Re: Faith-based memes

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Thu 05 Dec 2002 - 01:39:34 GMT

  • Next message: Wade T.Smith: "Re: Faith-based memes"

    >Date: Wed, 4 Dec 2002 17:50:42 -0500
    >Greetings, Grant,
    >As always, another nice posting from you. I agree that one doesn't need
    >religion to find faith-based beliefs, and wanted to focus on one element of
    >your message:
    > > In numerous posts many of us have pointed out the fact that you
    > > can't argue
    > > with memes of faith. People on both sides of the argument will refuse
    > > see what they don't want to see in opposing arguments. So to continue
    > > arguing about it is a complete waste of time. It's not a matter
    > > of who is
    > > right and who is wrong. It's a matter of meme dominance and we
    > > on this list
    > > should know that better than anyone. When someone posts endless
    > > arguments
    > > in support of a faith-based concept, it is equivalent to spam.
    >Can you say more about WHY faith memes are hard to argue? I am thinking
    >that we call it faith _because_ it is hard to argue, and so am asking what
    >you and others might suggest is the technical basis for the hardness.
    >I will also say that I agree that it is hard, but would not agree that it
    >impossible. You may recall from posts of long ago, I have suggested that
    >having a belief is akin to an action: we hold beliefs based upon the
    >(subjective perceived) advantage they offer us in doing so.
    >Hope this question makes sense!
    Yes, it makes complete sense. My own view of the store of memes we carry in our minds is based on what I call a map of the world. As we go through life, we create an internal map of the world we live in based on various kinds of input from our senses, one of which includes sound and the language we process and another which is sight and the combination of what we see and what we read. All of these help us to create the world we believe we live in based on a system of belief.

    I used to say it doesn't matter whether there is a God or not to the person who hears God tell him to kill someone. That person is equally dead and the killer equally damned by society whether God "really" exists or not. People who see visions and hear voices believe what they see and hear even though no one else can see or hear what they do.

    The world we construct in our minds is the whole world to us and the input receive through our senses tends to confirm that world view because when we spot a familiar pattern we have a name for it. A culture tends to coordinate the views of people who belong to it around the sharing of the names they use to talk about patterns of behavior and other elements of their environment they share. How we react to our environment is largely affected by how we see it.

    Let's say, for example, that we are walking down a wooded path and I point at your feet and say, "Snake!" How would you react and why? I suspect you would jump and look around frantically. Adrenalin would run madly through your system, causing your heart to beat faster and you brain would be working at the same speed trying to find and identify what I had pointed to.
      Then, if I say, "Oh, never mind, it was just a branch you stepped on that moved." Your heart and mind would calm down and we could continue our walk.

    This word picture I just drew points to many elements of our world view. Among them, we believe the woods are populated with snakes and snakes are dangerous. My mistaking a branch for a snake is believable because we think that branches don't move of their own accord and if one moves it is likely to be a snake. If I had said "Su" instead of "snake," it would have had no effect at all or would have caused you to wonder about my sanity. But if were Chinese, it would have caused you to jump. So the language you understand, based on the culture you belong to and the way that culture has conditioned you to interact with your environment, has created a virtual world we call our own. It represents "the truth" as we see it. Although virtual, it is a real territory.

    Every species of animal that I'm acquainted with will defend its territory. Usually that means it will defend that territory against others of the same species. Most mammals mark their territory in some way and will fight harder to defend what is theirs than they will fight to take over someone else's. Humans will fight to protect their home, their country, their church, their children, etc., and this includes their world view.

    A person's world view changes only with effort. When you see a pattern you don't recognize, you have to find an explanation for it. Then you have to fit that explanation into the rest of your world as you see it. If it doesn't fit easily, you struggle to either find another explanation or change the one you have to make it fit. But once you have found an explanation that seems true and have given it a name and told it to someone else, there is a sense of commitment involved that is like the commitment you have to the word "snake." The body and mind react to defend what needs defending. That may include jumping, arguing, fighting, or running, but when the world view is threatened some kind of action is called for.

    This, to my mind, is why we find it hard to stop aruging about things that we believe in. The more we argue, the more we strengthen and refine our belief and the same thing happens to the person wth whom we are arguing. That's why such arguments tend to drive both sides farther apart rather than bring them together. It's also why emotions run high as the argument continues. It's a physical reaction brought on by a threat to our mental territory. The way to stop the reaction is to show that there is no snake. That there is no threat. That the territory can contain both views without conflict.

    That, at any rate, is the way I see the problem and the solution. My theory could no doubt use some refinement, but it looks good to me.

    One memory from my childhood, though, casts doubt on my theory. When I went into a strange neighborhood (my family moved around a lot) and got into fights with the kids who were alrady established in the territory, we often became good friends after the fight was over. Other kids remained our enemies for life.
      Either way, the fight changed both our lives.



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