RE: Darwinizing Culture: The Status of Memetics as a Science

From: Trupeljak Ozren (
Date: Wed Apr 25 2001 - 18:47:05 BST

  • Next message: Wade T.Smith: "RE: The Status of Memetics as a Science"

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    From: Trupeljak Ozren <>
    Subject: RE: Darwinizing Culture: The Status of Memetics as a Science
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    --- Vincent Campbell <> wrote:
    > << (BTW, for me, a difference is that science has a non-arbitrary
    > > relationship to reality in terms of trying to examine questions of
    > > causality,
    > > demonstrable in its effectiveness in providing solutions to
    > problems,
    > > and offering new capacities for human behaviour.)>>
    > >
    > <All of which is true for almost any religion you can shake your
    > > proverbial stick at. As far as I know, no religions have arbitrary
    > > relationship with reality, their examinations of causality can
    > > sometimes be very subtle and elegant, and as I previously stated,
    > they
    > > *do* produce solutions to problems while offering new capacities
    > for
    > > human behaviour (look at my already mentioned example of talibans
    > in
    > > Afghanistan: they solved the problem (solid, material reminder that
    > > there are other religions out there) by ordering soldiers to shoot
    > at
    > > Buddha's (isn't that a new capacity for human behavior? How many
    > people
    > > can brag that they did *that*?;)..)>
    > >
    > No, you're completely wrong here. All religions have arbitray
    > relationships to reality in terms of things like appropriate dress,
    > particular rituals that should be performed, the iconography utilised
    > etc.

    I am sorry, I do not agree with you. Their choice of dress, rituals,
    etc. is very much culturaly dependant, and definitively *not*

    > etc. That these choices have material consequences is not in doubt
    > but many
    > of them are entirely unrelated to their intended aims. Take the
    > Nazca, for
    > example. They appear to have believed that the key to unlocking
    > their most
    > precious resource, water, was to devise rituals involving walking
    > both
    > animal patterns, and symobloic maps of the local geography (the
    > famous Nazca
    > 'lines'- and indeed there's a bit more evidence for this reading of
    > the
    > lines than vo Daniken's!). Did these practices have any causal
    > relationship
    > to whether or not it rained? Of course not.

    Again, I was never arguing that the religious point of view is
    particularly succesful as far as giving you the power over environement
    goes. I actually said quite the opposite, on a number of occasions.

    > That's not to say that
    > in
    > periods of drought, such rituals didn't serve to unite Nazca
    > communities
    > together, maintained morale etc. but they could have done all sorts
    > of
    > other things that may have equally achieved that goal. Most
    > societies have
    > these kinds rituals- important in their consequences- but arbitrary
    > in and
    > of themselves. A good, non-religious, one that springs to mind is
    > the
    > Olympics.

    Your usage of word arbitrary cofuses me. What is arbitrary in
    developemnt of communal rituals? These do have a tendency to evolve or
    devolve as the time passes, but *not* in an arbitrary way! The rituals
    are very much the reflection of the contemporary culture that produced
    them (Olympic games, modern ones, were started in the time of the
    widespread proliferation of massive sport events at the turn of the
    19/20th century, for example).
    > Another, religious example, would be the iconography of
    > Christianity. Should one use a cross or a fish symbol? Jesus used
    > the
    > latter, there's not even any explicit evidence that Jesus was
    > crucified on a
    > cross, per se, it might have been a tree, with a beam across the top
    > of it.
    > The decision is not necessarily inconsequential (it brings to mind
    > Bill
    > Hicks' joke about it might a bit tasteless for followers to wear
    > crosses
    > should jesus ever return- a bit like fans of JFK meeting the family
    > wearing
    > little rifle pendants), but it is arguably arbitrary.

    Very arguably. If you have noticed, both of the symbols actually *are*
    associated with Christ. If they chose, for example, a banana, then your
    statement about arbitrary use of symbols might stand to closer
    And there are reasons why the cross symbol prevailed over fish; just
    look how much the contemporary christianity is based upon the ideas
    presented by the apostles, in which death, torture and pain were the
    most common associations with the faith in Jesus as new Messiah.

    > Religions are full of them, but what's important is that religions
    > often make claims about the purposes and consequences of ritual and
    > beliefs
    > that are in contradiction of reality as it is normally experienced
    > (e.g.
    > virgin births, transubstantiation etc.). Science makes claims that,
    > at the
    > very least, endeavour to be consonant with reality- and there are
    > means by
    > which to evaluate those claims that are non-arbitrary (Phoebe from
    > 'Friends'
    > and the line 'don't get me started on gravity' springs to mind).

    I agree. The difference is real and important one. The similarities I
    was refering to when I call the science one of the religions, are the
    similarities of memetic structure. The science memeplex seem to have
    better "truth-generating engine" then most of the religions have, and
    that translates into direct power that its disciples can wield.

    > Religions
    > deny and obfuscate evaluation of their claims, and ignore, reject or
    > coerce
    > and suppress challenges to them. Sometimes science does these things
    > as
    > well, of course, but doing so is essentially bad science, whereas
    > it's
    > typical religious behaviour.

    Which can be explained by the difference in "truth-engines" that the
    two organisms have. The religious truth engine is usualy very static
    one, relying on the extrapolation of basic principles of that
    particualr faith, most of which do not seem to offer any good insights
    into the workings of the Universe. This is not necesarily bad by
    itself, but if you compare it with the self-modifying, quickly
    adaptable, engine of science, it becomes evident that they are not even
    of the same level of magnitude as far as discovering the truths of
    universe goes...
    Again, the difference in truth generating engines is the only big one
    that I can discern between science and religion.

    > Re: the Taliban example. Of course they haven't got a problem with
    > alternative faiths, one of the supposed motives behind the
    > destruction,
    > because they simply imprison, shoot or exile anyone who doesn't
    > accept their
    > ridiculous misreading of the Koran (or exactly accurate reading of
    > it, in
    > some ways it doesn't really matter because interpreting religious
    > texts is
    > an arbitrary practice too).

    Did I say that they don't have a problem with alternative faiths?!
    Where? I seem to remember using the example of how *did* they deal with
    the problem of visible remainders of other religions...
    As for interpreting the religious texts as arbitrary pracitice, again I
    have to disagree, because you don't have complete freedom in the
    interpretation. The religions themself quite often contain specific
    instructions on how they should be interpreted (Torah books, Koran,

    The decision to blow up the Bhudda
    > statues was
    > entirely arbitrary- thet felt like blowing something up and did so.

    Really? And on what sociological or psychological analysys of the
    Talibans do you base that statement on?

    > What do
    > you mean by 'new capacity for human behaviour'? Destruction of
    > opposing
    > faiths' iconography is central to most faiths' histories, nothing new
    > there.
    Yes, the idea of destroying them is not new. But the act itself, of
    driving there with a bunch of tanks and artillery, and spending a week
    shooting ancient Buddhas, that *surely* must be an expression of new
    capacity for human behavior. How many people before them did something
    like that? Can you imagine being one of them? Telling stories to you
    children : Ayup, ya betcha, your Pa was right there, shooting the face
    off, and sureee I'm proud of that! ;)
    It would be incredibly funny, if it was not sad.

    There are very few man - and they are exceptions - who are able to think and feel beyond the present moment.

    Carl von Clausewitz

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