the field equation vindicated the deepest insight of
    > Einstein's theory, namely that time is relative. But Einstein's theory of
    > relativity suggests only that time does not exist in the conventional sense,
    > not that time exists in no sense whatsoever. Einstein's claim is more
    > subtle. He suggests that "change" is an illusion. Things do not become,
    > they have not been, and they will not be: They simply are. Time is like
    > space; it is precisely like space.

    This was actually Descartes' insight, not Einstein's. Descartes invented
    the graph bearing three axes, one for each physical dimension. Then he
    realized time would simply be the fourth axis. In fact, the spatialization
    of time goes deeper still, right to the core of the human intellect. Julian
    Jaynes discusses this in *The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of
    the Bicameral Mind.* We think of everything spatially, even time. That's
    because the intellect operates visually, and you can't visualize time. You
    can only visualize it in terms of clock-faces or calendars, etc. Vision is
    inherently spatial. That's the basic problem. That's why we try to make
    time into a kind of space. We don't like mystery; we prefer certainty. Time is the very essence of mystery. Without time, all would be perfectly
    transparent to the rational intellect.


    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Mar 11 2002 - 19:41:53 GMT