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RE: Let them talk

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  • Glen McGhee
    Julian O Dea wrote: I wonder, though, if the capacity of belief systems to bind both small and large groups together does not permit some kind of group
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 31, 2000
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      Julian O'Dea wrote:
      I wonder, though, if the capacity of belief systems to bind both
      small and large groups together does not permit some kind of "group
      selection", both by promoting cohesiveness of small groups, and by
      encouraging shared, directed activity.

      Glen replies: I just wanted to respond to: "capacity of belief
      systems to bind small and large groups together" part, since I do not
      comprehend/appreciate the controversy surrounding "group selection."

      There are many ways to understand this kind of binding in a group.
      For example, the binding to a particular leader can have important
      survival value for the group, especially when a hunting crew head is
      competent and capable. And, as we know from primatology, there must
      be an instinctual basis for hierarchicalization that humans have
      inherited as well. Social theory studies the odd things people do
      because of this inheritance. (Cf. The experiments of Ascher and
      Milgram.)

      In terms of religious belief, however, it is much more interesting to
      view a particular religious meme in terms of its history: how and why
      it originated, how it spread, and the kinds of changes it went
      through to become what it is today. Undoubtedly, such a meme-history
      would amount to nothing more than a history of groups, a kind of
      sociological history. (Randall Collings has done this exact thing for
      the history of philosophical ideas in this: THE SOCIOLOGY OF
      PHILOSOPHIES: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change. And although
      this approach horrified the philosopher that reviewed the book for
      NYT Book Review, it can be done, and I think that it should continue
      to be done. I just finished teaching a very successful course on
      Religion in America using this approach, with Peter William's text.
      Williams focuses on "religious innovation" throughout his text.)
      Others have noted hyperbolically that as humanity begins to take
      control of its physical evolution, we should also show the same
      interest in understanding and controlling the evolution of ideas that
      diffuse through our culture(s). I think Malcolm Gladwell's recent
      *The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference" and
      Paul Marsden's work in memetics/social contagion go a long way toward
      achieving this goal (http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-
      emit/1998/vol2/marsden_p.html).
      Glen McGhee (active Lutheran)
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