RE: The Status of Memetics as a Science (long post!)

From: Trupeljak Ozren (
Date: Mon Apr 30 2001 - 21:11:20 BST

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    Subject: RE: The Status of Memetics as a Science (long post!)
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    --- Vincent Campbell <> wrote:
    > <Nonetheless, the process of logic used is no different than
    > > that used by science.>
    > >
    > I can't help thinking that if that were true, then religions would
    > have rejected dogma a long time ago, but they essentially haven't.
    > But since I'm no expert on logical processes (and, arguably not an
    > exponent of them either :-)), I won't push this one.

    Logic was an essential tool for development of Christianity through the middle
    ages; read Thomas Aquinas if you want to see what did it look like. although
    the reasoning used is almost impeccable in most of these old religious
    treatises, one can argue very well that the basic premises were …how to put it
    nicely…rather out there…

    > < Neither was I equating science with religion (actually I
    > > seem to remember clearly stating that I am not a cultural
    > >relativist and that I value some viewpoints of reality far more then other)>
    > >
    > Yes but to critique someone's claims of the equivalence of science
    > and religion (in some regards) is not to accuse them of cultural
    > relativism, and certainly that's not what I'm suggesting. It's to accuse
    them of
    > underplaying the fundamental differences between scientific and
    > religious modes of thinking. As cultural institutions, as I said, I think
    > indeed there are clear parallels, but your comments are about processes of
    > thinking, and deep structures, which IMHO science and religion
    > clearly diverge.

    Most of the religions “clearly” diverge, and I do not see how that would make
    them different in their deep structures. As far as I know, most of the
    scientists *believe that science is The Way Of Truth, same as most of the
    Christians believe that Christ is the way to truth, etc…mechanisms of finding
    the correspondences with the word, and explaining/incorporating them into
    existing bodies of knowledge *are different, though. The difference between the
    religion and science I see as a difference between apes and early humans –
    clearly, very close and similar species..

    --- Vincent Campbell <> wrote:
    > I feel I'm getting myself into unfamiliar waters, but I thought that
    > it wasn't the amount of energy so much as the concentration of that
    > energy in a single point that would be needed to move the earth out of its
    > Now that's not very likely is it (that a significant proportion of the
    > world's nuclear arsenal would be detonated in the same place at the same
    > time)?

    When you are calculating the minimum amount of energy needed to kick the Earth
    out of orbit you are just calculating needed energy expenditure, not the
    specific means of doing it. But if you want the ideas for blowing the earth out
    of orbit, ok here’s one: harmonic oscillations – detonating a number of nuclear
    weapons timed in such a way as to increase the amplitude of earth’s oscilations
    (constructive interference), untill earth either/or shakes apart/ changes
    orbit. For that you don’t need to concentrate weapons on one point. All just an
    academic thought…;)

    --- Vincent Campbell <> wrote:
    >> 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*
    > > arbitrary.>
    > >
    > Why do Roman Catholic priests wear black but the Pope wears white?
    > A lot of cultural behaviour is essentially arbitrary (e.g. why in
    > some sports if you run into an opposing player do you foul them- football,
    > but in others they foul you- basketball?). Perhaps I should clarify what I
    > mean by arbitrary- Blackmore's hunter comes to mind. Blackmore give the
    > example of people copying a good hunter because of the good hunter's
    > social status, but people may copy elements completely unrelated to his
    > success as a hunter e.g. the colour of his arrow feathers. That's what I
    > by arbitrary. Another example- the particular movements, dress or
    > incantations of different rain dances (an old favourite in my arguments) is
    > arbitrary, because no aspect of that dance has any impact at all on the
    > liklihood of it raining. That is not to say that particular movements don't
    > cultural importance, or social consequences, but at root they are arbitrary.

