Dawkins' "Meme" and the Living Word of God :^)

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Dawkins' "Meme" and the Living Word of God :^)

Postby Ichthus77 » Wed Nov 08, 2006 6:12 am

I have been reading “Consciousness Explained” by Daniel Dennet (Back Bay Books, 1991) – in it he talks a lot about Richard Dawkins’ memes. “Meme” is the title Dawkins gives to the “idea” (in his book “The Selfish Gene”) to call attention to the fact that ideas replicate via minds. In chapter 11 “Memes: The New Replicators” (at one time available on-line, and may still be), Dawkins presents the idea that since memes are replicators, like genes, they are alive. This got me thinkin’ about the Word, of course.

Dawkins says your average meme is highly “subject to continuous mutation” between minds (not exact copies are made… miscommunication occurs) – but then contradicts himself by mentioning that a different understanding of Darwinism is a meme entirely separate from the Darwinism meme (though owing its existence to the earlier meme). This is a contradiction because it says both that 1) memes mutate, and 2) stay in tact (rather than mutating), but produce offspring which may be different (if that is what is meant by mutation, then this discussion on memes brings up something very subtle, but very important -- especially to a discussion of the Word). Just like Dawkins mentioned of the Darwinism meme – if you (like Dawkins) have an incorrect understanding of the Word – you don’t have the Word – you have a completely different meme (see my “Against Gnosticism” thread for an example of an incorrect understanding of the Word). However -- though maybe nobody has the original Darwinism meme in their minds (now, or in the future) -- God will not let that happen to His Word. It is unchanging and everlasting.

[edit 8-31-08 --don't bother replying to the part of this paragraph that misunderstands Dawkins' use of the word 'selfish'. I know. The rest of what I said stands.] Whereas Dawkins pins down memes as “selfish” replicators – he seems to neglect that in order to “rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators” – we must combat with memes which favor altruism. So… that would make them… selfish altruism memes (oxymoron)? I think he may have just gone too far with the “selfish” thing (thought himself in knots or something). Memes are not selfish, and neither are genes – they are, as he said earlier – “unconscious, blind replicators” (unlike the Word, of course, which wants to get in your mind) – and he should have stopped there. It is not inherently evil to love yourself (I say that because Dawkins seems to like the shock-value of calling things “selfish” – therefore putting an evil spin on it), for how can you love your neighbor as yourself (or treat others as you would have them treat you), if you hate yourself? If the altruism memes populated more minds and had more of an effect on the world than the malevolent-selfish memes, it would not be a result of competition (as if the memes know time in a mind is a limited resource). Memes do not fight over minds any more than chicken nuggets fight over stomachs. It means people got fed up with malevolence; won over by Love (John 1:1, 1 John 4:9) – the most superior (not to mention aesthetically pleasing) of all memes, by which all memes must be measured. Real competition is willful and can be seen in humans taking the reigns of their blind-replicator memes (holding every thought captive, 2 Cor 10:5) and surrendering to God’s superior memes (Eph 6:17-18), so that He can rid us (far better than we ever can) of the cancer of malignant memes (Hebrews 10:22).

If you get a kick out of Dawkins’ memes – perhaps you’ll get a kick (like I do) out of a (not exhaustive) study of the Word as living (Dawkins says “memes should be regarded as living structures, not just metaphorically but technically” … as “self-replicating brain structures, actual patterns of neurological wiring-up that reconstitute themselves in one brain after another.”) (I have resisted the urge to replace every instance of “Word” or “Scriptures” with “Meme” or “Memes”.) After the study I go into (sorta) the ethical implications if you consider values-transmission in the light of Dawkins’ memes.

All quotes from Scripture and from study notes are taken from Zondervan’s NASB Study Bible, 1999.

The word “Scripture” below refers to both OT (Old Testament) and NT (New Testament) – see 1 Tim 5:18, which quotes from Deut 25:4 and Luke 10:7, calling them both “Scripture” (although the NT was still forming at the time… keep in mind there was a time in which the OT was still forming, as well).

Isaiah 55:11 “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

NASB note: My word. Especially the promises of vv.3,5,12. The word is viewed as a messenger also in 9:8, Ps. 107:20. Cf. John 1:1. succeeding. See 46:10-11 and note; cf. 40:8; Heb 4:12.

Jeremiah 23:28-29 “‘The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?’ declares the Lord. ‘Is not My word like fire?’ declares the Lord, ‘and like a hammer which shatters a rock?’”

NASB note vv.28-29: The true word of God is symbolized in three figures of speech (grain, fire, hammer).
NASB note v. 28: straw…grain. Of the two, only grain can feed and nourish [see note on 15:16 – NASB note: “I ate them” means “I digested them, I made them a part of me” (see Ezek 2:8-3:3; Rev 10:9-10)].
NASB note v. 29: like fire. See note on 20:9. The fire of the divine word ultimately tests “the quality of each man’s work” (1 Cor 3:13). like a hammer. Similarly, the divine word works relentlessly, like a sword or hammer, to judge “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).

John 1:1-3, 14, 18 “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”

NASB note v.1: Word. Greeks use this term not only of the spoken word but also of the unspoken word, the word still in the mind—the reason. When they applied it to the universe, they meant the rational principle that governs all things. Jews, on the other hand, used it as a way of referring to God. Thus John used a term that was meaningful to both Jews and Gentiles. with God. The Word was distinct from the Father. was God. Jesus was God in the fullest sense (see note on Rom 9:5). The prologue (vv.1-18) begins and ends with a ringing affirmation of His deity (see note on v.18).
NASB note v.14: became. Indicates transition; the Word existed before He became a man. flesh. A strong, almost crude, word that stresses the reality of Christ’s manhood. dwelt among us, and we saw His glory. The Greek for “dwelt” is connected with the word for “tent/tabernacle”; the verse would have reminded John’s Jewish readers of the tent of meeting, which was filled by the glory of God (Ex 40:34-35). Christ revealed His glory to His disciples by the miracles He performed (see 2:11) and by His death and resurrection. [ There is more to the note if you’re interested. ]
NASB note v.18: has made Him known. Sometimes in the OT people are said to have seen God (e.g., Ex 24:9-11). But we are also told that no one can see God and live (Ex 33:20). Therefore, since no human being can see God as He really is, those who saw God saw Him in a form He took on Himself temporarily for the occasion. Now, however, Christ has made Him known.

Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

NASB note: word of God. God’s truth was revealed by Jesus (the incarnate Word; see John 1:1, 14), but it has also been given verbally, the word referred to here. This dynamic word of God, active in accomplishing God’s purposes, appears in both the OT and the NT [see, on your own, Ps 107:20; 147:15, 18; Is 40:8; 55:11; Gal 3:8; Eph 5:26; James 1:18 (NASB note: the “word of truth” is the “proclamation of the gospel”); 1 Pet 1:23-25]. The author of Hebrews describes it as a living power that judges as with an all-seeing eye, penetrating a person’s innermost being. soul and spirit…joints and marrow. The totality and depth of one’s being.

1 Peter 1:23-25 “23 …for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, ‘All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.’ And this is the word which was preached to you.”

NASB note v.23: born again…through the…word of God. The new birth comes about through the direct action of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5), but the word of God also plays an important role (see James 1:18), for it presents the gospel to the sinner and calls on him to repent and believe in Christ (see v.25). seed which is perishable…imperishable. In this context the seed is doubtless the word of God, which is imperishable, living and enduring.

Additional verses: Psalm 19:7-11; 33:4,6; 104:4; 107:20; 119:92-93, 105; Mark 13:31; Eph 6:17; Col 3:16; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Heb 6:5.

A nice quote from Lewis Sperry Chafer’s “Major Bible Themes” (revised by John F. Walvoord) (Zondervan, 1974), from chapter 1: “The Bible: The Word of God” p. 15: “Because of the combination of human and supernatural qualities which enter into the Bible, a similarity may be observed between the Bible as the written Word and the Lord Jesus Christ as the living Word (Ichthus: in case the semantics confuse you, both the Bible and Jesus communicate the living Word – refer to the verses above). They are both supernatural in origin, presenting an inscrutable and perfect blending of that which is divine and that which is human. They both exercise a transforming power over those who believe, and are alike allowed of God to be set at nought and rejected by those who do not believe. The untainted, undiminished divine perfections are embodied in each. The revelations which they disclose are at once as simple as the mental capacity of a child, and as complex as the infinite treasures of divine wisdom and knowledge, and as enduring as the God whom they reveal.”

Question to ask yourself: If you consider that memes must have time in your mind in order to germinate – what memes are you entertaining? – how much time are you giving to them? Which memes would you prefer to have growing in your head? Is your mind a meme cesspool or a meme Eden (if you say “Eden” you’re lying)? If you feel powerless to escape the current conditions of your mind, you’re wrong – His power is perfected in your weakness (2 Cor 12:9) – take the hand He is holding out to you. Once He’s got you, there’s no going back, do you hear? Don’t you dare let go. He’s not going anywhere – He’s been here all along. Yes, even at your worst. It’s never too late.

I scribbled a few notes this time last year (11/24/05) about memes in terms of schemas. Not sure how correct I was, but here’s the nitty gritty: bad schemas are resistant to change, like strong memes. In that sense, they can be thought of as “plaque” on the mind (sort of reminds me of the “truth with teeth” thing, but anyway…). Good schemas and good memes can be thought of as the healthy germs from which our body actually benefits. You can immunize yourself against bad memes by injecting yourself with the Word. Lining yourself up with the Word is equivalent to preventive medicine (daily Bible study, being part of a church fellowship, selfless acts and what not, are like brushing and flossing and routine cleanings). Neglect your mind with all sorts of junk-memes, and you’ll suffer spiritually (see my “Madness as Spiritual Suffering” thread) in one way or another. In this metaphor, God is not just the Grand Physician – He also specializes in dentistry. Root canal takes on a whole new meaning (and can still be just as painful…)… preventive medicine is better. But… if it’s too late for that, God can work a miracle in your mind. Just ask. 1 Thess 5:17; Matthew 6:5-15; 7:7; 18:20; Luke 11:1; 22:32; John 9:31; Psalm 25:8, 86:5; James 5:16 (all relevant verses on prayer).

Another way to ask the same question: What are the implications of Dawkins’ memes on values transmission? I would like to put in there (your thought-soup) that God’s value-memes are far superior to anything the world has to offer – thank God we can choose them, rather than being stuck with inferior value-memes. Sort of reminds me of the section where Dawkins mentions memes do not necessarily have to support the life of the mind they indwell (which, for me, harkens back to “the wages of sin is death”) – any gene for jumping off cliffs before reaching puberty would be doomed to failure, but a meme for such a thing (refer to the number of accidents blamed and yet to be blamed on the “Jackass” movies) can flourish, as long as it does not indwell every existent mind and cause extinction. (I was just as goofy when I was kid – I’m not saying that pulling life-threatening stunts in childhood is, in-and-of-itself, sin – don’t get me wrong… just an illustration.) Don’t forget how this paragraph started… lol.

I leave you with this thought: Be alert and mindful of the memes affecting you, so that you can hold “every thought captive” (2 Cor 10:5) and combat the malignant memes with God’s Word (Ephesians 6:17-18).

Check out “Biology as Literature – Learning to read the molecular book of life.”
http://www.ucsd.tv/sciencematters/5403.shtml

I like to watch that and think about meme-transcription.

