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Carrier: the religious meme 
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Post Re: Carrier: the religious meme
Aren't we super intelligent compared to ants?

Do we recognize ants as intelligent with purpose?



Tue Oct 14, 2014 5:31 pm
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Post Re: Carrier: the religious meme
Ants definitely behave in a purposeful way.When a dog picks up it's leash and brings it to you it's showing purpose usually. When we are newly born how much purpose do we have in terms of comprehension .So when the cuckoo chick evicts the resident eggs I think it's hard to believe it has a deliberately conceived purpose .There is a rationale there I think but it's source is not obviously apparent.
I wouldn't claim to be an expert on insects though.Just to add. I think this where Daniel Dennett gets his free floating rationales concept from. Some see patterns of behaviours whereas he sees reasons for behaviours but which he thinks are not generally to be found in the creatures themselves.
I suppose they are missing memes if you like. I think he is trying to do justice to what he sees but it's hard to explain what these free floating rationales might be.
Behaviours seem to be universal to particular creatures. All cuckoo chicks behave in this way and hives of bees in another particular way.Can intelligence and purpose be ruled out in ants? I don't know. We wouldn't rule it out in dogs.
I've seen where, I think it's baby gazelles,when one is caught by a cheetah and it "plays dead" which seems to temporarily confuse the cheetah which then gets distracted by something else and the gazelle makes it's escape. It doesn't always apply. Often the cheetah just kills it straight away. It's generally when the mother cheetah deliberately brings the baby gazelle alive to it's own cubs for them to learn that it does this.
How does a baby gazelle know to do this?



Last edited by Flann 5 on Wed Oct 15, 2014 9:56 am, edited 6 times in total.



Tue Oct 14, 2014 8:08 pm
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Post Re: Carrier: the religious meme
Flann 5 wrote:
A lot of cultural memes are fairly trivial like fashions or fads. I think when it comes to ideas and ideologies it's more complex. Advertisers use their understanding of human psychology and cultural values to mass produce commodities and sell things with an idea or even a feeling attached. Buying this product identifies you in some supposed culturally positive way for instance.
I think ideas can have powerful content which gives them a viral quality but usually because it corresponds to aspects of human psychology and realities they actually or seem to address.
Hitler was a psychologist of sorts and combined ideas with grim economic realities and pseudo explanations of causes and remedies. He understood the power of communal rallies psychologically.
Dennett thinks religions incorporate some of these communal psychological aspects and I'm sure they do.Whether something is true or not can not be determined on this kind of basis. Hitler might have been telling the truth though we know he wasn't.
The Marxist promise of freedom and emancipation for the exploited masses is a powerful idea with a viral potential though not good news for the "enemies of the people."
I think Dennett identifies certain religious ideas in this sort of way as containing inherently dangerous and harmful ideas for individuals and society.This is true in some cases I'm sure.
I think he loses the plot when he starts talking about God memes and imagining that there must be no corresponding reality.
That's naturalist philosophy.

Sure, leaders and orators have always understood how to get the people fired up. Arguing "to the man," i.e., using emotional appeals, goes back before the Romans (that's whatad hominem was originally). Whether one finds that memes help in explaining or labeling this phenomenon is a matter of taste, I guess.

I thought a significant piece of research in Jonathan Haidt's last book was the finding that 19th Century communes that were established for religious reasons lasted about twice as long as those not so founded. Since religion derives from a word meaning "binding," it makes sense that communal actions based on it might have greater staying power. What is easy to recognize is that we can pick out both very positive and very negative results from the power of religious devotion. If we were to say we'd have been better off without it altogether, we might be mistaken, because chances are we'd forgo some of these highs. Would we also have avoided some of the lows? I don't know--but the question probably doesn't make sense anyway, since we'd have to have had a different human nature altogether to not invent religions.



