Is it time for an intellectual movement from theology to science?

Hi Gregory,

I am hoping to influence people away from this meme of ‘its the leftist, atheistic media’ that causes people to have a negative view of religion. If you say to people that the only reason they thing religion is bad is because of how the media represents it, then it really is extremely unfair to them. People are capable of reaching their own conclusions, independent of what the media says, and people are also capable of not automatically swallowing what the media does say. The approach you have taken is a kind of straw-man because this is not really how people reach their conclusions. If the media is biased, then it is biased towards telling people what they already believe.

I think that we have to accept the fact that people are justified in criticizing the various religions of the world when some of their proponents do bad things. This is not to say that they do not also do good things. In any field of human endeavor, the media tends to report the negatives because that sells papers. This is true of politics, of science, of education, medicine, law, commerce and religion. In all of these areas, the news media does not spend time talking about all the amazing achievements and good that is done. I think people mostly know about this unfortunate feature of the media and many people are able to factor this into their calculations.

Another side comment; Aside from the validity or merits of Compte’s work, I think the polarization and rampant anti-science sentiment in some sectors in the United States represents just the kind of tensions that he was referring too. Yes it is much more complex, but it is nevertheless there.

Hi Peter,

Greetings to you!

“I am hoping to influence people away from this meme of ‘its the leftist, atheistic media’ that causes people to have a negative view of religion.”

Sorry, but I don’t understand what that means. I’m not a US citizen, if that helps. My views of media are from Canada … and the countries I lived in abroad, including some months in the USA.

Memetics was the ideology of Richard Dawkins, first published in The Selfish Gene in 1976. Is this what you’re talking about? “Meme” was highjacked to become a fairly well-known term to designate “viral media”. It’s in some frequently updated dictionaries now.

This is the key point: One doesn’t need to accept “memetics” to use the term “meme”.

Now for my “opinion”, coming from a PhD in sociology (which does provide at least some basis for the claim that I take not just an armchair amateur, but also a professional disciplined, deep look at this topic, more than likely anyone here at BioLogos, including the one who promotes “memetics” here, with 2 articles published explicitly about it), I would counsel any sane and thoughtful person to reject memetics, and to use the term “meme” sparingly, as it comes from “memetics”.

As I’ve seen it happen in real time, education can quickly heal the one who’s embraced memetics - it’s just that silly of an idea when looked at by a reflective Abrahamic monotheist. The conceptualisation had just a kernel of meaningful sense to it. Mostly natural-physical scientists and any variety of “materialist” (Dawkins was trying to “materialize” the study of “cultural replication”) philosophers (Dennett & Blackmore being a conceptual acid two-some), could easily accept, quickly, and without much serious thinking. Does that help?

McLuhan’s thinking and production for our meaningful shared human understanding about media across many, many barriers, compared with Dawkins’ “memetics” posing as a “cultural trail blazer” is like LeBron James against your local 3rd grader who hasn’t yet played an “organized” game. Sorry that it doesn’t interest me to speak much about Dawkins’ ideas, when we have McLuhan’s to more closely consider. His fit in exceptionally well for an “intellectual movement” in the 21st c. electronic-information era, that includes and welcomes “theology” (McLuhan was a devout Catholic as an adult).

McLuhan wasn’t anti-science and I’m not. So I’m not going to take “some sectors in the United States” into conversation. But good wishes helping to heal them from this unfortunate form of anti-intellectualism, another ideology to consider, distant from but related often to ideological scientism, which is exactly what “memetics” displays. Memetics is one of the best examples of that past 50 years of scientism.

In short, “religion” is not a “virus”. Do you agree or disagree with that?

Hi Greg,

thanks for the welcome… :grinning:

Please allow me some room to move here. I had no idea that the use of the term memetics would trigger such a strong response. It was not my intention to be provocative or controversial, and only used the term in the more loose and colloquial sense that we see online. I regret to say that am not sure whether or not memetics in the original sense is a good fit for the way I have used it, so let’s pretend for the moment that I phrased my original wording as;
“I am hoping to influence people away from this trope of ‘its the leftist, atheistic media’ that causes people to have a negative view of religion.”
or perhaps this;
“I am hoping to influence people away from this theme of ‘its the leftist, atheistic media’ that causes people to have a negative view of religion.”

The focus of my remarks was really on the fact that you asserted (paraphrazing) that media bias was the primary driver of a negative view on religion. Knowing that you have a PhD in the social sciences makes it a little more surprising that you have made this claim because I think you probably know that this situation is far more complex and nuanced than that, but perhaps you might have preferred to be more terse in this case. You are clearly a thoughtful and intelligent writer, and I would be interested in hearing you perhaps elaborate that point and provide a broader, and I would hope fairer representation of how people may have reached their conclusions about religions - both negative and positive.

I am not an expert on the subject of memetics, and will not attempt here, unprepared, to provide a cogent assessment of your thoughts. Once I have had the time to evaluate your points regarding memetics verses McLuhan’s ideas, and your comments regarding ideology and scientism, I would value any further opportunity to converse.

There are a number of legitimate reasons to be unhappy with all sorts of religions; after all, the only view with a worse human rights record than religious is atheistic. But both parts of that sweep under the rug a huge amount of variation. There are a wide range of religious views and of atheistic views (ignoring problems of defining the boundary, both legitimate gray areas and illegitimate “good guys us, bad guys them” approaches). But there is a strong tendency for those who most vigorously denounce opposing views to have rather poor grasp of reality; what they are denouncing is at best stereotyping if not completely a straw man. It is perfectly reasonable for an atheist to say “yes, there are some atheists who have done great harm, often in the name of atheism, but I reject those views.” It is dishonest for an atheist to claim, like the big-name “new atheists” and many of their followers, that religion has a worse record than atheism. Human nature is the same generally.

I agree. In general people in power more often do the most evil. That religion is associated with so many atrocities is merely a sign of its relationship to political power. In the US it would be impossible to become the president as an open ‘none’. I won’t try to defend the thesis that the religious have done more evil than the nonreligious would have done had they the same access to power. Human societies are intrinsically unstable so it is hard to know whether we’d have done better with it or without. My best guess is it would have been worse without the church. While I’m a none myself I have no delusions regarding the general morality of those in my camp.

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