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In a message dated 3/17/2002 3:24:55 AM Central Standard Time, Douglas
Brooker <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
> > >Hi Douglas.
> > >
> > >My earlier use of the phrase "the ineffable Quantum of being"
> > >a few months ago was also in reference to some of the mystical
> > >interpretations of quantum mechanics.
> > >
> > > > and memetics is a science?
> > >
> > >Just suppose that Eastern mysticism got attached to quantum
> > >physics in the early days, so that a substantial fraction of
> > >the physicists reading their first quantum physics books were
> > >asked to swallow a lot of mysticism. The word "quantum"
> > >would have gained a very bad reputation among serious
> > >physicists.
> > >
> > > > sounds like the pot calling the kettle black.
> > >
> > >Perhaps this is the old strategy of the best defense
> > >being a good offense.
> > >
> > >
> > Dawkins is right on the money. "Quantum" seems to be a popular adjective
> > attach to a lot of goofy ideas making them more trendy in pop culture.
> > like a vague allusion to QM has hybridized with various kooky pet
> The migration of a word from a narrow scientific context to a much wider
> one would seem to be a
> perfect subject for memetics. One one extreme, the physicists; one the
> the 'kooky pet theories'.
> Question 1: describe the migration (or expansion) of the use of
> Question 2: explain the migration
Contagious mysticism goes way, way back. Adding
pseudo-justifications in terms of "quantum" theory increases the
transmissivity, receptivity, and longevity in a more scientific and
technological society. People are more willing to express their
ideas if they think (rightly or wrongly) that they have scientific
legitimacy, such as might be conferred by a basis in quantum
Listeners can be more receptive to such messages too. Since
few people have any serious knowledge of quantum mechanics,
they often defer to the other person as the "expert" if that person
is referring to quantum physics. This confers receptivity.
Longevity might also be increased due to refutation-resistance.
Again, most people do not know enough about quantum
mechanics to effectively challenge misbeliefs about its
implications. Even those who do have such knowledge know
that it could take a very long time to explain, so that they
often do not even bother trying. Moreover, people with credentials
in physics can be bought by or sell out to mystical movements in
need of a credibility boost. Adding science and technology
to a society is evolutionarily similar to adding antibiotics
to a bacterial culture. Instead of drug resistance, we see
the emergence of non-truth contingent refutation resistence.
Ideas masquerading as quantum theory can thus help a mystical
belief system spread more vigorously in a society that reveres
science and technology. The belief systems can be more
contagious and refutation resistant. More about these concepts
on my thoughtcontagion.com site.
> In many of the social sciences there is a tension in the discipline
> between its prescriptive and descriptive urges. It's internal politics,
> perhaps. Linguistics is a good
> example. (and maybe the positive-natural law dichotomy in legal
> theory.) Prescriptivism is not much in fashion these days. But
> fashions, by definition, change.
> Dawkins sounds as if he comes from a prescriptivist school of memetics.
There may be reasons to doubt whether Dawkins really supports
evolutionary cultural replicator theory, but that is a long and old
> It's a bit like a lab scientist criticising germs because they are bad.
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