Re: FW: MD Dawkins on quantum/mysticism convergence

Date: Sun Mar 17 2002 - 11:02:16 GMT

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    Subject: Re: FW: MD Dawkins on quantum/mysticism convergence
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    In a message dated 3/17/2002 3:24:55 AM Central Standard Time, Douglas
    Brooker <> 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
    > to
    > > attach to a lot of goofy ideas making them more trendy in pop culture.
    > s
    > > 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
    > other,
    > the 'kooky pet theories'.
    > Question 1: describe the migration (or expansion) of the use of
    > "quantum."
    > 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 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.

    --Aaron Lynch

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