Religion as a Meme

Vajradhara

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Namaste all,

in a previous thread i spoke about religion being a meme, with the possible exception of Buddhism. this thread is to continue that aspect of the conversation without co-opting the other thread.

Memes - the skeptic's dissection of religion:

Among many anthropologists, sociologists and philosophers, it has recently become fashionable to dismiss all religions as memes - parasitic mental processes which propagate in the same manner as chain letters [Dawkins 1989, Dennett 1995]. In this view, religious belief is a self-perpetuating delusion. A meme (rhymes with 'dream') may be defined as any self-referential belief system which contains within itself the instructions for its own propagation. Memes are often described as the cultural equivalents of computer viruses.

The general defining features of all memes can thus be seen to be self-referential 'closed-loop' type of circular statements, and a strong tendency towards hate and intolerance. The science of the study of memes, their internal structures and modes of propagation is known as memetics (by analogy to genetics - how biological entities propagate themselves).

More detailed analysis will usually show the following features:
Like a virus or parasitic worm, a successful meme must perform two actions:

- Ensure it takes up long-term residence in its host.
- Bring about the conditions for its spread.

To establish itself in the mind of its host it will use some or all of the following mechanisms:

[1] Promise heaven for belief.

[2] Threaten eternal punishment in hell for disbelief.

[3] Boost the believers' egos by telling them they are 'chosen' or superior to believers in false memes.

[4] Disable the faculties of disbelief ('immune response') by claiming that faith is superior to reason.

[5] Establish itself as the One True Meme, usually by some sort of holy book containing a circular self-referential argument such as:

X is the one true meme. We know X is the one true meme because The Source of Universal Truth has approved X. We know The Source of Universal Truth has approved X, because X contains statements which say so. We know what X says is true because X is the one true meme.

Once it has parasitised the mind of its host, a meme needs to propagate itself. A successful meme will contain instructions for some or all of the following:

[6] Holy war - convert or kill all unbelievers.

[7] Intimidation and terrorism - threaten and discriminate against unbelievers.

[8] Enforced social isolation or even death to apostates. (An apostate is a host which has cured itself of a meme-infection. It is especially dangerous to the meme because it might pass on meme-resistance to others).

[9] Fecundism - encourage true believers to breed faster than believers in false memes.

[10] Censorship - prevent rival memes from reaching potential hosts (a theological doctrine known as 'Error has no rights').

[11] Disinformation - spread lies about rival memes. Demonise them - the bigger the lies the more likely they are to be believed. The disinformation may even include instructions for a meme to lie about itself!


So is Buddhism just another meme?
The meme critique may or may not apply to other belief systems, but does it apply to Buddhism? Taking the above points in turn:

[1 and 2] There are no threats of hell or promises of heaven attached to being a Buddhist as opposed to being a non-Buddhist. The term 'Buddhist' is a mere label and has no inherent existence. The condition of future lives is determined by actions of body, speech and mind and not by religious affiliation. If our religion encourages universal compassion and positive actions and states of mind then it is doing its job. If it causes hatred, fear, division and pride then it isn't working and maybe we should try something else. Buddhism does not make use of the psychological blackmail techniques which are said to be characteristic of memes.

[3] Just sticking the Buddhist label on yourself doesn't automatically make you superior to non-Buddhists. In fact, in most forms of Buddhism the belief that one is superior to others, for whatever reason, is seen as a dangerous delusion.

[4] Buddhism does not attempt to suppress reason by dogma. Unlike most other religions, Buddhism isn't so much about things to believe, as things to do. It is a technology of mind improvement. This is why Buddhists often refer to themselves as practictioners rather than believers. The Buddha told his students to trust their own experience of the effectiveness of the teachings, and not believe things just because he said so.

[5] Buddhism does NOT claim to be the one and only valid spiritual path (a teaching known as 'exclusivism' in other belief-systems). It is NOT based on claims of divine authority. Buddha never claimed to be divine or sent from God. His teachings are to be judged by their effectiveness in promoting peace and spiritual realisations, rather than unverifiable claims to their origin.

Exclusivism:

Most religions teach that they are the one true path to salvation and all unbelievers are cast into hell. This is a doctrine known as exclusivism. Buddhism is not exclusivist. Any person guided in their activities by compassion is regarded as following a beneficial spiritual path.

Unfortunately, in Christianity exclusivism went to extreme lengths with many denominations (at one time) claiming that they were the one true faith and the other denominations of Christianity were corrupt (or even in league with anti-Christ). This situation has improved during the past 50 years, but 'Extra ecclesiam nulla salus ' ( No salvation outside (our) Church) is still the official policy of the Vatican..

