Dawkins’ Memes and Wetzels’ Grace

Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passes it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain. Memes should be regarded as living structures, not just metaphorically but technically. When you plant a fertile meme in my mind you literally parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme’s propagation in just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of a host cell.

-Richard Dawkins

‘The God Delusion’

I encourage my fellow believers to read ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins. This popular Atheist’s argument comes apart on one very important point: Eye-witness testimony. Everything else he says makes so much sense, that if it wasn’t for the ‘meme’ put in our brains, originated in the brains of those followers of Christ, that actually saw Him raised from the dead, Dawkin’s book could turn the most logical thinkers into die-hard atheists, like himself.

Here is Richard Dawkins explanation of “God placed eternity in the hearts of men:”

‘…And this isn’t just a way of talking — the meme for, say, “belief in life after death” is actually realized physically, millions of times over, as a structure in the nervous systems of individual men the world over.’ — Dawkins

Beryl’s Blunder, Hackle’s embryos, and Darwin’s own monkey wrench in the natural selection works — irreducible complexity — all take the wind out of the sail of the evolution theory. Genetics and memetics are amazing fields of study, and we owe Mr. Dawkins a debt of gratitude for inventing the latter. He definitely got my wheels turning! However with either science, it’s all about tracing it back to the source.

The G-nome project, and what it has taught us about X chromosome DNA, and mitochondrial DNA –has scientifically proven the existence of Adam and Eve. Yes, science will admit that the mutation rate of these special, rarely shuffled, DNA strands makes it mathematically possible, no, definite, that we all descended from one man and one woman from about 10,000 years ago. Of course atheistic scientists want us to believe that every other early human on the face of the earth died off along with their decendents, leaving just this one man and one woman. They expect us to believe it all just “bottle-necked.”

Dawkins uses his excellent meme theory, to scientifically explain how billions of people around the world, through the centuries, have passed on these memes like a virus. Jesus, who originated the idea of life after death, or more accurately, affirmed that the religious leaders who were preaching ‘a ressurection of the dead’ were correct — planted the meme into the minds of His disciples, who then spread it among their families, towns and neighboring nations. I question if a viral spread of this good news would have been as accellerated if none of the Lord’s followers actually saw Jesus alive after His execution.

There is that ‘eyewitness testimony’ problem again, that takes apart Mr. Dawkins’ entire “bad memes” theory for why so many intelligent, scientific, modern people believe in life after death,or as Christians like to say “we believe in the Resurrection of the body and life everlasting, Amen.” What supercharges the power of memes, is very morbid, but it also serves to bolster the power of eyewitness testimony. When sticking to your story gets you fed to wild beasts, yet recanting allows you to continue living, there is no vested interest in lying. Tertulian explains it best when he says:

‘The blood of martyrs is seed’

Memetics is what Catholics are referring to when we claim to be part of one holy, catholic (with a small ‘c’ -meaning ‘universal’ ) and apostolic church. Catholics enjoy certain ‘memes’ that were passed down from the earliest Christians. The sign of the cross, the Rosary, and celibacy for certain ministers of the Catholic Church are three different ‘memes’ that were abandoned by many Christians centuries ago, even though they had been spread among practitioners of Christianity for centuries. Protestant Christians have ‘purged’ these memes out of their style of worship, and from the practice of their belief.

‘Sola Scripture’ (only scripture) is a motto of most Protestant Christians. There is nothing about the gesture of the sign of the cross or about Rosary beads in the Bible. Celibacy wasn’t a requirement for Priests or Popes originally either, and there is nothing about that in the New Testament. Celibacy is yet another ‘meme’ that got started about 1500 years ago.

There is no real mystery behind the origins of these memes, and if a curious Christian wants to do a little research, they might find that there wasn’t some special golden thread of truth that lasted through centuries of ‘mutant memes’ and once the printing press in Gutenberg was up and running, and spitting out Bibles, everything ‘got right’ again.

There is one Christian meme I’d like to talk about, that both Catholics and Protestants practice. It was carried over from Jewish tradition, and we know it was put in the mind of the Disciples at the last supper. I’m not going to delve into the Blessed Sacrament here… I’m talking about ‘blessing the meal.’ Isn’t it a beautiful thing to say grace before a meal? I never practiced that faithfully, until I met the Wetzels.

The Wetzels are a gracious Catholic couple from a Parish that I started attending my first year in Vermont. They took me into their home, and we shared many meals, attended many masses, and prayed many Rosaries together. Here is where I picked up the Wetzel’s grace meme. I now not only say it before every ‘sit-down’ meal (I don’t bless snacks) — but I say it the Wetzel way. They use the original form prayer that Catholics say:

Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts that we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, Amen.

