MQ-6: The Meaning Of Life (‘Mythquake’ series)

More on the Mythquake book-project – an unfinished book-project that I accept I now need to hand over to someone else, or at least make the ideas more generally available in some form.

In the previous chapter, ‘MQ-5: Money makes the world go round?‘, we moved up to the level of mythquakes that can often cause serious damage beyond the immediate locality of the collapse of that specific belief. Here we start to explore deeper beliefs and deeper assumptions that in reality are no more stable than those myths about money – and hence have even greater potential for destruction when they break. The example here is around core cultural-worldviews such as belief in the validity of the purported ‘truths’ of science or religion  – in other words, the generic structures that underpin shared assumptions about how the world ‘really works’.

This chapter contains the following sections [all notes-only]:

  • Science and religion
  • The religion of science
  • Religious wars

Book-development notes are shown in italics inside square-brackets, [like this]. Further commentary on the development-notes is in ordinary type inside curly-braces, {like this}.

MQ-6: The meaning of life

Richter 6: Strong earthquake. Can be destructive in areas up to a hundred or more kilometres across. Equivalent to around one megaton of TNT. Around one every three days on average.

Mercalli VII: People have difficulty standing; drivers feel their cars shake; loose bricks and tiles fall from buildings; furniture may break; slight to moderate damage to well-constructed buildings, significant damage to poorly-constructed buildings.

Mercalli VIII: Drivers have difficulty steering; chimneys fall; branches break; foundations may fail; cracks may appear in wet ground or on hillsides; water-levels in wells may change; poorly-constructed buildings suffer severe damage.

Science and religion

[Science vs religion – both are variants on the same story, “god created in the image of man”, self-worship and self-aggrandisement.]

{Science and religion are often posed as opposites, but in fact both assume a fairly rigid concept of ‘order’ – their only disagreement is about what that ‘order’ really is. In that sense, they’re again like Tweedledum and Tweedledee – arguing about the position of the deckchairs on the Titanic. There’s also a disturbing similarity in that both seem to build a strongly self-centric view of the world: religion often pretends to a world created by some kind of deity, whilst science pretends to some purported ‘objective order’, but at the back of it, there’s still a strong flavour of ‘priesthood’, ‘the special ones’, ‘the only ones who know’. This over-certainty in the ‘rightness’ or righteousness of self is an almost certain guarantee for future mythquakes, either at a personal level – such as the all-too-common occurrence of moralistic evangelists being ‘caught in the act’ in decidedly non-moral behaviours – or, unfortunately, at a much larger scale.}

[impact of the story: difference between linear vs circular view (one-way life versus many [un]happy returns)]

{One key example of how worldview impacts decisions at a deep level is the comparison between a linear concept of ‘one chance at life’ – typified by the Semitic group of religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity – versus a reincarnation ‘many-lives’ concept – typified by many Eastern religions, by Celtic traditions, and in the designs of many computer-games! At a personal level, there can be severe mythquakes when these two fundamentally different story-types collide, though these collisions are not necessarily destructive. For example, Western doctors often find working in ‘many-lives’ such as India forces them to re-think their entire worldview, their concepts of ambition and compassion and so on; yet Indians have said that they like having the Western doctors there, because they get things done – they don’t wait around until the next life for something better to happen! But there can also be a dark side to this: ‘many-lives’ cultures can place a low or even very-low value on each individual life, and can embed dysfunctional relationships such as caste-structures into the society on the assumption that each person ‘chose’ the respective life and social position; and some ‘one-life’ cultures – typified in its extreme form by some of the US-style evangelist cults – even aim to destroy all life beyond their own, because they cannot conceive of anything having any reason to exist beyond the span of their own ‘one life’.}

The religion of science

[Science as religion, e.g. the Skeptics; “my place in heaven is dependent on the number of souls I can convert to the true faith” « deep uncertainty in the ‘truth’ of the story]

{Scientists often purport to be against religion, and that their own work is beyond religion, but the ways in which they act often is essentially religious in flavour and in its zeal to ‘correct’ other’s ‘heresies’ and the like. The Skeptics Society is one well-known and often-infamous example, and frequently unscientific – sometimes to absurd extremes – in its assaults on purportedly ‘non-scientific’ ideas; the fervour for atheism by Richard Dawkins’ and his followers provides frequent echoes of the most extreme evangelical cults, including ‘conversion’ to ‘the one true faith’ of atheism. Psychologically speaking, that which is attacked often represents that which one actually is, hence much of so-called science probably has its roots in deep-seated fears about uncertainty – and hence yet another guaranteed source of serious mythquakes.}

Religious wars

[Real risk of serious damage – obvious in the case of explicit religious wars, less obvious when the religion is less explicit, as in ‘the enlightenment’, or Darwinism, or monetarist economics.]

{Any definition of ‘the truth’ is inherently fragile, hence a common tactic is to attempt to prevent mythquakes by trying to force all others to the believe the same ‘the one truth’. This is the source for all religious wars, and although it’s inherently futile – especially in the longer term – a lot of lives may be lost in the process… The Semitic religions are some of the worst offenders in this regard – particularly Christianity and Islam, both of which explicitly seek “not to bring peace but with the sword” to ‘convert’ others by force – but history shows that at some point every religion has fallen for the same mistaken ‘solution’ to the mythquake problem. Secular ‘religions’ are no better, either: the destruction wrought by Darwinism, by monetarist economics or by ‘scientific management’ and similar delusions may be less overt at times, but the impacts on people’s lives have probably been no less at all.}

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