What kind of god would you LIKE?
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22-11-2011, 10:51 AM
 
RE: What kind of god would you LIKE?
(22-11-2011 08:59 AM)Ghost Wrote:  I agree 100% with your prediction. I just disagree fundamentally with your explanation of why this will be so.

Matt, thank you for the detailed response -- I appreciate your effort to clarify things.

I will think about it for a few days and see if I can explain my position better.

It seems that we would have to start with definitions (culture, genetic predisposition, etc) to make sure we are talking about the same things when we are using the same words.

To tell you the truth, I am a little bit tired of debates at the moment.

Problem is, you see, I am a Physicist and used to deal with exact science where you can precisely define your concepts, develop your theories in a logical, mathematical way and then test your predictions with experiments.

Philosophy, Sociology, Anthropology, etc. are not like that, as I am sure you know.

That is why this area is more difficult for me to express theories in, in a convincing way. I know what I mean and what I am talking about, but may not always use the right word to make sense for people who are specialized in the area.

Anyway, I will do further thinking and see if I can explain myself more clearly for you to understand what I mean.

Till then,....

(now, for rest and relaxation, I get back to writing my book on the fundamental principles of Physics and the story of their discovery). Smile
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22-11-2011, 11:12 AM (This post was last modified: 22-11-2011 11:18 AM by Lilith Pride.)
RE: What kind of god would you LIKE?
I would have to say that Zatamon is approaching this like J.L. Mackie's jungle. JL Mackie cited that the reason we go into societal contracts is because before societies existed it was the jungle and everyone was out to get everyone else. No one was safe. His work is critiqued often enough over the question of would people really all try to kill each other? Zatamon is saying that individuality is a genetic impulse. You desire to be one, but society desires for you to be part of a group. While humans are pack animals they do have a large capability for individuality due to their abstract grasp of life. In general societal thinking humans desire to be in a society but must train their brains to accept it. Simpler societies are easier targets, as things get more complex there are more outsiders.

Back to Zatamon, his belief that individual gain trumps group rewards is where he bases these atrocities. On the idea that if you'll get a million dollars you'll kill someone for instance. It is culture which teaches us our many rules and restrictions, but our individual desires often seek to test these or even ignore them. He's saying no matter how wonderful a culture becomes there is always an opportunity for individual gain to break through it. He's saying that humans can never be expected to simply follow the flow. This is where he's coming from with innate nature trumping culture. Culture is a shared group experience, our nature often desires individuality. The two are not easily compatible.

And as far as smoking. The smoking meme has not completely fell into the way main stream culture has deemed it. A large counter culture movement has threatened the illegality of many drugs while the main stream focuses on the legal one cigarettes. Cigarettes are indeed being forced out through main-stream culture, but the past victories of culture over harmful substances have come into question as the counter culture becomes more and more pro-pot.

And, meme's are primarily the social restrictions on worldviews of a culture. They are the guide to what is desired by the pack. There are very few that are completely desired. There are many who choose to eat raw food. Many who live out in the streets over having a house, many who do not wear clothes, many who can't write, there are even those who cannot speak the language of the people around them. No matter how compelling a meme might seem there will always be a counter-culture response to it that keeps it from gaining full acceptance. The individual desires of the human have so far kept any innovation from becoming wholly accepted.

I'm not a non believer, I believe in the possibility of anything. I just don't let the actuality of something be determined by a 3rd party.
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23-11-2011, 07:52 AM
 
RE: What kind of god would you LIKE?
(22-11-2011 11:12 AM)Lilith Pride Wrote:  He's saying that humans can never be expected to simply follow the flow. This is where he's coming from with innate nature trumping culture. Culture is a shared group experience, our nature often desires individuality. The two are not easily compatible.

Thanks, Lilith, for trying to interpret me Smile -- what I quoted above is definitely one side of it.

Let me try it in a different way.

This time I am sure that I am not using the ‘official’ language Matt is using, but I am no expert – I have to use my own.

A human being is, to use a popular analogy, a little bit like a computer. Genetics is the hardware, culture is the programming (operating system and applications).

Genes are hard-wired and can change very slowly by evolutionary selection.

