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Ch. 12 - Survival of the Fittest Christianity 
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Post Ch. 12 - Survival of the Fittest Christianity
Ch. 12 - Survival of the Fittest Christianity



Sun Aug 15, 2010 11:07 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 12 - Survival of the Fittest Christianity
For now I'll skip the main thrust of this chapter which is that Paul's concept of brotherly love gave his brand of Christianity the ability to outcompete other brands of Christianity.

In the introduction, Wright discusses the clash between science and religion. He points to scientific discoveries that increased our understanding of the natural world and thus removed the mysticism and fear from many naturally-occurring events such as eclipses.

Quote:
There have many such unsettling (from religion's point of view) discoveries since then, but always some notion of the divine has survived the encounter with science. The notion has had to change, but that's no indictment of religion. After all, science has changed relentlessly revising, if not discarding old theories, and none of us think of that as an indictment of science. On the contrary, we think this ongoing adaptation is carrying science closer to the truth. Maybe the same thing is happening to religion.


In these last couple of chapters, Wright argues that moral progress—the widening circle—is a natural outcome of non-zero-sum scenarios in which tolerance for other's beliefs and ethnicities is deemed mutually beneficial. He suggests the notion of universal love or interethnic amity is rooted in culture. If Pauline Christianity hadn't taken root, universal love would have emerged from somewhere else, another religion or cult. It just needs the right conditions to blossom. But ultimately it is moral progress and maybe it is carrying us closer to the truth.

At the end of Chapter 12, Wright returns to the concept of Logos. Given that technological evolution expands the realm of non-zero-sumness, our concept of God will continue to grow along with it. But this "God" is in quotation marks. Clearly it is our concept of God that changes, not God himself who may not even exist. Wright suggests that Philo's concept of Logos might be a useful way think of this divine purpose.

In fact, what struck me while reading this chapter is that universal love remains an unrealized goal, especially in official religious dogma. It used to be that if you're not baptized you go to hell. I'm pretty sure most people don't actually believe that any more, but many people do believe that if you don't accept Jesus as your savior you will go to hell. As we have previously discussed on BT, some fundamentalist Christians believe Anne Frank is burning in hell right now. So though we have crossed certain ethnic barriers, it seems universal love still has quite a ways to go. If anything Christianity is a barrier to universal love. As such, one could argue that science might be in a better position to promote universal love.


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Last edited by geo on Sat Oct 09, 2010 1:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Oct 09, 2010 12:12 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 12 - Survival of the Fittest Christianity
Could you explain what is meant by non-zero sumness?



Sat Oct 09, 2010 12:48 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 12 - Survival of the Fittest Christianity
The possibility of personally meeting an alien from space in our life-times is highly unlikely, but the statistic must be considered non-zero.

As in, not impossible. So, while the probablility may be low, it must be considered.


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Is this the virtue of faith? To never change your mind: especially when you should?

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Sat Oct 09, 2010 1:07 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 12 - Survival of the Fittest Christianity
Interbane wrote:
Could you explain what is meant by non-zero sumness?


Applying game theory to social evolution is sort of Wright's specialty. I see non-zero-sumness as a scenario in which two or more parties find it mutually beneficial to cooperate. You remember Prisoner's Dilemma in The Selfish Gene? Two suspects in a crime can rat each other out and neither would benefit. One could rat out the other and that would be zero-sum—one's gain is the other's loss. Or both could not rat each other out and both would benefit, thus non-zero-sum.

Wright shows how when cultures clash, either in war or in commerce, it becomes mutually beneficial to at least pay lip service to each other's gods and otherwise tolerate each other's cultural differences. That would be a state of non-zero-sumness, at least how I understand it. DWIll could probably explain it better.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner's_dilemma


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Post Re: Ch. 12 - Survival of the Fittest Christianity
Once again I must interject my two cents and it will not surprise any one that I completely disagree with the whole concept of 'Survival of the Fittest Christianity' in the context of popularity. In North America we have some mega churches who design their services to appeal to the unchurched. I find that idea totally at odds with the early church model. When the church was just beginning the sermons were very challenging and critical of the people being preached to, so much so that those early preachers often were attacked, beaten and killed. To be a Christian then you had to be serious about it. When Christian doctrine succombs to popular tastes it loses its savor, it is no longer salty and therefore, though it may call itself Christian, it is that no longer. There has been much pressure on the Church in America to compromise on her values and many will continue to do so until there is only a remnant left. But that remnant will be the fittest Christian community.


