virus: Science and Religion

Reed Konsler (
Mon, 23 Sep 1996 11:01:23 -0400

>From: Ken Pantheists <>
>Date: Sun, 22 Sep 1996 23:07:10 +0000
>Reed writes:
>>Memetics describes the mechanism whereby mental programs get
>>propagated and demostrates that this mechanism is reletively independent of
>>the utility of the programs.
>Yes. I agree
> It still "matters" (to me, anyway) what is
>"right" (although we could, have, and will have a discussion on exactly
>what that word means).
>That's what I was pointing out. What's right is what replicates more
>I know this sounds morally bankrupt, but it's an idea I'm floating
>aroung for now-- to see where it goes.

Oh Boy! My turn to rant! Stephen, this isn't intended to be directly
toward you, but...

Earlier you accused us of getting caught in outdated "modern" thinking.
Don't you think this thread is going pretty directly toward classical
"post-modern" thinking? This last week we've been arguing around in
circles about our perceptions, beliefs, and their validity. What is truth?
What is absolute? Blah Blah Blah...

Doesn't this bore people after a while? I mean, really, do you expect that
in the context of this conversation we are going to, by direct reason and
debate, think ourselves out of the existential dilemma?

I have tried to float this assertion as an axiom from which to argue a few
times, I'll try again:

Forget about absolute truth. That concept is as ill defined as God; we
will never reach a consensus on what it is or what methodology one should
pursue to obtain such knowledge. I believe that many of the models of
science are (to a greater or lesser extent...boy, how qulified is this
statement?...) "true" in this sense, but I wouldn't claim that this
perception should be universal.

Science DIFFERS from religion and mysticism in that it is a proven
functional and predictive process for manipulating ones environment.
Bending spoons with ones mind is not generally useful, or telekinesis would
obviate the need for automobiles. Praying doesn't stop plauges or such
faith would have obviated the need for medicine.

Maybe the discussion we have been having is not about utility. Maybe we
don't care about tools, machines, theories. But can we be so blind to the
technical achievements the practice of science has brought us? Could we,
in distant parts of this planet, habitually have these forum-conversations
were it not for the implict faith that the scientists and engineers placed
in their experimental process? Perhaps that faith is misguided; perhaps
our models are a little kludgy; perhaps scientists are a little
arrogant...but the civilization which we seem to be taking for granted and
the one which we would have propogated is built with tools created by
science. Modern life is circumscribed by our technical achievements.

Is the universe God's dream? Maybe. But exactly how useful is that
revelation? Does it feed you when you are hungry or heal you when you are
sick? Really? If it did we would call that "a miracle". But if medicine
and scientific agriculture provide us with a heretofore unimaginable
standard of the extent that our very genetic makeup becomes our
own undoing...what is that?

Jesus H. Christ on a popsicle stick! Aren't all these things enough? What
do become Gods? For once in the history of civilization a
process is developed which allows us to stop dreaming about what the Moon
is like and actually GO THERE and see. The Moon existed before science, it
has been an object of human attention since the earliest records we can
find. But what religious faith, what mysticsm, allowed us to touch that
distant shore?

This is a rant, becuase I can already hear the response...and I don't know
how to counter it. If you don't live in this world then I understand how
these things seem insignficant. Perhaps you even know someone who has
claimed to have traveled to the Moon via astral projection of something
similar. Maybe you believe them. I can only report that I have been
unable to move dimes by mental power, I have been unable to teleport to
distant lands, I have been unable to successfully manipulate or predict my
own future by Tarot, Astrology, Numerology, or similar divination. Who
knows? Divination is a hobby of mine, and I'm always up for try a new set
of rune stones or a different deck. I really want it to work. Wouldn't
the world be a great place if you could manipulate your destiny by through
something as simple as a set of symbolic objects?

I'm sorry for sounding like such a lunatic. But do you want us to stop
searching for treatments for AIDS? for cancer? Do you want us to stop
investigating fusion power, cheap computers, and space travel?

I'm so tired of "you guys are soooo arrogant", "you guys can't explain THIS
observation, can you?", "you guys have all these conflicting models, can't
you come up with something better than that?" The only response I can give
is: we're fucking working on it. This is a human, physical endeavour and
it is error prone and time/energy intensive. If you think God will inspire
you to better solutions to the problems of how to feed, clothe, and
educate, and provide for 10 billion people...well, God help you. I've
never claimed that SCIENCE is infallible.

Rant ends. Apologies for over-emotional parts. I hope this is useful and
not just a personal catharsis.

Thanks for listening,


Reed Konsler