[edit] see my posts below for why this was edited.
Last edited by Ichthus77 on Sun Aug 31, 2008 12:35 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Postby thezeus18 » Wed Nov 08, 2006 6:54 pm

the Word is unchanging.


The hell it is.
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Postby Ichthus77 » Thu Nov 09, 2006 1:31 am

Would you care to elaborate?
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Postby thezeus18 » Thu Nov 09, 2006 2:03 am

The text has changed with every translation. Look it up.
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Postby Uccisore » Thu Nov 09, 2006 2:10 am

Well, the whole point of a translation is to change the text. If it didn't change, the people in the new language still couldn't read it.

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Postby Justly » Thu Nov 09, 2006 2:22 am

I've read somewhere that they are going to replace the He in the bible to a She.
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Postby Ichthus77 » Sat Nov 11, 2006 9:59 am

Why is it that the only decent feedback I get is from myself or God?

that there was competition does not mean the altruism memes were greedy capitalists (since the world is not in utter chaos, I observe that the altruism memes are doing okay).
-- myself

Sorry. This is messed up. There's no competition involved. Competition is willful. That a stronger meme becomes more predominant and causes the extinction of a weaker meme does not mean there was any competition. That doesn't feel adequately explained... maybe some other time...

The text has changed with every translation. Look it up.
--thezeus

The meaning stays the same. Most discrepancies do not change the overall message.

Aloha... hola/adios... hello/goodbye... aloha...

The message. It stays the same -- it doesn't change.... regardless of errors in translation... and regardless what "they" think they're trying to change (justly)... By the way, have you ever noticed this similarity between God and the Beatles? -- everyone tries to sound like him (that comes off better phonetically). *ahem*

Take care. :^)
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Postby Navigator » Sat Nov 11, 2006 5:45 pm

Ichthus wrote:Why is it that the only decent feedback I get is from myself or God?


Because the only feedback you are looking for, and willing to call "decent," comes from others committed to the same religious-belief complex as yourself.

I've not participated in your threads, Ichthus, because it's quite clear you're not interested in discussing things with non-Christians. Which makes me wonder why you don't just go find a Christian discussion board, which are out there and which this certainly isn't.
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Postby Ichthus77 » Sat Nov 11, 2006 7:37 pm

it's quite clear you're not interested in discussing things with non-Christians


Confabulation.

why you don't just go find a Christian discussion board, which are out there and which this certainly isn't


This discussion board in particular is the only one I will visit. I am not at liberty to explain. Your assessment of me is entirely false.

Because the only feedback you are looking for, and willing to call "decent," comes from others committed to the same religious-belief complex as yourself.


Ned Flanders and I disagree on a very serious issue, and I did not dismiss his objection that I was not considering the ears of my listeners.

If a decent argument is presented, I will hear it. So far, in this thread at least, Uccisore (who I believe is the individual in the Mystery thread saying religion is mainly good for crowd control, but I could be mistaken) is the only person making sense (besides myself... save the section which I know needs correcting).

I don't mean to come off sounding... arrogant. I realized after I posted that it sounded like it.

But -- I'm saying -- is that the best you can do? That the words are different in different translations? We're talking about THE Word. Not A word. I know the people posting are smarter than that. I don't want sarcasm. I want feedback -- mainly 'cause I know if they think about it long enough, it'll sink in. It's a sneaky trick -- but I know they know I know they know I know .. all the tricks of that nature. But now I use it for good and not for evil. Forgive me for the rest.

And perhaps I am excited at what is coming out of my brain. I do not give God the glory enough so He made me say something stupid -- hopefully He will just laugh at me and motivate everyone who reads it to laugh at me too (although, I am rather giving myself a beating for saying that -- I'll get over it) -- and let me off the hook this time.

I apologize for the unintended offensive tone of what I wrote.

But, I maintain that all contributers (besides Uccisore, in this thread atleast) can do better.
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Postby Navigator » Sat Nov 11, 2006 7:45 pm

Ichthus wrote:This discussion board in particular is the only one I will visit. I am not at liberty to explain. Your assessment of me is entirely false.


Well, on the threads of yours that I've visited before, it seemed to me that you were operating out of the traditional Christian mental framework, in which Biblical quotes are taken as the end of the matter. I'm thinking particularly of the Gnosis thread. Now that happens to be one of my favorite subjects, but when someone is evaluating Gnosticism entirely in terms of its consistency with orthodox Christian doctrine, what's there to discuss? OF COURSE Gnosticism is heretical! Much of Christian orthodoxy was defined in the process of that opposition! So, if for you, as seemed to be the case, "Gnosticism is heretical" equates to "Gnosticism is bad," there's really nothing to discuss, since I cannot refute the premise (because it's true) and my entire thrust would be to call the equation into dispute, which I don't think you're prepared to consider.

Perhaps I've made an error here, though. If so, I apologize.
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Postby Obw » Sat Nov 11, 2006 9:51 pm

Virtual missionary? :-?
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Postby Ichthus77 » Sun Nov 12, 2006 4:30 am

Navigator, I explained inside the Gnosticism thread why I was posting it.

my entire thrust would be to call the equation into dispute, which I don't think you're prepared to consider
-- Navigator

Neither do I (so why would you bother to make the effort?), but I can't say with any certainty until I read your response (if you should ever post one). It is clear to me that I have a lot to learn on the developmental background of Christianity before and after Christ's ascension. Lord-willing, this will come with time.

Obw -- there is a verse which says (paraphrasing) "And when you turn back, strengthen and encourage your brothers." I have (been) turned back... and that is my goal. Beyond that I decline to explain... but hopefully what I just said satisfies your curiosity.

Take care.