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Sat Oct 09, 2010 2:22 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 12 - Survival of the Fittest Christianity
stahrwe wrote:
Once again I must interject my two cents and it will not surprise any one that I completely disagree with the whole concept of 'Survival of the Fittest Christianity' in the context of popularity. In North America we have some mega churches who design their services to appeal to the unchurched. I find that idea totally at odds with the early church model. When the church was just beginning the sermons were very challenging and critical of the people being preached to, so much so that those early preachers often were attacked, beaten and killed. To be a Christian then you had to be serious about it. When Christian doctrine succombs to popular tastes it loses its savor, it is no longer salty and therefore, though it may call itself Christian, it is that no longer. There has been much pressure on the Church in America to compromise on her values and many will continue to do so until there is only a remnant left. But that remnant will be the fittest Christian community.

So you deny that Christianity became popular early in the last millenium? That seems rather strange. That a particular form of it did become popular is why Wright calls it the fittest of the varieties that were competing. Obviously, he's making no judgment of its value, just that the Pauline school turned out to have what it takes to win out. One of those features was dropping the need for males to be circumcised. Boy would that have been a plus for me. But the question you raise about the megachurches is interesting. Is what they're doing somewhat equivalent to dropping circumcision, in that they might be relaxing the doctrinal core in order to make people feel more welcome and comfortable? I don't know what they're really doing in there, but possibly if it does involve less emphasis on old theology, Wright's thesis is borne out. Religion finds ways to be more inclusive in response to the movement in culture to remove the sharp edges that individuals from different groups can present to each other.


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Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness


Sun Oct 10, 2010 12:41 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 12 - Survival of the Fittest Christianity
geo wrote:
Interbane wrote:
Could you explain what is meant by non-zero sumness?


Applying game theory to social evolution is sort of Wright's specialty. I see non-zero-sumness as a scenario in which two or more parties find it mutually beneficial to cooperate. You remember Prisoner's Dilemma in The Selfish Gene? Two suspects in a crime can rat each other out and neither would benefit. One could rat out the other and that would be zero-sum—one's gain is the other's loss. Or both could not rat each other out and both would benefit, thus non-zero-sum.

Wright shows how when cultures clash, either in war or in commerce, it becomes mutually beneficial to at least pay lip service to each other's gods and otherwise tolerate each other's cultural differences. That would be a state of non-zero-sumness, at least how I understand it. DWIll could probably explain it better.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner's_dilemma

That's good, geo. I can't claim to understand really anything about game theory (but I nominate interbane to find out and present it to us). Wright wrote a whole book on nonzero-sumness, and I expect in there he tells us how he derives what appears to be a philosophy from specific instances of game theory. I take it that zero-sum games have two players and that the only outcome no matter what the strategy is win for one and loss for the other (1 + -1=0). This would be like in a chess game, an example of a "strictly competitive" game. In nonzero-sum games there are either more than two players or the benefits can accrue to each party in some degree. The popular term of course is win-win. Supposedly, any commercial transaction is nonzero-sum, as long as the parties are rational. Each party always receives (or maybe just believes it has received) something of at least minimally greater value than it had before. This may be why Wright sees trade as being such a huge force in increasing total nonzero-sumness. Wright speaks often in the book of nonzero-sum relationships. I'm not sure what he means by this, not sure how he gets to this general level from the playing out of specific transactions. He seems to mean just relationships in which people are tolerant of each other. He seems to say there is a nonzero-sum outlook on life, but I'm not sure game theory is needed to get to that point.


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Post Re: Ch. 12 - Survival of the Fittest Christianity
Quote:
Each party always receives (or maybe just believes it has received) something of at least minimally greater value than it had before. This may be why Wright sees trade as being such a huge force in increasing total nonzero-sumness.


That's great. It raises the deeper philosophical question of where the increased value originates in the first place. It doesn't spontaneously corporate during the trade, it must have at least had potential before a trade is made. People's desires create value, not their abilities(what they produce). If there is some kernel of game theory truth here, it makes me even more concerned about supply-side economics. What is the name of the book by Wright on this subject?