Culture can be reprogrammed by the environment (internal to society and external: nature). However, like all hardware, the human biological mechanism has its limitations and fail-safe mechanisms. These fail-safe, hard-wired processors can override programming (culture) under certain conditions. Primarily among these are those conditions when the brain perceives danger to the individual’s survival. That is why, I believe, during extreme stress like war, riots, drowning, trapped in fire, etc., the individual can, and often will, act against their culture, against their own social character, against programming.

That is why nobody knows for certain how they would behave under certain extreme conditions, until those conditions actually happen. That is why so many people can't believe how they behaved during the crisis, after the crisis is safely over and they have time to reflect on what just happened. This behaviour could have been extreme heroism, like running into a burning building to save a life, or extreme cowardice like holding a child in front you as a shield when attacked. Both do happen all the time. On a large social scale, it can add up to those acts of brutality and inhumanity I mentioned before.

In shorthand, in a previous post, I tried to refer to it as “the genes are very short-sighted – they want the next meal even if everybody else starves to death and they follow a day later”. When the genes are in "panic mode", all bets are off.

Unscrupulous leaders can, and often do, exploit this "panic-mode" by whipping up war-hysteria or terrorism-related panic (like the spectacle following 9/11) to justify their agendas and gain public support. When your average citizen feels his survival threatened, directly or indirectly, you can talk them into almost anything, including torture, genocide, suspension of freedoms and rights, internal spying, unlawful imprisonment, etc, etc. All you need to do is to colour-code the terrorism-alert scale and you are talking directly to the panic-stricken genes, bypassing the higher mental functions and cultural programming. The expression "gut-reaction" is often used to describe this mode of behaviour.

I realize that life is a lot more complex than the simple mechanism I described above but, as a good Physicist, I tried to isolate one important feature by ignoring everything else.

I don’t know if this makes any sense to Matt, but this is the closest I can come to explaining what History, and my own personal observations, have taught me about humanity.
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24-11-2011, 09:35 AM
RE: What kind of god would you LIKE?
Hey, Zatamon.

My pleasure.

I understand where you're coming from. I have an extensive background in the social sciences. I think the big difference is that while like the physical sciences, the social sciences rely heavy on empirical quantitative data, they also rely heavily on qualitative data. So it's very difficult to break the social sciences down mathematically and linearly. It's as much an art as it is a science. Traditionally, this has led many physical scientists to declare that they aren't even sciences to begin with. But they do of course rely on the scientific method. At any rate, I understand and appreciate the difficulty in switching from physical science brain to social science brain. It can be tough. If it helps at all, I SUCK at the physical sciences. I can understand a lot of it on a conceptual level, but ask me to do any actual calculations and you're in for a long rest of your life Tongue

I'll respond to Lilith and get back to you.

Hey, Lilith.

I'm not familiar with J.L. Mackie's jungle, but my gut cries shenanigans. Societal living is a genetic predisposition. Humans, wolves, sardines, sheep, killer whales and ants are genetically predisposed to exist in societies (although some consider ants a superorganism). Social species simply don't live solitary lives because they don't have the traits for it. Their traits facilitate and demand life in society.

I do agree that individuality (in a broad sense, I don't want to get too specific on that one) is a genetic predisposition. Our genes are in society because it helps our genes. This is the core of selfish gene (replicator) theory and the gene (replicator)-centred explanation for altruism. So there is always a balance in societies between what is good for the individual and what is good for the society (much less so in superorganisms). So it's less that society desires you to be part of the group and more that your genes decree it.

Quote:Back to Zatamon, his belief that individual gain trumps group rewards is where he bases these atrocities. On the idea that if you'll get a million dollars you'll kill someone for instance.

This notion stems from a very specific philosophical school that believes that rational human beings, at all times, try to maximise personal gain. It's an idea that fails under scrutiny though. Some people would do it with a smile on their face, but many people, likely most, would not kill their own mother no matter how much money you waved in front of their face.

Societal living has many fail safes because it has to. It's an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy, meaning it beat out all other strategies over time. The social strategies where people pursued self-interest at all costs failed. This ESS is all that remains.

Quote:It is culture which teaches us our many rules and restrictions, but our individual desires often seek to test these or even ignore them.

