Richard Dawkins

 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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28 April 2009 21:49
 
Salt Creek - 28 April 2009 08:08 AM

But yes, ASD, you are employing a specifically-biological metaphor here, with words like ‘selection’ and ‘advantage’.

Oh, I see.  We’re only allowed to use words like ‘selection’ and ‘advantage’ in “specifically-biological” contexts now, are we?  Talk about a bullshit artist.

If I’d said something like, “Just-in-time manufacturing confers an advantage on companies which adopt it,” would you have had the same reaction?  I doubt it, because the dreaded word, religion isn’t there. 

Face it, Salty:  you’re just another narrow-minded ideologue.  Your response to my post was a knee-jerk reaction to something you thought you read between the lines.  Now you’re the one trying to back-track with a lot of ridiculous yammering about “specifically-biological metaphors.”

unknown zone - 28 April 2009 10:40 AM

If you follow my advice, you also might stop referring to a disease as being successful, and instead refer to physically measurable or observable aspects of the disease in question. You may want to be a bit more careful using the human-emotion-loaded word “successful,” as well.

It seems to me you’re the one loading words with emotion.  Venereal disease is “bad,” right?  And success is “good?”  So the two should never be used in the same sentence?  Is that the “advice” you want me to follow?

The spread of venereal disease is both physically measurable and observable. (I suspect you may even know this from personal experience.)  The ubiquity of religion is also measurable and observable.

 
 
 
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burt
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28 April 2009 23:04
 

Let’s speculate a bit from the view point of evolutionary game theory.  Suppose you have a small percentage of atheists in a society composed mainly of believers.  The believers have a good deal of emotional and other commitment invested in their belief and reinforce it with each other.  The atheists have less energy invested because it’s a non-belief (but there is still some degree of strong commitment there).  The question is when one strategy (atheist or believer) can invade a population composed mainly of individuals using the other strategy.  Set up a payoff matrix:

          believer       atheist

  believer   R           S

    atheist   S           P

This says that a believer playing with another believer receives a payoff R while playing with an atheist gives a payoff S (which can be assumed smaller than R since the believer is not going to trust the atheist to the same extent as another believer and may actively attempt to subvert his or her success).  Likewise, the atheist playing with a believer receives a payoff S (there is the assumption of symmetry here which could be dropped).  The question then comes down to the size of the payoff P and this is going to depend on the nature of the game being played.  If P is less than S then (believer, believer) is a Nash equilibrium and atheists would die out, if only for practical reasons (and I suppose that this has happened historically, with atheists at least pretending to be believers in order to survive).  On the other hand, if P is greater than S but less than R there will be some equilibrium level of atheists in the society since both (believer, believer) and (atheist, atheist) are Nash equilbria. 

If frequency dependent selection in introduced there are more interesting effects that can occur—there can, for example, be a tipping point where the atheist strategy suddenly starts to grow.  Also, in assigning payoff values, having an accurate description of reality isn’t necessarily an advantage since most things only require that one’s beliefs not be immediately fatal—they can persist so long as they are useful in producing behavior that is functionally effective.

 
 
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Traces Elk
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29 April 2009 04:22
 
burt - 29 April 2009 03:04 AM

Let’s speculate a bit from the view point of evolutionary game theory.

Fail, fail, fail, fail. I don’t really consider religious people my enemies, burt. I do despise bad arguments, though. Apologists and defenders of religious belief generate more bad arguments (pure rationalizations) than necessary, given the evolutionary “advantage” their favorite subject has “conferred”.

It’s not a game, burt, when parents indoctrinate their children in a religion rather than responding, as mine did, in a rational way by giving me another game strategy when other children my age asked me why I didn’t go to their church.

It was amazing. I still managed to get an education and join various subcultures without becoming religiotized. The same happens with other atheists. It’s the homeless people standing begging at freeway ramps, most of whom are carrying signs that say “God bless” who should worry you. Do you think they became so ‘religious’ before or after their lives fell apart? The point is not that faith caused their condition to deteriorate, but that it didn’t prevent it, and hasn’t led to a society in which such people are rescued. They don’t do it because they believe, but because they think they’re playing the percentages. I know because I’ve asked some of them.

I go to western Europe, a place where religion among the economically-successful is rather a desultory affair, on average, and I see very few individuals begging at freeway ramps. The religiots there are doing their best to turn this dire situation around. It is not about religion at all, when somebody makes bad arguments the way ASD is doing, but about an occult breed of political economy. I mean, c’mon… The Rotary Club?

You’d get a clue, burt, but for most religious people and religious sympathizers, it is not about gods but about the economic underpinning of a society. We will see how the current economic troubles affect things. People can tip either way. Let’s hope they don’t trade religion for Bolshevism, eh? A failed experiment, compared with, say, Sweden.

