Re: virus: Sexuality

Martin Traynor (
Tue, 17 Sep 1996 16:37:39 +0000


On 17 Sep 96 at 8:27, Steve wrote:

> ... scientism ... is among the most fundamentalist of all the
> fundamentalist religions of today. And think about how seductive is its
> power - we don't even realize that we are in it! This is the truth of memes
> at work - a truth about the truth of scientism.

I have to agree with Steve here. I watched a documentary last week
(Science Friction) which was examining the current battle being waged
between fundamental creationists and 'the scientific community' (for
want of a better term) in one of the southern states (I forget which
one). The fundaligionists (to borrow a phrase from the freak
brothers) want evolution to be taught in school only as a theory to
explain our existence - not as a fact, and that it should be taught
alongside the creationist Genesis worldview. The scientists are up in
arms, objecting to religion being taught in the classroom

However, any true scientist must agree that evolution *is* just a
theory, albeit one which has a weight of evidence in its favour (most
will agree with that, because I've been careful to include the word
'evidence', satisfying them that it's superior to a theory without
supporting evidence, such as genesis). Let's take it a step further and
see what happens. To use the word 'evidence' in this sense, what
we're actually saying is 'scientific evidence' but we've become so
accustomed to the word we've forgotten what it means. This now boils
our original statement down to 'Evolution (or any other theory of choice) is a
scientific theory which is backed by scientific evidence', thereby
implying that one must accept the validity of science and its
tenets and techniques before one can accept the theory as being
better than any other. But isn't this exactly the same for any
religion? Provided you accept the basic tenets, the rest follows (ok,
that's a simplification and some religions contain glaring internal
inconsistencies and contradictions but you get my point). Acceptance
of scientific evidence is based in a belief in science, therefore one
cannot base a belief in science on a belief in scientific evidence,
to do so is a tautology.

The real rub came when they interviewed Dawkins and he echoed the
usual 'evolution has evidence in its favour therefore better than the
others' spiel. He of all people should have a broader view (but then
perhaps he was just embarking on a little memetic engineering of his

But the statement;

>Written in the true spirit of scientismic fundamentalism.

in response to Reed Konslers

> >Holy shit! Is this culture evolving so quickly that we already
> >have "memetic fundamentalists"? What ever happened to a healthy
> >skepticism? A sense of irony? A little humility?

is a non-sequiter. Reed hasn't mentioned science, and if it's implicit
in his statement (it could be, if you look deep enough) he certainly
hasn't said that it should be exempt from that very same scepticism
and humility. Yes, there are bad practitioners of science and
fundamentalism abounds but science is a very powerful tool when used

I must also take issue with the statement;

> I keep on hearing about new, scientifically based studies
>refuting old ones.

when it's used as a criticism of science. This is what science is all
about; finding new information. If it overturns the old order so
what? Would you rather we still believed the world was flat? That it
is happening at such a pace is because it is constantly building on
the existing knowledge base, which itself is constantly growing,
giving rise to an exponential increase in the rate at which new
discoveries are made and old theories discarded.

For my own part, I believe in the power of science. However, I
equally believe that there is wisdom to be found everywhere and there
are some questions which science, by definition, cannot even try to
answer. This is where we require other tools. One danger with the
science meme is that it is driving out the others, and if a day
comes when we discover we need those other tools..what then? To draw
a parallel, if a mechanic finds that he never uses that 3/5" spanner
does he throw it out? No. It may find its way into the back of his
toolbox, it may get lost because he's become careless with it but he
won't throw it out. 'You never know, I might need it'. We are
becoming careless with our tools and we risk losing them. Even worse,
the memetic drift from science to scientism has turned one of our
tools against the others and it's now trying to kick the others out
of the box (screwdrivers of the world...UNITE).

The annoying thing about all of this is that it's unnecessary. The
science meme carries with it powerful innoculations against other
memes, just as a number of religious memes carry innoculations
against science. They *can* co-exist. My faith in science can share
space with almost anything else because it allows that *anything is

I'm not saying that each of us needs to host all possible memes, but
that they all have a place in the memespace that is humanities

This mail is in danger of going on forever so I'll draw to a close.
Sorry for ranting on like that ;)

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