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In response to comment by Jiro on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: CCC 23 January 2017 02:33:31PM 3 points [-]

I'm pretty sure that the main modern transmission vector for Newtonian physics is schoolteacher-to-child (which is very similar to parent-to-child, except that the parent hires an intermediary). Mind you, I don't have any stats or data handy to back that up, it's just a general impression.

In response to comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Jiro 23 January 2017 07:45:51PM 0 points [-]

But again, that happens because it's piggybacking on the fact that people teach things that work. Since science works, it gets taught. If science didn't make factual claims with real-world implications, nobody would teach it. Religion is not bound by this; it gets taught even in the absence of such factual claims, because it has a bunch of commands that amount to "spread this religion regardless of the facts".

In response to comment by Jiro on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: CCC 22 January 2017 01:01:31PM 1 point [-]

No, it just has to get big enough that Christians have enough other Christians around that the social structure becomes self-sustaining. Social ostracism is used to get rid of spontaneously appearing non-Christian individuals, not large groups.

Fair enough. A neighbourhood or other small community can be self-sustaining, then.

But it still needs to be started.

So don't assume it's an exhaustive list.

As soon as I don't assume it's an exhaustive list, your point collapses. Yes, it does spread as a meme system, This is because it is a meme system.

Newtonian physics is also a meme system. And Newtonian physics can also spread as a meme system, in all three of the ways you describe. (I don't think anyone ever has tried to spread Newtonian physics by the sword, but it could be done in theory; but Newtonian physics has most certainly been spread by parent-to-child transmission and by social ostracisation).

Similarly for relativistic physics. Or, for that matter, any other descriptive model of the universe, including ones that are perfectly accurate and 100% true. Because any descriptive model of the universe is a meme system, and can therefore be spread as a meme system.

Your conclusion, in short, relies on the idea that Christianity is only spread by means that are not dependant on the truth of its ideas, and never spread by means that are dependant on the truth of those ideas. This you have not shown.

In response to comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Jiro 22 January 2017 09:17:37PM *  0 points [-]

It isn't all or nothing. These methods of transmission exist for Newtonian physics, but they are much less fundamental to how Newtonian physics spreads.

If it's medieval times, and I announce to the members of my village that I'm not a Christian and act accordingly. I may end up dead, lynched, expelled, tortured by the Inquisition, or sent to a ghetto. If i get up now and announce that I don't believe in Newtonian physics, not much is going to happen to me unless I have a job that depends on Newtonian physics. The social ostracization may not be completely missing (people can still laugh at me), but it's far weaker than for Christianity.

And parents teach Christianity to their children because Christianity directly asserts that it is good to teach itself to your children, and implies that their children will be in terrible supernatural peril if they don't. There really isn't anything comparable for Newtonian physics that isn't related to the fact that Newtonian physics works--if parents don't teach their children not to walk off cliffs, the children won't grow up to refuse to teach Newtonian physics to their own children.

In response to comment by Jiro on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: CCC 21 January 2017 12:21:56PM 2 points [-]

We know how religion spreads.

I'm not sure that you do.

From your previous post:

The predominant ways in which Christianity has spread are conversion by the sword, parent to child transmission, and social ostracism for people who refuse to believe it.

If this were true - and if it were an exhaustive list of the predominant ways - then I would expect to see the following:

  • Parent-to-child transmission only works if the parents are Christian. Social ostracisation only works if a majority of a given person's possible social acquaintances are.
  • Thus, the only means on the list of introducing is into a new area is by the sword
  • Thus, I would expect missionaries to either have been abandoned, or to be given a sword as standard equipment on setting out. I do not see this.
  • Furthermore, I would expect to see, in countries where it is not a majority religion, it would slowly fade and die (as social ostracism is used against it by the majority)

Now, I am not saying that it is never spread by such means. (Fortunately, 'by the sword' appears to have been largely abandoned in recent history). But assuming it to be an exhaustive list does not appear to match reality - there seems to be a rather large gap where a single missionary, armed with nothing more than information and presumably a fairly persuasive tongue, can go into a large enough group of humans who have little or no previous knowledge of religion and end up persuading a number of them to join.

In response to comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Jiro 21 January 2017 06:16:09PM *  0 points [-]

Furthermore, I would expect to see, in countries where it is not a majority religion, it would slowly fade and die (as social ostracism is used against it by the majority)

No, it just has to get big enough that Christians have enough other Christians around that the social structure becomes self-sustaining. Social ostracism is used to get rid of spontaneously appearing non-Christian individuals, not large groups.