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Post Re: Ch. 12 - Survival of the Fittest Christianity
DWill wrote:
stahrwe wrote:
Once again I must interject my two cents and it will not surprise any one that I completely disagree with the whole concept of 'Survival of the Fittest Christianity' in the context of popularity. In North America we have some mega churches who design their services to appeal to the unchurched. I find that idea totally at odds with the early church model. When the church was just beginning the sermons were very challenging and critical of the people being preached to, so much so that those early preachers often were attacked, beaten and killed. To be a Christian then you had to be serious about it. When Christian doctrine succombs to popular tastes it loses its savor, it is no longer salty and therefore, though it may call itself Christian, it is that no longer. There has been much pressure on the Church in America to compromise on her values and many will continue to do so until there is only a remnant left. But that remnant will be the fittest Christian community.

So you deny that Christianity became popular early in the last millenium? That seems rather strange. That a particular form of it did become popular is why Wright calls it the fittest of the varieties that were competing. Obviously, he's making no judgment of its value, just that the Pauline school turned out to have what it takes to win out. One of those features was dropping the need for males to be circumcised. Boy would that have been a plus for me. But the question you raise about the megachurches is interesting. Is what they're doing somewhat equivalent to dropping circumcision, in that they might be relaxing the doctrinal core in order to make people feel more welcome and comfortable? I don't know what they're really doing in there, but possibly if it does involve less emphasis on old theology, Wright's thesis is borne out. Religion finds ways to be more inclusive in response to the movement in culture to remove the sharp edges that individuals from different groups can present to each other.


Popularity is not a measure of the fittness of Christianity. Prophecy says that as the end times near there will be a great falling away. A world 'church' will emerge which is an amalgum of all religions. Only a remnant of true Christianity will remain. The fact that true Christainity is nearly gone does not mean that it is not the fittest. That is what I mean.


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Post Re: Ch. 12 - Survival of the Fittest Christianity
stahrwe wrote:

Popularity is not a measure of the fittness of Christianity. Prophecy says that as the end times near there will be a great falling away. A world 'church' will emerge which is an amalgum of all religions. Only a remnant of true Christianity will remain. The fact that true Christainity is nearly gone does not mean that it is not the fittest. That is what I mean.

But yes, in Darwinian terms (even though Darwin never used the phrase "survival of the fittest") "fittest" is the form most likely to survive. It doesn't confer any value, just a kind of brute force. I do have to say that the end you see as so terrible seems to me a welcome development.


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No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence--that which makes its truth, its meaning--its subtle penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live as we dream--alone.

Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness


Last edited by DWill on Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 12 - Survival of the Fittest Christianity
DWill wrote:
stahrwe wrote:

Popularity is not a measure of the fittness of Christianity. Prophecy says that as the end times near there will be a great falling away. A world 'church' will emerge which is an amalgum of all religions. Only a remnant of true Christianity will remain. The fact that true Christainity is nearly gone does not mean that it is not the fittest. That is what I mean.

But yes, in Darwinian terms (even though Darwin never used the phrase "survival of the fittest") "fittest" is the form most likely to survive. It doesn't confer any value, just a kind of brute force. I do have to say that the end you see as so terrible seems to me a welcome development.


The stage I described was only an intermediate step, it will be followed by every everyone bowing and acknowledging that Jesus is Lord when He reveals Himself, sorry.


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Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:53 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 12 - Survival of the Fittest Christianity
If you're still a member of Booktalk when that date comes and goes, I'd very much like to hear your explanation as to why it didn't happen. Breaking the pinata that is.



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Post Re: Ch. 12 - Survival of the Fittest Christianity
Interbane wrote:
If you're still a member of Booktalk when that date comes and goes, I'd very much like to hear your explanation as to why it didn't happen. Breaking the pinata that is.


Your reference to pinata lost me.
As for the date, don't know when that date will be.


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Tue Oct 12, 2010 11:42 am
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Post Re: Ch. 12 - Survival of the Fittest Christianity
Bunches of mentally immature people greedily awaiting something they greatly desire. That's the image the rapture brings to mind every time I hear of it.

This is a tangent, I don't mean to barb you into making a response. Sorry Dwill.

Back to the subject, only after Jesus returns with the "true" religion resurface as the fittest? This is prophecy and is non-sequitur. This is one of the problems with bringing mysticism into a rational discussion, you abandon logic. Please stick to what is real in these discussions. There may be other avenues of logical approach to show that those churches which are currently most popular will not in the future be the fittest. But for now, they are.



Tue Oct 12, 2010 11:52 am
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