Thursday, 11 January 2018

Original sin

Today I have spent some time trying to understand the doctrine of original sin. Not because of a resurgence of interest in the memetics of Christianity, but because of an observation in an article titled: "The Theology of Global Warming" linking fossil fuel consumption with original sin. The author wrote:

It was Michael Crichton who pointed out in his Commonwealth Club lecture some years ago that environmentalism had become the religion of Western elites. Indeed it has. Most notably, the burning of fossil fuels (a concomitant of economic growth and rising living standards) is the secular counterpart of man's Original Sin. If only we would repent and sin no more, mankind's actions could end the threat of further global warming.
Readers may or may not be aware that I am not a fan of global warming hysteria. Long ago I identified global warming prevention as a bad cause. It has occurred to me that I may be able to contribute a little via positive destruction. So, I occasionally do things like celebrate the "The Catastrophic AGW Memeplex" page.

The whole business of global warming as a religion of secular western elites with fossil fuels playing the role of original sin and conservation and green energy being the path to salvation seems to me to have some truth to it. Both Christianity and global warming are like apocalyptic cults. Their members are out to save the world. There's even a secular version of hell: Venusian runaway global warming reputedly awaits if we do nothing.

I have some basic understanding of how causes use superstimuli (like hell and global apocalypse) to motivate people and morally-charged sentiments (like original sin) to attract their attention. It is fairly clear that both Christianity and global warming are pyramid schemes of virtue (and virtue signalling), where converting unbelievers is one of the main ways to advance up the pyramid. But how exactly does original sin work? and what can we learn about the global warming movement from understanding it?

One thing which is obvious is that putting a moral spin on the issue gives it salience. If you learn you can save a few bucks by shopping around the corner, you might tell some freinds, but if you learn you have been doing something morally wrong your whole life without even realizing it, then that's a message worth sharing more widely.

Another thing that is worth noting is that the whole scheme works even without any factual truth being involved. Christianity is proof of the concept that the whole "original sin" scam works without reference to truth, reality or facts being involved.

Original sin is generally accompanied by docrines of "redemption" or "salvation". Rarely do you hear that you were born a sinner - and there's nothing you can do about it. Sin is the hook, salvation is the bait. The path to salvation usually involves spreading the word to others - as memetics would suggest is favored by selection.

Deep general theories that explain many phenomena are worth looking into. I am intrigued by these parallels between Christianity and the global warming movement and expect that more can be learned by looking into them. Aside from original sin, there are other parallels between AGW alarmism and apocalyptic cults in general, including the modern variants that involve "existential risks" and an apocalypse involving intelligent machines.

Understanding the details of exactly how these types of social movement work is a massive challenge. This is just the sort of application which we need a mature version of cultural evolution to help us understand. It is worth digging in a bit, I think. Otherwise we will continue to see massive resource allocation failures arising out of memeplexes that exploit bugs in human psychology.


  1. Have been on travel for a while so didn't have time to make a comment here. Thanks for the call-out to CAGW Memeplex :)

    There are countless references to the CAGW phenomenon as a religion now, some even from within the climate consensus itself. This common observation at surface level is due to the fact that religion and CAGW are both just instances of strong cultures, which emerge on the back of successful and tightly co-evolved meme sets that form the primary cultural narrative. In this context a meme like 'humans are unnatural' within such a set, can be interpreted as original sin in a religious context, a catastrophic carbon footprint in a climate change context, malthusian memes in a social philosophy context, and various other interpretations.