Last edited by DWill on Tue Oct 14, 2014 9:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Tue Oct 14, 2014 9:29 pm
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Post Re: Carrier: the religious meme
Hi Dwill.
I think there are so many differences between religions that's it's not really possible to give explanations in a generalised sense. The two I'm most familiar with are Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism.They would both come under the heading Christian. The first is more top down with an ultimate controlling leader and is more ritualistic and visually oriented.
For centuries masses and readings were in Latin and you have lots of incense, bells,vestments and ritual that are loosely similar to Judaistic ritual.
It seems more oriented to the senses than the mind.The Protestant one is more focused on scripture,hearing,reading and understanding I would say and is not as top down controlled so you get fragmentation usually based on differing interpretations of scripture.
These clash with the Reformation with the perception that the institutionalised model appears to have over time moved away from the teachings of scripture often due to ideas introduced top down. A power struggle of sorts ensues with religious and political elements intertwined and it's not always clear which is primary.So lots of wars. Of course even before this there were territorial wars but this did add an additional edge I think.
Both have the same teaching about loving your enemies but if kings go to war in the name of a religion it's all too likely people will kill each other.
So I suppose that insofar as people follow the positive teachings of Christ you will get beneficial effects and I think it would be hard to say they were doing this in killing each other.
Islam has teachings about doing charitable deeds and against usury as well as Jihad so again you will get positive results as well as negative depending on how Jihad is understood.But, I'm not endorsing Islam which I don't believe in.It seems not to be one uniform entity and has degrees of differences and conflicting ideas and factions within it.
A crucial insight I would say, relates to human nature which Christianity sees as fallen.
If all religions were obliterated from the planet,would wars and conflicts cease? John Lennon thinks they would. I think history provides enough evidence to suggest otherwise. Atheistic ideologues kill each other too and we see this fragmentation in revolutionary movements in Russia and China historically. Former leaders are executed as enemies of the people and you have Cultural revolutionary insanity in China. There are complex reasons for these things and I'm not saying atheism itself was the prime mover. Just that it happened in cultures where atheism was prevalent and it would be hard to say that religious belief contributed.
Marxist ideologues saw religion as an evil to be exterminated but it's hard to see peaceful societies emerging from an ideology founded on class struggle. We can reject this ideology but is there an ideology that will guarantee peaceful societies?



Last edited by Flann 5 on Wed Oct 15, 2014 8:25 am, edited 2 times in total.



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Post Re: Carrier: the religious meme
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Ants definitely behave in a purposeful way.


I've often considered ants altogether mechanical. Their purpose seems mechanical as well - they are driven by nothing more than complex causal mechanisms. Their trailmaking for food gathering follows an algorithm(yup), based on pheromone strength from other ants in the area.

Flann wrote:
I think ideas can have powerful content which gives them a viral quality but usually because it corresponds to aspects of human psychology and realities they actually or seem to address.


This is exactly why many ideas have a viral quality. The viral characteristics of ideas are due to the powerful content, to the way the content elicits emotions, strikes our nerves, resonates, etc. What is odd to note here is that truthfulness isn't necessarily a sticky characteristic. In many cases, the powerful content is truthful, in many cases it isn't. Truthfulness is a secondary quality. Primary to what makes an idea viral is how powerfully it elicits emotion. Religions are able to elicit powerful emotion through stories, rituals, songs, sanctity, community. They may not all be truthful, but they all elicit powerful emotion. They all have the viral capacity. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad(pascal's wager).


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Post Re: Carrier: the religious meme
You may be right about ants Interbane. I'm no expert on them.
We can see though degrees of intelligence and purpose in many animals. They are not robotic.
I think I would agree with you that many elements are involved in terms of ideas,religions and beliefs and why they may be accepted. We couldn't honestly say that every idea,philosophy or religion is true when they say different and conflicting things.
Suppose we take God and religion out of the picture. Atheists like,Trotsky and Stalin were deadly enemies and of course Trotsky was murdered.Obviously they were very politically motivated.Their non belief in a God didn't prevent them from having hatred towards each other.This may be an extreme end of the spectrum.
Carrier and Ehrman got into a heated academic spat albeit over the historicity of Jesus. It's just an example. Other atheist and agnostic academics get into similar heated debates with each other about other questions.
And theist and non theist familes have rows which can end in acrimonious splits.
Why would you think that if religion disappeared things would improve dramatically? Maybe you don't think this. I think we would still have political power struggles,wars and domestic conflicts as we have had as long as recorded history.

