Sunday, August 26, 2007

Response to Dan Dennett

This "science" of memetics which Dan Dennett is talking about, what does it actually consist of? In his chapter on memes Dawkins says something that can pretty much be summed up in one tiny sentence: ideas are passed from one host mind to another. And he suggests that, like genes, they may strive for their own survival. So how does this amount to a science? "Memes", unlike genes, do not necessarily combine in systematic ways, and they can appear out of nowhere: these "toxic ideas" which Dennett is talking about presumably haven't existed forever, they appeared spontaneously in the imagination of a given individual.
In many ways I agree with what Dawkins and Dennett have to say, but their throwing around of the term "science" and their attempts to apply it across the board - to ideas, to religion, to anything- is, frankly, unscientific. It has been the consensus of philosophers, up till now at least, to deal with God in the realm of metaphysics. That very term means "beyond physics": beyond science. Trying to analyse religion through science or vice versa is just chalk and cheese mate, rats and pyjamas.

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