However his does raise an interesting scenario. Presumably a Salvation Army officer who devoted her life to rescuing drug addicts and alcoholics would be regarded as damned for all eternity by traditional Catholic theologians. A Buddhist, on the other hand, would regard such a person as an advanced spiritual practitioner - a Bodhisattva or possibly even a manifestation of Buddha Tara . (One of the more surprising teachings of Mahayana Buddhism is that Buddhas can appear in whatever form is beneficial to sentient beings, and Buddhas needn't necessarily be Buddhist!) . So, taken to its logical conclustion, Christian exclusivism would require one Christian to regard a fellow Christian as damned, while a Buddhist would recognise her as a saint.

As a further antidote to exclusivism, Buddhists are required to rejoice in the virtues of all beings - Buddhist and otherwise.

[6,7 and 8] Buddhism does not believe in using hatred, war or terrorism to further its cause and does not persecute former Buddhists who have changed their religion.

[9] Neither does it encourage ecologically disastrous population policies (or lack of policies).

[10 and 11] Buddhists have no need to suppress, censor or misrepresent the teachings of other religions, as Buddhist philosophy is totally rational and quite capable of withstanding criticism from other belief systems. In fact, Buddhism appears to be the only spiritual system which can provide counterarguments to modern materialism. Neither is Buddhism even slightly corroded by what Dennett (1995) claims to be the universal spiritual acid of Darwinism.

Fanaticism and fundamentalism:

Buddhism recognises that one of the most destructive delusions is excessive attachment to any view, which will thus appear virtuous and right for all people. The harm that can be done by excessive attachment to ideologies and abstractions is far greater than that caused by attachment to wealth or material objects. As a consequence, Buddhism is one of the few religions which has never attempted to propagate itself and exterminate its enemies by war and tyranny. A fanatical Buddhist is, by definition, a deluded Buddhist.


A testable psychological technology:

Buddhism is not dependent for its existence on self-referential statements. Buddhism is sometimes described as a religion and sometimes as a philosophy. Both these terms are a partial description, but what is often overlooked is that as well as being a set of beliefs, Buddhism is also a technology. Buddhism is a set of tried and tested methods which are used to develop the mind by producing altered states of awareness. In effect it is a psycho-spiritual applied science.

A Buddhist teacher will teach her students meditational and other techniques which will generate definite mental states (known as realisations). The methods of mental development are designed to free the mind from the accumulated delusions of millennia, and lead to a state of peace and tranquillity. Buddha Shakyamuni intended his teachings to be personal advice for his students, which is why Buddhists tend to refer to themselves as practitioners rather than believers - emphasising the practical intention of putting Buddha's teachings to work, instead of passively accepting them as revealed truth. Buddha always encouraged his students to gain understanding of his teachings by putting them to the test of personal experience, and not just relying on his authority. In fact the Buddhist idea of authority has much more in common with the idea of scientific authority than it does with ecclesiastical authority. Buddhist authority carries with it the idea of the possession of knowledge which can conveyed to others and confirmed by of reproducible experiences. In Buddhism there is none of the attitude 'Here are umpteen unsupported statements which you must believe unquestioningly'


Meme-busters:

Susan Blackmore (who has written extensively on memetics) has remarked that if a meditational system such as Buddhism is a meme, then it is actually a very peculiar one - a meme-clearing meme.

A novel view of meditation might be that it is like running a virus check on your mind. Lurking memes, such as rubbish left over from childhood indoctrination, can be brought to the surface and examined. Residues of self-referential belief systems - those driven by fear, guilt, hate, wanting to conform, wanting other people to conform, or alternately pride in being better than non-believers - can be recognised for what they are and cleared out.



so... Brian... that is why i do not think that Buddhism is a meme :)
 
Hi Vajradhara

And thanks for a thorough starter for discussion!

Certainly, with the criteria covered in this piece Buddhism itself could not be a meme - apologies for any offensive caused.

Essentially, what has been defined a a meme here is Religious Fundamentalism - specifically referencing the exclusivism of Christianity and Islam.

I was actually under the impression that a meme was more referential to ideas in general - that every idea was a form of meme. However, as Richard Dawkins is behind the promotion of the idea (which I was aware of anyway) then it would come as no suprise to see the idea stoop to nothing more than an attack on religious and spiritual belief.

