Thursday, September 20, 2007
Dreams of Memes
Got that? EVERYTHING, including the thoughts in your head, has its origin in Good Old Mother Nature. Your brain secretes thought in the same was as your liver secretes bile. And if you don’t believe that you’re just a pseudoscientific creationist dilettante trying to shove your religion down our throats. This is simply what the materialists would have us believe.
So here’s how we explain where music comes from (from Meme Update #24):
The Evolution of Music
One of the criticisms being leveled at the budding science of memetics is a valid one: what is it good for? Can memetics explain historical facts any better than existing theories? Can it make better predictions? If not, it can hardly be called a science, let alone a paradigm shift in understanding culture. To the rescue comes philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett, deliverer of the first Charles Simonyi Lecture at Oxford last week. What does memetics explain that we otherwise have no clue about?
Traditional evolutionary theory — not taking memes into account — boils down to the idea that in the end, everything is about improving an organism’s chances for reproducing its genes. While there has been ample speculation as to the biological function of music, most people thinking along traditional lines of evolutionary theory have concluded that it’s at best some kind of not-yet-understood social-group bonding mechanism and at worst a mistake that hasn’t been caught yet by Mother Nature. Given enough time, they say, genes for liking music will be out-competed by genes for something more productively related to reproduction.
Dennett proposes that music has less to do with genes, and more to do with much-quicker-evolving memes. Memes may actually be directing the evolution of genes to suit themselves much the way we breed dogs so they look and behave the way we fancy them. When one looks at the sex lives of popular musicians, that’s not so far-fetched a thought, is it? Why is it that rock stars have so many adoring admirers? What possible genetic function could it serve to want to mate with a singer?
Dennett weaves a tale of how it might have happened, beginning with caveman Og pounding with a stick on a log. Some of the rhythms he pounds, for whatever reason, are more catchy than others. The ones that are catchy get picked up by other cavemen. These rhythms are mental information patterns: early memes.
Now this pounding evolves for awhile, and it turns out that some of the rhythms that get pounded out are more pleasing than others, and crowds tend to gather around when someone pounds them out. Since the crowds gather around, the meme spreads faster. As a byproduct of this, the best rhythm-pounders gain in social status and therefore get more chance to spread those genes that give them the knack for rhythm.
If this demonstrates anything at all I think it shows what utterly goofball ideas you have to adhere to if you want to argue that human beings evolved all on their own. Maybe they evolved—but all on their own? I don’t think so.
First of all, note that phrase: “the budding science of memetics.” Somehow, memetics is scientific. Just how, prithee? Because. And for no other reason. Bear in mind, the “meme” is a purely abstract concept. There is zero—ZERO—evidence that memes even exist. They were formulated only as an attempt to explain the theoretical evolutionary origin of thought. It is purely a rhetorical device.
So, sum up: 1) There is no evidence that memes exist. 2) We believe in them anyway. Aaaaaaaaand—what do we define as “the evidence of things not seen”? If you answered “Science,” you’re incorrect.
And it’s funny how one thing can be “scientific” and another thing cannot. The SETI program scours the heavens for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. The SETI program is scientific. Intelligent Design theory uses the exact same methodology used by SETI. Yet ID is unscientific. How can it be possible that one thing is scientific and another thing that uses the exact same methodology is unscientific—unless a philosophical bias, and an arbitrary one at that, is in the way?
Next, note another phrase: “Dennett weaves a tale of how it might have happened.” MIGHT. Or, might not. This is an example of a just-so story, like the legend of how the camel got its hump, parading itself as a scientific investigation. Somehow, though—and, behold I show you a mystery—a story of Og the Caveman is scientific. But injecting You-Know-Who into the equation is unscientific.
And, speaking of somehow, get a load of this one: Some of the rhythms pounded by Og the Caveman are more catchy than others. Why? “For whatever reason.” Whatever. Some of the poundings are more pleasing than others, and they’re more pleasing, well, just because they are. In other words, this is a perfectly plausible scientific examination of how music arose—provided, of course, that you assume as a given the very thing being argued. It’s plausible because we say it’s plausible. Just like it’s scientific because we say it’s scientific, or that ID isn’t scientific because we say so. Just so.