[ Edited: 29 April 2009 04:43 by Traces Elk]
 
 
 
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nv
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29 April 2009 07:34
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 29 April 2009 01:49 AM
unknown zone - 28 April 2009 10:40 AM

If you follow my advice, you also might stop referring to a disease as being successful, and instead refer to physically measurable or observable aspects of the disease in question. You may want to be a bit more careful using the human-emotion-loaded word “successful,” as well.

It seems to me you’re the one loading words with emotion.  Venereal disease is “bad,” right?  And success is “good?”  So the two should never be used in the same sentence?  Is that the “advice” you want me to follow?

The spread of venereal disease is both physically measurable and observable. (I suspect you may even know this from personal experience.)  The ubiquity of religion is also measurable and observable.

Venereal disease, as you put it, is a minor problem today, and even that’s stretching things, assuming a person has access to medical care, ASD. Good and bad, by the way, are words that don’t tend to spring forth from my lips (horribly disfigured lips, of course, due to all the untreated infection, as I’m a hermit who has no access to any medical facilities) other than casually. I’ve never told a child, for instance, that they’ve been bad, though I do use good from time to time hoping to encourage them on. I don’t call children or adults good or bad, so you’re now set straight on this seemingly minor point.

You still seem intent on holding on to your view that religion has a positive overall effect on societies. Am I stating your view correctly? If so, do you have something—anything—that might back up this opinion of yours? Working out an opinion that’s secluded and distant from data on real-world trends is challenging, I’m sure, but its results are less than useless unless you’re attempting a con game. Then they can be highly beneficial—only to you, of course.

[ Edited: 29 April 2009 07:47 by nv]
 
 
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Lapin Diabolique
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29 April 2009 07:47
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 23 April 2009 12:48 AM

All we have are collections of primarily fictional stories and highly subjective reporting. Humanity’s survival so far is a result of many things, and most of them can’t be studied with much thoroughness. Or do you have a line on some research I’m unaware of?

According to Andy Thomson “Religious ideas are the by-products of cognitive mechanisms designed for other purposes”. He makes an extremely convincing case for this in his presentation titled; “Why we believe in gods”. You can find the video in the Multimedia section of this forum. It is almost an hour and I found it to be fascinating. This is the field in which Sam is working. The argument is undergirded by recent, but solid science. The method you applied in this thread, of reasoning backwards (which we all do often enough) is by its very nature the inferior of the two.

Check out the video, if you haven’t already done so.

 
 
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29 April 2009 08:33
 
unknown zone - 29 April 2009 11:34 AM

You still seem intent on holding on to your view that religion has a positive overall effect on societies. Am I stating your view correctly?

No, that’s not my view at all.  I said:

Antisocialdarwinist - 21 April 2009 01:56 PM

There’s obviously some sort of process of selection at work here.  Religion is widespread because it confers some advantage on societies in which it’s a dominant force.  Or, at least it did historically.  Religions that required worship must have conferred an advantage over religions that didn’t.  Otherwise, worship-requiring religions would be less prevalent than non-worship-requiring religions.


Whether “confers some advantage” equates to a “positive overall effect” (which is just a way of implying it’s “good,” isn’t it?) is a matter of perspective.  If you’re one of the poor slobs sacrificed in the name of God in order for your society to gain an edge over the neighboring one, you probably wouldn’t see religion’s advantage as a “positive overal effect.”  If, on the other hand, you happen to be the king of your society, ruling by Divine Right, sending poor slobs to their deaths in the name of God in order to gain an edge over your inbred cousin ruling the neigboring society, you probably would see it as a “positive overall effect.”

Nothing I’ve said implies religion is good or bad or positive or negative.  I haven’t implied that humanity owes it’s survival to religion.  All I said is that religion conferred an advantage on societies in which it played a dominant role.

Bad Rabbit - 29 April 2009 11:47 AM
Antisocialdarwinist - 23 April 2009 12:48 AM

All we have are collections of primarily fictional stories and highly subjective reporting. Humanity’s survival so far is a result of many things, and most of them can’t be studied with much thoroughness. Or do you have a line on some research I’m unaware of?

That isn’t my quote.

 
 
 
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burt
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29 April 2009 09:10
 
Salt Creek - 29 April 2009 08:22 AM
burt - 29 April 2009 03:04 AM

Let’s speculate a bit from the view point of evolutionary game theory.

Fail, fail, fail, fail. I don’t really consider religious people my enemies, burt. I do despise bad arguments, though. Apologists and defenders of religious belief generate more bad arguments (pure rationalizations) than necessary, given the evolutionary “advantage” their favorite subject has “conferred”.