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Postby Ichthus77 » Wed Nov 15, 2006 9:46 pm

This segment:

If the altruism memes populated more minds and had more of an effect on the world than the malevolent-selfish memes, that there was competition does not mean the altruism memes were greedy capitalists (since the world is not in utter chaos, I observe that the altruism memes are doing okay). It means people got fed up with malevolence; won over by Love (John 1:1, 1 John 4:9) – the most superior of all memes, by which all memes must be measured.


will be edited to read like this:

If the altruism memes populated more minds and had more of an effect on the world than the malevolent-selfish memes, it would not be a result of competition (as if the memes know time in a mind is a limited resource). Memes do not fight over minds any more than chicken nuggets fight over stomachs. It means people got fed up with malevolence; won over by Love (John 1:1, 1 John 4:9) – the most superior (not to mention aesthetically pleasing) of all memes, by which all memes must be measured. Real competition is willful and can be seen in humans taking the reigns of their blind-replicator memes (holding every thought captive, 2 Cor 10:5) and surrendering to God’s superior memes (Eph 6:17-18), so that He can rid us (far better than we ever can) of the cancer of malignant memes (Hebrews 10:22).


By the way – if I didn’t already mention it – I realize we are not usually conscious of our memes/schemas… so that they are not always “ownable” as part of our thoughts. Practice makes… skillful.

Hmmm… I wonder… if you could show how a malignant meme directly wreaked havoc in your life (becoming aware of it too late)… and you could show how one particular company or a group of companies spent a lot of advertising money to push this malignant meme out into the public’s meme pool (or maybe it’s a product or a song or something)… could you win a lawsuit against sneaky malignant-meme pushers? Would it influence advertisers to take more responsiblility for the content/substance of their advertising (music videos included)? Would it influence industries to produce products which could be sold without resorting to malignant-meme pushing? Would the world finally get a break from the constant barrage/onslaught of malignant memes?

Eh… that’ll never happen. You’ve got to immunize yourself with the Word, and avoid the world’s memes as much as humanely possible (it is not humane to stop, through selfishly becoming a hermit, the spread of the Word).

Any thoughts? Anybody? Buhler? (Is that how you spell it?... if’n you remember Ferris Buhler’s Day Off?) Oy.
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Postby Ichthus77 » Thu Nov 16, 2006 5:55 pm

Whereas your average meme is highly “subject to continuous mutation” (Dawkins) between minds (not exact copies are made… miscommunication occurs) – the Word is unchanging. Just like Dawkins mentioned of the Darwinism meme – if you (like Dawkins) have an incorrect understanding of the Word – you don’t have the Word – you have a completely different meme (see my “Against Gnosticism” thread for an example of an incorrect understanding of the Word).
-- myself, original post

Notice a problem here? Does a meme mutate -- or do you just have a completely different meme (which owes its existence to an earlier, similar meme)? The Darwinism meme remains in tact no matter what minds (besides Darwin's) may change it into. The same is true of God's Word. However -- though maybe nobody has the original Darwinism meme in their minds (now, or in the future) -- God will not let that happen to His Word. This needs to be reflected in the paragraph. So.. I'll edit the paragraph to read like this (subject to change... I'm short on time here):

Dawkins says your average meme is highly “subject to continuous mutation” between minds (not exact copies are made… miscommunication occurs) – but then contradicts himself by mentioning that a different understanding of Darwinism is a meme entirely separate from the Darwinism meme (though owing its existence to the earlier meme). This is a contradiction because it says both that 1) memes mutate, and 2) stay in tact (rather than mutating), but produce offspring which may be different (if that is what is meant by mutation, then this discussion on memes brings up something very subtle, but very important -- especially to a discussion of the Word). Just like Dawkins mentioned of the Darwinism meme – if you (like Dawkins) have an incorrect understanding of the Word – you don’t have the Word – you have a completely different meme (see my “Against Gnosticism” thread for an example of an incorrect understanding of the Word). However -- though maybe nobody has the original Darwinism meme in their minds (now, or in the future) -- God will not let that happen to His Word. It is unchanging and everlasting.


"thezeus18" -- I feel as if maybe I have just answered a criticism you neglected to expand upon.
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Postby Ichthus77 » Tue May 29, 2007 11:19 pm

Check out “Biology as Literature – Learning to read the molecular book of life.”
http://www.ucsd.tv/sciencematters/5403.shtml

I like to watch that and think about meme-transcription.
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Postby Carleas » Wed May 30, 2007 4:05 pm

I have a few criticisms of your understanding of meme theory and how it relates to the word.
I can't tell if you understand what Dawkins means by 'selfish' in regards to memes and genes. On the one hand, you note that memes are blind replicators, but on the other you also claim that the we must combat selfish memes with memes that favor altruism. A meme that favors altruism can be a selfish meme, and there is no contradiction. Memes are selfish by virtue of the fact that they are solely selected based on their own survival value, not the survival value of their host. So, the memes associated with a suicide cult can be technically fit memes: they are overpowering and they promote their own self replication (proselytising). They eventually lead to the death of the host, but if they have spread enough it doesn't matter as far as the meme is concerned.
When it comes to 'the word', you seem to dogmatically claim that it doesn't change, and that it is somehow special in that it "wants to get in [ones] head". That's all well and good when you're talking about religion, but it shouldn't be surprising that when you attempt to review a scientific paradigm with the dogma of religion, you find conflicts. According to meme theory, the 'word' meme would have mutated greatly, and emprical evidence indicates that it has: church policies regarding many issues have been revised continually, branches of christianity have split off, and (as thezeus briefly pointed out), translation has not been perfect, and information has been changed or lost over time and through different languages (translation has an inherently low fidelity over the long term, because there are many colloquial connotations that are lost or gained with each reincarnation of the text).
I also question the advice to "be alert and mindful of the memes affecting you," because it is inappropriate to consider 'you' as distinct from 'your memes'. As a person is the some of their memories, so are they a sum of their memes.
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Postby felix dakat » Wed May 30, 2007 4:37 pm

