Monday, February 8, 2010

Edwin K.P. Chong's Delusions (I)

Edwin K.P. Chong, indirectly recruited by my “pastor’ bro (who fancies Chong delivered an atheist “spanking” to me) has delusions that he exposed a past internet article of mine as rife with logical violations, and other defects. What I propose to show here is how amiss the good professor is, and how every point I originally made in the piece (‘Memes and Mind Viruses’) stands - especially given the fact the column was not published as a treatise, or full essay. (See, e.g. comments in Part II and attached image)

First, let’s be clear Chong uses 1,926 words to try to assail my original article which was strictly confined to a pre-set 550 –word limit (since all Freethinker articles are first published in a local newspaper as Freethought ads, which set a 550-word limit). Anyone see anything amiss here? For one thing, a 550-word limit means no extended "support" arguments can be given, nor any validations, expatiations or elaborations. Thus, while such articles are partly expository they can't possibly be completely so - it isn't feasible. So they are more balanced between partial exposition and op-ed, probably heavier on the last.

Thus, Chong’s verbal takedown with over three times as many words as the original, amounts to a Kung fu master attacking a man with both arms tied behind his back. Not quite fair. I'd be vastly more impressed by Chong's logical acumen if he did a takedown of my piece in no more than 600 words. But he didn't, likely because he couldn't. He needed all those extra "supporting arguments" to make his case that my 550-limit deprived me of ab initio.

But this sort of thing doesn’t seem to matter to religious extremists and their ilk – like my brother- who believe that they and they alone are the ones to parse reality, and they make their own rules to suit.

But let’s now take Chong’s piece apart, though I will focus on his primary complaints and often use one set of (similar) criticisms to put other in their place.

1) Chong begins with an attack on my statement:

Amongst the most powerful and insidious memes are those dedicated to the spread of religious beliefs or faith”

claiming my comment constitutes “propagandist tactics”, and “planting negative thoughts by using the derogative word 'insidious' before any supporting arguments are advanced

Now, as I already stated above, I was limited to 550 words, hence there was no latitude for any “supporting arguments” – since the piece (for a newspaper) was intended as more an op-ed for Freethinkers than an ironclad academic tract or peer-reviewed paper.

But let me refer Chong to the Essential Oxford Dictionary of Difficult Words and the definition of “insidious”:

“Proceeding in a gradual, subtle way but with harmful effects

Let me now validate the use of the term by reference to Scott Bidtrup’s recent analysis (in his book The Mind Virus) of how Christian scriptures, e.g. in the New Testament, sow pathological mind viruses. As Bidstrup observes:

“While the authors of the New Testament were somewhat prescient in their understanding of the problems of human nature, their prescription was not intended to become a didactically correct model of how human behavior should be ordered. Rather, as can be seen, their prescriptions have, over the centuries, become to be designed with careful specificity to control the behavior and thinking of their believers, with no concern as to the effect on the believer.

These prescriptions became the basis of Christian doctrine. They form a framework around which the rest of the meme complex is built. In our virus analogy, these interpretations on the insights described above are analogous to the DNA, the genes, that prescribe how the doctrines are to be controlled, so as to become and remain maximally virulent. “

The mechanics of the infectious delivery of the doctrines – as Bidstrup notes- are embedded in certain “mind games” played by their practitioners, of which I here cite two:

1- Spontaneous generated fantasies that accompany indoctrination.

He notes:

These fantasies are the result of presenting a bright, attractive persona of the Bible and of the experience of Christianity and the experience of conversion to it. This is absolutely crucial to recruitment, but by itself it is shallow and meaningless. Similar to the hallucinations of dreaming”

This tactic is actually similar to the strategies for indoctrination used by Rev. Jim Jones in Guyana. Though in Jones’ case the mechanism used was more defensive – to protect his coterie of believers against the threat of the ‘government taking over”. Thus, he offered “Jonestown” as a safe refuge wherein a more complete conversion to Christianity would be possible without the possible interference of outside forces. Interestingly, in the book about Jonestown, The Suicide Cult, many members (before they left or escaped) reported being in a “dream state”. Part of the technique for implanting this state was constant repetition of selected sayings or verses.

Bidstrup goes on to point out:

“The reality of the experience, is, however, a purely physical phenomenon that is the result of stimulation of the temporal lobes of the brain, which can be duplicated at will in the laboratory”

Indeed, as I have already noted, Michael Persinger actually performed such experiments and showed how religious manifestations could be confected in the temporal lobes via electric stimulation. In the same way, the physical phenomenon behind indoctrination incorporates temporal lobe cooperation –whether done via a Fundy bible puncher, or by a Rev. Jim Jones in a secluded enclave in Guyana.

2- Verbicide

Bidstrup again:

This is, quite literally, distorting, even destroying the meaning of words so that they have a different meaning to the believer than the non-believer. By giving the believer an understanding of the meaning of words that the authors intend, rather than the generally understood meanings, the general impression of a religious experience (the first mind game) is reinforced”

And we know fundies like Pastor Mike (who invokes Chong) does this all the time, as when he deliberately calls fetuses “children”, and abortion, “infanticide”. Thus are words deformed, followed by believers’ thoughts, since thoughts are fashioned from words,. Destroy the word and render their meanings anything you want, and you destroy the minds of those you’re seeking to affect. (Or infect)

Now, to show this mind virus dynamic isn’t peculiar to Christianity let’s now look at Islam, and specifically using Howard Bloom’s insight in his The Lucifer Principle, on how memes operate within religious edifices and constructs. As he points out (p. 228):

Today’s Islam is the perfect example of a meme grown rapacious”

And he follows this comment with a number of examples, from the former Pakistani Gen. Zia – marking out territory to be Muslim-dominated in a wall map, to quoting an Islamic cleric in Lebanon who emphasizes:

Don’t believe that we want an Islamic Republic in Lebanon, we want the whole WORLD to be an Islamic Republic!”

To quoting an academic (Dr. Abd El Sabor Shahin) in Cairo who proclaims that Western civilization makes a big mistake when it:

thinks it will endlessly remain dominant

Bloom goes on to cite even secularist Islamic academics in the U.S. (p. 229) who aver the expansionist zeal of Islam to be an “unstoppable force” and that the Qu’uran is merely cited in those parts that allay western fears. In other words, the message (mind virus) is hidden or concealed until the prospective believer is a captive, then it’s too late to abandon the demands of the meme.

One could go on and on citing numerous other religious domains that implant memes insidiously, but I believe the point has been made.

Next: Chong’s delusion that “infectious” is a “derogatory word”

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