I suppose what is true is important in terms of beliefs and you think naturalism is the right philosophy. Certainly Christian thinkers don't consider this belief irrational and think it has greater explanatory power in many ways than naturalism. Psychological explanations can be given both ways.
What do you make of Dennett's free floating rationales concept, Interbane?



Last edited by Flann 5 on Wed Oct 15, 2014 11:50 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Carrier: the religious meme
Flann wrote:
We can see though degrees of intelligence and purpose in many animals. They are not robotic.


What do you mean by robotic? That they operate mechanically? Ants certainly do, their behavior can be modeled, and their rules for behavior plugged into a computer and simulated. There are hundreds of other examples I could give that you'd agree with. How robotic is a species of spider to build the same web the same way and do the same thing when the strings vibrate? They operate according to rules no different than a robot, but the information is encoded in neurons rather than silicone.

Naturally, as animals increase in complexity, our ability to model their heuristics and metaheuristics becomes increasingly implausible. That's not to say they aren't still mechanical.

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We couldn't honestly say that every idea,philosophy or religion is true when they say different and conflicting things.


We can go a step further and say that the majority are not true. Or at least, the majority of possible propositions that embody beliefs and belief systems. This is because of mutual exclusivity. It wouldn't be a stretch to say the vast majority of possible propositions coming from religions are false. Consider the catalogue of religions in your head, starting with Finnish paganism, Atenism, Mithraism, etc, and all the way forward to Scientology to Cthulianism to 3HO to the order of Damballah to Builders of the Adytum.

In each of these religions, you can find an exceptionally intelligent person who would challenge you to the limits of your intellect in a comparison of religions. This is why I think it's ridiculous that followers of every religion think theirs is the one true religion. The only honest position is agnosticism.

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Why would you think that if religion disappeared things would improve dramatically?


I don't think that. I would instead prefer a naturalistic religion, such as secular buddhism. At least then, not only would we have the appeal to emotion, but also the appeal to truth.

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What do you make of Dennett's free floating rationales concept, Interbane?


I loved the idea a long time ago when I was first exposed to it. I'd have to brush up on it. Basically, it's an emergent phenomenon based on the mathematical nature of our universe.

Consider in corporations that some "best practices" are by far better than others. There is optimization to them, and this optimization can be modeled mathematically. This applies in the natural world as well, and you see evidence of it everywhere. There are efficient engineering methods(based on physics), and animals over time graduate towards them in all manner of extended phenotypes, from spider webs to beaver dams. The fractalization leading to fibonacci spirals is another good example of how higher order complexity emerges in similar patterns due to the underlying mathematical structure of our universe.


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Post Re: Carrier: the religious meme
Interbane wrote:
Naturally, as animals increase in complexity, our ability to model their heuristics and metaheuristics becomes increasingly implausible. That's not to say they aren't still mechanical.