God bless all of us, and keep us well and together. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Praise the Lord! Amen.

So this is how I say it now, and will always say it from now on. Those I break bread with in the future, who pick up this beautiful little meme, may pass it on to many. The Wetzels have seven kids, who also inherited this meme and are passing it on. Who knows what will happen now that I took this meme, and posted it on the Internet? If you picked up this way of saying grace from this post, and are using it, please tell us about it in comments.

Update: I’ve since edited this article, because the way I had it was a perfect example of a ‘bad’ meme. When I heard this grace said, I heard it wrong. So, I repeated it incorrectly, and even published it incorrectly. Instead of:

Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts…

I wrote:

Bless us, O Lord, in these Thy gifts…

I caused a slight mutation, by substituting the wrong preposition -‘in’ for ‘and’. That somewhat, but not entirely changed the meaning of the blessing. Did it change it for the better or worse? Either way, the ‘telephone game’ paradigm is evident in word of mouth to ear, and ear to print sharing of information!

To the left is a great example of a successful meme, in the computer generated sense of the word…As Logarchism.com does a great job explaining…



9 responses to “Dawkins’ Memes and Wetzels’ Grace

  1. Eyewitness testimony is good evidence, but it is not infallible. Ask the many people who have been sent to death row on the basis of eyewitness testimony, but have later been found innocent on the basis of DNA evidence. These were people who were guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” based on the sworn eyewitness testimony of people who supposedly saw them commit crimes, yet that testimony turned out to be utterly false.

    But what about someone being raised from the dead!? Surely nobody could be mistaken about that! Actually, they could. People “see” dead loved ones all the time. I suggest that in the emotionally charged atmosphere right after the crucifixion, a little story can get out of hand.

    You don’t think so? Think for a moment about the Mormon religion, which you and I agree is false, at least in its distinctly Mormon aspects. Mormonism arose in a time that was a whole lot less superstitious than the first century, yet its ridiculous founding story is believed by millions…all of whom emphasize the importance of eyewitness testimony. In this case, the testimony came from Joseph Smith, who said that he was given a golden book and golden spectacles with which to translate the book. Other people claimed they had seen the golden objects as well. Smith was apparently so sincere in this testimony that he was willing to face exile and death in its cause. Furthermore, Smith reported his story fairly promptly, at least compared to the gospels, which were written decades after Jesus died. In fact John, the gospel with by far the most developed christology, was written about 60 years after the events. (Isn’t it interesting that the earliest gospel, Mark, contains neither the virgin birth story nor the resurrection story?) In light of Smith’s evident sincerity and sacrifice, and the fact that his was an eyewitness account, why do you and I not believe him? I suggest that our reasons should apply equally to the extraordinary claims of the gospels.

    You may point out that much of Smith’s work seems to have been plagiarized. True enough, and that’s pretty damning, isn’t it? But did you know that other religions at the time that the gospels were being developed also had stories of virgin births and resurrections? One theory is that the early Christians borrowed those elements in an effort to compete with those other religions. So again, how is the evidence for traditional Christianity that much different from the evidence for Mormonism?

    Of course, nothing I’ve said is *proof* that the stories in the gospels are legend rather than fact. We must weigh all the evidence.

    As I spent several years doing just that, what finally tipped the scales so that I no longer gave the Bible the benefit of the doubt, was the evil things that the Bible teaches. I’ve blogged about just one of those evils, namely slavery, starting with this post: http://pathofthebeagle.com/2011/09/10/invitation-to-a-dialog-on-biblical-slavery/. If you’ll read through that series, you’ll see why I reluctantly gave up my faith after 40 years as a very faithful Christian. Against my will, I had to conclude that memetic evolution made more sense than all the mental contortions I had been forced to adopt in an effort to believe that a just and holy God had ordered (ORDERED!!!) the enslavement and rape of innocent women, not to mention many other atrocities too numerous to list here. If you haven’t noticed these things in your Bible (all from eyewitness testimony!) I’ve pointed out plenty of verses in my blog.

    Thanks for listening. I hope you’ll read my blog and reply.

  2. Thanks for this well written, well thought out comment. I visited your site, and found more of the same. I’m very interested in carrying on some good discussion with you, here and on your own blog.

    First, I want to ask you a direct question. I couldn’t discern from this comment or from what I read on your blog.

    Are you an Atheist? It seems to me you might be a man who believes in the existence of God, as the angels do, yet like the fallen angels, do not believe that God is just. Is this accurate?

    • Thank you for the kind words, and for visiting my site.

