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In a message dated 3/17/2002 11:06:28 AM Central Standard
Time, Douglas Brooker <email@example.com> writes:
> Thanks for this.
> If I were conducting a study, my instinct would lead me to pay
> special attention to what scientists participating in the 'love fest'
> receive or perceive they receive from the mystical side. We can
> understand the way the aura of science serves to enhance the
> claims of mystics, but less understandable is what scientists receive
> from the other side.
There can be considerable financial and social incentive for
scientists to sell out and join the "love fest." They may receive
lucrative book deals, for instance. Moreover, many "nonfiction"
books are actually conceived by literary agents, and that
includes science books. The agents are often just looking
for what will sell. So they may identify something that many
people will want to believe when they read about it, or that they
already believe or want to believe but would also like to see
"justified" in "scientific" language. Scientists may also be drawn
to the fame that can come from becoming an advocate for some
mystical idea. And there are even rich prizes (e.g., Templeton)
for connecting religion and science. All these sources of money
and attention increase the formation rates of new ways of
attaching science to mysticism, and then they increase the
centralized transmissivity of the new idea combinations once
Attaching the name of an authority figure to a belief system
also increases its transmissivity, receptivity, and longevity.
(See my 2001 stock market thought contagions paper on
that.) People feel more confident about voicing and
retransmitting an idea that they can attribute to an authority
figure. If the recipient of the message disagrees, the person
transmitting the message can always blame the authority
figure. They also realize that the listener/recipient of the
message is likely to give more credence to a message
attributed to an authority figure. That added credence then
increases the receptivity that the message enjoys. Finally,
it can make people more inclined to remember the message,
increasing its longevity.
Scientists who can be presented to the public as authority
figures can therefore be offered especially lucrative book
deals and other ways of profiting from the believers in
mysticism. Many scientists are aware of this.
> Maybe 'migration' is not the best word to use, or maybe it applies
> only to one aspect of one phenomena, movement in one direction.
> In one, the migration is from a specialists language to the popular.
> In other the migration is from (?what?) to the specialist.
> There is migration in both directions, but one seems to predominate.
> In the specialist to the popular, the point in interaction between
> the two seems more diffuse? (bookreading etc). In the (?what?)
> to the specialist is there a different point of interaction? Does it
> arise at a personal level?
> Could two very different modes of transmission be at work?
> AaronLynch@aol.com wrote:
> > 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
> > > to
> > > > attach to a lot of goofy ideas making them more trendy in pop
> > It'
> > > s
> > > > like a vague allusion to QM has hybridized with various kooky pet
> > theories.
> > >
> > >
> > > The migration of a word from a narrow scientific context to a much
> > > one would seem to be a
> > > perfect subject for memetics. One one extreme, the physicists; one
> > > 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
> > mechanics.
> > 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
> > > 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
> > There may be reasons to doubt whether Dawkins really supports
> > evolutionary cultural replicator theory, but that is a long and old
> > topic.
> > > It's a bit like a lab scientist criticising germs because they are
> > --Aaron Lynch
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