The Chicken and the Egg

"Leaving the complications of the human breakfast table out of account, and an elemental sense, the egg only exists to produce the chicken. But the chicken does not exist only in order to produce another egg. He may also exist to amuse himself, to praise God, and even to suggest ideas to a French dramatist. Being a conscious life, he is, or may be, valuable in himself." -- G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World, p. 14

Notice how Richard Dawkins deliberately tries to invert this natural hierarchy: he claims we conscious beings only exists as vehicles for our genetic material! This spiritual state is what is meant by "demonic possession."

9 comments:

  1. Pretty sure they're referring to different teloses (teloi?) there :-p

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  2. Notice how Richard Dawkins deliberately tries to invert this natural hierarchy: he claims we conscious beings only exists as vehicles for our genetic material! This spiritual state is what is meant by "demonic possession."

    Are you calling the inversion or the idea demonic possession?

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    1. I am not trying to comment on the ontology of demons: whether they are psychic states or separate entities is not my concern here. My point is that someone who wants to reduce conscious, living creatures to mere vehicles of genes is engaged in a "demonic" inversion of reality.

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  3. WWWTW is definitely an awesome book (better than The Servile State by Belloc), but not as much 'on task' I think to the subject to Distributism. It is excellent criticism, low on remediation (as I remember, anyway...)

    Outline of Sanity is more in that vein, but that's where the topic lost my attention. Too much "let's get the government to tax this bad thing and subsidize this good thing."

    I would have been more impressed to see a sketch of an alternate order, or something along those lines. They really needed a good economist to look at this stuff and really think about it (ahem...). I just don't think they had quite the background.

    Excellent theological point, also...

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  4. I disagree with your assessment of Dawkins and genes. In his 1970s book "The Selfish Gene" (the same you link to) he coined the term "meme" and described how we conscious beings have been a medium for their replication and propagation as well. Memes and genes don't necessarily have the same "objectives."

    As we all know, memes can be used to amuse, to praise/worship/fear goddesses and gods and all manner of other pixie dust fairies, and they can be created and propagated in the form of suggestions to French dramatists.

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    1. So what? "Memes" is an idiotic idea anyway, but what difference would it make to my point if we exist for our genes or for our genes and "memes"?

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    2. Well, I guess I was objecting to this statement: "he claims we conscious beings only exists as vehicles for our genetic material." I don't think it's true that he *only* claims that in light of his discussion of memes. I could be wrong BTW: it's been a LONG time since a read that book.

      I guess I disagree about memes being an idiotic idea as well. I think it's a useful generalization of the concept of (self) replicating bits of information. Self replicating packages of information are a good general definition for life IMO, one which is not restricted to genetic based, carbon based, or even chemistry based replication mediums (self replicating robots would qualify for example... and BTW, IMO, once humans are out of the loop in that process, we're on the fast track to extinction! Lol).

      I love the idea of religions and cults (for example) having a life of their own propagated by a set of self supporting memes: you must accept the cult's authority w/o question, faith is a virtue (and justifies perfect confidence), critical thinking and skepticism and belief revision based on evidence are bad, feelings are a way to know about objective reality, disbelief is punishable with shunning, death and threats of eternal punishment, unbelievers must be converted, children indoctrinated, information restricted, scripture must be interpreted narrowly and copies must be perfectly accurate etc. Is it any wonder that the largest cults and religions on Earth have many of these characteristics, and at the same time are prone to "mutations" resulting in many sub sects?

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    3. ... also the difference is, as I alluded to in my original comment, memes can encapsulate/store amusement and ideas, etc, like those that you quoted. The fact that we're learning to perform genetic therapy on ourselves, create designer children, replace missing biological information processing systems (i.e. the cochlear implant) and perhaps one day store the state of our brains (i.e. the information that is us) in other mediums, shows that our memes are "trying" to preserve and replicate themselves perhaps even at the expense of our genes. But it's not really like they have a conscious motivation... it's just the ones that are successful are the ones that'll be plentiful in the future.

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    4. Yes: the "selfish memes" idea is every bit as silly as the "selfish genes" idea, so I really don't see what the point is: I reduced Dawkins' two silly ideas to one silly idea? (You might see D. Stove or M. Midgley, both atheists, fyi, on the absurdity of Dawkins' approach by the way.)

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