Re: FW: MD Dawkins on quantum/mysticism convergence

From: Douglas Brooker (
Date: Mon Mar 18 2002 - 20:59:31 GMT

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    > In a message dated 3/17/2002 11:06:28 AM Central Standard
    > Time, Douglas Brooker <> 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.
    > Hi Douglas.
    > 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
    > formed.

    Hi Aaron

    I have no problem with these points, this is an important dimension of the
    model. What I had in mind though wasn't so much finding a motive in material
    terms, but in more abstract terms.

    At some point, in the history of this interaction (historians might find some
    precedents looking at the era of Newton, or the medieval Islamic period) there
    is some interaction just at the level of ideas. The model would want to
    separate the material motivation, from the theoretical interaction (and do so
    on a time line). Whether the subject matter of the 'convergence' is true or
    not, between the (or some) participants, there is some kind of mutual
    inspiration, at least amongst those involved at the origins of the
    'covariance'. I think the observer of the phenomenon would want to start at
    this point before moving off into motives because it's the point at which the
    phenomena arises. It's primary. If the mutual inspiration didn't happen, those
    who had contact with each other would go their separate ways.

    Maybe it could be said that the material motives came first, on one side or
    both sides. In this case, the 'convergence' spoken of would in some ways have
    to be seen as being manufactured for the purpose of achieving the material

    Also there would have to be categories of participants. One group, likely
    smaller, would have found mutual inspiration purely from the interaction of the
    two areas of study. Another group, likely larger, would have observed the
    first group and seen its potential and also have understood the language in
    which each side was expressing the ideas of their area of study. Material
    motives might be more relevant to this group. Even a third group could be
    considered, those who observe the first and second groups and accept or resist
    the ideas that the interaction has generated - book reviewers, science
    journalists, people on lists like this. This group might have less thorough
    knowledge of one or both of the subject areas. And be appalled by the
    convergance or please in a way that was consistent with their world view but
    not necessarily consistent with what was the cause of the inspiration in the
    first group.

    An adequate study would also seem to require a high degree of 'objectivity' or
    ideological neutrality in order to make valid observations about the behaviours
    studied. The person doing the study would need to know enough about quantum
    physics, and mysticism, yet at the same time be neutral, or at least not
    irrationally critical of either side. We can be critical of the convergence
    or supportive of it, but I'm not sure that either kind of partisan could
    perform an adequate study of it. This would be the case, at least ideally, in
    anthropology, with which I am familiar and also with law as an academic
    discipline, which which I am more familiar.

    At any rate, my interest in more in how to construct a model of enquiry than it
    is in the goodness, badness or neutrality of the interaction between quantum
    guys and mystic guys.

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