Carleas wrote:I have a few criticisms of your understanding of meme theory and how it relates to the word.
I can't tell if you understand what Dawkins means by 'selfish' in regards to memes and genes. On the one hand, you note that memes are blind replicators, but on the other you also claim that the we must combat selfish memes with memes that favor altruism. A meme that favors altruism can be a selfish meme, and there is no contradiction. Memes are selfish by virtue of the fact that they are solely selected based on their own survival value, not the survival value of their host. So, the memes associated with a suicide cult can be technically fit memes: they are overpowering and they promote their own self replication (proselytising). They eventually lead to the death of the host, but if they have spread enough it doesn't matter as far as the meme is concerned.
When it comes to 'the word', you seem to dogmatically claim that it doesn't change, and that it is somehow special in that it "wants to get in [ones] head". That's all well and good when you're talking about religion, but it shouldn't be surprising that when you attempt to review a scientific paradigm with the dogma of religion, you find conflicts. According to meme theory, the 'word' meme would have mutated greatly, and emprical evidence indicates that it has: church policies regarding many issues have been revised continually, branches of christianity have split off, and (as thezeus briefly pointed out), translation has not been perfect, and information has been changed or lost over time and through different languages (translation has an inherently low fidelity over the long term, because there are many colloquial connotations that are lost or gained with each reincarnation of the text).
I also question the advice to "be alert and mindful of the memes affecting you," because it is inappropriate to consider 'you' as distinct from 'your memes'. As a person is the some of their memories, so are they a sum of their memes.


Four questions:
*Why is a meme considered anything more than a clever analogy for how ideas are propagated like genes?
*In so far as a person experiences her memories as part of her own conscious and experiences acts as initiated by herself, isn't she more than the mere sum of her memories?
*If we are merely the sum of our memes, why do we experience ourseves as coherent wholes?
*According to meme theory, where does our centered inner perspective come from?
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Postby Ichthus77 » Wed May 30, 2007 7:05 pm

Interesting replies, thanks. I'll return on Monday or Tuesday to discuss them. I need to write a reply to a different thread today, then I'm done for the week.
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Postby Carleas » Wed May 30, 2007 9:04 pm

Felix wrote:*Why is a meme considered anything more than a clever analogy for how ideas are propagated like genes?

I don't know that it is. The comparisson of ideas with genes is a powerful one, and it gives us insight into how we should treat ideas and why some ideas are successful and others aren't. So, considered as nothing more or less than a novel way to frame our understanding of ideas, meme theory still warrants consideration.
*In so far as a person experiences her memories as part of her own conscious and experiences acts as initiated by herself, isn't she more than the mere sum of her memories?

-Experiencing new memories as part of a consciousness does not rule out the possibility that that consciousness is a sum of previous memories.
-Experiencing acts as initiate by oneself does not mean that they are initiated by onself, it simply means other origins are unclear.
-It's an aphorism, and it really only holds if you define memory broadly enough to include physical aspects as well. I'm more committed to the memes rephrasal.
*If we are merely the sum of our memes, why do we experience ourseves as coherent wholes?

If we are physically the sum of genes, why do we seem physically coherent? Or if we are made up of cells? If a glass of water is made up of molecules, why do we refer to the whole? Something can be both an aggregate and a coherent whole.
*According to meme theory, where does our centered inner perspective come from?

Perhaps from the meme that says that we have a centered inner perspective? On a serious note, I don't think meme theory seeks to explain consciousness. Meme theory only functions in regards to 'ideas' and 'culture', things that require consciousness anyway. Like software doesn't tell you how the hardware does what it does, neither must memes tell you how the brain arrives at consciousness. You can describe consciousness in terms of memes, but I don't you can, nor should you be required to, explain it using meme theory.
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Postby felix dakat » Wed May 30, 2007 10:55 pm

Carleas wrote:
Felix wrote:*Why is a meme considered anything more than a clever analogy for how ideas are propagated like genes?

I don't know that it is. The comparisson of ideas with genes is a powerful one, and it gives us insight into how we should treat ideas and why some ideas are successful and others aren't. So, considered as nothing more or less than a novel way to frame our understanding of ideas, meme theory still warrants consideration.
*In so far as a person experiences her memories as part of her own conscious and experiences acts as initiated by herself, isn't she more than the mere sum of her memories?

-Experiencing new memories as part of a consciousness does not rule out the possibility that that consciousness is a sum of previous memories.
-Experiencing acts as initiate by oneself does not mean that they are initiated by onself, it simply means other origins are unclear.
-It's an aphorism, and it really only holds if you define memory broadly enough to include physical aspects as well. I'm more committed to the memes rephrasal.
*If we are merely the sum of our memes, why do we experience ourseves as coherent wholes?

If we are physically the sum of genes, why do we seem physically coherent? Or if we are made up of cells? If a glass of water is made up of molecules, why do we refer to the whole? Something can be both an aggregate and a coherent whole.
*According to meme theory, where does our centered inner perspective come from?

Perhaps from the meme that says that we have a centered inner perspective? On a serious note, I don't think meme theory seeks to explain consciousness. Meme theory only functions in regards to 'ideas' and 'culture', things that require consciousness anyway. Like software doesn't tell you how the hardware does what it does, neither must memes tell you how the brain arrives at consciousness. You can describe consciousness in terms of memes, but I don't you can, nor should you be required to, explain it using meme theory.


