I believe that if anybody should be credited with having invented "memetic variety" as "a good in itself", it must be none other than Cyrus The Great. So I agree with Osred's sentiment, just wanting to add that at the end of the day we are dealing with serious and living beliefs. And people believe whatever they believe. It is meaningless to practice a religion which doesn't mean anything to the practicioner. That is not keeping a religious practice alive, that is just pretendeing to keep a religious practice alive. Religion deserves to be taken seriously. So seriously that genuine beliefs must be one thing and librarianism another. And in thise sense, Dino is right. Beliefs come and go, most of them die but instead leave space for others to grow.
- Dölj citerad text -
I feel I'm responding to a mix of ideas but I'll try and answer.
1. I'm proposing the 'Good Librarian Meme' - the idea that it is good
for a society to keep a record of as many cultural artefacts which
some people at some time have found worthy regardless of whether they
seem worthy to the current generation or not. A Good Librarian has
the humility to not let their personal judgement of what is worthy
decide what should be kept in the record and what should be erased.
Their job is to stand against the Puritans and prevent book burning.
The 'Good Librarian Meme' helps society by ensuring that future
generations have a range of ready-made cultural templates to evaluate
and choose between - so they won't have to create them all from
An example of such a cultural artefact is one that encodes the idea
of ritual purity (such as is encoded in traditional Zoroastrianism).
Many people today would argue that such ideas of ritual purity are
obsessive and irrational. They say that perhaps they were related to
past need for hygiene but that with modern hygiene methods they are
superseded. They might argue that practising purity rituals has a
harmful psychological effect on the people concerned, and that it
would be better to eradicate the practice.
However a 'Good Librarian' doesn't judge whether ritual purity is
good or bad but notes the fact that many people have thought it a
good thing at some time in the past and therefore the concept of
ritual purity needs to be kept alive in society's memory.
Perhaps it is the case that the 'ritual purity meme' doesn't do well
in the current society, but if the memory of it kept alive then each
future generation has the chance to have a look at it and see if they
want to make use of it.
2. In our library metaphor there are actually three operations - i.e.
a) to store a book,
b) to read a book to see what it says and make a judgment
c) to use a book to bring alive cultural patterns encoded within it
So when I talked about 'judging what books to be read' I actually
meant judging what books have useful lessons for us to put into
practice. Obviously a Zoroastrian will have to literally read all of
the books first so that they can form an opinion on them.
The point made about what knowledge serves what interest group is
exactly what I am concerned about. Many of our opinions of things are
shaped by mass media itself shaped by powerful interests. So we can't
rely on our gut reactions of what is good or bad. Exactly the things
we have been educated to believe are the worst may in fact be the
best. However if memory of these things (like ritual purity) survives
there is a chance somebody will discover their true worth and revive
them. However if the record is fully erased it will be a long and
painstaking process of reinvention before we see something like them
again. In practice in a human lifetime we won't see them back at all.
The analogy with biological diversity is relevant. In the past for
instance there was a rich variety of types of food plants and animals.
However nowadays most food we eat in the West comes from just a few
strains of a few species. Some might argue that these strains are the
best, they've won the evolutionary struggle to be the most productive
food for man, and deserve to oust all the less productive food
plants, which we don't need any more. However if we get some disease
that attacks and wipes out all these 'winning' strains we will
suddenly wish we had kept the old rich diversity after all.
--- In Ushta@yahoogroups.com, mehmet azizoglu
> Dear Kain,
> well said...
> "The same applies to cultural evolution. Most ideas die out -
they're not fit enough to spread and affect (or be affected by) other
ideas composing other cultures"
> what you said above is exactly in line with evolution, which
Dawkins labeled as "meme" , a cultural units that pass from one
generations to the next. good point...
> I think Osred should explain what these religious cultures are
composed of...how should we judge that what part of religion must be
discarded and other parts be kept in " our memory"?
> ----- Original Message ----
> From: Special Kain
> To: Ushta@yahoogroups.com
> Sent: Thursday, September 4, 2008 3:50:22 AM
> Subject: AW: [Ushta] Re: Tolerance and intolerance in the age of
> Dear Osred,
> I completely understand your sentiments leading up to your
conclusion, but I can't agree. If we choose to have a look at
evolution, we realize that most species that ever walked the earth
are now extinct. The same applies to cultural evolution. Most ideas
die out - they're not fit enough to spread and affect (or be affected
by) other ideas composing other cultures. You can't help it. It is
really fascinating that Zoroastrianism has survived - literally! -
for so many centuries. It's one of the very few cultural practices
that did. I'm not saying that we should always do our best and try to
get rid of anything old-fashioned, but we should keep the wise things
and let go of anything unwise.
> Now here comes your "judging which books should be read". Who are
we to judge which books should be read? Isn't it a question of which
knowledge is serving what interest group's desire for (more) power?
Or should we stick by the rules of modern science and dismiss
anything unscientific - while science is constantly changing,
rediscovering once dismissed areas of knowledge and coming up with
completely new research questions? Here we have a problem that we
can't solve now, in my humble opinion. But we don't have to. As
Zoroastrians we are free to learn more and change our attitude
accordingly and make better and wiser decisions everyday. It's
fallibilism: We may be wrong, but we are willing to account for it
and know that we'll know better one day, picking better books from
> Kind regards,
> --- osred90
> Von: osred90
> Betreff: [Ushta] Re: Tolerance and intolerance in the age of
> An: Ushta@yahoogroups. com
> Datum: Donnerstag, 4. September 2008, 0:51
> I'm not sure that I've got my view worked out properly. But I think
> am saying that we should keep all religious cultures alive enough
> that they don't completely disappear completely from human memory.
> This is like saying that if we have a library of books then we
> shouldn't burn any because we might want to refer to them sometime.
> In many cases it might be enough to record religious practice in
> books or film, but in some cases religious traditions can't be
> recorded in this way and an unbroken chain of practitioners is
> if memory of them is not to be lost.
> However this is not the same as saying that we have to consider
> all traditions equally credible or valuable. It would be very
> difficult if not
> impossible for any person to consider every religious idea equally
> valid anyway. Also religion is a force to change the world - and a
> whole mix of conflicting religions may not produce the best outcome.
> So while we might keep all the books in the library we need to
> which books deserve to be taken out and read.
> Zoroastrian ideas were at the foundation of Western culture - so a
> Westerner becoming a Zoroastrian is discovering his cultural roots.
> However there may be things that a Parsi considers part of his
> Zoroastrianism that are out of place in an Anglo-Saxon,
> or European Zoroastrianism.