virus: Memetics, Intent, and Salvation

Reed Konsler (
Wed, 20 Aug 1997 13:13:06 -0400 (EDT)

[First, Eric, I thank you for reading and thinking carefully.
I found your comments very useful.]
>Date: Tue, 19 Aug 1997 18:32:02 -0500
>From: Eric Boyd <>
>Reed Konsler wrote:
>> During the Reformation, one of the great debates within
><snip> Thanks for this, Reed. My knowledge of history is poor
>at best, and I did not know why the original split occured.

Ack! There were many causes for the Reformation. Most
of them were political/pragmatic. I'm speaking of the
intellectual debate...something which seldom has any
direct effects. In addition, I'm less of an expert than you.

>> One could be "good" in action only--sort of a reverse
>> hypocracy. One could think and believe all kinds of strange
>> and evil things without guilt and still be saved as long as
>> one acted in a "good" way.
>Ummm. How about the "moral atheist"?
>S/He beleives all sorts of "strange" ideas, and yet still acts good!

I'll have to discuss this concept at lenght later.

>> What is a "good deed". Do we still believe that "the *S*elect"
>> are "the Elect"? From a memetic perspective, can we take
>> ANY assurance of the accuracy of science based upon it's
>> apparent success?
>I think you committed non sequitor (sp?), Reed.

At least you were looking for the analogy.

>I couldn't, at first, even see how you could doubt the accuracy of
>science. But I see it now.
>In your first example, "good" deals are correlated with "doing good"...
>that is, Calvin assumes that people who succeed are "good".


>Those two "goods", however, are not inherently related, and thus we can
>refute his position.

In my opinion, yes. Success is not a demonstration of moral good.

>In your example, however, you ask whether science is "accurate" becuase
>of it's "success"... These two *are* related.
>You see, the relationship between a successful scientific theory and
>it's accuracy to the real world is a *direct* one. Like Richard Feynman
>(The Character of Physical Law) said:
>"It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does
>not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what
>his name is-- if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. That is all
>there is to it."

I love Feynman, too. But (and here I try to speak from personal experience in
experimental science) I think he is making a prescription to scientists...a
pleading from one of the most intelligent, most confident minds of his or
any time. Feynman was a genius, an introspectionist, and almost telepathic
in his perceptions. But he did not make or define science in the same way
that Aquinas did not make or define the church. You are captivated by the
VISION of science. The reality is, I'm sorry to say, much like Wall Street.

Not that that vision, that "Constitution of Science", isn't important. It is
vital. One of the great tragedies of the scientific community is that so many
researchers have lost that hope and vision...this is, historically, a result
of the money, power, and influence accruing to a successful meme-set.

We are calcifying--becoming too conservative. We are professionallizing.
There was a time when the science was we excommunicate
heretics from our journals and ostracise the eccentrics from our scientific

We groom the institution, and with each generation our aspirations tend
to become more and more mundane.

>I beleive the logical fallicy which you had pointed out in Calvins
>position was "ambiguity"... he assumed the same word meant the same
>thing in a different place, and it was not so.

I agree. Although, I think assumption is too weak. He defined "the
elect" axiomatically--it was and explicit and central meme that success
in the world and "good works" went hand in hand, not an implict

>But that fallicy does not flow into science. Really, science is all
>about making sure that ideas which we would *like* to see be true are
>*tested* first, and (possibly) accepted later.

I think you're still thinking about the first page of most science text books.
This conception of science is still very popular and it's ultimate formulation
is credited to Karl Popper. However, I think it's important to remember
that Popper wasn't describing science, he was asking himself questions.

IF scientists are in the pursuit of truth
AND they wish to be optimally successful in this endeavor
THEN they should propose hypotheses
AND rigorously attempt to falsify them
BEFORE accepting them as part of the body of science.

Which is good for a start. However, everyone admits that (again) this
is a prescription, not a description.

IF scientists are in the pursuit of truth

Well, are they? Often scientists are in pursuit of utility, which is

AND they wish to be optimally successful in this endeavor

Do they? No really. We need to eat. Many of us would like
to have children, friends, free time. We are also insecure
and gregarious. Scientists are people and, as such, pursue
their lives according to a melange of often contradictory


Well, then "THEN" part doesn't really follow any more,
does it? It's time to throw out the "Noble Spirit Laws
of Scientific Behavior and ask:

Well, OK, what is going on?