      You asked about my religious persuasion. I was “born again” as a pre-teen and remained a devoted evangelical Christian until recently. About 6 years ago, a decision we had to make as a family required me to examine some of my long-held beliefs more thoroughly. I spent the next 4 years doing just that and finally concluded that not only was my faith was unwarranted, but the evidence was overwhelmingly against it. (Details at http://testimonials.exchristian.net/2009/09/they-overplayed-their-hand.html.) I had not choice but to walk away from it all.

      With respect to the idea of gods and the supernatural in general, I’m technically an agnostic. (How can one take a firm position on something so ill-defined?) With respect to the God described by a straightforward reading of the Bible, I’m a 100% convinced atheist, for the reasons I outlined in the link above.

      I, too, am interested in continuing to correspond here or on my blog. Although I have left my faith, I remain fascinated by religion and enjoy discussing it. Leave a comment in either place and I’ll respond. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Logarchism » Meme Watch: “Arrogant Obama”

  4. Wow! This is an awesome article Kevin. I have never heard of the term ‘mems’… but I can understand now how Christianity has survived so long. Yes, individuals were willing to be tortured, fed to lions, and whatever else for their beliefs.

    @ Beagle ~ I do have times when things don’t make sense to me, but over all I do believe in God and Christ and the Holy Spirit. I guess too many things have happened in my life where people of God have come forth to help me. There have been times when I prayed in my prayer closet without ever telling another human being what my problem was and someone would come forth and tell me that God laid it on their hearts to do something for me. Once was a $100 bill (for when my checking account got overdrawn) and another was when I was praying for enough work to get some good fitting shoes. One of my Christian friends came and got me and took me out to the SAS store without cluing me in on what was going on… she bought me a pair of SAS’s that lasted me about 6 years. I didn’t ask or beg or tell anyone what my problems were or what I prayed for yet these blessings came about in my life.

    I have had unanswered prayers too… There is a lot I don’t think is fair or just… like how children get abused, or go starving in foreign lands or even in our back yard. Sometimes my faith waivers, but then something happens and I speak to the right person and my faith is restored. I will go read your blog too.


  5. Your experiences of answered prayer are thought-provoking, Sally. Stories like yours do make me wonder if there might be more going on in the universe than meets the eye. That’s one reason why I call myself merely agnostic about the idea of the supernatural. However, with respect to evangelical Christianity in particular, I just can’t get past what I see as profound evils in the Bible. It seems impossible that a God who orders Moses to distribute 16,000 virgins to his soldiers as the plunder of war, and 16,000 more to the priests and the people (among many other evils) could be the epitome of justice, let alone mercy. It just doesn’t add up for me. Still, there are stories like yours, so maybe there’s some kind of supernatural something out there…

  6. Hi Beagle and Sally,

    I’ve had many supernatural ‘experiences of God.’ Someday, I want o talk about all of them, but I want to be hooked up to a state of the art polygraph when I do. I want to get other believers (in the super-natural) to do the same thing. It’s excellent that people like you who have not had supernatural experiences, are open-minded about believing the testimony of others, about their own..

    Allow me to moderate this awesome discussion properly. We have three interesting ‘threads’ going here, so let’s break them up into three new posts, where each discussion can stay on the same thread.

    1) Supernatural events: Are they real, or real in the mind of the witness testifying to the event, or do most people lie when they are testifying about them, for their own personal agenda. This would be a great post to collect tales of the supernatural, and when Bangari is rich and famous, we could spend some dough on getting some of these stories run through a polygraph. There is some good content! -Martha could tear this up -she has written books on the topic!

    2) Supernatural and para-normal events, once one is convinced they do in fact occur, point to a supernatural Creator. -Sally’s got this!

    3) Is this Supernatural Creator, of all things visible and invisible, the same God being described in the Bible? Is he just, or unjust, good or bad? I want to start this thread, and really go deep into concepts I’ve been studying a lot in recent years: Double effect and just war/rules of engagement for theophiles… That is, committing a smaller evil for the greater good.

    Okay ladies, let’s get to work on our discussion starters! Be ready to comment on them Beagle — Try to keep each article / comment 500 words or so…no rants, no rambles, include humor, keep it light enough, be respectful but honest, not patronizingly polite but courteous, and don’t be pedantic –keep it on a ‘layman’s level.’ We are all naturally good at that!

    • Sound good, Kevin! You’ve only asked me to “be ready to comment” so I’ll just stand by for now. Which page on this site should I be watching?

      • Why don’t you follow Bangari by email: upper right. I’ll put links to the new discussions on this post too. Study up on just war doctrine and double effect. This will be great! I’ll give you some tips that will help your blog get exposure as well. Thanks! -Kevin

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