This takes us into free-will territory and that's an argument than can go off on a huge tangent. So I am purposefully avoiding committing to any specific understanding of free-will.

Yes, culture does teach us the lion's share of our rules and restrictions. Those behaviours that are universal, ie, present in every single human organism, are genetic. Those that are specific to a given culture, or that are present in multiple, even in 99.9% of cultures, are memetic.

And yes, in terms of behaviour, our lizard brain genetic behaviours are often at odds with our cognitive brain memetic behaviours.

Quote:He's saying no matter how wonderful a culture becomes there is always an opportunity for individual gain to break through it. He's saying that humans can never be expected to simply follow the flow. This is where he's coming from with innate nature trumping culture.

I agree with the first part of this. Case and point, when I was a kid, no one would ever self-identify as an Intersexed Transsexual Lesbian. But those sorts of complicated, non-binary male/female, non-heterosexual categories are gaining acceptance. So absolutely, individuals and individual desires act as selection pressures on culture. Rosa Parks is a perfect example of how one woman's desire (arguably a purely selfish one) wound up exerting a huge pressure on the "blacks sit at the back of the bus" meme.

The issue comes from genes always trumping memes. Of course this can happen, but can is a far cry from always does. Simple example. People often make the conscious decision to live a celibate life or to simply not have children. This lifestyle runs counter to exceptionally powerful genetic drives and yet they hold up. If genes always trumped memes, this sort of behaviour would be impossible. This doesn't mean that memes eliminate or replace genetic drives, but that they can supersede them, just as the genetic fight or flight reaction can supersede someone's cultural belief that they should protect old ladies. When people leave old ladies to die at the hands of the grizzly bear that jumped out of the brush, we call those people cowards. But all that happened was that their flight instinct kicked in and they were unable, in that moment, to override it with a cultural belief. All of this is to say that our behaviour is governed by both our genes and our memes.

Quote:And as far as smoking. The smoking meme has not completely fell into the way main stream culture has deemed it. A large counter culture movement has threatened the illegality of many drugs while the main stream focuses on the legal one cigarettes. Cigarettes are indeed being forced out through main-stream culture, but the past victories of culture over harmful substances have come into question as the counter culture becomes more and more pro-pot.

This has everything to do with representation in the meme pool. Diametrically opposed memes can exist in the same culture. Pro-life/pro-choice in the US as a simple example. The question is, what is the representation of both? At first blush we could say that pro-choice has a higher representation because that's what's reflected in law; however, that explanation is not satisfactory. Memes, like genes, live in system. Both of those memes have connections to other memes in the system. Without going into too much detail, the real reason that the pro-choice meme is reflected in the legislation, is because the constitution disallows the other meme in law. Doesn't mean it can't enjoy a healthy representation in the meme pool though. As far as pot, it's illegal in law, but I remember hearing that 8 or 9 out of every 10 Montrealers have used pot. So the use pot meme enjoys a robust representation in Montreal's meme pool, despite the fact that it's illegal. All of this is to say that when we look at cultural change we look at shifts in representation either positive or negative (including introduction of new memes and extinction of existing ones) as well as dynamic complexity; how many connections a single meme has to others in the system and the lines of tendential force that hold it in place and make it resistant to disarticulation as a result.

Quote:And, meme's are primarily the social restrictions on worldviews of a culture. They are the guide to what is desired by the pack. There are very few that are completely desired. There are many who choose to eat raw food. Many who live out in the streets over having a house, many who do not wear clothes, many who can't write, there are even those who cannot speak the language of the people around them. No matter how compelling a meme might seem there will always be a counter-culture response to it that keeps it from gaining full acceptance. The individual desires of the human have so far kept any innovation from becoming wholly accepted.

I would amend the first sentence by saying that memes ARE culture.

Again, when we talk about whether or not a meme has 100% representation, we run into the same reality we face with genes and indeed with all replicators. There's never 100% representation because there's always variation. Variation is the heart of Darwinism. Without variation, you can't have evolution because there's nothing for selection to select.

Hey, Zatamon.

Quote:A human being is, to use a popular analogy, a little bit like a computer. Genetics is the hardware, culture is the programming (operating system and applications).

I think that this is a fine analogy. It's one I often use myself. It has its limitations, but it's a very useful analogy.

