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

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Tue May 01 2001 - 11:52:43 BST

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    Subject: RE: The Status of Memetics as a Science (long post!)
    Date: Tue, 1 May 2001 11:52:43 +0100 
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            <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 to
    > put it
    > nicely...rather out there...>
            Perhaps, but if you start from the wrong basic premises, it doesn't
    matter that whether what you may then do has internal consistency or not,
    it's stil wrong. Ask Descartes.

            <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..>
            You're not seeing this at the right level. Once experimentation
    falsifies a hypothesis in science, that hypothesis is rejected (this a
    significant lidealisation, and simplification, of course). In other words,
    if it doesn't work it's rejected. Religion is about continuing to believe,
    in many cases especially when lived experience and understanding seem to
    contradict those beliefs. That's Kiekergaard's absurd leap of faith. The
    basic premise of belief in religion and science are fundamentally different.
    'Belief' in science should always be contingent, belief in religion should
    never be contingent (you have to believe absolutely).

            <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.>
            Well, you just don't understand them very well then. I think every
    definition here applies to religions, and their rituals. Take the 3rd
    definition here- exactly what I mean- religious rituals have nothing to do
    with the intrinstic nature of whatever it is they're supposed to be doing
    (again, rain dances don't make it rain; transubstantiation does not turn
    communion wine into the blood of Jesus etc. etc.).

            <The cultural meanings of the rituals do not became attached to
    > 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, look at those definitions. Tell me there's some external-
    not internal- logic to the majority of religious rituals.

            <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...>
            Even I might shirk from saying that science is the opposite of
    religion, but another one? Absolutely no way. It's a completely different
    way of thinking.

            <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.>
            Let's assume for a moment you're right- that modern Christianity is
    down to Paul. How did Paul decide what bits of Jesus' teachings were
    correct? He made arbitrary choices- not in the sense of being unrelated to
    the cultural needs of people of the time, but arbitrary in the sense that
    there was no way for him to judge the absolute vaildity of the bits he
    chose, and yet at the same time claiming them to be absolute truths. That's
    the point; evidence-free assertions of absolute truth. That couldn't be more
    removed from what science endeavours to do (i.e. possible truths contingent
    of available evidence).

            <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. >
    Again, then I don't think you understand religions 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...>
            You're not seeing the personal psychology here of people trying to
    jump on Mohammad's band wagon. It, arguably, had nothing to do with correct
    or incorrect understandings of Mohammad's teaching's and everything to do
    with familial squabbles over his legacy.


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