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Memetics

Sometimes scientists seem obliged to ask silly and deceitful-sounding questions. We must keep in mind that real scientists have spent the better part of a decade or longer going to school to learn to ask those irritating questions, and argue for and against what seem like idiotic viewpoints, however much they may remind us of certain seven year old children. Those questions are part of a ritual that belongs to a necessary ongoing process as a series of events they must perform whenever new subject matter has been presented to their midst. Once they have determined for themselves if it is important enough to bother, then rid themselves of all the ghosts that might rise up from hidden closets to bite them, and beaten the bushes free of all the goblins they suspect to be hidden there, they can then get on to more important matters. Memetics, being somewhat new, is still undergoing that process.

For science to develop memes about memes, they must undergo a process that, because it may be seen as self-referencing, could become particularly hazardous. They could screw it up with one brief statement that would take a hundred years to get undone. Look at what happened to hedonism just because Epicurus lacked the concepts found in modern medicine and biology, and so failed to assemble a complete and cogent picture. This could be one of the most important topics to undergo scientific scrutiny since the inception of evolution, and has stirred up its share of quiet, almost surreptitious controversy. A growing number of books and papers have been published but, still, very few members of the public-at-large have ever heard anything about memes or memetics.

Of those who have, a large percentage feel threatened and defensive. I recall reading a page on the Internet that a person purporting to be a Buddhist had written, describing Buddhism as being ‘not a meme’ because Buddhists do not proselytize and coerce others into joining their ranks or go to wars against members of other religions. I appreciated his statements, and enjoyed the pleasant company I have shared with Buddhists in my lifetime. Still, Buddhism is a imemeplex (as Susan Blackmore named packets of memes, or meme-complexes) that, because it does not so deeply incite emotions, is simply less viral than other religious beliefs. Proselytization or not, people still accredit information about it, and adopt it if it fits their needs along with memes already hosted.

In spite of Susan Blackmore’s effort to discredit the idea of contagious memes, being viral is not necessarily a bad trait. It is, in fact, a one-word description of memes that have become effective at the act of replication, which is what memes do. Memes become contagious, or they die out. They have no choice in the matter. Memes become viral because they attract humans to ‘catch’ them, and so, good or bad, they must appeal to human nature to succeed, or learn to ride in a passive way on the backs of other memes. Our heads get full of them, both symbiotic and parasitic, because most are contagious.

In their efforts to justify and limit memetics to the notion of acquiring them only by obvious acts of imitation, previous writers appear to have gone out of their ways to nullify the value of innovation in the generation of memes. Surely we cannot disagree they are passed on by imitation, but where do they come from? The argument so far has allowed mutated mistakes or trial and error to be responsible for the creation of all new memes, and saying the large brains we possess were developed because we needed them only for the complicated processes involved in doing imitations.

Most of evolution has advanced not in a smooth flow like imitation/mutation would exhibit, these people are quick to alert us, but in wide plateaus with unexpected changes. Why should the evolution of memetics be different from the rest of existence? I will acknowledge we build upon all that has gone before, and use the tools we already possess for the purpose of making new kinds of tools, but have none of these people ever set down in a quiet place to do the pondering required for an act of innovation? Does living in an ivory loft so insulate one from the vagaries most of us face in life that they do not know how much easier simple imitation is, than to come up with an original solution to a difficulty one is facing?-to ask the question, “How do I deal with this?” and contrive a unique answer derived from what we already know? Protected people may never have experienced that process and realized the joy that accompanies its success. My diplomas are written in the lines formed on my tired bare hands, exactly the way of most common folks with whom I’ve worked. Few of us would trade lives with any of those who devalue ours, when their pronouncements seem to so strongly indicate their humdrum lack of real experiences. C’mon, people, liven up!

Blackmore pointed out that making tools by trial and error is not an easy undertaking, and that people could be taught the various required tasks. So, who was the first teacher?-an innovator? Someone had to figure them all out at the beginning, even if one step at a time: Would not the first person to cogitate relationships and realize the possibilities of designing and forming a stone tool be the one using the most brain power? It would seem apparent at first blush, but the argument will be that he or she merely imitated stones found in nature that worked to perform a task. Okay, then: Who had the brain power?-the first one to observe how to make a certain stone perform a task, even if by accident?-or those who first learned the tasks required to make copies?-or those to whom they taught their innovative new skills? How about those doing advanced work that required tools in the first place? This may seem like nit-picking, but I have a point to make later on that involves the evolution of events and processes, and I want you to be able to come back here and pick out the steps involved in the origination of memes and see that they are a natural occurrence and a necessary step that evolution must take as a iiblind force working toward its apparent goal.

