343. Abundance (VII)
Updated: Aug 31, 2021
Let us take a look at Dawkins from the perspective of Dawkins. Yesterday, I noted that when Dawkins spoke about “selfish genes” he used a metaphor; in line with his own ideas about memes, a metaphor is a meme—as are political beliefs, religions, technologies, customs, and so on—and what Dawkins really wants to achieve is to swap out a set of memes we have used for centuries, otherwise known as religions, with a set of memes he has developed himself or has inherited, insofar as he is a secular humanist, from the Enlightenment. Dawkins might respond that he merely wants people to use the scientific method in place of memes; however, he is not quite sincere in this assertion.
As Yarvin and John Gray have both pointed out in different ways, men like Dawkins have all sorts of beliefs—say, about the necessity of feminism and gay rights and the idea that the holocaust was the worst crime of all time—that constitute a religion, albeit not a supernatural religion; and this is what we mean by “secular humanism”.
The reason why we cannot live by the scientific method entirely can be found in reality’s complexity. As we experience the world we do not have the time, nor are we able, to investigate every phenomenon we encounter in a scientific way. Few Iive this way; really, when we meet a problem that particularly puzzles us we employ a scientific way of thinking to solve it. Otherwise, just like Dawkins with his ideas about feminism, we use shorthands to navigate the world. Religions represent the meme-complexes that have built up over the generations to help us navigate the world; per Taleb, Peterson, and Gray, these religions have proven survival value and are therefore likely to provide useful heuristics to navigate the world—and the same can be said for folktales and family stories.
Dawkins, by contrast, wants to throw all these heuristics into the bin and replace them with another set of memes, dressed in the guise of science, that contain certain false assumptions about the equality of all humans beings and the necessity of coercing humans because they are inherently predisposed towards selfishness—presumably the purported explanation for why humans are not entirely equal.
In this situation, “God” could be taken to be a metaphor for reality itself, since reality obviously exists and we experience it every day and yet it is not reducible as a total experience to any particular mode of scientific investigation. Since it is impossible, so far as I know, except in theory, for us to predict every action or event we experience scientifically we live in a world that feels miraculous and contains events that create mysteries. Dawkins would maintain that his notion, his meme, that genes are selfish is a metaphor—no more or less a metaphor than God is a metaphor for total reality. Yet he thinks that such metaphors have utility and help us guide our lives. Therefore, God is as real as Dawkins’s selfish genes or his “Brights”, his club of secular humanist atheists. “But…but…where’s the evidence for the supernatural God?” Dawkins might reply. “Where’s the evidence genes are actually selfish or that we should make people be more altruistic?” There is none. “It’s a really useful metaphor to navigate reality and think about genes, though,” says Dawkins. Well…yeah.
The 20th century has demonstrated that the novel meme, secular humanism, that came to fruition in the 18th-century Enlightenment leads to totalitarian regimes and failed states. The God meme, on the other hand, has lasted for centuries and centuries without producing the total squalor and collapse seen in the USSR or Mao’s China—both products of the Enlightenment. Therefore, even just rationally, the God meme-metaphor is superior to the 18th-century meme that Dawkins, with his endless quotes from Jefferson, wants to palm off on us again. God is a more anti-fragile metaphor for reality than any recent innovation; therefore, in various forms, we assert this metaphor.