Re: Did we change, or did the world change around us?

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Wed 18 Jan 2006 - 17:22:12 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "RE: Religion and evidence"

    At 10:45 AM 1/17/2006 +0000, you wrote:
    >Okay so we have an interesting question arising imho:
    >Once upon a long ago, each generation quite happily played host to the
    >god/faith/belief memes of their parents/clerics/peers. Then, (around the
    >70s?) in the UK a new cohort appear with whom the general level of
    >unquestioning acceptance drops more rapidly than previously (I tried to
    >back this up with a graph or something but it is tricky without paying or
    >spending more time than I have). Church attendance drops quicker than
    >'belief' (which is itself subdivisible) but undeniable God is on the ropes...
    >So if the memes got less potent, is that the fault of the memes, or their
    >environment? Did the world make tenets less tenable, or did the word
    >somehow change?

    Don't forget that while Christianity has had a long run, it displaced previous beliefs. Why? There is also the fact that religions of this class are a feature of state level societies. (Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer)

    I can make a case that religious memes are seed xenophobic memes called forth whenever a society needs to go to war or is attacked.

    So what happened the generation that came of age about 1970 that induced population members to abandon seed xenophobic memes? That would have been born post 1950 and 60s culture would have been influential on them. I am almost ten years older than this group so perhaps I am not the best person to consider what might have done it.

    The US has seen a similar trend with respect to the old line churches, and a highly divergent trend with the anti-evolution fundamentalist churches. What factors were at work there? I make the case (based in EP) that stressed populations are more susceptible to the build up of xenophobic memes as a lead up to war. Could it be that mild stress turns up the gain on seed xenophobic memes as well? Memetic "gain" would account for the differences between the UK and US experiences since feedback amplification of small amounts over or under 1.000 leads to radically different results.

    >I'm sure this has been debated to death in evangelical circles

    And without a model reflecting the uncomfortable reality of an evolved-in-the-stone-age social primate they are never going to get further than doctors did before germ theory.

    >but I wonder why it is that I was less prone, and what distinguishes me
    >from those who still subscribe.

    Placement on some bell curve of gullibility? Learning critical thinking skills and applying them?

    >I was treated to the full 'smells and bells' thing; no chunky jumpers and
    >guitars. Same old wordings, blah blah. Retribution, fire etc. Point is
    >almost as soon as I had critical faculties, I chopped it; and not just for
    >a lie-in on a Sunday.
    >I'd argue that however presented, the core material was inappropriate for
    >me. Both itself degraded, and outcompeted (a double whammy, and I think
    >that the latter would have been enough even without the former, although
    >perhaps not vice versa). Loss of fitness per se, and niche competition...

    I.e., memetic gain of less than one.

    >Prolly not the same for all. Do malls have an effect (too late to affect
    >me -- everything was still shut on a Sunday when I was a lad, but maybe
    >others)? Worshipping at Homebase, yet not struck down?
    >Parallels with the gradual extinction of the dinosaurs (ignoring birds and
    >misleading meteorites), or more like the diplacement of antipodean fauna
    >by mammals?

    Ah . . . the Chicxulub Crater is almost as accepted as plate tectonics in the science community as the cause of the end of the dinosaurs.

    Try Chicxulub Crater reentry time fires in Google. Calculations of a 250 mile wide crater and measurement of the reentry layer all around the world indicates from simple physics that the sky glowed red hot with a heat input to the ground about that of an oven on broil for half an hour to an hour depending on where you were in the world. Then the dust blocked the sun for months to years. No animal over 20Kg adult body weight made it through, and a substantial fraction of plants didn't make it either.

    Keith Henson

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