Re: Zen

Aaron Lynch (
Sat, 10 Apr 1999 17:17:43 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Sat, 10 Apr 1999 17:17:43 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: Zen

At 01:06 PM 4/9/99 +0200, wrote:
>To me the importance of Zen - and of meditation techniques in general - is
>it can free us - temporarily - of our ongoing train of thoughts. In that
way it
>is a useful solution to get rid of the emotional burdeon which our thinking
>puts on us:


Seldom does such an old and widespread personal philosophy derive all of
its memetic selection advantage solely from its emotional benefits to
adherents. Zen may have other memetic selection advantages, such as those
that would arise in selection for refutation resistance. Consider an
ancient environment in which several competing religions or philosophies
were being debated. Adherents of one would challenge a competing belief
system by showing that it leads either to self-contradiction or to
contradiction with accepted observations of the world. With philosophy X
and Y, such demonstration of contradiction could result first in adherents
dropping out, and second in prospective adherents deciding against becoming
adherents. But if philosophy Z embraces contradiction, then it could be a
more robust competitor in an environment selecting for the least often
refuted philosophy. Zen might owe some of its evolution and proliferation
to just such a kind of natural selection. Once it establishes its
reputation as resistant to conventional lines of refutation, many people
may learn not to even try to refute or even criticize it. This again can
help it to out-propagate philosophies and religions that do not embrace
contradictions, non-sequiturs, etc. Once its reputation is established, it
finds more settings in which it can spread unopposed.

Perhaps this begins to make the sort of analysis that Bill Benzon was
looking for when he said "A memeticist might be interested in studying how
the doctrines and techniques of Zen meditation originated and spread."
(Although I am not sure whether he regards doctrines as existing in the
brain, given our previous discussions!)

--Aaron Lynch

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