I haven't got any immediate references, but if this is the case then perhaps what we are seeing is a mutant form of meme attacking another meme. Of course, Dawkins may call it a form of immune response - but Dawkins constant and general dismissal of beliefs beyond his own strikes as so similar a position to the fundamentalism that he reacts against that I feel more like an observer of meme warfare. :)

Actually, as an additional point, I don't actually like the use of the term "meme" - it serves no scientific purpose, and its philosophical value can only be limited. It is essentially about dressing Emperors' in clever clothes, and hoping we notice they are still naked. :)


 
I said:
Hi Vajradhara

And thanks for a thorough starter for discussion!

Certainly, with the criteria covered in this piece Buddhism itself could not be a meme - apologies for any offensive caused.

Essentially, what has been defined a a meme here is Religious Fundamentalism - specifically referencing the exclusivism of Christianity and Islam.

I was actually under the impression that a meme was more referential to ideas in general - that every idea was a form of meme. However, as Richard Dawkins is behind the promotion of the idea (which I was aware of anyway) then it would come as no suprise to see the idea stoop to nothing more than an attack on religious and spiritual belief.

I haven't got any immediate references, but if this is the case then perhaps what we are seeing is a mutant form of meme attacking another meme. Of course, Dawkins may call it a form of immune response - but Dawkins constant and general dismissal of beliefs beyond his own strikes as so similar a position to the fundamentalism that he reacts against that I feel more like an observer of meme warfare. :)

Actually, as an additional point, I don't actually like the use of the term "meme" - it serves no scientific purpose, and its philosophical value can only be limited. It is essentially about dressing Emperors' in clever clothes, and hoping we notice they are still naked. :)

Namaste Brian,

no offense at all :) questions that are asked honestly and without malice never offend :)

i would agree mostly that this article is directly addressing religious fundamentalism... within Islam and Christianity in particular... however, it would be equally applicable to use Hinduism or Jainism or any of the other monotheistic orthodoxies, in my opinion.

whilst i'm not famaliar with Dawkins in particular, i have found that the ideas expressed herein seem to correspond with my observations regarding the fundamentalist aspect of religion.

i think you are correct... originally meme theory was desigened to account for ideas in general, not religion in particular. this piece was an extrapoloation of that premise.. if all ideas are memes then religion is also a meme.... and so forth.

in my view, the term meme is useful in a narrow sense... i'm not sure what other term would be used to talk about how ideas are transferred from one person to another... in the end "meme" seems to be as good as any other term. i think, however, that there is a certain connotation with the word meme that has some type of negativity attached to it..

interestingly enough, speaking of made up terms to describe things... the term "engram" to describe memories was made up by Lafayette Ron Hubbard, the erstwhile founder of Scientology... and the term has made it's way into common speech already.... very meme like, don't you think? ;)
 
Certainly! As for memes in general - certainly they spread, but their spread isn't necessarily because of "negative" reasons. I believe the term comes from socio-biology, in an attempt to approach certain aspects of thinking in terms that are familiar in terms to evolutionary biologists.

In which case, as you've stated in its basic sense, Buddhism then is also a meme. It is infortunate that the word is developing specialised connotations.

As for Richard Dawkins - think what a religious fundamentalist would be like if, instead of monotheism, they "worshipped" reductionism. That's essentially the general impression of Dawkins. The concept of memes is probably an attempt to graft our inexplicable conscious processes onto a more general genetic model of life. In other words, although biology cannot explain consciousness, there are attempts to quantify it in order to help promote the reductionist approach - hence the terribly easy perception that ideas are like viruses.

I could be wrong here, though - biology is my weakest science, and frankly I have little time for evolutionary biology. Bad science, driven by forced conclusions. IMHO. :)
 
Here he's tormented
he's tormented hereafter.
In both worlds
the wrong-doer's tormented.
He's tormented at the thought,
'I've done wrong.'
Having gone to a bad destination,
he's tormented
all the more.

Here he delights
he delights hereafter.
In both worlds
the merit-maker delights.

He delights at the thought,
'I've made merit.'
Having gone to a good destination,
he delights
all the more.


is this an example of a threat of eternal damnation?


 
LittleLotus said:
Here he's tormented
he's tormented hereafter.
In both worlds
the wrong-doer's tormented.
He's tormented at the thought,
'I've done wrong.'
Having gone to a bad destination,
he's tormented
all the more.

Here he delights
he delights hereafter.
In both worlds
the merit-maker delights.

He delights at the thought,
'I've made merit.'
Having gone to a good destination,
he delights
all the more.


is this an example of a threat of eternal damnation?



Namaste,

i wouldn't think so. from the Buddhist point of view, none of the states of afterlife are permenant.. heaven or hell are just temporary until one's karmic energy is expended, then a rebirth will follow. depending on various factors and conditions, to either a higher or lower rebirth.

though... strictly speaking, i wouldn't suppose that this was a Buddhist gatha that you are relating.. as some of the statements wouldn't be applicable to Buddhist thought.
 
