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The Selfish Meme? 
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Post Re: The Selfish Meme?
Geo wrote:
The idea that certain religious concepts can be embraced by a culture while other religious concepts from the same religious text can be largely ignored seems very meme-centric to me. It breaks down the larger religious texts into individual memes, a meme being a unit of culture. Many Christians ignore a good part of the Old Testament, but cannot jettison it completely because original sin is so intrinsically tied in with the New Testament's message of salvation. But these days almost nobody pays much attention to the Old Testament. Its God is laughably cartoonish. The New Testament's message of universal love and salvation, on the other hand, remains very appealing to the masses. And Christianity is alive and well, although arguably becoming less relevant. I wonder, at what point is critical mass reached wherein a culture rejects so much of a religion's texts that there's almost nothing left?


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Fri Sep 24, 2010 2:17 pm
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Post Re: The Selfish Meme?
geo wrote:
stahrwe wrote:

I can't expect any of you to understand because you immerse yourselves in the equivalent of pulp novels when it comes to God, religion and Christianity. TEog is an excellent example. That book has no substance to it. It is self contradictory and full of fluff and speculation.


I know, it's so unfeasible. All those, like, words!

When it's so much easier to believe that 6,000 years ago Magic Sky Daddy made the earth and later flooded it, destroying all humans except for Noah, a few friends, and a pair of every single species on the planet, who survived by living on Noah's boat. And then, even later, Magic Sky Daddy sent down his son, Jesus, to save all humans from original sin, a badness caused by Adam and Eve--the very first humans--when they ate an apple in the Garden of Eden.

Yes, so much more believable! So less self-contradictory, and so unfluffy! :P


If you follow the thread Epistemology and Biblical Evidence you will see a fully developed structure of interrelationship develop for the Bible. We are just getting started there but with time it will emerge. On the other hand, TEog is, well, read page 117 for an example of spculation. That is the way the whole book is.


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Fri Sep 24, 2010 2:19 pm
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Post Re: The Selfish Meme?
stahrwe wrote:

If you follow the thread Epistemology and Biblical Evidence you will see a fully developed structure of interrelationship develop for the Bible. We are just getting started there but with time it will emerge. On the other hand, TEog is, well, read page 117 for an example of spculation. That is the way the whole book is.


With all due respect, Stahrwe, this is a discussion of Wright's book. His premise is that religion and "God" are human inventions. All of his arguments and speculations follow from that premise. He states this up front in the introduction. Obviously, you disagree with that premise and it is predictable that this book will hold no interest for you. And that's fine. Why don't you let us discuss the book and meanwhile you're perfectly free to have your Bible class discussions in those forums that are specifically set up for that purpose. Anyone who wants to participate with you knows where to find you.


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Post Re: The Selfish Meme?
stahrwe wrote:
The point about Islam is that Allah is an impersonal god. One's postion (not relationship to him because that concept is alien to Islam) is based on works (the five pillars of Islam) and even then one's ultimate fate is unknowable.

stahrwe, I don't believe this. Have you been inside the heads of Muslims? If not, why are you so sure of the nature of their feelings toward their Abrahamic god?



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Post Re: The Selfish Meme?
stahrwe wrote:
If you follow the thread Epistemology and Biblical Evidence you will see a fully developed structure of interrelationship develop for the Bible. We are just getting started there but with time it will emerge. On the other hand, TEog is, well, read page 117 for an example of spculation. That is the way the whole book is.

It's a kind of exploration that Wright does. Do you see him engaging in this exploration, or speculation if you prefer, and then coming to dogmatic conclusions based on it? If he did, I would find your criticism justified. But it appears that what bothers you is the simple fact that he raises the questions at all.



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Post Re: The Selfish Meme?
geo wrote:
To be honest, I have largely ignored your ongoing debate with Robert regarding memes.

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Quote:
One of these days I'd like you to spell out for me your resistance to the idea because I came in late and never quite got a handle on it. It might be interesting for us to read and discuss Susan Blackmore's The Meme Machine sometime.

I'm aware of venturing into a hazardous area with meme-criticism. The reason I say this is that I can't disavow a plain emotional reaction against the concept, or maybe against what it represents. It repels me, to be plain, but repulsion is not something to rest on. People may be repelled by the selfish gene theory, but that's not a reason, as Dawkins rightly says.

We could take a closer look at the basis of memes sometime. Perhaps the most concise remark I could make at this point is that, considering the definition of meme as a unit of cultural transmission, there are appropriate and inappropriate uses of "units," and culture falls into the latter category. Marxism was the first attempt to bring science to the study of culture, and it failed just as I think memetics does.