Recomended Reading:

Bruno Latour "Laboratory Life"
A french anthropologist lives among the "natives" at the Salk
institute for two years. Enlightening.

>> Is it possible that another model of reality,
>> perhaps a "magical" one, could have lead to similar material
>> successes?
>Ummm. This is very confusing. "Science" generally is used to mean two
>1) A systematic method of guess, test, repeat, whereby we learn about
>the world.
>2) A body of knowledge gained by the above method.
>Now, you've been rather inaccurate above. I do not beleive that any
>other method than "science" is really useable, if you wish to learn
>about the *objective* world. For how else could you do it? (I'm
>looking for *meaningful* changes to the process)

What if you begin with a different set of "guesses"? I think you are
making the common arguement that eventually any "True" science
will arrive at (more or less) the same principles of being...these
being the "Natural Laws" we are endevoring to discover.

Replace the word "discover" with "invent" and you get closer to
my meaning.

Imagine a Chinese scientist. Do they use these same words? Are
the words important?

I think you see my position, but can't make your mind accept it.
There isn't any reason you should. But let me try one more time
to convince you:

There are institutions of science. I think we can all agree that these
are evolved artifacts and not "optimal" insturments in the sense
Popper was thinking of: INSTITUTION

There is technology, models, meme-sets and other "success" which
result in VCR's and such: PRODUCT

There is the language-scaffold of theories and hypothesis. All the
metaphors, technical language, symbolism, etc: SEMANTIC WEB

Imagine the SEMANTIC WEB as a very complicated Ven Diagram.

On the outside is "The Universe".

The rest is subdivided into smaller and smaller subcategories...a
taxonomy of reality.

Eventually, if you subdivide small enough, you hit a "ground" right?
These are the "experiments" that Feymann refered to. This is the
substance that ANY scientific theory must conform to.

They do not exist.

The heirarchy decends infintely downward and infinitely upwards.

There is no boundary on the universe and there are no undivisible
units of reality. An experiment is just a question. A question is,
itself, already a construction of millions of unquestioned assumptions.

The SEMANTIC MAP exists suspended in space extending outwards
through time and space from OUR point of perception.

The MAP is not the territory. Another MAP can serve as easily, or
better. Imagine an overhead photo of Boston, a street map, and
a subway map. The subway map contains the least information
orgainized in the simplest and LEAST PHYSICALLY ACCURATE
way. It corresponds to the "meta-reality" of the subway and is
by far the most useful map for getting around, despite the fact that
it is simply colored lines and labelled dots. It is a gestalt.


SCIENCE is not in seach of TRUTH


SEMANTIC WEB is not and is not the cause of PRODUCT

The "*S*elect" are not the "elect"

"The medium is the message, content is irrelevant."
--Marshall McLuhan

>(as far as I know, people have never acheived useful physical theories
>by praying to God -- but I'm open to evidence, if you have it)

I agree with you, but you make a straw man. If I said prayer made
me "feel good" and faith in God made me happier and more successful
would you believe me?

A brilliant chemist, K. Barry Sharpless, was giving a lecture at MIT
a few months ago and during it he said:

"The number of compounds that God, and the community of chemists
as his agents, have constructed is a remarkably minute percentage off
all the structures which are possible."

A secluar rationallist would claim that his contributions to the community
are a result of his intelligence, talent, and not (of course) his faith.
There is NO EVIDENCE that this belief that he (and all chemists) were
acting as God's agents was at all important to his success.

If it was a crutch, right--a useful illusion.


Consciousness is a "useful illusion"
The Body of Science is a "useful illusion"
The Body of Christ is a "useful illusion"


>> How closely is theory coupled to practice? Is the scientific
>> model the ONLY accurate way of understanding reality?
>> Is the scientific model the BEST way of understanding reality?
>Again, a little ambiguity -- the scientific *process* is a good way to
>*learn* about *objective* reality.

I agree. There are many other "good" ways. We should value and
practice them all.


Reed Konsler