Hopefully you experience yourself as a unified conscious whole in a way that is not synonymous with the "wholeness' of a glass of water. So what, we catch memes like we catch a virus? Does this theory take a person's need to assimilate and accommodate meme into existing mental schema?
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Postby Carleas » Mon Jun 04, 2007 9:47 pm

How about the old materialist standby: If my computer is made up of multiple logic gates, how does it function as a coherent whole? By functioning as both a coherent whole and a set of supporting systems, be they software or hardware.
Software is a good analogy for memes.

And your second question, in the language of meme theory, is "what about other memes?" Of course previous memes can inhibit or encourage the proliferation or acceptance of future memes.
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Postby Ichthus77 » Mon Jun 04, 2007 10:38 pm

Carleas,

Thankyou for replying. I understand that the way Dawkins is using the word "selfish" with reference to genes and memes means you can combat selfish memes with selfish memes that favor altruism. It is this fact that points out how Dawkins is misusing the word 'selfish'. If you would like, there is a current discussion in Philip 27 of 79's "Are you evil?" thread which has delved into selfishness, which might make this more clear.

The Word is unchanging. As I mentioned previously, if you have a mutation of The Word, you do not have the Word. I do not deny there are mutations -- I just deny they are the Word.

I also question the advice to "be alert and mindful of the memes affecting you," because it is inappropriate to consider 'you' as distinct from 'your memes'. As a person is the some of their memories, so are they a sum of their memes.
-- Carleas

A person is not the sum of their memories, nor the sum of their memes. If you have ever had a thought you have rejected as utterly ludicrous so that you banished it from your mind then and there, and if you would think it insanity the suggestion that such a thought is part of who you want to be -- then you understand that we are not the sum of our memes. We are exposed to much information -- some of it we use for interior decoration, and some of it we throw out... some of it we keep like little antibodies... little alarm systems that warn us of invasion.

What you are saying to me is that we should not be mindful of the memes we expose ourselves to... this is dangerous whether a person thinks they are their memes or that they are merely infuenced by them -- but even more so if they think they are their memes, when you consider some of the damaging memes in circulation. If a person thinks they are their memes, they remain ignorant of the fact that they can choose against them, form antibodies... It is as deadly as withholding vaccinations, but spiritually deadly instead of just physically (rerun the 'suicide cult' example you brought up).

The rest of the discussion will have to wait until I've composed my theory of self/mind/soul/spirit.
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Postby felix dakat » Mon Jun 04, 2007 10:46 pm

Carleas wrote:How about the old materialist standby: If my computer is made up of multiple logic gates, how does it function as a coherent whole? By functioning as both a coherent whole and a set of supporting systems, be they software or hardware.
Software is a good analogy for memes.

And your second question, in the language of meme theory, is "what about other memes?" Of course previous memes can inhibit or encourage the proliferation or acceptance of future memes.


Do you not see a difference between your own consciousness of yourself and any sense in which your computer might be considered a functioning whole? Software may be a good analogy for memes but to my knowledge it hasn't become self conscious yet.

How does "the meme that says that we have a centered inner perspective" confer such a perspective? Is it magic, an illusion? Has meme theory somehow single handly superceded everything we thought we knew about cognition and neurology?
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Re: Dawkins' "Meme" and the Living Word of God :^)

Postby Impious » Tue Jun 05, 2007 1:07 am

Ichthus wrote:I have been reading “Consciousness Explained” by Daniel Dennet (Back Bay Books, 1991) – in it he talks a lot about Richard Dawkins’ memes. “Meme” is the title Dawkins gives to the “idea” (in his book “The Selfish Gene”) to call attention to the fact that ideas replicate via minds. In chapter 11 “Memes: The New Replicators” (at one time available on-line, and may still be), Dawkins presents the idea that since memes are replicators, like genes, they are alive. This got me thinkin’ about the Word, of course.

Dawkins says your average meme is highly “subject to continuous mutation” between minds (not exact copies are made… miscommunication occurs) – but then contradicts himself by mentioning that a different understanding of Darwinism is a meme entirely separate from the Darwinism meme (though owing its existence to the earlier meme). This is a contradiction because it says both that 1) memes mutate, and 2) stay in tact (rather than mutating), but produce offspring which may be different (if that is what is meant by mutation, then this discussion on memes brings up something very subtle, but very important -- especially to a discussion of the Word). Just like Dawkins mentioned of the Darwinism meme – if you (like Dawkins) have an incorrect understanding of the Word – you don’t have the Word – you have a completely different meme (see my “Against Gnosticism” thread for an example of an incorrect understanding of the Word). However -- though maybe nobody has the original Darwinism meme in their minds (now, or in the future) -- God will not let that happen to His Word. It is unchanging and everlasting.

Whereas Dawkins pins down memes as “selfish” replicators – he seems to neglect that in order to “rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators” – we must combat with memes which favor altruism. So… that would make them… selfish altruism memes (oxymoron)? I think he may have just gone too far with the “selfish” thing (thought himself in knots or something). Memes are not selfish, and neither are genes – they are, as he said earlier – “unconscious, blind replicators” (unlike the Word, of course, which wants to get in your mind) – and he should have stopped there. It is not inherently evil to love yourself (I say that because Dawkins seems to like the shock-value of calling things “selfish” – therefore putting an evil spin on it), for how can you love your neighbor as yourself (or treat others as you would have them treat you), if you hate yourself? If the altruism memes populated more minds and had more of an effect on the world than the malevolent-selfish memes, it would not be a result of competition (as if the memes know time in a mind is a limited resource). Memes do not fight over minds any more than chicken nuggets fight over stomachs. It means people got fed up with malevolence; won over by Love (John 1:1, 1 John 4:9) – the most superior (not to mention aesthetically pleasing) of all memes, by which all memes must be measured. Real competition is willful and can be seen in humans taking the reigns of their blind-replicator memes (holding every thought captive, 2 Cor 10:5) and surrendering to God’s superior memes (Eph 6:17-18), so that He can rid us (far better than we ever can) of the cancer of malignant memes (Hebrews 10:22).