You have a very mechanical view of things Interbane.
We understand to some extent about genetics as a mechanical process in reproduction but there does seem to be something more. Different pups or kittens in a litter have different personalities and temperaments. Animals intelligently adapt to different circumstances and situations.There are different instinctive characteristics and behaviours of various animals but I don't think these are totally limiting as far as intelligent and purposeful behaviour goes.
Ants are part of a delicately balanced and interdependent ecosystem and what they do has wider effects beyond themselves.The entire system looks designed.If you were to be completely reductionistic you would have to say there is no such thing as a person.
As far as religion goes you still have to find an explanation for origins.To say the universe or a multiverse eternally existed makes little real sense.If the standard model is right then nothing is very powerful and intelligent.You may say how do you explain the eternal existence of God and I would have to say I can't but at least God has the intelligence and power to create, which matter or nothing does not.
I'm not qualified to academically debate on biological life and evolution but can see enough problems with the theory to be sceptical about it.It seems for naturalists this philosophically has to be true.I don't think the arguments against natural selection as engine for development are vacuous.
I'll have to try get my head around what Dennett is talking about with the free floating rationales.I think he sees a real explanatory gap in nature which the appearance of design philosophy overlooks.I wonder why the universe has an underlying mathematical structure at all, but I'll try figure out just what he is saying.



Last edited by Flann 5 on Wed Oct 15, 2014 3:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Carrier: the religious meme
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You have a very mechanical view of things Interbane.


The universe is mechanical, even when it is so complex that it is difficult to see how.

Quote:
If you were to be completely reductionistic you would have to say there is no such thing as a person.


This isn't true, and I am completely reductionistic. Our personhood is the same in my worldview as it is in yours, but there is nothing supernatural behind the scenes. We are more than the sum of our parts, we are also the pattern that the parts form when put together. The information, if you will.

Quote:
As far as religion goes you still have to find an explanation for origins.To say the universe or a multiverse eternally existed makes little real sense.


This is where our understanding differs on a fundamental level. I've said before that certainty is foolish. That knowledge is difficult to justify. That every person on Earth has many false beliefs. We don't "need" to find an explanation for origins. We desperately want one, to the core of our beings. But we don't need one. It is this desperate want that influences us to create answers and accept false beliefs. The true nature of the universe reveals itself on the quantum level to be ridiculous. We live in a ridiculous universe, and saying that something doesn't make sense is not a valid counter-argument.

The very best we can do is to have provisional knowledge. We cannot do better. There will always be problems and unanswered questions. With this understanding, we can see that it is entirely expected for the most certain of our knowledge(evolution for example), to have gaps and unresolved disputes. That is the best we can do. It is far better than any explanation given to us to date by religion. That doesn't mean you don't remain skeptical towards evolution. Skepticism is a virtue, and should apply everywhere.

It is false hope that people seek something more firm. The reality is, we can't get any more firm, while still remaining justified. The processes leading to justification of knowledge seem very strict. But that is because we are so full of false beliefs. Each and every day, we rely on heuristics to navigate the world in an efficient way, but under critical analysis many of these heuristics are shown to be fallacious.

We've had this debate already, where you went through every possible justification for Christianity, and not a single one passes muster. Your entire worldview is built on heuristics(suggestions or hints), which when critically examined are shown to be fallacious.

Using proper method is the only way to sort worldviews. Proper method is not easy to use, it takes studying and practice. Saying that an explanation doesn't "make sense" is a heuristic, a fallacious one at that.

I've said all this before, using different words, in bits and pieces. On a personal note, it is just hot air to you? Do you think knowledge is easy to justify, and any old method will do?

Quote:
Different pups or kittens in a litter have different personalities and temperaments. Animals intelligently adapt to different circumstances and situations.


Of course. Different pups and kittens have had different nutrition levels, blood flow levels, hydrostatic pressures, etc, that all lead to differences in their development, both physiological and mental, and this is before they even leave the womb. This is true even of identical twins. It's the butterfly effect applied to biology. The smallest difference in fetal nutrition leads to large developmental differences even when the genetic code is identical.


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Post Re: Carrier: the religious meme
Interbane wrote:
We've had this debate already, where you went through every possible justification for Christianity, and not a single one passes muster. Your entire worldview is built on heuristics(suggestions or hints), which when critically examined are shown to be fallacious.