Vajradhara and I, Brian,

Kindest Regards!

Wow, what an intriguing concept! This one actually is forcing me to consider "outside of the box". If you don't mind, I would like to try applying the concept to another pseudo- or quasi-religious belief system, as an exercise.

Allowing then for these as guidelines, is science a religion?

To establish itself in the mind of its host it will use some or all of the following mechanisms:

[1] Promise heaven for belief.

While not promising "heaven" for belief, there are certain rewards for "toeing the party line." Belief brings prestige and scholarly and professional advancement. Belief is not guaranteed reward, but the reward is held out to the faithful as a tentative promise.

[2] Threaten eternal punishment in hell for disbelief.

Scholarly advancement is almost sure to be withheld for any act of "disbelief", inviting ridicule, being ostracized, and dismissal (scholarly and professionally). Without belief, reward is withheld.

[3] Boost the believers' egos by telling them they are 'chosen' or superior to believers in false memes.

Science promotes the attitude that others are not as "enlightened." Religion proper is generally dismissed, as are many conflicting disciplines. The arrogance of certain scholars is legendary.

[4] Disable the faculties of disbelief ('immune response') by claiming that faith is superior to reason.

If that faith is in reason, faith proper then is disavowed, even in the light of specific evidence.

[5] Establish itself as the One True Meme, usually by some sort of holy book containing a circular self-referential argument such as:

X is the one true meme. We know X is the one true meme because The Source of Universal Truth has approved X. We know The Source of Universal Truth has approved X, because X contains statements which say so. We know what X says is true because X is the one true meme.

This is sticky because science contains so many "holy books." Yet the myth perpetuated is that "We are right. Even when we may be wrong, we are still right." This statement is brief and blunt, but is essentially correct in attitude. In effect: (insert scientific text of choice here) is the one scientific truth. We know (text) is the one truth because science has approved (text). We know that science has approved (text), because (text) contains statements which say so. We know that what (text) says is true because (text) is the one truth.

Once it has parasitised the mind of its host, a meme needs to propagate itself. A successful meme will contain instructions for some or all of the following:

[6] Holy war - convert or kill all unbelievers.

On the one hand, that "war" tends to be waged with logic and words. On the other hand, science is the source of the very real weapons that are used to wage very real war.

[7] Intimidation and terrorism - threaten and discriminate against unbelievers.

The war of words waged by the more arrogant believers tends to gravitate towards intimidation, and in extreme circumstances towards verbal terrorism.

[8] Enforced social isolation or even death to apostates. (An apostate is a host which has cured itself of a meme-infection. It is especially dangerous to the meme because it might pass on meme-resistance to others).

Scientists who find "God" are too often faced with professional and scholarly isolation.

[9] Fecundism - encourage true believers to breed faster than believers in false memes.

I do not think this applies directly. However, expansion of the population of believers (by conversion) at the age of young adulthood seems a distinct method and motivation.

[10] Censorship - prevent rival memes from reaching potential hosts (a theological doctrine known as 'Error has no rights').

Censorship of religious studies in the education system while striving for an educational monopoly would seem to me an example.

[11] Disinformation - spread lies about rival memes. Demonise them - the bigger the lies the more likely they are to be believed. The disinformation may even include instructions for a meme to lie about itself!

I don't know that science lies about itself. It is not unusual for science to have misguided ideas about religion proper, the better to dismiss and ridicule religion.

Wow! That was fun! I must insist, this was not an attempt to dismiss the discipline of science. Science is worthy and productive, and contributes greatly to humanity. So does religion.

In my final analysis, I come away thinking that if science has provided this vehicle to dismiss religion, it is rather like "the pot calling the kettle black." That is, science is every bit as guilty as those it points a finger at.

In fairness, fundamental self-righteous religions are a source of great discord, and an impediment to discovery. Much of the strife between science and religion (specifically Christianity) is waged by blind, deaf, ignorant arrogance, on both sides. My hope is that one day both will see the virtue in each other.

I wonder if this could be applied to other pseudo-religions; perhaps philosophy, atheism, humanism?

"Can't we all just get along" is trite, yet there is a grain of hope contained within.
 
I'm certainly not sure if we're going to call science a meme - after all, it is supposed to be a method and principle of investigation. :)

However, there are certainly people who seem to have taken the mantle of "science as a philosophy of belief regarding external existence" upon themselves. Richard Dawkins appears to be a particularly vociferous example of this - ie, he is right and everyone else is wrong.