Sat Sep 25, 2010 5:09 am
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Post Re: The Selfish Meme?
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there are appropriate and inappropriate uses of "units," and culture falls into the latter category. Marxism was the first attempt to bring science to the study of culture, and it failed just as I think memetics does.


This is one of the problems with memetics. In genes, even when it's nearly impossible to distinguish a specific unit, there is always the mind's eye view of a visual 'protein' the must, as least, serve as the lower limit to what a unit can be. In memetics, there are no clear distinctions. A single word with an accent could very well be a "sticky idea". See, I can't really use another term to describe what I mean here. "Sticky Idea" doesn't suffice. I really must use "meme" to explain myself, problems notwithstanding. A single word with an accent may for reasons unknown be catchier than other mundane words, and for some reason spread through society. Such a single word is possibly the lower limit to what a meme unit could be, but there are still problems. There would be variety within the unit, and even unspoken communication perhaps which is transmitted in parallel with the unit.

The way I've come to think of it is akin to how I think of a photon. It's a particle, but not really... it's also a wave. Meaning, it's not a discrete unit as we normally envision one, but is something of a "range" all to itself. To think in terms of units is to think too mechanically, which culture is not. Perhaps we should abandon the idea of units so that memetics can make progress. Or at least transplant the concept with one of lesser discretion. I can't even think of a word that would take it's place right now. "Unit" comes close, but misses the mark. The word is not an achilles heel to memetics, but rather a distraction. Memetics is elegant and disturbing when you consider it in the raw form; without our attempts to explain it. The evolutionary algorithm is the necker cube looking glass.



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Sat Sep 25, 2010 8:52 am
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Post Re: The Selfish Meme?
When you say that memes suffer from being too mechanical in concept, I agree. If there is a void needing to be filled by some other language concept, it should be adaptable to organic and emergent models of development and change. Memes as I usually hear them talked about seem to miss the boat on this score. It could be part of the reason that memes are now seldom mentioned in the scholarship on history and culture, and why they are used most often as synonynmous with "internet fads."



Sat Sep 25, 2010 1:25 pm
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Post Re: The Selfish Meme?
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When you say that memes suffer from being too mechanical in concept, I agree.


I think this is backwards. Though many champions of memetics use mechanical terms, I think it is a linguistic failure rather than a conceptual failure.

In other words, if you think of memes in mechanical concepts, the theory suffers. Therefore, don't think of them mechanically. The same words may be used, as there are few good ways to explain the concept currently, but holding to less mechanical connotations helps.

Each sub-concept in memetics should be understood fuzzily. In practice, the phenomenon becomes apparent, but it's non-physical nature makes it tough to pin down. This is the same way I think of free will. I understand there is a disconnect between collections of neurons as data storage devices and how the world really is, but it's my inability to process the hidden layer rather than a failure of the concept. "A" is true and "C" is true, but "B" is an invisible bitch.



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Post Re: The Selfish Meme?
DWill wrote:
stahrwe wrote:
The point about Islam is that Allah is an impersonal god. One's postion (not relationship to him because that concept is alien to Islam) is based on works (the five pillars of Islam) and even then one's ultimate fate is unknowable.

stahrwe, I don't believe this. Have you been inside the heads of Muslims? If not, why are you so sure of the nature of their feelings toward their Abrahamic god?



Read a book. I can recommend several. You might also read the Koran. Islam is a very fatalistic religion.


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Post Re: The Selfish Meme?
geo wrote:
stahrwe wrote:

If you follow the thread Epistemology and Biblical Evidence you will see a fully developed structure of interrelationship develop for the Bible. We are just getting started there but with time it will emerge. On the other hand, TEog is, well, read page 117 for an example of spculation. That is the way the whole book is.


With all due respect, Stahrwe, this is a discussion of Wright's book. His premise is that religion and "God" are human inventions. All of his arguments and speculations follow from that premise. He states this up front in the introduction. Obviously, you disagree with that premise and it is predictable that this book will hold no interest for you. And that's fine. Why don't you let us discuss the book and meanwhile you're perfectly free to have your Bible class discussions in those forums that are specifically set up for that purpose. Anyone who wants to participate with you knows where to find you.


I don't object to speculation. I do object to speculation masquerading ad more than that. Wright's MO is to issue a disclaimer, then cite an obscure source it might even say is out of favor, then a few pages later refer back to the source as legitimate.