It’s not a game, burt, when parents indoctrinate their children in a religion rather than responding, as mine did, in a rational way by giving me another game strategy when other children my age asked me why I didn’t go to their church.

It was amazing. I still managed to get an education and join various subcultures without becoming religiotized. The same happens with other atheists. It’s the homeless people standing begging at freeway ramps, most of whom are carrying signs that say “God bless” who should worry you. Do you think they became so ‘religious’ before or after their lives fell apart? The point is not that faith caused their condition to deteriorate, but that it didn’t prevent it, and hasn’t led to a society in which such people are rescued. They don’t do it because they believe, but because they think they’re playing the percentages. I know because I’ve asked some of them.

I go to western Europe, a place where religion among the economically-successful is rather a desultory affair, on average, and I see very few individuals begging at freeway ramps. The religiots there are doing their best to turn this dire situation around. It is not about religion at all, when somebody makes bad arguments the way ASD is doing, but about an occult breed of political economy. I mean, c’mon… The Rotary Club?

You’d get a clue, burt, but for most religious people and religious sympathizers, it is not about gods but about the economic underpinning of a society. We will see how the current economic troubles affect things. People can tip either way. Let’s hope they don’t trade religion for Bolshevism, eh? A failed experiment, compared with, say, Sweden.

No, it’s not a game, but the mathematics of game theory can sometimes shed some light.  It’s not just religion, it’s the way that people get attached to any sort of belief (although they then often bring in religion to justify whatever the other belief happens to be).  One of the reasons a scientific approach has trouble gaining ground is that people generally are not interested in accurate information about the world, just information that allows them to get along in the moment without contradicting preexisting prejudices (the difference between something that is factual and something that is merely functional).  It’s all part of a background attitude, something accepted without even thinking about it, that provides the lens for interpretation of events.  Only when what was functional becomes blatantly disfunctional do people start looking around, and sometimes not even then.  To quote Doris Lessing on attitudes in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe before its war of independence: “This heroic and glorious war was quite unnecessary in the first place and could easily have been avoided by the use of only a minimum amount of common sense on the part of the whites.  They were, however, in the grip of all kinds of primitive emotions.  ‘I shall pick up my rifle and fight to the last drop of my blood.’  I quote.  I go on to quote the first half of this sentence, ‘If you think that Reds like yourself and the British Government are going to give our country to the blacks, I shall pick up my rifle and fight to the last drop of my blood.’  And he did.” 

One of the things they don’t mention in the tourist brochures here in Victoria is the large number of homeless people on the streets; and I’m sure that many of the people around here who whine about this are good church-going citizens.  Seems to me that if somebody is going to belong to a religion (either because of sincere belief or just for social advantage) they ought to recall that charity is one of the main things they are committing to.

 
 
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29 April 2009 09:33
 
burt - 29 April 2009 01:10 PM

It’s not just religion, it’s the way that people get attached to any sort of belief (although they then often bring in religion to justify whatever the other belief happens to be).  One of the reasons a scientific approach has trouble gaining ground is that people generally are not interested in accurate information about the world, just information that allows them to get along in the moment without contradicting preexisting prejudices (the difference between something that is factual and something that is merely functional).

It’s not that I disagree with the observation, burt. I simply don’t think that a pure account of what people do is a justification for what they do. That’s multiculturalism. If the argument is that it is foolish to protest what most people do simply because they are in the majority, I’m afraid we part company. You’re reciting the ad populam fallacy in lock step with ASD. I’m a dissident, then, on the matter of justification.

 
 
 
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nv
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29 April 2009 09:44
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 29 April 2009 12:33 PM

Whether “confers some advantage” equates to a “positive overall effect” (which is just a way of implying it’s “good,” isn’t it?) is a matter of perspective. . . .

The point I was attempting about the use of the word good was that it’s not useful to me as a serious word, as its meaning has come to be a confused and often moralistic pronouncement. Saying that something may have a positive overall effect is also vague, but at least it’s vaguely specific. Since I don’t use “good” in any serious (non casual) way, I don’t bother trying to come up with alternative ways of saying “good.” If you think the two expressions are synonymous, I’ll take your word for it, ASD.

 
 
 
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SkepticX
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29 April 2009 10:07
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 21 April 2009 01:56 PM

There’s obviously some sort of process of selection at work here.  Religion is widespread because it confers some advantage on societies in which it’s a dominant force.  Or, at least it did historically.  Religions that required worship must have conferred an advantage over religions that didn’t.  Otherwise, worship-requiring religions would be less prevalent than non-worship-requiring religions.