I personally become irritated when I see Atheists using science as an Absolute Truth against Christian Fundamentalists. Although I can certainly sympathise with their frustration, science itself cannot make statements on the nature of the unquantified - of which God, spirituality, and the unknown generally are.

I was perhaps unusually lucky in that I had a physics teacher right through school who instilled in myself an appreciation for the mysteries of science. In physics these are made manifest in the fundamental issues of Cospmology and High Energy Particle Physics. The acceptance of the mystery is the best part.

Dogma in itself is the killer of thought. If we accept the words of another as our own we give up something fundamental to our very sense of being - of being human. There are those in religion and science who insist we repeat without question. Luckily, they are not in the majority - certainly not over here in Europe.
 
Thank you, I, Brian.

I will accept that I probably have a flawed understanding of the term "meme." I also might better state my motivation for the exercise. In following the guidelines for the pattern of logic used, I was attempting to imply that (too often in my view) science tends to rail at religion in general, and Christianity in particular, with very religious methods. I don't find anything unusual in this, when I consider the roots of science in the alchemy of old. This supports why I believe science to be but another form or type of religion. In itself, I do not view this as a good or bad thing, merely a thing that is.
Dogma in itself is the killer of thought. If we accept the words of another as our own we give up something fundamental to our very sense of being - of being human.
This is very well said. I have a "bumper sticker" motto that has guided me for years, "Question Authority."
There are those in religion and science who insist we repeat without question. Luckily, they are not in the majority - certainly not over here in Europe.
I confess to being largely unaware of the relation between science and religion in Europe and elsewhere. The Scopes "monkey trial" that contested the teaching of evolution in public schools in the states in the 1920's (?) seems to be the beginning of the war between science and Christianity here, and the battles rage on. (Effectively though, the religious war being waged between the two goes much farther back, at least to the time of the Catholic persecutions of pagan alchemists, and somewhat more recently in the example of Galileo.) Seldom do I hear voices on either side that are not driven by passion. Perhaps rightly so, but unbridled passion is not conducive to rational thought or respectful consideration and interaction. While often eloquent, such responses are blatantly reactive rather than constructive. Both sides are equally guilty. I am not familiar with Dawkins, but your description seems to exemplify my position.

If science were viewed as a religion, perhaps more common ground could be found. That is wishful thinking really, considering that exclusionary thinking seems the operating domain of some religions, and in this Christianity is among the worst practitioners.

I am aware of a few dedicated scientists who are also Christian, and who use scientific methods to describe natural events in a light favorable to Christianity. Many of the events described are anomalous and inconvenient to the general presentation given by science, and are not sufficiently in agreement with dogmatic interpretation of Christianity. As a result, these sincere efforts are dismissed almost wholesale by both sides.
I was perhaps unusually lucky in that I had a physics teacher right through school who instilled in myself an appreciation for the mysteries of science. In physics these are made manifest in the fundamental issues of Cospmology and High Energy Particle Physics. The acceptance of the mystery is the best part.
I too, was blessed with a series of teachers that instilled in me a desire to reach out and learn. I did not get to take a formal physics class, I have had to manage in fits and starts to gather a basic understanding. I follow, as I stumble upon it, some of the things going on in subatomic theory, and I am fascinated as a spectator. I have long had an interest in astronomy, so the cosmological findings have been a passing interest as well. As an aside, I believe it was in either National Geographic or one of the popular science magazines that I read an article pertaining to dark matter and the expansion of the universe about a year ago, fascinating stuff!

I am not against science as a discipline. I sincerely hope I did not come across in that manner. But in the same spirit of communication and cooperation between different faiths and systems of belief we commonly call religion, I would hope there were more respectful interaction between science and religion. Perhaps my concern is only valid in the states, and is not a matter of concern elsewhere. That would seem to me a much better position to be viewing the universal reality from. As you have pointed out, spirit is not quantifiable. In this, science falls short.

If thought patterns (the precursor necessary to my understanding of "meme") are somewhat "hard wired" and/or otherwise inevitable, then perhaps humans are predisposed to some type of systematic belief? Not that that "belief" cannot be changed, but that some form of belief system is required for sanity, if no other reason?
 
Kindest Regards!

I'm certainly not sure if we're going to call science a meme - after all, it is supposed to be a method and principle of investigation. :)

Is not religion (in the purest sense) also a method and principle of investigation? Both attempt to solve puzzles, each chooses the puzzles it prefers to solve, and the method it prefers to employ in solving those puzzles. That one or the other is better is irrelevant. A great deal depends on the choice of puzzle.
 
