Re: virus: Science and Religion

Steve (
Fri, 27 Sep 1996 06:22:15 +0800

David Leeper wrote:

>>Science DIFFERS from religion and mysticism in that it is a proven
>>functional and predictive process for manipulating ones environment.
>Religion and mysticism differ from science in that they deal with
>qualitative and subjective experience and expression. These too, by
>the way, are powerful tools for manipulating ones environment.
>> Modern life is circumscribed by our technical achievements.
>Modern life is also circumscribed by our passion, insainity, cruelity,
>and bad sit-coms.
>> What do become Gods?
>>I can only report that I have been unable to move dimes by mental >power,
>Try advertising. Use sex in your commercials.

What David Leeper is realizing here (but wording differently) is the power
of desire and the role of choice. Our desires shape the world in ways that
are far more powerful than any new technology - indeed, new technology is a
product of desires, and the memes we choose. The type of 'science' I have a
problem with is one that ignores or trivialises the role of desire. This is
perhaps the most serious problem with a purely 'objective' science, since
desire and qualia are subjective and they are causative. Desires and qualia
motivate us to choose the memes by which cities are built.

Martin Traynor wrote:
>Right, here goes. I agree that sciences shortcomings in relation to
>social studies are more to do with practical implementation than with
>base principles. As such, the example should not have been used to
>answer the question posed (and after Wade letting me rephrase it,
>what an ingrate I am ;). It says nothing about any tools that science
>lacks but about our current inability to use them effectively in that
>environment. Point withdrawn.

Wrong. Mainstream science *does* have serious short-comings, because it
trivializes, if not ignores, the causative, initiating role of desire and
choice. Mainstream science is woefully inadequate in dealing with social
studies because it does not have the right tools (though this is easily
fixed, with the right attitude). Desire and choice are *not* products but
causes. (Actually, I should clarify - and this *is* important - systems
theorists and some physicists talk about the notion of 'boot-strapping', the
implication being that desire is as much a product as it is a cause, but for
the sake of brevity, I won't get into that on this post.)

We need a new approach to science - a paradigm shift, if you will - one that
recognizes that we are missing a key link, without which we are being held back.

In some recent studies on consciousness, people are increasingly refering to
need for a more inter-disciplinary approach, the importance of subjectivity,
desire, qualia and choice. 'Intentionality' is a word that is often used now
among scientists studying consciousness. People like David Chalmers are
looking at the notion of consciousness as an irreducible, basic entity, like
time and space. Increasingly, there seems to be a return to a rigorous,
rational and questioning science that is not confined by the assumption that
people from previous eras dominated by religion were somehow more
stupid/deprived than us. And so it should be. For if religions such as
Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and others at least understood the
important role of desire and choice in personality formation (what I
perceive as an early interpretation of what we now call memetics), what does
this say about the so-called superiority of an 'objective' science that has
been so blissfully ignorant of this basic dimension of all living
consciousness? What we need to do is to scrape off all the rubbish and
flotsam that clutters fundamentalist science and religion, and to distill
the basic principles that drive all. This is what draws me to the science of
memetics. We need to unify science and religion, not divide them.

The problem with subjective entities such as desire and qualia is that they
can only ever be observed, never proven or measured. Subjective entities
manifest themselves as self-evident, irreducitble basics of which one is
either personally aware, or sees evidence of their existence in the
behaviour of others. I can no more prove the existence of a desire or qualia
(either in another or in myself) than I can prove that the pen I hold in my
hand is a pen being held in my hand.

Memetics, to me, represents a unique opportunity to unify science and
religion. It represents an opportunity to blend what science has learnt
about the physical world with what religions have to teach us about the role
of choice, personality and consciousness. To glibly dismiss what religion
has to offer as irrelevant is to not understand the purpose that the
original religious thinkers had intended - it is to reveal one's own ignorance.



John Wheeler, quantum physicist,quoted in the Scientific American some time ago:
"The most profound lesson of quantum mechanics, he [Wheeler] remarks, is
that physical phenomena are somehow defined by the questions we ask of them."

Another physicist:
"A particle leaves its options open until it is forced to take a route upon
being observed by an observer."

Options? The asking of questions? Do these not imply some sort of choice
process somehow extending even to the matter level?