Gene/Meme
Hardware/Software

Quote:Culture can be reprogrammed by the environment (internal to society and external: nature).

Not quite.

Memes and genes are both selected. The environment acts as a selection pressure against both.

Quote:However, like all hardware, the human biological mechanism has its limitations and fail-safe mechanisms. These fail-safe, hard-wired processors can override programming (culture) under certain conditions. Primarily among these are those conditions when the brain perceives danger to the individual’s survival. That is why, I believe, during extreme stress like war, riots, drowning, trapped in fire, etc., the individual can, and often will, act against their culture, against their own social character, against programming.

This paragraph is packed with meaning and must be addressed very carefully.

We must view genes and memes as competitors.

They can override each other under certain conditions.

Here's a counter-intuitive monkey wrench for you. War is genetically impossible. When we're children, we gain the ability to view ourselves and by extension, others, as individuals. It is through this that we gain empathy; the understanding that others don't want to be killed because we know that we don't. This is an instinctual knowledge. It is universal. War requires us to short-circuit this impulse. We use cultural training, the reduction of the enemy to a thing, to accomplish this. War, as we practice it, would be impossible without the meme's ability to override our natural inability to kill other humans.

All of this is to say that it goes both ways.

Quote:That is why nobody knows for certain how they would behave under certain extreme conditions, until those conditions actually happen. That is why so many people can't believe how they behaved during the crisis, after the crisis is safely over and they have time to reflect on what just happened. This behaviour could have been extreme heroism, like running into a burning building to save a life, or extreme cowardice like holding a child in front you as a shield when attacked. Both do happen all the time. On a large social scale, it can add up to those acts of brutality and inhumanity I mentioned before.

Now here is the illogical jump.

Cognitive dissonance can occur in these scenarios. "I'm brave but I used baby shield." One has to reconcile those two things by either altering their self-opinion of bravery or by justifying baby shield. "They say I'm really brave for running into that building, but I'm not brave."

But there is no link between any of this and a genetic predisposition to commit acts of brutality and inhumanity.

Perhaps you could go into greater detail about this jump?

Quote:In shorthand, in a previous post, I tried to refer to it as “the genes are very short-sighted – they want the next meal even if everybody else starves to death and they follow a day later”. When the genes are in "panic mode", all bets are off.

That's demonstrably false. This goes against everything we know about altruism. Humans share resources. Humans don't allow, particularly in kin selection, their kin to starve.

The main question here is, do genes control memes? Some would say, you included I think, that genes are like a dog owner holding a leash and that memes are like the dog. This analogy CAN be true. But Blackmore directly addresses this notion:
Quote:According to memetics, the genes may turn into a dog and the memes become the owner - or perhaps we should enjoy the spectacle of two dogs, one on either end - each running like mad to serve their own selfish replication.
-Dr. Susan Blackmore, "The Meme Machine," page 33.

Quote:I don’t know if this makes any sense to Matt, but this is the closest I can come to explaining what History, and my own personal observations, have taught me about humanity.

Can humans act monstrously? Of course. We're just arguing about the source of it.

For you, it's genetic. For me, it's memetic.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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24-11-2011, 04:02 PM
 
RE: What kind of god would you LIKE?
(24-11-2011 09:35 AM)Ghost Wrote:  Can humans act monstrously? Of course. We're just arguing about the source of it.

For you, it's genetic. For me, it's memetic.

Matt, as I have said it before: you do make me think. Smile

I like that.

Also, I have to compliment you on your patience, perseverance, polite and rational style of debating. That is the way it is supposed to be done.

Having said that, I have to admit that I am out of arguments for the moment. I am rereading Lyall Watson's "Dark Nature: A Natural History of Evil" that I read about 10 years ago, to refresh my memory about his genetic explanation of evil. I quoted his 3 rules of the genes before "Be nice to insiders, be nasty to outsiders and cheat whenever you can" (roughly quoted).

I have never studied "meme-theory" (if this is what it is called) and I am interested enough to take a look. Frankly, my first (and totally uninformed) impression is that it sounds a little bit like the old, now discredited, branch of Psychology (called "Behaviourism") that tried to turn Psychology into an exact science, similar to Physics, by treating human and animal organisms into stimulus-response automatons. In the seventies and the eighties Behaviourims ruled and, unless you paid lip-service to its jargon, your career was ruined.