This is your view Interbane.
When I point to evidence like providential answers to prayer in Hudson Taylor life,you just dismiss it as a series of highly improbable coincidences.He ran a hospital and you can't depend on coincidences arriving continually to live and provide for real staff and patients.
They were often close to running out of food and supplies but always supplies arrived just in time from long distance voyages sometimes which took a long time.These convergences of events perfectly timed you can dismiss as coincidences but they corresponded to specific needs and prayer requests.
There are many lines of reasoning which you know and I won't rehash again.
You talk about proper method but it seems to me that evidence is often presented to fit the prepackaged Darwinian story. Dexter talked about the Hominid evidence a while back but how much does it actually fit the claims. Marc Surtees admittedly a creationist, gave a talk on this applying proper method and finds different conclusions and things that clearly don't fit the story.Fossil evidence is interpretive but the default position seems to be always the Darwinian one.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_m_SnR9IsM Fossil Hominids



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Post Re: Carrier: the religious meme
i've been prayerfully searching the inerrant, perfect word of God for clues as to why Interbane seems impervious to reason, and the Lord has shown me a large part of the answer!!! who says God doesn't answer prayer, praise Him!

Quote:
In their case, the god of this age (Satan) has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.


Satan has blinded Interbanes mind, poor thing, everytime the word starts to gain a foothold in Interbanes mind the "Prince of the power of the air" snatches it away

like in this parable

Quote:
Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.


poor Interbane, Satan is too powerful an opponent.

i'm going to pray for Interbane... Jesus, bind the strong man who holds Interbane in darkness of ignorance, the Lord rebuke you Satan, release your grip on the mind of Interbane, i command it in the glorious name above all names, the beautiful name of Jesus.... we ask it all in His precious and holy name, Amen.

thankYou Jesus!!

well that should have done the trick :lol:

i feel better already, i am filled with expectation that this prayer will be answered, of course if it isn't, there is always the fall-back position

Quote:
"He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.


yes, if Interbane fails to respond to the Prayer Power of the saints in Christ, well then Inter will be judged and duly tortured by God, our loving Heavenly Father, according to my understanding of the holy writ.

that'll teach Inter for not being responsive to the power of prayer. (or will it?)

i would have prayed longer for Him Lord but i have to ask for a parking space. Lord please find ME a parking space :-D



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Post Re: Carrier: the religious meme
i found this "anecdote" referencing Hudson

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In the year 1854 a sailing vessel was becalmed in the vicinity of New Guinea. Seeing the distressed look on the captain's face as he peered intently into the sea, a young Englishman inquired as to the cause of his anxiety. This was the reply: "A four-knot current is carrying us swiftly toward some sunken reefs over there. Our fate seems to be sealed." On the shores of the island, cannibals were rushing about and lighting fires in great glee. Presently the captain spoke again: "We have done everything that can be done." "No," responded the young man, "there is one thing we haven't done. Four of us on board are Christians. Let each of us retire to his cabin and in agreed prayer ask the Lord to give us a breeze immediately." This was agreed upon and done. After a few minutes of earnest intercession, the young man came up on deck confident that the petition had been granted. Finding the first officer, a godless man, in charge, he requested him to let down the corners of the mainsail. "What would be the good of that?" he asked. The young man told him that he and three others had been asking God to send a wind, that it was coming immediately and that there was not a minute to lose, since they were so near the reefs. With a look of contempt, the officer replied with an oath: "Nonsense! You can't pray up a wind." Noticing a few moments later that the topmost sail was beginning to tremble, he said: "That is only a cat's-paw — a mere puff of wind." "Never mind what you think," cried the young man. "Let down the mainsail quickly."

This he was not slow to do. Hearing the heavy tread of the men on deck, the captain came up from his cabin and saw that the breeze had indeed come. In a few minutes they were sailing away from the dangerous reefs, much to the disappointment of the native cannibals on the beach.


if only those cannibals had known of the power of prayer!!! they wouldn't have gone hungry!!!

praise you Lord :-D



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Post Re: Carrier: the religious meme
Flann 5 wrote:
When I point to evidence like providential answers to prayer in Hudson Taylor life,you just dismiss it as a series of highly improbable coincidences.