So lets swing from the trees

Yes organised religion does terrible terrible terrible terrible things.

We are all brain washed, kill people, rape their men and women, drink blood, behead children and more worse, maim animals, dress up in funny gowns, wear funny hats, whereas most people without religion are extremely nice thoughtful, caring tree huggers who probably smoke cannabis to help them cope with living alongside organised religious maniacs like me, they don't eat meat and really love their neighbours, as opposed to those blood thirsty belivers who are a bunch of hypocrites, don't practice what they preach, eat meat, amass money, support war, and sleep with their secretaries.

If I have to read another diatribe about how organised religion is terrible, I am going to vomit, but being a horrible member of organised religion, I will make sure I do it over simple, fun loving atheists or if possible a passing Humanist, or a gentle flower person, because I follow organised religion.

Give us all the break!

Of course it is bad, nobody is denying that its terrible.



But I follow Jesus.
 
Namaste Juan,

thank you for the post.

in all fairness, i had forgotten this post :)


juantoo3 said:
Kindest Regards!

Is not religion (in the purest sense) also a method and principle of investigation? Both attempt to solve puzzles, each chooses the puzzles it prefers to solve, and the method it prefers to employ in solving those puzzles. That one or the other is better is irrelevant. A great deal depends on the choice of puzzle.
i absolutly agree. Fritjof Capra says it like this:

"A page from a journal of modern experimental physics will be as mysterious to the uninitiated as a Tibetan mandala. Both are records of enquires into the nature of the universe." Tao of Physics.
 
Kindest Regards, Vajradhara!
Vajradhara said:
i absolutly agree. Fritjof Capra says it like this:

"A page from a journal of modern experimental physics will be as mysterious to the uninitiated as a Tibetan mandala. Both are records of enquires into the nature of the universe." Tao of Physics.
I am curious, while I am not very deeply versed in Taoist thought, I have read a few pieces, enough to intrigue me. Time has limited my exposure, but I would love to one day read the works of Lao Tzu. However, one of the works I have read just a few months ago was the Tao of Physics, and I sincerely do not recall Fritjof Capra being associated with that work. By chance was this an endorsement of the author (his name escapes me at this moment) or something similar in a particular edition. The quote is a nice sentiment, and I believe Arthur Clarke said something similar as well; (paraphrased) "science to an insufficiently developed society is indistinguishable from magic."

There was one more question I had posted earlier, which I would like to ask again in order to better clarify my understanding of the subject of memes: "If thought patterns (the precursor necessary to my understanding of "meme") are somewhat "hard wired" and/or otherwise inevitable, then perhaps humans are predisposed to some type of systematic belief? Not that that "belief" cannot be changed, but that some form of belief system is required for sanity, if no other reason?...In other words, are memes the philosophical manipulation of the psychological predisposition?"

I appreciate your responses, and I would be interested in your view towards this to further my understanding of the subject of memes.
 
Kindest Regards, El Greko!
El Greko said:
Yes organised religion does terrible terrible terrible terrible things.

We are all brain washed, kill people, rape their men and women, drink blood, behead children and more worse, maim animals, dress up in funny gowns, wear funny hats, whereas most people without religion are extremely nice thoughtful, caring tree huggers who probably smoke cannabis to help them cope with living alongside organised religious maniacs like me, they don't eat meat and really love their neighbours, as opposed to those blood thirsty belivers who are a bunch of hypocrites, don't practice what they preach, eat meat, amass money, support war, and sleep with their secretaries.

If I have to read another diatribe about how organised religion is terrible, I am going to vomit, but being a horrible member of organised religion, I will make sure I do it over simple, fun loving atheists or if possible a passing Humanist, or a gentle flower person, because I follow organised religion.

Give us all the break!

Of course it is bad, nobody is denying that its terrible.

But I follow Jesus.
It is well and good that you follow Jesus. If you truly do, then you would not mind exercising wisdom, tolerance, forgiveness, patience, politeness, respect and love when dealing with those that come here to learn.
 
Namaste Juan,

perhaps we didn't read the same text?

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1570625190/002-1794578-3748044?v=glance


juantoo3 said:
Kindest Regards, Vajradhara!
I am curious, while I am not very deeply versed in Taoist thought, I have read a few pieces, enough to intrigue me. Time has limited my exposure, but I would love to one day read the works of Lao Tzu. However, one of the works I have read just a few months ago was the Tao of Physics, and I sincerely do not recall Fritjof Capra being associated with that work. By chance was this an endorsement of the author (his name escapes me at this moment) or something similar in a particular edition. The quote is a nice sentiment, and I believe Arthur Clarke said something similar as well; (paraphrased) "science to an insufficiently developed society is indistinguishable from magic."