If you get a kick out of Dawkins’ memes – perhaps you’ll get a kick (like I do) out of a (not exhaustive) study of the Word as living (Dawkins says “memes should be regarded as living structures, not just metaphorically but technically” … as “self-replicating brain structures, actual patterns of neurological wiring-up that reconstitute themselves in one brain after another.”) (I have resisted the urge to replace every instance of “Word” or “Scriptures” with “Meme” or “Memes”.) After the study I go into (sorta) the ethical implications if you consider values-transmission in the light of Dawkins’ memes.

All quotes from Scripture and from study notes are taken from Zondervan’s NASB Study Bible, 1999.

The word “Scripture” below refers to both OT (Old Testament) and NT (New Testament) – see 1 Tim 5:18, which quotes from Deut 25:4 and Luke 10:7, calling them both “Scripture” (although the NT was still forming at the time… keep in mind there was a time in which the OT was still forming, as well).

Isaiah 55:11 “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

NASB note: My word. Especially the promises of vv.3,5,12. The word is viewed as a messenger also in 9:8, Ps. 107:20. Cf. John 1:1. succeeding. See 46:10-11 and note; cf. 40:8; Heb 4:12.

Jeremiah 23:28-29 “‘The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?’ declares the Lord. ‘Is not My word like fire?’ declares the Lord, ‘and like a hammer which shatters a rock?’”

NASB note vv.28-29: The true word of God is symbolized in three figures of speech (grain, fire, hammer).
NASB note v. 28: straw…grain. Of the two, only grain can feed and nourish [see note on 15:16 – NASB note: “I ate them” means “I digested them, I made them a part of me” (see Ezek 2:8-3:3; Rev 10:9-10)].
NASB note v. 29: like fire. See note on 20:9. The fire of the divine word ultimately tests “the quality of each man’s work” (1 Cor 3:13). like a hammer. Similarly, the divine word works relentlessly, like a sword or hammer, to judge “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).

John 1:1-3, 14, 18 “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”

NASB note v.1: Word. Greeks use this term not only of the spoken word but also of the unspoken word, the word still in the mind—the reason. When they applied it to the universe, they meant the rational principle that governs all things. Jews, on the other hand, used it as a way of referring to God. Thus John used a term that was meaningful to both Jews and Gentiles. with God. The Word was distinct from the Father. was God. Jesus was God in the fullest sense (see note on Rom 9:5). The prologue (vv.1-18) begins and ends with a ringing affirmation of His deity (see note on v.18).
NASB note v.14: became. Indicates transition; the Word existed before He became a man. flesh. A strong, almost crude, word that stresses the reality of Christ’s manhood. dwelt among us, and we saw His glory. The Greek for “dwelt” is connected with the word for “tent/tabernacle”; the verse would have reminded John’s Jewish readers of the tent of meeting, which was filled by the glory of God (Ex 40:34-35). Christ revealed His glory to His disciples by the miracles He performed (see 2:11) and by His death and resurrection. [ There is more to the note if you’re interested. ]
NASB note v.18: has made Him known. Sometimes in the OT people are said to have seen God (e.g., Ex 24:9-11). But we are also told that no one can see God and live (Ex 33:20). Therefore, since no human being can see God as He really is, those who saw God saw Him in a form He took on Himself temporarily for the occasion. Now, however, Christ has made Him known.

Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

NASB note: word of God. God’s truth was revealed by Jesus (the incarnate Word; see John 1:1, 14), but it has also been given verbally, the word referred to here. This dynamic word of God, active in accomplishing God’s purposes, appears in both the OT and the NT [see, on your own, Ps 107:20; 147:15, 18; Is 40:8; 55:11; Gal 3:8; Eph 5:26; James 1:18 (NASB note: the “word of truth” is the “proclamation of the gospel”); 1 Pet 1:23-25]. The author of Hebrews describes it as a living power that judges as with an all-seeing eye, penetrating a person’s innermost being. soul and spirit…joints and marrow. The totality and depth of one’s being.

1 Peter 1:23-25 “23 …for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, ‘All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.’ And this is the word which was preached to you.”

NASB note v.23: born again…through the…word of God. The new birth comes about through the direct action of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5), but the word of God also plays an important role (see James 1:18), for it presents the gospel to the sinner and calls on him to repent and believe in Christ (see v.25). seed which is perishable…imperishable. In this context the seed is doubtless the word of God, which is imperishable, living and enduring.

Additional verses: Psalm 19:7-11; 33:4,6; 104:4; 107:20; 119:92-93, 105; Mark 13:31; Eph 6:17; Col 3:16; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Heb 6:5.

A nice quote from Lewis Sperry Chafer’s “Major Bible Themes” (revised by John F. Walvoord) (Zondervan, 1974), from chapter 1: “The Bible: The Word of God” p. 15: “Because of the combination of human and supernatural qualities which enter into the Bible, a similarity may be observed between the Bible as the written Word and the Lord Jesus Christ as the living Word (Ichthus: in case the semantics confuse you, both the Bible and Jesus communicate the living Word – refer to the verses above). They are both supernatural in origin, presenting an inscrutable and perfect blending of that which is divine and that which is human. They both exercise a transforming power over those who believe, and are alike allowed of God to be set at nought and rejected by those who do not believe. The untainted, undiminished divine perfections are embodied in each. The revelations which they disclose are at once as simple as the mental capacity of a child, and as complex as the infinite treasures of divine wisdom and knowledge, and as enduring as the God whom they reveal.”

