Re: virus: Science

Martin Traynor (
Thu, 19 Sep 1996 11:55:18 +0000


On 18 Sep 96 at 13:06, Reed Konsler wrote:

> >From: (Patricia & John Crooks)
> >How are you seeing that as being different? You aren't saying that
> >fundamental religion never undergoes drastic change are you? If you are you
> >would be indicating a serious lack in your education regarding theology and
> >the history of religion. The transistion from Judaism to Christianity to
> >Islam, or from another perspective, from Judaism to Catholocism to
> >institutional Protestantism to evangelical charismatic populist
> >Protestantism would be enough to refute that idea.
> This is a really good point. The difference is that the Catholics still
> disagree with the Protestants in a way that noboby still believes in a flat
> earth or geocentric solar system. There is an evolution in religious and
> scientific paradigms, but religion (usually) does not include a
> self-referential critical system. Science attempts to define and predict
> everything, including itself! Tall order, maybe futile, but very very
> useful.

I think the difference between the two camps re: their ability to
change is that when a religious dogma changes it relates to a change
in the underlying meme. This change can be because the complex needs
to incorporate some new meme to survive or sheer random mutation.
Science on the other hand is all about discovering new things, it is
designed to incorporate whatever memes meet its exacting criteria.
The underlying meme - the application of the scientific method - does
not change, nor does it need to.

Part of the problem is that it *is* changing. Other memes have
realised that science is very sturdy and if they compete against it
directly they will lose, so they are trying to place themselves
underneath its umbrella. This is causing the scientific meme to drift away from
its formal definition and to become something more nebulous than it
was. We can't have it both ways, either science is a formally defined
discipline which, within its boundaries, is very good at what it does
and deserves a certain respect or else it is an all-encompassing
entity capable of answering any question. Omnipresent,
omnipotent...what does that sound like to you?

> I contend most strongly, however,
>that the idea of "science as religion" is misleading and
>oversimplifying. That model doesn't provide an adequate description
>of science, or religion for that matter.

I disagree. I think that it's a necessary simplification. If someone
is brought up strictly within a certain faith, to the point that it
permeates every aspect of their lives, then it cannot fail to colour
their view. This is where we are with science. You can't get away
from it. From the cradle to the grave we are continuously exposed to
the faith that humanity places in science, and this is as it should
be (IMO). The benefits that it has brought us are immeasurable. I
just think we (especially we who share a memetic view) should be
prepared to take a step backwards and attempt to view science (and
any other meme) from a point outside itself. Otherwise we cannot be
sure that we are seeing it clearly.

On another level, science as religious dogma is plain for all to see.
Faith in its abilities abound, among people who don't necessarily
even know or care what science is. I mean faith here in a very strict
sense - belief without supporting evidence. In fact, like most
religious dogmatists, these true believers will hold to their faith
even in the face of evidence to the contrary e.g. I have come across
the attitude that 'science has already disproved the existence of
god' where in actual fact formal science has never to my knowledge
addressed the issue of gods existence or not. Granted some scientific
discoveries / theories suggest that 'god as defined by (theology of
choice) is unlikely' but that is a byproduct and deals only with a
specific manifestation of a 'supreme being'.

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