    Meriam-Webster online dictionary and thesaurus says:
    Main Entry: ar·bi·trary
    Pronunciation: 'är-b&-"trer-E
    Function: adjective
    Date: 15th century
    1 : depending on individual discretion (as of a judge) and not fixed by law
    <the manner of punishment is arbitrary>
    2 a : not restrained or limited in the exercise of power : ruling by absolute
    authority <an arbitrary government> b : marked by or resulting from the
    unrestrained and often tyrannical exercise of power <protection from arbitrary
    arrest and detention>
    3 a : based on or determined by individual preference or convenience rather
    than by necessity or the intrinsic nature of something <an arbitrary standard>
    <take any arbitrary positive number> <arbitrary division of historical studies
    into watertight compartments -- A. J. Toynbee> b : existing or coming about
    seemingly at random or by chance or as a capricious and unreasonable act of
    will <when a task is not seen in a meaningful context it is experienced as
    being arbitrary -- Nehemiah Jordan>

    Entry Word: arbitrary
    Function: adjective
    Text: 1 characterized by or given to willful and often unwise or irrational
    choices and demands <a proud fitful arbitrary nature>
    Synonyms capricious, erratic, freakish, vagarious, wayward, whimsical, whimsied
    Related Word undisciplined, unruly, wild, willful; arrogant, unconstrained,
    unreasonable; careless, heedless, impetuous, indiscreet, precipitate, rash;
    kooky, screwball, zany
    Contrasted Words circumspect, discreet, heedful, judicious, politic,
    reflective; calculating, discriminative, judicial, prudent, well-advised

    I do not agree that practicaly any of the above meanings of the word arbitrary
    can be applied to religious rituals in any of today’s most developed religions.
    The cultural meanings of the rituals do not became attached to arbitrary
    choices in dress, movements, postures etc; it is rather the other way around,
    these movements, dress, colors, words, are all chosen because of their cultural
    meanings, in order for religion scheme to be more successful in attaching to
    the hosts. And I do believe that mistakes in copying the rituals produce such
    significant effects that often people of the same religion but different ritual
    are not perceived as sharing the religion at all. All of that points out that
    the choices are *not arbitrary.

    > <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.>
    > >
    > But that's at the root of the difference between science and
    > religion.

    Actually, the truth-generator is the root, but you are close enough. But the
    difference is not enough, IMHO for us to call the science “opposite” of
    religion, or something completely different then religion. It is just another,
    maybe more advanced, one…
    > <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
    > > scrutiny.>
    > >
    > It's the weight of significance, or degree of association that is
    > arbitrary. Ever seen 'Life of Brian'? The sequence where the crowd
    > begin chasing him is what I'm talking about here. Decisions about which
    > elements of Jesus' life are significant enough to turn into the dominant icon
    > representing that fate are arbitrary in the sense that I meant above.

    I always thought that Paul was the main guy behind our interpretations of
    Jesus, and although in a way he chose from Jesuses works what he wanted, the
    choices were very much culturaly dependant. Not at all arbitrary! He chose what
    he thought would appeal to the people he was surrounded with; while at the same
    time reflecting his own mystical experiences, and truths from cult of Jesus.
    > <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.>
    > >
    > I didn't say there weren't reasons, I said that at root decisions
    > about significance are arbitrary. Once you've decided Jesus is the
    > son of god, and not all the other sect leaders of the day, then it makes
    > sense to equate things he did with appropriate practices etc. But
    > arbitrariness is very dangerous- look at Islam, were different factions base
    > practices on different members of Muhammad's family. Entire nations run
    > themselves on such decisions- yet on what are those decisions based?

    I always see the use of word arbitrary in a sense of unrational, almost random
    choice. And I don’t agree that interpretations of religious writings are like
    that at all. And different factions of Islam might be explained by evolution
    theory: even small mistakes in copying can produce huge differences in finished
    organisms. And with such complex structures as religions are, you have this
    constant fight against “cancer”, mutated cells – sometimes they spring into
    open heresy, and then you can get an entirely new religion… be continued...

    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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