Let's suppose this story is true AND let's suppose that God exists and answers these kinds of prayers.

How many thousands of people are praying at this very moment who are living in total misery, whose innocent loved ones are dying or have died, including children?

It's one thing to say, hey, it's God's policy not to intervene in human affairs, he doesn't just answer prayers like that -- there's free will, he's got a master plan that you can't understand, etc. But according to your view, he does in fact make exceptions -- either they are rare or maybe he does lots of small interventions that just seem like good luck. In that case, doesn't God seem like a capricious, sadistic asshole? You just chalk it up to pure mystery? It will be rectified in the afterlife? How much suffering is necessary before you question his benevolence?

As Hitchens said, it's a good thing this tyrant doesn't exist.



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Post Re: Carrier: the religious meme
Quote:
This is your view Interbane.
When I point to evidence like providential answers to prayer in Hudson Taylor life,you just dismiss it as a series of highly improbable coincidences.He ran a hospital and you can't depend on coincidences arriving continually to live and provide for real staff and patients.
They were often close to running out of food and supplies but always supplies arrived just in time from long distance voyages sometimes which took a long time.These convergences of events perfectly timed you can dismiss as coincidences but they corresponded to specific needs and prayer requests.


Sorry if I sounded dismissive towards these things Flann. They are amazing and miraculous. At the same time, they are expected in a naturalistic universe. I'm not saying this to win debate points or cheapen your position. The convergence of events that are miracles are guaranteed to happen in naturalism. Scour the internet and you'll find countless mathematicians backing this point up. These amazing, miraculous events are not less amazing or miraculous for being naturalistic. In my mind, they are even more so.

Quote:
You talk about proper method but it seems to me that evidence is often presented to fit the prepackaged Darwinian story.


The darwinian story is complex and has been unfolding for two centuries, and has yet to unfold. People argue over which conclusions to draw because using proper method in uncovering then analyzing evidence is a difficult thing. It takes education and practice, and we will continue to debate this topic into the future. Naturally, those with more education and practice in applying method to the topic ending up understanding that the conclusion of evolution is justified. That's what you'd expect if it were true. This is a hard set line, which is why you have so many harmonization movements, those who say that perhaps god developed the code initially, or god set up the laws of physics to allow for evolution. It is why the pope in 1996 declared that "truth cannot contradict truth".

You will never be without a source of contrary opinion, and that is healthy for science. But don't apply any less skepticism to what men like Lennox or Ham say than to what men like Dawkins and Dennett say. The ambiguous "method" speak is probably irritating. If you're already against the method of science, I don't think anyone could persuade you that it is an effective method at minimizing bias. Instead, focus on logic, both formal and informal, and the intellectual traits found in critical thinking. There's a lot of reading involved, but it's the only way to know what I'm talking about.

Quote:
Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.


Back to religious memes. Put yourself in the mental shoes of an intelligent Christian who hears this line, and combines it with the passages that speak of how drascally villianous Satan is with slippery words and convincing lies. I know that personally, I would be infinitely skeptical of every word I heard that spoke against religion. At least, I would have this skepticism if I honestly believed the passages in question. Many people believe these passages, and many people are therefore irrationally skeptical of every argument posed against religion.

This doesn't apply to every Christian, but I'm sure it applies to a great deal. It's one example amongst many where a single concept immunizes the worldview against rational examination. Any rational examination(using words and logic to examine it), will be distrusted to an amazing degree for fear of the words being influenced by satan. In Dennett speak, this is powerful antibody resistance.


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In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.” - Douglas Adams


Thu Oct 16, 2014 10:31 am
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Post Re: Carrier: the religious meme
I got tired of reading Interbane's algorithm explanation sketches for his mechanical universe.

The "mechanical universe" is an old view that is already in semi-retirement.



Thu Oct 16, 2014 10:58 am
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