But assuming it to be an exhaustive list does not appear to match reality -

So don't assume it's an exhaustive list.

It really doesn't matter for the purposes of my point that it also spreads through peaceful missionaries. You seem to think that I'm complaining that Christianity spreads violently, so you're bringing up non-violent missionaries. But that isn't my point.

My point is that Christianity spreads as a meme system. Belief systems have traits which lead them to spread regardless of their truth. Some of those traits I listed above. Other traits include, of course, the belief system telling its members to send out missionaries to spread the belief system. Having missionaries is an adaptation which helps the belief system to spread, in the same way that coconuts being able to float so they can travel to distant islands helps coconuts to spread. Belief systems which spread efficiently will do better than belief systems that don't, and will soon cover as much area as they can right until they run into other well-adapted belief systems.

In response to comment by Lumifer on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: CCC 20 January 2017 10:29:24AM 1 point [-]

Then I may have misunderstood the intention of the phrase.

As an observation about the limits of the maxim, I agree with it. And no, I'm not going to argue that a memetic plague never happens.

I am, however, going to argue that a memetic plague is hard to identify, making this observation very difficult to actually apply with any reliability. It's just too easy - if I see a bunch of experts in the subject all saying something that I disagree with - for me to think "they're infected by a memetic plague". It's so much more comforting to think that than to think "maybe I'm wrong" - especially when I already have some evidence that seems to say that I am right. So, while this observation can be applied correctly, it would be far, far too easy to misapply. And if I were to misapply it - I would have no idea that I am, in fact, misapplying it.

As a general observation, then, I cautiously agree. As a specific argument in virtually any debate, I deeply mistrust it.

I hope that makes my position clearer.

In response to comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Jiro 20 January 2017 04:16:50PM *  2 points [-]

We know how religion spreads. We know it well enough that when it is obvious enough that the "experts" are basing their "expertise" on religion, we can ignore it without worrying that we are just dismissing the experts because doing so is comforting.

It's not as if the way religion spreads is seriously in question.

In response to comment by Science on Universal Hate
Comment author: TiffanyAching 19 January 2017 08:12:30PM 0 points [-]

As far as "rational" in some situations in may not be worth spending the effort to determine if this person is one of those extremely rare "good X's".

Granted - but it's not necessary to determine that. It's only necessary to recognize that there are "good Xs" and direct your hate to what you hate about the "bad Xs". If some but not all Blues are thieves and you hate theft, it's only necessary to recognize that and say "I hate thieves" instead of "I hate Blues" in order to make your real meaning and position clear.

I was going to start by questioning the utility of hating abstract concepts, then I realized part of the problem is that we may be conflating several things under the word "hate".

I think you're right. Maybe "abhor" is more useful in this context?

Comment author: Jiro 19 January 2017 10:11:40PM 0 points [-]

If some but not all Blues are thieves and you hate theft, it's only necessary to recognize that and say "I hate thieves" instead of "I hate Blues" in order to make your real meaning and position clear.

By this reasoning, one should say "I hate people who want to kill the Jews", but not say "I hate Nazis", on the grounds that there may be an extremely rare good Nazi who is only a Nazi because he was raised in a town where Nazis happen to be so common that he was a Nazi for cultural reasons or something like that.

Comment author: Jiro 19 January 2017 10:05:03PM *  1 point [-]

This article is odd. The article recognizes a distinction between use and abuse ("When do they reach a threshold to abuse?"), yet other parts of the article sound like they consider any use at all to be abuse (what's the point of statistics on whether someone has "ever used cannabis", in an article about abuse, if you don't consider any use to be abuse?)

Also, to state the obvious, Iceland is very ethnically and culturally homogeneous.

In response to comment by Jiro on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: CCC 19 January 2017 12:29:30PM 0 points [-]

Also, distinguish between "anyone can claim X" and "anyone can correctly claim X". Creationists could claim that evolution spreads the same way--but they'd be wrong.

Assume a climate change denier or a creationist who (a) makes such an argument and (b) firmly believes it to be correct. How would he be best convinced that he is, in fact, wrong?

In response to comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Jiro 19 January 2017 10:00:10PM *  0 points [-]

Same way you convince him of anything else--by arguing specific facts.

Just because two sides can produce arguments with similar forms doesn't mean they also have similar facts. "Anyone can claim X", divorced from the facts about X, is only about having similar forms.

In response to comment by Jiro on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Lumifer 19 January 2017 04:17:11PM 0 points [-]

It spreads for reasons related to its fitness as a system of ideas but unrelated to its factual truth. This is not how evolution spreads.