I think this model works as long as you target your subject accurately. In this case religion is properly reified (Religion) because it’s the idea of religion that’s in question, not necessarily the organisms that are perpetuating it. In other words, the attribute of worship must be widespread because it confers some advantage on Religion (the meme), not necessarily the people who are hosting the meme and spreading it. The meme only needs to host to survive long enough to perpetuate it.

The hosts can be pretty much fucked, but if they perpetuate Religion it succeeds as a meme. There’s got to be some threshold of fuckedness before the meme becomes self-destructive, but short of that—living terribly limited and wholly diminished lives, for example—is memetic success to one degree or another.

For the record I think the whole meme schtick is unproven as a science (at least as far as I’m aware), but it seems very useful as a model.

Byron

 
 
 
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29 April 2009 10:38
 
SkepticX - 29 April 2009 02:07 PM

There’s got to be some threshold of fuckedness before the meme becomes self-destructive

There’s a technical term whose time has come. Non post hoc, ergo non propter hoc. If you don’t exist, you don’t need to be justified.

 
 
 
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eudemonia
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29 April 2009 11:03
 

We have the VMAT2 gene that acts as a transporter/pathway for Monoamines (Dopamine, Seratonin etc.,)to enter into brain cells.

Then we have the cultural evolution of memes added to the ‘feel good’ natural brain chemistry stuff and PRESTO we have spirituality, faith and religion.

All natural.

No talking snakes or burning bush required.

There are some Bush’s we should burn at the stake however.

 
 
 
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burt
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29 April 2009 12:01
 
Salt Creek - 29 April 2009 01:33 PM
burt - 29 April 2009 01:10 PM

It’s not just religion, it’s the way that people get attached to any sort of belief (although they then often bring in religion to justify whatever the other belief happens to be).  One of the reasons a scientific approach has trouble gaining ground is that people generally are not interested in accurate information about the world, just information that allows them to get along in the moment without contradicting preexisting prejudices (the difference between something that is factual and something that is merely functional).

It’s not that I disagree with the observation, burt. I simply don’t think that a pure account of what people do is a justification for what they do. That’s multiculturalism. If the argument is that it is foolish to protest what most people do simply because they are in the majority, I’m afraid we part company. You’re reciting the ad populam fallacy in lock step with ASD. I’m a dissident, then, on the matter of justification.

We’re not disagreeing at all.  But I do think that an account of what people do can be a first step in understanding why they do it and possibly finding ways to introduce change.  There is lots of research out there in psychology, sociology, anthropology, etc., that looks at how people do behave (as opposed to how they would like to believe that they behave) but it really hasn’t been integrated into the general public understand.

 
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29 April 2009 13:26
 
unknown zone - 29 April 2009 01:44 PM

The point I was attempting about the use of the word good was that it’s not useful to me as a serious word, as its meaning has come to be a confused and often moralistic pronouncement. Saying that something may have a positive overall effect is also vague, but at least it’s vaguely specific. Since I don’t use “good” in any serious (non casual) way, I don’t bother trying to come up with alternative ways of saying “good.” If you think the two expressions are synonymous, I’ll take your word for it, ASD.

I don’t disagree with the point you were attempting about the use of the word good, but it strikes me that the essence of what you’re saying, that religion has a “positive overall effect,” contradicts that very point.  If “positive overall effect,” in the context which you’ve used it, isn’t synonymous with “good” then I misunderstand what you’re saying.  What do you mean by, “...religion has a positive overall effect on society?”

 
 
 
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nv
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29 April 2009 15:53
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 29 April 2009 05:26 PM

I don’t disagree with the point you were attempting about the use of the word good, but it strikes me that the essence of what you’re saying, that religion has a “positive overall effect,” contradicts that very point.  If “positive overall effect,” in the context which you’ve used it, isn’t synonymous with “good” then I misunderstand what you’re saying.  What do you mean by, “...religion has a positive overall effect on society?”

Did I say that somewhere? Lord, I hope not, but I did attribute that sentiment to you, in Reply #55, excerpted below:

unknown zone - 29 April 2009 11:34 AM

You still seem intent on holding on to your view that religion has a positive overall effect on societies. Am I stating your view correctly? If so, do you have something—anything—that might back up this opinion of yours? Working out an opinion that’s secluded and distant from data on real-world trends is challenging, I’m sure, but its results are less than useless unless you’re attempting a con game. Then they can be highly beneficial—only to you, of course.

I think you’ve already pretty well corrected and modified those words by narrowing the context. I often find myself trying to get you to narrow your contexts, ASD, and I also understand that significant parts of this topic have strong taboos attached, so trying to put words and order to them can be challenging.