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

From: Trupeljak Ozren (
Date: Mon Apr 30 2001 - 21:13:49 BST

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    From: Trupeljak Ozren <>
    Subject: RE: The Status of Memetics as a Science (another long post)
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    > <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. >
    > >
    > I'm not personally keen on the language here, but there are those on
    > the list who'd agree with this without as much reserve.
    Why, what seems to be a problem?
    > <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.>
    > >
    > Well, that's my point entirely. But doesn't this conflict with your
    > view that science and religion use the same processes of logic? (I
    > think that was the phrase you used).

    Nope. Logic by itself can produce enormous amount of completely irrelevant and
    obvious truths. You need good filters to discern what is useful. In a way,
    logic is one of the underlying mechanisms of truth-engine, but not the only one
    and not the most important one. Both religions use it (science and god-ones),
    but science seems to have developed a way to use that mechanism to change
    itself every now and then (Kuhn’s paradigm shifts) which most of the other
    religions have not.

    > I think this was problem of syntax. My cynical point was that
    > blowing up the Bhuddist statues because of the dangers of other
    > faiths was a pretty weak excuse given the way they routinely treat people who
    > supposed to share their own faith.

    Weak from our, “scientific” perspective. From the perspective of Islam scheme
    dominant in Afghanistan, it was a needed move.
    > Interpretation of religious texts is entirely arbitrary- people have
    > always, and will always, continue to utilise the inconsistencies, and
    > internal contradictions in religious texts to support any cause they
    > like. Think of the racists who use the Bible to support them, and the civil
    > rights campaigners who do likewise.

    Culturaly dependant far more then entirely arbitray. South has more right wing
    racists who use Bible to support their view, North has more civil rights
    campaigners who use their Bibles for their goals. And they use different Bibles
    half of the time anyway.
    > <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.>
    > >
    > What about the destruction of idols after the fall of the Soviet
    > Union? Or for that matter some 75 years or so earlier the systematic
    > destruction of churches in the Russian revolution? Very similar
    > events indeed. I'm afraid there's nothing new, and everything altogether
    > typically human, about this kind of thing.
    Ok, when I say new capacity for human behavior, and used above example, I
    wanted to point out two things: first, those people had an experience they are
    never going to forget, and that most of the other people on earth do not get to
    experience. Irrespective of whether similar things happened before. Second, I
    wanted to point out that if you didn’t have religions in the first place, you
    wouldn’t be able to go around and destroy their symbols, no? So that is again a
    new capacity for human beahvior. Although (arguably) it is a negative one,
    there is a number of similar “postivie” examples connected with religions.
    IMHO, though, that still does not make them all “good”.
    > <But we as a species survived the last 4 million years of
    > > different diseases, and I do not see why we shouldn't continue to do so
    > > in the future.>
    > >
    > Well, again, perhaps a bit semantic, but technically, as a species
    > homo sapiens has not been around 4 million years, and along the way various
    > different strains of homo have lived and died including, as we've previously
    > mentioned, neanderthals, who could have been around as recently as 40000
    > years ago. I belive current estimates for the emergence of modern man put
    > it at around 150000 years or so.
    Yes, as far as I know, yes…still, geneticaly we are not very different from
    those first proto-humans at all, and the only (I suspect!) huge differences
    that we have are better developed brains and better resistance to diseases, and
    this last one as a direct consequence of the rise of civilization (and I am not
    talking about the modern medicine at all.)

    > >
    > Well, I think that's the point- most bacteria need do little than
    > keep on dividing to cope with global warming, we need to do a hell of a lot
    > more, so enegery expenditure is not a sign of dominance (as far as natural
    > selection's concerned anyway).

    Capability for energy expenditure, is, in my opinion. And although we might be
    dominant on this planet now, that does not mean much at all for whether we are
    going to be dominant here in the future.

    > >> Except we don't. We're always behind the game as a report
    > in New
    > > >> Scientist recently suggested, one new antibiotic still not in
    > > >> widespread use
    > > >> yet already has bacterial strains that are resistent to it.
    > >
    > <Since the battleground of our modern drug industry against the
    > > antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria is my favorite research ground
    > > into the specifics of meme-gene interaction, I must confess that I do
    > > not agree with what you say. >
    > >
    > I'm interested in where you think memes fit into this medicinal
    > area.

    If all the knowledge is memetic, then there is your answer. If not, then this:
    a meme of fighting the bacteria with antibiotics has been present in our
    medical culture for a number of years. It has always been devising new
    antibiotics, and is behind today’s research into the same. Now the widespread
    use of antibiotics in inappropriate way (specialy in US), has led to an
    accelerated evolution of certain bacteria, with the primary mechanism affected
    being their ability to resist the antibiotics. You can see an idea, that
    through use of humans, directly influences the genetics of a number of species,
    which then again influence that idea, and the whole function recurses again…

    > <The mechanisms for finding the new
    > > versions of (non-toxic) antibiotics have been improved substantialy
    > > with recent advances in combinatorial chemistry, coupled with modern,
    > > ultra-high throughput screening systems (some of them can
    > > cost-effectively screen through hundreds of thousands of compounds
    > > withing the single day!)(that is *not* the same as discovering large
    > > numbers of new antibiotics, but it *is* the first step in finding the
    > > new mechanisms of attack on the bacteria). As I said before, the
    > > variations on the theme of resistance to antibiotics or new mechanisms
    > > of attack on bacteria, can go on forever (at least it seems so, now..),
    > > and the only thing that describes succes is relative speed with which
    > > one side reacts to new developments. Bacteria are very good at
    > > surviving because of their high mutation rate, and high proliferation
    > > rate. We, on the other hand, have all the computational and synthesis
    > > power of our technology behind us.
    > > The race goes on.>
    > >
    > Well, it's not my field at all, so I won't pursue this beyond the
    > original point. The most effective forms of life are those that are
    > extremely simple and requires extremely small amounts of energy to survive
    > (they say now that, in principle, some bacteria could survive being locked
    > in meteorites for millions of years- 'The Andromeda Strain' could be true!).

    What does it mean most effective? And what does that have to do with dominance?
    Bacteria have been around on this planet since beginning of life; but we still
    refer to the Age of Dinosaurs, Age of Theraspids, Age of Trilobites,
    etc…although there were far more bacteria around then in earlier ages…That is
    why this short period of about last 5000years is the Age of Men.

    > <Nuclear sterilization of the planet would probably do the trick.
    > Would it be cost-effective?:)>
    > >
    > I'll bet you a tenner it wouldn't work :-)

    Sure. I accept. ;) One needs only to burn out the atmosphere, and that would do
    the trick for practically all of the life on this planet; and if we nudge the
    Earth out of orbit, nope, no life possible again…
    > <What is the difference? Are we not the most dominant species on the
    > > planet, at this time? :)>
    > >
    > Jump in the sea, and tell me you're dominant whilst the tiger sharks
    > bite your head off. See if you can out-run a cheetah on the Serengeti, and
    > then you can tell me you're dominant. Lie in your bed, whilst the bed bugs'
    > excretea damages your lungs etc. etc.
    But sharks are on the endangered species list (after almost 200 million years
    of being the Big Guys in the sea!!) because of us; cheetas are almost extinct,
    too, and not even by high tech hunters or heavy industry; how many people die
    out of bed bugs?! I want to point out that species dominance does not imply at
    all that every individual member of the species is dominant over every other
    life form on the planet. As long as a species can, and does, succesfuly take
    over natural habitats of any and every other species, you can call it dominant. 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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