There was one more question I had posted earlier, which I would like to ask again in order to better clarify my understanding of the subject of memes: "If thought patterns (the precursor necessary to my understanding of "meme") are somewhat "hard wired" and/or otherwise inevitable, then perhaps humans are predisposed to some type of systematic belief? Not that that "belief" cannot be changed, but that some form of belief system is required for sanity, if no other reason?...In other words, are memes the philosophical manipulation of the psychological predisposition?"

I appreciate your responses, and I would be interested in your view towards this to further my understanding of the subject of memes.
this is a good question in my opinion. due to my own tradition, i do not see thought patterns or even behaviors as "hard wired" which tends to imply, to me at least, that they are fixed pathways or actions that produce the same response when activated.

in any case.. it seems to be that Susan Blackmore as posited memes as a psychological virus... so though it has appliabiliy with regards to philosophy, i do not believe that we can say that they are a philosophical mode of information exchange.

meme: [coined on analogy with `gene' by Richard Dawkins] n. An idea considered as a {replicator}, esp. with the connotation that memes parasitize people into propagating them much as viruses do. Used esp. in the phrase `meme complex' denoting a group of mutually supporting memes that form an organized belief system, such as a religion. This lexicon is an (epidemiological) vector of the `hacker subculture' meme complex; each entry might be considered a meme. However, `meme' is often misused to mean `meme complex'. Use of the term connotes acceptance of the idea that in humans (and presumably other tool- and language-using sophonts) cultural evolution by selection of adaptive ideas has superseded biological evolution by selection of hereditary traits.

if you have a real interest in this subject, i would encourage you to check out this site:

http://www.memecentral.com/
 
Kindest Regards, Vajradhara!
Vajradhara said:
I stand corrected. You have my most humble, red-faced apology. I dug out my old copy, and sure enough...

What do you think of David Suzuki's writings? His are some others I am considering in the near future.

this is a good question in my opinion. due to my own tradition, i do not see thought patterns or even behaviors as "hard wired" which tends to imply, to me at least, that they are fixed pathways or actions that produce the same response when activated.

in any case.. it seems to be that Susan Blackmore as posited memes as a psychological virus... so though it has appliabiliy with regards to philosophy, i do not believe that we can say that they are a philosophical mode of information exchange.

meme: [coined on analogy with `gene' by Richard Dawkins] n. An idea considered as a {replicator}, esp. with the connotation that memes parasitize people into propagating them much as viruses do. Used esp. in the phrase `meme complex' denoting a group of mutually supporting memes that form an organized belief system, such as a religion. This lexicon is an (epidemiological) vector of the `hacker subculture' meme complex; each entry might be considered a meme. However, `meme' is often misused to mean `meme complex'. Use of the term connotes acceptance of the idea that in humans (and presumably other tool- and language-using sophonts) cultural evolution by selection of adaptive ideas has superseded biological evolution by selection of hereditary traits.

if you have a real interest in this subject, i would encourage you to check out this site:

http://www.memecentral.com/
Thank you for the clarification. I will look deeper into the subject when I get an opportunity (hopefully soon).
 
Kindest Regards, Vajradhara! I took some time to look at the site you suggested, here are a few quotes I pulled away immediately, with my observations.
"All of these are viruses. Not computer viruses, but MIND viruses. These messages all have one thing in common: they contain compelling messages, or memes, that grab our attention and persuade us to pass them on. These memes play on our fear of loss, or embarrassment, or appeal to us with promises of sex or money or good luck. Some of messages make us feel good about ourselves because we believe that by passing on a plea for help or signing a petition, we're doing a good deed.

"... The message spreads explosively as we and many others help it reproduce. The information in the message -- whether true or false, useful or not -- becomes widespread, infecting many people.

"Most of these viruses of the mind are spread because they are intriguing or frightening or inspiring, and not necessarily because they're true. That's the problem."

-Internet Virus Antidote, http://www.memecentral.com/antidote.htm

"Isn't memetics just a fancy name for _________ (fill in the blank with "cultural evolution", "behavioral psychology", "sociobiology", or anything else)? Why is this anything new?

The breakthrough in memetics is in extending Darwinian evolution to culture. There are several exciting conclusions from doing that, one of which is the ability to predict that ideas will spread not because they are "good ideas", but because they contain "good memes" such as danger, food and sex that push our evolutionary buttons and force us to pay attention to them."

