Re: A more "sciency"-sounding mysticism.

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Wed, 31 Mar 1999 15:56:36 EST

From: <>
Date: Wed, 31 Mar 1999 15:56:36 EST
Subject: Re: A more "sciency"-sounding mysticism.

In a message dated 30/03/99 15:01:03 GMT Daylight Time,

<< Now I certainly can and do understand the need to reconceptualize free-
to wrench it from more supernatural-dualistic paradigms. But to write off
their own and everyone else's corresponding individual experiences of
making choices and of an emergent self, as being "just an illusion" is every
bit if not more ridiculous than the more religiously-minded people's attempts
to attribute these experiences to supernatural causes. At least they are
addressing their experiences, however "simple-minded" and irrational their
religious approach. These other atheistic folks are foolishly denying them,
with a more "sciency"-sounding mysticism. >>

Hi Jake and hello to everyone else, this is my first mail in this group. I
hope I am not speaking out of turn. I'm an earth scientist who has had an
amateur interest in the concept of memes since reading The Selfish Gene over
10 years ago. There are a few remarks I'd like to throw in here.

I agree with the importance of empiricism, but subjective mental "experience"
is hardly that. Are you denying that it is possible for our perceptions to be
at odds with reality?

I have no problem with redefining "self". I suspect the concept of memes
could greatly assist in this endeavour. However, I'm not clear whether you
are proposing to simply redefine "free will" as the perception of "self
control" or whether you are really suggesting that genes and memes can somehow
produce agents which are independent of.....well of genes and memes, and all
other aspects of nature and nurture. I think the term "free will" carries
too much baggage to redefine it to that extent. I cannot conceive of how
genes and memes might create genuine agents, independent of themselves.

Just to clarify my own position on one or two things. IMVHO the concept of
memes, as imitated information stored in the brain, seems to be derived from
inductive reasoning and is therefore essentially philosophical in nature. It
will remain unfalsifiable until we have the capability of "reading" brains.
However, it is a philosophical idea which appears quite intuitive to me (what
ever little that is worth). It is one which I would not like to give up

The alternative concept of memes as observable replicable cultural items ,
allows empirical research and deductive reasoning and is therefore scientific
in nature. However, I cannot help but feel this more pragmatic definition
takes away some of the attraction which memetics holds for me.

I would prefer to retain a replicating information definition even though this
may relegate memetics to the realms of "soft sciences" for a long time into
the future. Perhaps the situation isn't as bad as it first appears. We can
observe those memes recorded outside of brains and we can observe artefacts of
memes. I need to think about the distinction between artefacts and

I'm starting to ramble, I'll stop there. My thoughts are still in progress,
as you can see.

Graham (one of the mystical atheistic folk from AOL!!)

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