Monday, October 10, 2005

Memetic Glue?

It turns out my landlord believes ID should be taught in public schools alongside evolution: he doesn't believe in evolution. Not just evolutionism - he doesn't believe in evolution itself. He thinks there's no data to support it and a bunch of data against it.

On the other hand, he can't believe that a significant amount of the population believes the moon landing was a hoax.

I realized at this point that I don't really understand religious people. There's more evidence that the moon landing was a hoax than evolution being wrong. There's more things about the moon landing that ordinary people don't understand than things about evolution ordinary people don't understand. So why do more people disbelieve evolution than the moon landing? Because they have a vested interest in defending their ill-considered religion?

But it wasn't until later that I started to think about it.

Most first world nations are not very religious. The USA is, as far as I know, the only highly religious first world nation, unless you consider the Vatican a "nation", or Ireland as "highly religious". This is because religion tends to make a society insular and retrogressive instead of progressive: the power coagulates in the hands of a few people, and that oligarchy tightens the reigns to insure they stay in control.

You see, all religion really is... is memetic glue.

It binds people together. Blind faith is an excellent binding agent. If you're Mormon, and you walk into a faraway town, all you really need to do is find a Mormon church and say, "I'm new here - can you tell me how to get started?"

Suddenly, that foreign town is not foreign at all.

In small countries, this binding means the whole country is bound to a small group of highly powerful people. If small countries neuter their religious tendencies, the power fragments into the hands of dozens or hundreds of small groups instead of one small group. The competition between these groups drives the nation forward, allowing innovation and disallowing stagnation.

But too much fragmentation means you have a tendency to naturally split the country into multiple countries: the people in power decide they would have more power if the other guys couldn't interfere with them any more. Draw a boundary and, poof, instant nation.

The USA is much too large. We're huge. The USSR was this big, founded in conquest.

The USSR didn't have religion as a memetic glue. They devised their own glue, in the form of their government practices. When those practices proved untenable, their country shattered into dozens of fragments - down to the level of "glueyness" their memetic connections allowed. Since their shared memetic culture was essentially nonexistent, they shattered into many smallish nations, often along racial and religious boundaries.

The USA had memetic glue in the form of religion (and, momentarily, anti-red sentimentality). Religion can't really prove untenable unless it interferes with the government to a significant extent.

Religion is a strong glue. But it can't bind a nation the size of the USA to a single oligarchy. It glues us down into approximately the same level of competition as a much smaller, non-religious first world nation. Same amount of competition, a hundred times the resources. Instant superpower, just add industrial-military complex.

At least, that's what I think. Actually, I think considerably more in detail - active memetics, cultural memetics, passive memetics. But it's my core idea, and I find it an interesting one.

There's no way to test it, as far as I know. But it's fun to theorize.

There is some supporting evidence for the idea of memetic glue. China, for example, uses excessive amounts of propaganda and censorship as memetic glue. Japan classically had exceedingly strong glue without a high population, explaining its sudden dives and drives.

Africa has no real strong memetic glue. It is fractured. Australia has a relatively small population clustered in cities. Europe is fractured, and has little memetic glue. Individual countries use nationalism as their memetic glue: France has Frenchmen, England has Brits, and they both know the difference and are proud of it.

South America has no real glue - there is quite a lot of religion, but no real agreement as to a primary one. Fragmented. India: a core religion binding kazillions of people together. It may prove untenable, since it has its fingers in the government, but at least at the moment India is progressive, with a high level of internal competition.

The middle east is a puzzle piece I haven't figured out how to rotate into place. I just don't know very much about their religion(s). Do the various countries have varied religions, or all the same religion? Why are they shattered the way they are?

China and India are would-be superpowers, but they are both crippled by their memetic glue. India has religion in the government, China is using glue manufactured by the government. Both cases are too sticky, binding too tightly. The government is too strong a binding agent.

Using this, you can look into the future. If religion continues to rise, the USA is doomed. It is either doomed to ogilarchy or to shatter, depending whether the government manages to keep a firm hands on the reigns or whether we slip them off. Either way, the world loses something interesting, unique, and excessively powerful.

Of course, the nation has really been doomed for decades, ever since the foundation of our economy started decaying and we started paying a third of our national budget to people who don't contribute to the economy in the slightest.

Anyhow, sure it's an aggressive, shallow premise. But I'm not looking to win a Nobel Prize, just to work my brain a bit.

No comments: