RE: The Status of Memetics as a Science

From: Trupeljak Ozren (
Date: Wed May 02 2001 - 05:51:44 BST

  • Next message: Trupeljak Ozren: "RE: The Status of Memetics as a Science"

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    From: Trupeljak Ozren <>
    Subject: RE: The Status of Memetics as a Science
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    --- Vincent Campbell <> wrote:
    >>> <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?>
    > For me, terms like 'disciples' are pejorative, implying blind faith.

    Disciple is a follower of discipline; how does that imply blind faith?!
    But, OK, if that is true for you, no prob. I was refering to the
    meaning of the word in relation to scientific view that one needs
    disciplined thinking to produce scientificaly valid results, as opposed
    to wishful or some other kinds of thinking..

    > >> 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
    > 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
    > the other religions have not.>
    > >
    > So are the filters of science and religion the same in your book?
    > As I said in my other reply today, there may be internal logic to a
    > train of thought, but if the premises are illogical in the first
    place, then
    > internal logic becomes irrelevant. Science's capacity to change, is
    > one of its merits.

    Of course that filters of sc. and rel. are not the same; filters amogst
    the religions are rarely the same. I never claimed that logical
    thinking always produces truths (and I specifically mentioned that most
    of the religious premises are out there, meaning, hanging in the air,
    We at least agree that ability of science to change itself makes it
    different from most other religions.

    > <Weak from our, "scientific" perspective. From the perspective of
    > Islam scheme
    > > dominant in Afghanistan, it was a needed move.>
    > >
    > Exactly- the basis of religious decision making is instrinsically
    > weak, even if its extrinsically strong (rather like military notions
    > of proportional response, where knocking out Saddam's radar stations
    > doesn't affect Sadam's rule but offers a symoblic indication of
    > It's the intrinsic significance that matters to science.

    What does it mean, intrinsically weak? What is the meaning of
    "intrinsic significance"? Please explain; I do not follow your
    reasoning here.

    > >> Interpretation of religious texts is entirely arbitrary- people
    > >> always, and will always, continue to utilise the inconsistencies,
    > >> internal contradictions in religious texts to support any cause
    > >> 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
    > > campaigners who use their Bibles for their goals. And they use
    > > Bibles half of the time anyway.>
    > >
    > I'm not talking about the US, per se, I'm talking globally. The
    > slave trade was legitimated on biblical passages, but so were civil
    >movements from the US to South Africa and elsewhere. The question
    > should be, why do movements on both sides of the race question
    > religion rather than other tools- because religion is fundamentally
    > in a way that science is not, and thus is malleable to virtually any

    I was talking globally, too, just using a specific example. And as far
    as I know, movements on both sides of the race question use (and abuse)
    science to prove their point also. Science seems to be as malleable as
    religious interpretations of morality are, mainly because science does
    not deal in ethics and morality at all.
    And the only fundamental arbitrariness of religion as opposed to
    science that I can see, is a choice of truth generator. Even that seems
    to be an evolutionary choice, and not arbitrary one.

    > <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.>
    > >
    > ... and? I don't get the significance of this. (I'm not sure I
    > accept it either, but I'll wait for an exaplanation).

    The original argument was that science offered new capacities for human
    behavior, while religions do not; I claimed that they do, and offered
    an above mentioned example.

    > <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.>
    > >
    > ...and? Again, I'm not sure what you're saying here. There's
    > absolutely nothing new about destroying the idols of religion, or for
    > that matter other icons- after all destruction of statues of Stalin
    > Winston Churchill in May Day celebrations in the UK), aren't
    religious icons,
    > they're ideological ones. This has been done for centuries,
    thousands of
    > years even. I really don't know what you're saying here.

    You do not even try to understand, do you? I repeat, if you did not
    have religions (or ideologies, whatever) in the first place, you would
    not have one very specific capacity for human behavior, and that is
    destruction of the monuments for that religion or ideology. All of this
    only as an example of why the claim that science offers capacities for
    h.b. and religions do not.
    Now, if you have claimed that science offers MORE capacities for h.b.
    then religion does, I might agree with you there. Anyway, not a
    difference significant enough to prove that science is not a religion.

    > <Yes, as far as I know, yes...still, geneticaly we are not very
    different from
    > > those first proto-humans at all,>
    > >
    > Well we not that different still from chimps, genetically speaking
    > (or in numerical terms, as recently announced from fruit flies)...

    The difference is quite a bit greater though, between us and chimps,
    then between us and proto-humans, which is the reason why I claimed
    humanity to have existed on earth for about 4 million years, in the
    first place. Is it important for the rest of religion-science argument?

    > <... and the only (I suspect!) huge differences that we have are
    > better developed brains and better resistance to diseases, and this
    > last oneas a direct consequence of the rise of civilization (and I am
    > talking about the modern medicine at all.)>
    > Well, no I think this last point is wrong actually. There's a
    > significant point of view that our sanitised society is actually
    > making people more vulnerable to disease, e.g. rises in allergic
    > in children, falls in general disease resistence levels etc. Wade's
    > also mentioned the organisms who've exploited our environmental
    > to our detriment.

    I strongly disagree. Vast majority of the people on Earth do not live
    in sanitised societies. Conditions of life for almost 80% of humanity
    are far worse today than they were when we lived in tribal societies;
    diseases are still rampant, and are one of the main factors that affect
    survival of specific groups of genes. Although we have the technology
    needed to combat them, money for that is held in very few, very
    weatlhy, countries, that do not give a damn about human suffering
    Our current way of life in the first world societies might be
    conductive to falls in general disease resistance, but on the
    evolutionary scale, is way too short for genes to show that. Even last
    5000 years of civilised life (which generates an important factor of
    survival: disease resistance) are short enough that this effect is

    > Incidentally, I don't know if anyone's died from bed bugs directly,
    > but I suspect indrectly they could be pretty damaging to those with
    > allergies or asthma (also on the increase in urban environments).

    Might be. Doesn't change a bit in my argument for dominance.

    > >>> <Since the battleground of our modern drug industry against the
    > >> > antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria is my favorite research
    > >> > 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
    > > 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
    > > affected being their ability to resist the antibiotics. You can see
    an idea,
    > that through use of humans, directly influences the genetics of a
    > of species, which then again influence that idea, and the whole
    > recurses again...>
    > >
    > Perhaps, but knowledge per se isn't automatically memetic. It comes
    > back to the utility conundrum. I'm not interested in human practices
    > that spread because they work, have overt utility, but in those that
    > spread despite not having overt utility. That doesn't mean they
    spread by
    > different mechanisms necessarily, but I feel we'd get a clearer
    > insight into cultural evolution if we could work out why specious
    > practices spread.

    As I said, if knowledge is not necessarily memetic, then proof #2.
    And as for the spread of specious cultural practices, I agree, it might
    be very interesting to find out.

    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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