The historical survival of religions and societies is a matter of factual truth. Evolution rewards success, not epistemic purity. Is peacock's plumage related to factual truth?

In response to comment by Lumifer on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Jiro 19 January 2017 09:59:40PM 3 points [-]

Please don't be Internet-pedantic here. "Factual truth" here means "the factual truth of the statements made by the religion", not "factual truths about the religion".

In response to comment by Jiro on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: CCC 18 January 2017 10:45:17AM 2 points [-]

I think this fails in the case where the experts are infected by a meme plague.

Isn't this a Fully General Counterargument, though? Climate change deniers can claim that climate experts are 'infected by a meme plague'. Creationists can claim anyone who accepts evolution is 'infected by a meme plague'. So on and so forth.

In response to comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Jiro 18 January 2017 05:56:06PM *  1 point [-]

The predominant ways in which Christianity has spread are conversion by the sword, parent to child transmission, and social ostracism for people who refuse to believe it. It spreads for reasons related to its fitness as a system of ideas but unrelated to its factual truth. This is not how evolution spreads.

Also, distinguish between "anyone can claim X" and "anyone can correctly claim X". Creationists could claim that evolution spreads the same way--but they'd be wrong.

In response to comment by Salemicus on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: arundelo 07 January 2017 08:00:44PM 1 point [-]

Broadly speaking, I agree, and Jesus mythicist Richard Carrier would also agree:

[A]mateurs should not be voicing certitude in a matter still being debated by experts ([Jesus] historicity agnosticism is far more defensible and makes far more sense for amateurs on the sidelines) and [...] criticizing Christianity with a lead of "Jesus didn't even exist" is strategically ill conceived -- it's bad strategy on many levels, it only makes atheists look illogical, and (counter-intuitively) it can actually make Christians more certain of their faith.

But reading some of his stuff made me upgrade the idea that there was no historical Jesus from "almost certainly false" to "plausible". (Carrier has written a couple books on this -- Proving History: Bayes's Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus and On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt -- but I haven't read those, only some stuff available on the web.)

  • Carrier:

    I think it is more likely that Jesus began in the Christian mind as a celestial being (like an archangel), believed or claimed to be revealing divine truths through revelations (and, by bending the ear of prophets in previous eras, through hidden messages planted in scripture). Christianity thus began the same way Islam and Mormonism did: by their principal apostles (Mohammed and Joseph Smith) claiming to have received visions from their religion's "actual" teacher and founder, in each case an angel (Gabriel dictated the Koran, Moroni provided the Book of Mormon).

    [...]

    It would be several decades later when subsequent members of this cult, after the world had not yet ended as claimed, started allegorizing the gospel of this angelic being by placing him in earth history as a divine man, as a commentary on the gospel and its relation to society and the Christian mission. The same had already been done to other celestial gods and heroes, who were being transported into earth history all over the Greco-Roman world, a process now called Euhemerization, after the author Euhemerus, who began the trend in the 4th century B.C. by converting the celestial Zeus and Uranus into ordinary human kings and placing them in past earth history, claiming they were "later" deified (in a book ironically titled Sacred Scripture). Other gods then underwent the same transformation, from Romulus (originally the celestial deity Quirinus) to Osiris (originally the heavenly lord whom pharaohs claimed to resemble, he was eventually transformed into a historical pharaoh himself).

  • Carrier:

    [I]n Jewish cosmology, all sorts of things that exist or occur on earth also do so in heaven: fighting, writing, scrolls, temples, chairs, trees, gardens.

  • (To make the following paragraph more concise I'll omit hedge phrases like "according to Carrier". And even Carrier doesn't regard this as certain, only more likely than not.)

    The writings about Jesus that come the closest to being contemporary with his putative lifetime are Paul's seven or so authentic letters. Paul, who converted to Christianity after Jesus came to him in a vision sometime around 33 CE, never claims to have met the historical Jesus, and never unambiguously talks about Jesus as a human who lived on Earth. (E.g.: Paul talks about about Jesus being crucified, but this crucifixion took place in some celestial realm not on Earth. Paul mentions "James the Lord's brother", but this means not that James was a literal brother of Jesus of Nazareth but that James is a fellow Christian, the way a modern Christian might refer to their "brothers and sisters in Christ".)

In response to comment by arundelo on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Jiro 18 January 2017 05:08:08AM 0 points [-]

[A]mateurs should not be voicing certitude in a matter still being debated by experts

I think this fails in the case where the experts are infected by a meme plague.

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