In Genesis the Bible records Abram called out of Ur by God. Of course Ur was polytheistic and so therefore was Abram prior to his call. This specifically provides an explanation for everything which follows in the history of Israel, yet, Wright prefers to invent his own history. What happened to Oakum's razor in this case? Is there anywhere in TEog where Wrigt directly deals with Abram's call? Maybe I missed it. Please refer it to me and I will leave you to your echoes.


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Post Re: The Selfish Meme?
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This specifically provides an explanation for everything which follows in the history of Israel, yet, Wright prefers to invent his own history. What happened to Oakum's razor in this case?


History accords to the uniformity we see in nature VERSUS magical things happened. Ockham's Razor still applies here.

You have it backwards, the history which is invented is told in the bible. The way things actually happened are much more difficult to discern when you approach it objectively, rather than having faith in a book. The very best we can do, much of the time, is speculate then see where the speculation leads.



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Post Re: The Selfish Meme?
Thanks Geo for starting this thread. What I like about memes is that they provide a way to interpret ideas from a materialist perspective. I also get the feeling that this is what DWill does not like about memes, because it reduces cultural change to natural causality.

The point here is to find common mechanisms of cause and effect within complex natural systems. We can similarly apply some of the principles of evolution to entirely non-living complex systems such as stars. Like life and ideas, stars are born, grow, decline and die, and they start out simple, in the early hydrogen-helium universe, and they later get more complex, with the current generation of metallic products.

Memes are a bit like Murphy's Law - whatever can prosper will prosper. In material terms of cause and effect, or matter in motion, we can see that if a culture is receptive to an idea, and that idea emerges, then over time the idea will naturally evolve to occupy the available space. It is just like a niche for DNA.

Memetic explanations are about excluding supernatural miracles from explanation of religious belief, so I think it is fair to argue the whole of The Evolution of God is memetic in its inspiration. If we reject the memetic view, and don't interpret culture as bound by the laws of nature, we can end up seeing humanity as unconstrained by natural law, protected by a transcendent miraculous God who exists primarily in our own imagination. This attitude of blind supernatural faith brings to mind the saying 'pride comes before a fall'.



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Post Re: The Selfish Meme?
Ah, but Robert, tell me about one natural law we can deduce about culture that actually informs us about culture. I'm thinking of natural law as a compact description, available beforehand, of the regularities of a process. You or somebody should also find out what actually has been achieved through application of memetics. I mean, it has been 35 years since the darn term was invented.

Natural law doesn't matter in culture because it is only the form that culture assumes that has any meaning for us. It's like different patterns in a blast effect, or a volcano eruption. We know some energy force caused the explosion, but the minute variations in the resulting patterns aren't all that diagnostic of anything in particular.



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Post Re: The Selfish Meme?
Interbane wrote:
Quote:
This specifically provides an explanation for everything which follows in the history of Israel, yet, Wright prefers to invent his own history. What happened to Oakum's razor in this case?


History accords to the uniformity we see in nature VERSUS magical things happened. Ockham's Razor still applies here.

You have it backwards, the history which is invented is told in the bible...

Very backwards indeed. Wright invents his own history? Ah, no! He's talking about modern archaeology and things that are quite well known in this day and age. Oakum's razor? Come on. Really? A NASA scientists who doesn't even know how to spell Ockham's Razor or use the spell check on his tool bar? Lying idiot...



No evidence for an historical Abraham.
And certainly no evidence for a migration from the north.

No evidence for an historical Moses.
And certainly no evidence for an historical Exodus which is contradicted by the actual archaeological evidence of that time period.

The polytheism is that of the Canaanite based Elohim pantheon. And ancient Judaism is something that arose out of the local Canaanite population, not some mythical migration from the north pertaining to the polytheism of Ur that contradicts the historical record and has no historical evidence to support it any way. The claim of polytheism has nothing do with the mythical story of a migration from Ur, it has to do with the immediate Canaanite polytheism of the region and the ancient Jews as a sect from the local population of Canaan that arose after the final collapse of the Egyptian run city-state system of Canaan.

They would not become monotheistic until after going through a phase of monolatry first. We have one sect of the population trying to separate itself away from the rest and these myths of Abraham and Moses came from that ongoing process of evolution within that region of the world. And archaeologists feel that it came from the lower class serfs and slaves gathering around in the hill country following the final collapse of the Egyptian ruled Canaanite city-state system. This trumps any pointing at bible verses or apologists trying to use bible verses in order to negate what some one like Wright is talking about while addressing the polytheism of ancient Judasim, obviously. It's not Wright who's in error and doesn't know the bible, he's simply discussing the evidence of modern archaeology which is a slap in the face to traditional assumptions about the historicity of the bible.


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