Question to ask yourself: If you consider that memes must have time in your mind in order to germinate – what memes are you entertaining? – how much time are you giving to them? Which memes would you prefer to have growing in your head? Is your mind a meme cesspool or a meme Eden (if you say “Eden” you’re lying)? If you feel powerless to escape the current conditions of your mind, you’re wrong – His power is perfected in your weakness (2 Cor 12:9) – take the hand He is holding out to you. Once He’s got you, there’s no going back, do you hear? Don’t you dare let go. He’s not going anywhere – He’s been here all along. Yes, even at your worst. It’s never too late.

I scribbled a few notes this time last year (11/24/05) about memes in terms of schemas. Not sure how correct I was, but here’s the nitty gritty: bad schemas are resistant to change, like strong memes. In that sense, they can be thought of as “plaque” on the mind (sort of reminds me of the “truth with teeth” thing, but anyway…). Good schemas and good memes can be thought of as the healthy germs from which our body actually benefits. You can immunize yourself against bad memes by injecting yourself with the Word. Lining yourself up with the Word is equivalent to preventive medicine (daily Bible study, being part of a church fellowship, selfless acts and what not, are like brushing and flossing and routine cleanings). Neglect your mind with all sorts of junk-memes, and you’ll suffer spiritually (see my “Madness as Spiritual Suffering” thread) in one way or another. In this metaphor, God is not just the Grand Physician – He also specializes in dentistry. Root canal takes on a whole new meaning (and can still be just as painful…)… preventive medicine is better. But… if it’s too late for that, God can work a miracle in your mind. Just ask. 1 Thess 5:17; Matthew 6:5-15; 7:7; 18:20; Luke 11:1; 22:32; John 9:31; Psalm 25:8, 86:5; James 5:16 (all relevant verses on prayer).

Another way to ask the same question: What are the implications of Dawkins’ memes on values transmission? I would like to put in there (your thought-soup) that God’s value-memes are far superior to anything the world has to offer – thank God we can choose them, rather than being stuck with inferior value-memes. Sort of reminds me of the section where Dawkins mentions memes do not necessarily have to support the life of the mind they indwell (which, for me, harkens back to “the wages of sin is death”) – any gene for jumping off cliffs before reaching puberty would be doomed to failure, but a meme for such a thing (refer to the number of accidents blamed and yet to be blamed on the “Jackass” movies) can flourish, as long as it does not indwell every existent mind and cause extinction. (I was just as goofy when I was kid – I’m not saying that pulling life-threatening stunts in childhood is, in-and-of-itself, sin – don’t get me wrong… just an illustration.) Don’t forget how this paragraph started… lol.

I leave you with this thought: Be alert and mindful of the memes affecting you, so that you can hold “every thought captive” (2 Cor 10:5) and combat the malignant memes with God’s Word (Ephesians 6:17-18).

Take care.

[edit] see my post below (made on the same day this was edited) for why this was edited.


Make it Word of Dionysus :P :evilfun: 8)
Let the music get you angelic just to gain that bliss. :)
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Postby Carleas » Tue Jun 05, 2007 3:07 pm

Ichthus, I think see your point with selfish, but I don't agree. Suppose I walk into a sporting-goods store, and I ask the manager "what do you carry", and she says "we carry everything!" And then I say "great, I'd like a strain of streptococcus and a brown dwarf," there's something wrong. It wasn't wrong for the manager to use the word 'eveything', but it should be understood in the context of a sporting goods store.
Likewise, there is not problem with selfish memes that bestow altruistic tendencies. The meme is selfish, and the person is altruistic. There is no conflict.

As for rejecting memes, it is important to keep in mind that, in meme theory, if 'you' are rejecting a meme, it is actually a case of a previous selfish meme (or memes) defending itself against a meme that threatens it.

Felix, no, I don't see a relevant difference between my consciousness and my computer's display. Granted, I am meat and it is metal, I am much smarter in certain ways, it is much smarter in other ways, I am much more adaptible, and it is easier to fix (or reinstall). But those aren't relevant. The comparrison between the systems of my brain that work together and create what seems a coherent consciousness, and systems of my harddrive that work together and create what seems a coherent desktop, seems perfectly legit, and I do not see the relevant differences.
Meme theory hasn't superceded everything, it's just a higher level theory than you're looking for. You want to know how science explains consciousness, the "centered inner perspective," but meme theory doesn't do that and doesn't try. Mendel was doing genetics long before quantum theory; your question is akin to asking him how is genetic theory explains what the plant is made of. It doesn't, it just says, 'These are plants, and this is how they breed. These are the patterns I see.' A similar statement of memetics would be 'This is a conscious human being, and this is how its thoughts propagate. These are the patterns."

Something that I should make clear to both of you: I haven't been defending meme theory, per se. I'm simply pointing out that you aren't making valid criticisms of it. Meme theory is an attempt to characterize thoughts and beliefs as propagators, and to offer a new lexicon for how we think and talk about human thoughts and beliefs. It doens't attempt to explain how a soul interacts with a meme, or how a meme creates consciousness, that's not it's aim. It already assumes that souls aren't there, and that consciousness is there. If you want to attack the soul-less scientific paradigm, or the material understanding of consciouness, that's a separate argument, but you're beyond all that when you're already talking about meme theory.
Meme theory is easy to criticize legitly (though I think it does a good job holding its own): Criticize the fact that it takes thoughts as unitary, while they seem to be irrevocably attached to a framework; criticize it for the fact that human brains are pretty different, and that there's no way the same thought can propagate across such radically different platforms; criticize that people think and understand things in such different ways, that even when people seem to have the same thought or belief, it turns out to function very differently. But you can't expect the theory to do what it doesn't try to do. It's not a theory of consciousness just as it's not a theory of math, and it doesn't deal with the soul just as it doesn't deal with qi.
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