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/

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Email Response

On Sat, 27 Jul 2013 21:49:23 -0000 “christiankc13” <deleted> writes:

“ I am not ready to lose my faith and i refuse to. That would be giving up my best friend, real or imagined. Who wants to loose a friend that has promised you eternal life? If there was no God, then I would die and that’s it, no afterlife, so technically I’d never really know that i was wrong or right.”                                       _____________________________________________________

How egocentric. That is true, you will die and know nothing, god named God or not. You will die, your god (the one named God) will fade from your brain, and its existence will cease. That leaves nothing open to discussion. Your imaginary friend will disappear and your fantasies will end. You will not know nor care what truths you avoided for your whole wasted lifetime in the name of that pretended friend while you serve those who created it for you, and enrich them while you suffer the stress that comes from living a lie. You will, of course, deny that and insist you feel quite happy. You have made your choice and will stand by it. That leaves nothing the rest of us can do for you.

Because you made a choice, you assume in error that atheism is an alternative choice. We who are apostates know atheism as a simple absence of goddish belief, with which some of us struggled for years to avoid acknowledgement. Unreinforced belief ebbs when life gets overwhelming, dedication goes unrequited, prayers go without response, you are blamed for your own illness and debt, and recognition of cognitive dissonance begins. It is not that belief gets rejected; it erodes away till nothing of it remains. The choice it leaves behind is between honesty and insanity. To become an apostate involves only a choice between apostasy and hypocrisy. Atheism arrives on its own, and rides in on the failure of God’s messengers to be believable.

Atheism involves an open acceptance of falsifiable facts and principles of logic learned as we go. That no god exists can be rendered false by the verified presence of a god. Any god will do. That is true of all the multiple thousands of them, including those effigies represented by idols. It remains true of those same multiple thousands that not one of them can make that claim. For your claim that “a god does exist” to be falsified requires the complete disappearance of something that has never been present.

That is illogical and absurd, even were you willing to proclaim, “That is exactly what has happened,” that your claim of immaterialism amounts to. Where would you find witnesses from that time whose signed documents attest to that as fact? In your bible? I see a god of several names in there, ordering genocides and abortions, but no signatures witnessed by others of those ancient times, and only the words of apologists making their excuses.

People never exposed to reasons to question their beliefs are innocent of wrongdoing except for their criminal acts. People who chose honesty over insanity and hypocrisy feel no need to apologize for that. We may need to find excuses for whatever else we’ve become, but never for a god’s absence. That is for you to do. Yet, you insist upon its presence by gas-lighting, the opposite of a correct approach. The god named God awaits in abeyance for you to draw it forth. What I don’t believe in is not mine to demonstrate; what you profess to exist is yours to demonstrate. If you show nothing, that is the same as my belief. I did not choose that. When I looked for a god, that’s what I found. If I cannot trust my own senses, I surely can’t trust yours.

We have equal rights by law. By that same law we can judge each other only for criminal acts and not for our beliefs, as some would have it. We will not be arrested for our beliefs unless they incite a criminal act. The right to state our beliefs and speak out in their defense is a matter of good stewardship honored in our laws. As  awareness of cognitive dissonance increases, the number of people forced to make that choice between honesty, insanity and hypocrisy will increase. Keep up the good work.