Ideological Eunuchs?

t (MemeLab@aol.com)
Mon, 20 Sep 1999 19:50:08 EDT

From: <MemeLab@aol.com>
Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999 19:50:08 EDT
Subject: Ideological Eunuchs?
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk

In a message dated 9/20/99 5:03:24 PM Central Daylight Time,
bbenzon@mindspring.com writes:

>>In fact, minus memetics being part of the social sciences -- which it is
>>still striving for such a place -- I would tend to agree with them. Prior
>>to memetics, I would say that almost everything I have encountered in social
>>sciences has been clearly under the sway of one political ideology or
>>another.
>
>The trouble, Jake, is that without empirical evidence, memetics' scientific
>heritage does it little good. And I certainly think that wanting to say
>that it's our memes acting, and not us at all, is an ideological desire.
>

Exactly.

I will be patient.

Of course I and many others have weighed in on the no-real-self and
having-of-a-self is a meme illusion, or even a meme "lie" position, which
represents a new type of ideological foray into the would-be social science
of memetics -- that of eastern mysticism. Indeed while I have spent these
last few posts promoting Susan Blackmore's ideas which I think are good and
useful (perhaps my penance for earlier blasts), we have to remain conscious
that her book for all of its good ideas is so far one of the greatest jobs of
a priori religious philosophizing in memetics without an empirical basis for
doing so. And of course one would have to also question my own ideological
motivations for earlier blasting her book. Perhaps I can find a brief
respite from the storm by saying that the question of self is not one that is
a compelling initial question to answer for memetics? Perhaps I cannot?

I guess it is only a fitting follow-up to Richard Dawkin's shameless
hard-core atheist anti-religion proselytizing in his essay "Viruses of the
Mind." Not that any of that, either Blackmore's or Dawkin's biases, are
compelling from the evolutionary algorithm itself. Indeed Dawkin's ought to
know better about parasite ecology, being a biologist ---> [ <A
HREF="http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/Papers/Cullen.html">Chain Letters, Corpse
Flowers and the Evolution of Religion</A>
http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/Papers/Cullen.html ] <--- even if he can't find some
level of disinterested appreciation for religion from a cultural PoV. But
apparently these are just annoying details getting in the way of his
ideological agenda.

I think that you are right. How can anyone not have an ideology? An agenda
that will eventually and inevitably get in the way, no matter how hard we try
to remain "Objective." The longer we suffer in the lack of empirical
evidence, . . . well the longer we suffer, and the more ideological flights
of fancy will distract from the accumulation of knowledge. Perhaps it will
never be? Do you think? I guess I could deal with that if I have to, but I
can't think of a good reason why it should never be. Except for the fact
that I can't think of where it would go from here.

How long can we agree to be ideological eunuchs about the subject, before the
eunuchdom becomes a tainting "ideology" itself lacking the very empirical
mooring that it so desperately sought for itself? How long can we afford not
to for the sake of humanity when our culture itself threatens to rewrite our
biology in profound new ways that earlier eugenicists could never have
imagined in their wildest fantasies. Of course so many will say they are
opposed to this in the abstract, but what individual would pass up the
opportunity to genetically "correct" a disease detected in their weeks-old
embryo, or even give it a "genetic upper hand" in looks or intelligence, if
offered the chance? And what agency will "punish" or "correct" the "crime"
and how?

I did read something in a magazine lately, however. Something about
neurology. "Spike trains" and "troids" and other wild sounding stuff. And
about memes. It sounded rather hopeful if somewhat strange. Perhaps even
too strange to fit any ideological agenda that I can currently imagine. I
will see if I can find it again wherever I put it.

-Jake

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