I am not saying that "meme-theory" is anything like that, and no one would be happier if they got it right this time, but I can't tell until I see their data and their logic.

If you could recommend some introductory work that would convince a hard-assed physical scientists like myself, I would appreciate it. Especially one that is full of experimental data and clear on the definitions of its basic concepts.

Till then, I will reserve further judgement on the topic.
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25-11-2011, 08:11 AM
RE: What kind of god would you LIKE?
Hey, Zatamon.

Thank you for your kind words.

Typically the field is referred to as memetics, but meme theory or even the study of memes are fine.

Right now, memetics is like genetics without the gene. When Darwin wrote Origin of the Species, he didn't know what a gene was. All he could do was observe the phenotype, which was satisfactory because selection works on the phenotype, not the genotype. He didn't need to understand the gene to understand variation, selection and heredity. Now that we know about DNA, the actual molecule, the physical structure within which genetic information is encoded, stored, protected and replicated, there's a lot more we can do.

Right now, we still don't know what the physical structure of the meme is. We simply don't know enough about the brain. There are neurologists out there working to figure it out, but for now, we simply don't know. As a result, there is still some controversy among memeticists about the nature of memes, much like there was controversy about the nature of genes before the discovery of DNA.

So what do we know? We can observe the phenotype. We know that different individuals behave similarly and that this is something that they acquire through contact with other humans (heredity). The Chinese wear straw hats, Jews wear yarmulkes, Americans wear baseball caps, the fez, the fedora, the cowboy hat... (variation). We know that there are only 7 billion heads in the world and that some people wear certain types of hats and that some people don't wear hats at all (selection). Where there is variation, selection and heredity, there is an evolutionary process. We know, beyond a shadow of doubt that cultures evolve. The meme is the word we give to the basic unit of transmission; a unit we as of yet do not understand fully.

Lots of scientific theories don't have all the answers. Closer to home, some physicists dismiss quantum physicists because it is only suggested by math. There are few if any actual experiments that can be conducted to prove it. But anyone who studies quantum physics views it as not just truth, but important truth. The same with memetics. In my experience over the years, the only people that dismiss the meme are those that are unfamiliar with it. Anyone who has studied it knows that it's one of the most important discoveries of the last hundred years.

If you're interested, I would suggest two books. The first is chapter 11 of Richard Dawkins' book, The Selfish Gene. In this chapter, Dawkins introduces the meme to the world. The proto-notion of the meme had been floating around for some time before 1976, but Dawkins is the man that put it all together. He does so by first proposing that evolution is not a process that is restricted to the organisms on this planet, but rather a process we can expect to find anywhere in the universe where we might encounter replicators. He calls this Universal Darwinism. He then asked the simple question, are there other replicators here on earth? The answer was yes: memes. The second book that I'd suggest is Susan Blackmore's, The Meme Machine. Blackmore is probably the preeminent memeticist on the planet. For a simple primer, you can watch Blackmore's TED Talk on memes. I would HIGHLY recommend watching until the 12:02 mark and stopping there. After that, she goes into a personal theory about a third replicator. It's interesting and controversial, but it, I feel, muddies the conversation about memes. Go back to it after you fully grasp the concept.

One of the important bits Blackmore mentions in the TED talk is that most theories over the years ask a simple question. In what way does X benefit our genes? But there are some unsatisfactory answers. In what way does having a giant brain benefit our genes? In what way does having vocal chords in a position that means we can easily choke to death benefit our genes? In what way does burying the dead and adorning their bodies benefit our genes? The answer to all of those questions is that they don’t. They benefit our memes.

If you ever have any specific questions about memes, I would be more than happy to share my knowledge on the subject. I have no doubt that fifty years from now, knowledge of the meme will be as widespread as the knowledge of the gene. How do I know? Because the widespread knowledge of the gene proves the existence of memes.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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25-11-2011, 10:17 PM
RE: What kind of god would you LIKE?
If I were god .................. I would get rid of pain, hunger, poverty, assholes and the ice capades.
   
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