Re: Explanatory coherence

Aaron Lynch (
Tue, 05 Aug 1997 14:58:29 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Tue, 05 Aug 1997 14:58:29 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: Explanatory coherence
In-Reply-To: <>

Aaron Lynch responding to Mark Mills:

>>There is a DISTINCTLY MEMETIC explanation of what
>>caused monotheism: In a society where numerous god-memes accumulate in =
>>population, they start subdividing their access to their host's replica=
>>faculties (host resources). This creates an advantage for a new god-mem=
>>which says "I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no false gods before
>>me." For more about this, see p. 98-99 of THOUGHT CONTAGION.=20
>If god-memes are accumulating in a population, what do you think is the=20
>best means of counting them? =20

There are at least 2 questions, one concerning how to count the instances
of ONE god meme--i.e., measuring its host population. This involves makin=
functional definitions of who is a host, etc. See my discussion with Tim
Perper about Demeter in late May under the thread "Meme extinction."=20

Another question is how to enumerate different god-memes in one host. Wit=
god-memes, it usually suffices to consider memes distinct if the "gods" i=
question have different names and are believed to be separate entities by
the believer. So if you believe in Zeus and Demeter, these are enumerated
as 2 god-memes in one host.=20

>In keeping with the dialog, do you think the monotheistic memes are the=20
>artifacts in the environment? a brain pattern?

I don't know how a transition from polytheism to monotheism might have
happened in the first host. This is a bit like asking whether a particula=
mutant gene first arose from a cosmic ray, a free radical, or a
transcription mishap. The meme does consist of information stored in the
brain, but asserting a particular theory of the mechanisms of human memor=
is not necessary for the MEMETICIST. Extraterrestrials and robots might o=
day be discovered to hold monotheism memes. (By analogy, many kinds of
memory can store an e-mail message.)

>Finally, is the new god-meme which says 'have no false gods' a=20
>evolutionary mutation of 'have any god' or 'have a god'? Is there=20
>something of a coded switch that once meant 'have a god' and through=20
>thoughtless replication error became 'have no false gods'?

There are indeed many possibilities for just what god-meme it was that
first mutated into a monotheistic god-meme. We have written records of th=
result, but not of the mental process that first produced it.

>In the Christian tradition, there is the notion that 'in the beginning=20
>there was the word.'

The following might be interesting to you in relation to this:

"A good example from the realm of religion is the idea of giving mystical
significance to spreading "the Word," as in the Gospel according to John:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word w=
God." Clearly the faith spreads more vigorously by telling adherents that
to spread the Word is to instill God himself. With a capitalized "Word"
like this, it=92s no wonder that biblical literalism gains prevalence eve=
n in
a modern scientific society."

--Self quote from the following online article:

Thought Contagion and Heaven's Gate
Aaron Lynch diskutiert die Theorie der Memetik anhand der UFO-Sekte
Heaven's Gate - gefaehrliche Ansteckung.


--Aaron Lynch

How Belief Spreads Through Society
The New Science of Memes
Basic Books. Info and free sample:

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