i I would as soon stick with the common term ‘program’ as I would to go along with all the contrived names. Applied to systems of thought generated by combinations of memes, it serves as well as it always has done when memes, unrecognized as such, were referred to by other names.

ii John David Garcia has passed on now and his books are out of print. If you can get a copy of his works, grab it. While I harbor doubt about many of his ideas, my thoughts here were derived from The Moral Society. He also wrote a book about Psychotherapy, and one entitled Creative Transformation; a Practical Guide for Maximizing Creativity. ISBN 1-87826-001-4. Refer to: http://www.see.org/


Atheism

I am called ‘atheist’ by those with no knowledge of what I believe. I am called ‘evil’ by liars who talk about gods no one alive has ever seen, and no one in verifiable history ever brought forth. I get told that the god named God is a mystery beyond our puny understanding. I read the scripts and then the attempts to explain and defend them, then wonder, “Is it the truth: that humanity is beyond the ability of this god to comprehend?”

An atheist is anyone without belief in gods. We don’t lack those beliefs; that implies we feel a need for them. They are heavy baggage we feel better off without. As an apostate, I slowly shed mine and can vouch for that truth.  Babies do not believe in gods; your dog thinks you are a god. Your preacher regards atheism as competition and cannot stand the thought of people having no god beliefs. He will insist to you, as do some agnostics, that atheists believe there is no god and that atheism is a religion. How can he know another’s thoughts and beliefs as different from what they say?—and as different from what their actions portray? I know what I believe, and only a liar will insist before my eyes that I do not.

This is important to know: The proper scientific position to take about the god named God is that of abeyance, that of regarding an idea as frivolous and irrelevant until objective evidence can support it. The persons making a claim about someone’s presence at an event, as in making an accusation, or in support of deserving credit, bear all the onus for providing sufficient verifiable evidence. Saying, “You have to believe it to see it” is not good enough. No one can believe by pretending to; your evidence must make us believe. If we were willing to be hypocrites we would already be pretending, just to avoid the constant sales pitches.

Words alone are not evidence. Truth, as in “That which can be shown to be true,” gets defined by the nature of evidence as portrayed within religion as compared to the stricter requirements of science. The difference, as portrayed in their evidence trails, shows how religion always comes up short when “following the evidence” too quickly arrives at an inevitable dead end where words stand alone.

This is about the nature of facts, and the requirements of verifiability and falsifiability.

  • Fact: a statement of verifiable and falsifiable truth. That the first chapter of Genesis is in the Bible and tells how a god named God created the world is a fact: Its location can be verified and the story read to show how that statement is true. It is falsifiable because its absence, or if it is about something else, would render the statement false.
  • Faith: belief in something that would correctly have been consigned, at least, to abeyance: The story told in Genesis has no supporting evidence trail that can be verified, and has already been rendered false by the fact of evolution.
  • Evidence Trail: the concatenating sequence of events that must become known in the development of evidence, each step of which verifies the next while leading toward the trail’s origin, which must also be verified to show factuality.
  • Verifiable: whether alternative methods exist that testify to a statement’s factuality; also, a factual statement whose truth can be demonstrated. “God does not exist” is a negative statement that cannot be verified even if true, but could be falsified by God’s tangible presence. “God does exist” has never been verified by anything but hearsay.
  • Falsifiability: a statement is demonstrably true when what would render it false is known, and that condition has not occurred. We must understand: This applies to the statement as a whole, and then separately to its content. Look again at the bullets labeled ‘Fact’ and ‘Faith’ to make sure you understand.
  • Statement: the expression of a belief, opinion, hypothesis, argument…
  • Abeyance: the act of setting aside and suspending consideration while awaiting evidence.
  • Onus: Responsibility to provide appropriate evidence is always upon the claimant. Since demanding evidence of nonexistence is tomfoolery, only a fool or ignoramus would demand it. The only legitimate demand falls on those who proclaim the existence or presence

Acceptance of all the foregoing requires acknowledgement that placing humankind’s gods and ancient scriptures on the shelf of abeyance may be the kindest way to treat them. The atheist can be taken at his/her word that the stories lack verisimilitude. Whether we misunderstand gods, or they don’t understand us, stays meaningless for so long as the complete absence of supporting factual evidence persists to support their (or, its) existence. It is the religionists’ duty to provide convincing factual evidence to support their claims. For so long as they continue to shirk that duty, our main concern must be to keep them from repeating their abysmal history. Only the statement, “I don’t believe you,” is all we have to defend.

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