RE: A more "sciency"-sounding mysticism.

Gatherer, D. (
Wed, 31 Mar 1999 09:42:51 +0200

Date: Wed, 31 Mar 1999 09:42:51 +0200
From: "Gatherer, D. (Derek)" <>
Subject: RE: A more "sciency"-sounding mysticism.
To: "''" <>

Jake wrote:

>We certainly wouldn't claim that biological organisms are
>"just an illusion", so why would we claim this for cultural

Possibly illusion is too strong a word, but there is an important sense in
which gene selectionism, of which 'The Selfish Gene' is the classic
popularising presentation, does strongly down-play the importance of the
biological individual. Rather than 'just an illusion', a gene selectionist
would say 'just a co-replicon' - all the genes within a co-replicon must
replicate (or rather be replicated, of course) together, so they are doomed
to co-operation, and this is where the level of the individual is seen to
'emerge' from the morass of otherwise 'selfish' genes. However, there are
cases, such as meiotic drive alleles in Drosophila, or the mitochondrial
genome, where the co-replicon is circumvented and thus where genetic
individuality starts to come apart.

The memetic 'analogue' of this argument is that much cultural selection is
at the level of the meme rather than the individual. You say that religions
are 'adaptive to real life'. I agree entirely. Contra Dawkins, and contra
a few others whom I won't mention for fear of provoking another spat, I
think that religions are adaptive at the level of the individual, rather
than that of the memes that make up the religions.

Regarding the idea that 'the self' is a meme, it is possible to divest one's
self, eg. by engaging in Zen meditation or by taking ketamine (not
recommended), and one might behave in a 'self-less' manner (but not on this
list). What do you reckon? Is that evidence?


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