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Mormonism - a viral meme?


Nofear

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So, I was browsing some of the new 2009 TED talks (they are fun) and came across this one that is related to the recent outbreak of apostasy topics:

Diane Benscoter on how cults rewire the brain.

She was a Moonie for 5 years. Left, became a "deprogrammer" until she got charged with kidnapping. Left, and then wondered why much later why she joined the sect anyway. What I found interesting was her theory that she became a Moonie because she was infected by a viral meme. Not believing in memes or memetics myself I am not impressed. Still, some apostates might like the idea. Indeed, she proposed (being convinced that it must be true) that those brains thus infected would be physiologically and observationally different.

Questions for the thread:

  • Do you think Mormonism is a viral meme?
  • Do you think that Mormons' brains are physiologically and observationally different?
  • Does memetics have the possibility of surfacing as a new language to attack Mormonism with?

PS: Maybe we can call our persistent nay-sayers deprogrammers. :P

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Questions for the thread:

[*]Do you think Mormonism is a viral meme?

I think anti-mormons suffer from the "viral meme".

[*]Do you think that Mormons' brains are physiologically and observationally different?

Yes, most certainly. But, superiorily so, compared to the anti-mormon brain.

The anti-mormon brain functions similar to those who burned witches at the stake, just without the violence part because of social restraint. And all you have to do is look to early anti-mormonism which proves my point. The ideology and hate was exactly the same then as today, but there wasn't as much of the social restraint then, thus there was more violence.

[*]Does memetics have the possibility of surfacing as a new language to attack Mormonism with?

Who knows.... They eventually try whatever they can find to pervert and beat us over the head.

PS: Maybe we can call our persistent nay-sayers deprogrammers. :P

Naw.... That gives them respectability. Usually deprogrammers are doing a good thing to stop a bad thing. Anti-mormonism does not. However, they might look at themselves as such. After all, they think they are perfectly good and right in what they do. They falsely think they do no evil.

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She thinks that she had made a mistake by joining the Moonies. She thinks to herself that no rational person would ever make a mistake like that and she considers herself to be rational, so how could she had made that terrible mistake? It wasn't her fault, it was a meme's fault, but where did this meme come from?

But, OTOH, maybe it was a meme that lead her away from the Moonies. Who knows?

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Questions for the thread:

[*]Do you think Mormonism is a viral meme?

To explore that question, I'd suggest a read of Aaron Lynch's Thought Contagion. Brilliant book. A library near you probably has a copy. Or if you're near me, you're welcome to borrow/have mine.

He provides an excellent overview of memetics, and more than once addresses the growth of the LDS Church within that framework.

The battle that the cosmos is engaged in is over the hearts, minds, and souls of mankind. So memetics is a very relevant topic.

[*]Do you think that Mormons' brains are physiologically and observationally different?

No

[*]Does memetics have the possibility of surfacing as a new language to attack Mormonism with?

Anything is a potential weapon. But "no weapon forged" etc.

It's definitely a topic some of us would do well to be armed with and well versed in.

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Questions for the thread:

[*]Do you think Mormonism is a viral meme?

Let me take a different approach at this:

By definition, the ideas associated with the Restoration (and even with the idea of a Restoration) are memes.

Any idea is a meme.

Some resonate with power. Most don't.

Sometimes it's a positive power. Sometimes it's the opposite.

However, since the heart of the gospel is the tree of life - the Savior's love - a matter largely of the heart - it would be a tragedy to surrender to the author's proposed meme that the church is nothing more than a meme. It's much more, much grander than that.

Knowledge has its strengths, its costs, and its serious limitations.

Divine love and knowledge marching shoulder to shoulder, on the other hand, can be a potent force. Which is why the LDS church has seen tremendous growth in its relatively short 179 years.

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Good topic.

hagoth7 is right - My understanding of a meme is that it is virtually indistinguishable from culture and cultural evolution - it is simply any idea that exists in people's brains that is passed on to other brains in order to "survive". Religious concepts seem particularly prone to successful transmission between brains because they create counterintuitive concepts which violate our expectations of everyday perception - thus making them more memorable and likely to be passed on to others. An "angry" storm, talking mouse, and invisible man are all more surprising/memorable than their natural counterparts because they violate the intuitive expecatations we have for each kind. This could have potentially served as a critical advantage for the promulgation of religious concepts, particularly during the era of oral tradition. A great deal of research has been devoted to these topics - Scott Atran, Pascal Boyer, and/or Ara Norenzayan would be a good place to start).

Setting aside for a moment the question of whether or not religions are "True" - this topic essentially leads to the question of whether religion - or particularly Mormonism, if you wish - is a good meme or a bad meme.

[i pulled this list from one of the papers on David Sloan Wilson's web-site; "Darwin's Cathedral" is a great read for those interested in the Religion as Group-Level adaptation hypothesis]

Evolutionary hypotheses for Religion-as-Adaptive:

1) Group-level adaptation (benefits groups, compared to other groups)

2) Individual-level adaptation (benefits individuals, compared to other individuals within the same group)

3) Cultural parasite (benefits cultural traits without regard to the welfare of human individuals or groups - the "demonic meme" hypothesis, like cancer propagating itself even unto the death of its host)

Evolutionary hypotheses for Religion-as-Maladaptive:

1) Adaptive in small groups of related individuals but not in modern social environments (like our taste for sweet fatty foods may have been adaptive for our ancestors, but isn't so good when there is a McDonald's on every corner)

2) By-product of traits that are adaptive in nonreligious contexts.

I think it is probably safe to say that all of these are in effect to varying degrees... Though an important/enlightening concept put forth by Dr. Wilson is the idea of "factual realism" vs "adaptive realism". Adaptive realism is all that really matters in the evolutionary landscape of natural selection... perhaps religions can be adaptive without being factual in the sense of acting as a potent (proximate) mechanism for motivating moral behavior which ultimately benefits the in-group - because groups of altruists will out-compete groups of selfish people every time.

Perhaps apostasy arises when the need for/awareness of "factual realism" in regards to religious matters outweighs that of "adaptive realism"? Or, perhaps conversion takes place when a given religion is perceived to be less adaptive than its alternative?

Take care everyone!

-Ryan

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I've long considered that the term "meme" is pronounced "me! me!" and is highly indicative of a narcissistic world view.

USU "Of course, I'm often wrong" 78

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Not believing in memes or memetics myself I am not impressed. Still, some apostates might like the idea. Indeed, she proposed (being convinced that it must be true) that those brains thus infected would be physiologically and observationally different.

Questions for the thread:

  • Do you think Mormonism is a viral meme?
  • Do you think that Mormons' brains are physiologically and observationally different?
  • Does memetics have the possibility of surfacing as a new language to attack Mormonism with?

PS: Maybe we can call our persistent nay-sayers deprogrammers. :)

NoFear,

How incredibly cool that you would post an idea that you disagree with, but not for the purpose of deconstructing it! You apparently have "no fear" of differing ideas and open discussion. 8-)

I agree that the claims made for "memetics" are wildly inflated--or at least they seem so to me. I don't believe the analysis of "memes" can explain consciousness, culture, and all that little stuff. Still, I think it's clear that there actually are memes--or at least that this is a useful way of thinking about certain phenomenon. The idea, for instance, of having many children is one that tends to spread itself in a very obvious way. And there are other ideas that are self-propagating.

In any case, I tip my hat to you for posting this. :good: May your meme of openness spread far and wide! ;)

Don

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