-Memetics FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), http://www.memecentral.com/#faq
I found this intriguing in that it seems to correspond directly with advertising psychology, a subject I did spend a little research time with. On a personal note, I think Darwinian "evolution" gets overused in application far afield from its primary source, I suspect in order to render credence to a particular subject such as this.

Back to advertising psychology. I looked into a gentleman named John B. Watson, considered the founder of advertising psychology, most of my research came from the University of Texas at Austin Advertising Psychology department research website. If you would indulge me in a brief excerpt from my paper;

"In the simplicity of Freudian terms, it would seem our baser instincts contained within the ID are coddled and cultured (by advertising), even nurtured and fertilized. Abnormally so. Granted, the Super-Ego would (or should) temper and restrain such. But the Super-Ego is generally not the stronger muscle in the modern ... archetype of civilization. And advertising thrives on stroking our baser instincts.

"John Broadus Watson was an early pioneer in the fledgling field of advertising psychology. He was born in South Carolina in 1878. In 1908, he was installed at Johns Hopkins University as one of the first professors of psychology at that institution. John B. Watson was a significant founder of the behaviorism branch of psychological study, rejecting Freud and instead basing his efforts on the works of Ivan Pavlov and his famous animal experiments. To Watson, humans were simply another form of animal, and all animals were “hard wired” to do the things they did. The trick was to be able to control what those hard wired reactions would be, and so control the animal.
"In very simplistic terms, this is the foundation upon which the modern advertising methods were built.
"After his term with the University (which ended in 1920), the advertising firm J. Walter Thompson inducted Watson’s services. By 1924, he was vice president at that company. It was here that he developed methods for influencing people to buy things like baby powder and toothpaste.

"The business of the advertiser or the seller is not to create fundamentally new desires. That is not necessary and really cannot be done. Man already has certain desires present from birth, which are a part of his fundamental make-up. All that a seller can do is to direct these desires in certain directions, or stimulate them to action, or show by what new ways an old desire may be satisfied." -Starch, Daniel, Principles of Advertising, 1923, Chicago, IL: A.W. Shaw Company

"John Watson discovered that human infants possess an inventory of three basic reactions-love, fear, and rage. Beyond these, environmental factors were responsible for individual habits. The job of advertising was to tap into fear, rage or love to create a psychological need. Watson also realized he needed, and therefore developed, methods of researching consumers. Variations of his models are still in use throughout the industry today."
I bring this out to denote the great similarity between Watson's "hard-wired" behaviorism school of psychology and what I saw defining the term "meme", I see a great similarity between the two, and considering Watson's innovations predate those of Dawkins, et al, I am inclined to lean towards his research. Being a business major probably also inclines my bias. It would seem then to me, that I was on the right track, if not in specifics at least in principle, concerning what I took away from the discussion previously. Have I missed anything?

Thank you for the website reference, I expect to return at some point when I can.
 
juantoo3 said:
Kindest Regards, Vajradhara!
I stand corrected. You have my most humble, red-faced apology. I dug out my old copy, and sure enough...

What do you think of David Suzuki's writings? His are some others I am considering in the near future.


Thank you for the clarification. I will look deeper into the subject when I get an opportunity (hopefully soon).
Namaste juan,

thank you for the post.

:)

no worries... i was hoping we were talking about the same book! i've been in a situation where i've been talking with someone about a text of the same name, however, a different translation and it was almost like they were different books.
 
Namaste juan,

thank you for the post.


juantoo3 said:
On a personal note, I think Darwinian "evolution" gets overused in application far afield from its primary source, I suspect in order to render credence to a particular subject such as this.
it's true that appeals to authority are common, espeically in fields that aren't what you might call "hard" science. sometimes, i think that this particular appeal is made due to the conception that most people have at least a rudimentary understanding of the theory of evolution in it's most basic forms. often, i think that people get intellectually lazy and simply use another term that doens't quite work and just sort of confuses the issue for laypersons like myself.

I bring this out to denote the great similarity between Watson's "hard-wired" behaviorism school of psychology and what I saw defining the term "meme", I see a great similarity between the two, and considering Watson's innovations predate those of Dawkins, et al, I am inclined to lean towards his research. Being a business major probably also inclines my bias. It would seem then to me, that I was on the right track, if not in specifics at least in principle, concerning what I took away from the discussion previously. Have I missed anything?

Thank you for the website reference, I expect to return at some point when I can.
well.. personally, i think that your paper presents a good western psychological understanding of the behaviors of people. naturally, as i don't ascribe to that type of philo/psychological system, i see things a bit differently. :)

i don't really want to get into the Buddhist philosophical stuff on this thread... however, i've started one on the Eastern Thought section, if you'd like to continue this aspect of our conversation there?
 
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