    Understanding how these cultures work is indeed a challenge, and one that is helped by looking at social psychology as well as 'top down' theories like cultural evolution or within that, memetics. One can get a long way with 'mind blind' theories, but in the end culture has evolved hand in hand with the brain, and hence how our minds are sensitized to cultural memes is important too. So for instance where uncertainty is high and also perceived social impact is high, emotion will trump veracity in the retransmission of information, i.e. emotive memes win. The more emotive the better; yet combinations of memes evoking different emotions simultaneouly seem to work the best, with hope and fear being a very common combination. Hence concepts evoking the prospect of apocalypse and salvation at the same time, which both climate change and christianity do, are very successful. It's also worth noting that a culture will operate in such a way as to maximize the continued perception of high social impact, and discourage efforts to reduce uncertainties by hiding behind a false and policed certainty (the cultural consensus). Behaviors like policing and demonization of opposition are related to in-group / out-group identity, and are part of the 'job' of culture.

    As you note, all core cultural narratives contain no factual truth. This is a necessity of their 'job' above, which is to have everyone in the group singing from the same hymn-sheet, not to make any statement about what is or isn't evidentially true in the world. Cultural consensuses are 'group deceptions', which does not mean those that they deceive are ill or deluded or such, we are all decieved by some culture or other, and have evolved for this to be so. This consensus agreement is what has given culture a selective advantage across our evolutionary history, as it provides underwriting of in-group altruism, a coalition against individual dominance, and better competition from other sizeable groups. The problem in more recent history is that the mechanics via which cultures work have become highly entangled with the enterprise of science in various ways, hence dragging what in theory should be evidential positions (including "we don't know yet") into the center of cultural conflicts.

    There is much detail of my explorations regarding all this at the site "Climate Etc" run by prof Judith Curry. Just type 'Andy West' into the search box and a whole list of my guest posts there will turn up. Note that I have avoided the terminology of memes in various posts; I am already working within an area that is highly controversial and to layer another one on top just gets too difficult. However a couple of posts very specifically employ meme models and terminology, and indeed pulled some rejection of same (see comments) even from folks who view CAGW as a religion. [you can see at my site too, but absent comments there]. In any case I view memetics as the best model for understanding such phenomena, but it's also true that the general principles of cultural evolution, which don't invoke the same controversy (even though overlapping principles!) suffices.

    1. It would be great if there were more studies of culture out there which are aware of how evolutionary theory applies to the topic. However, I think that there are at least some. There are books on the cultural evolution of science, technology, language and religion. Recent book titles include "The evolution of God" and "The evolution of everything". Degrees of enlightenment about evolutionary theory vary, but there's often some knowledge and understanding there.

      Personally, general theories are appealing in ways that specific instances are not. However, if you look at actual scientific papers, they very frequently deal with specific systems in order to give them something concrete to measure. This content is out there, though you may have to substitue "memetics" for "cultural evolution" in your searches to find some of it.

    2. Thanks. General theories tell us how stuff works. But if we are not going to use that understanding to unpick major impacts, possessing this understanding is rather pointless ;) There's nothing to stop us pursuing both general theory and major manifestations simultaneously (not to mention the latter validates the former). It would be rather strange to spend centuries understanding virus action but then ignore the ravages of smallpox. There seems to be so few people working in memetics these days that the discipline may best be served by some of the same people doing both. After all the discipline is sadly in a siding right now as far as mainstream science perceptions are concerned; a successful explanation of a major social phenomenon would help greatly to connect that siding back to the main line.

      I've searched under various terms, and indeed there's some literature on tiny aspects of the real-world. And lots of generic stuff. But I was hoping for something more that addresses the great gulf in-between, such as a breakdown of Christianity or Communism into their constituent meme sets, with appropriate evidence. Blackmore touches on Catholicism as a memeplex example here and there, with some justifications, but does not to my knowledge have a detailed analysis (maybe you know better, having read far more deeply than I). Well I guess I'll keep looking. I think this angle is absolutely critical to prevent 'massive resource allocation failures' now and in the future.

  2. So I have a question for you. I've seen here and elsewhere vast amounts of work in trying to understand memetics generically. And yet almost nothing, outside of trivial examples like internet memes or baseball caps or whatever, in understanding the social phenomena that dominate both past and present (e.g. all the religions and many strong secular cultures too), which are fundamentally based upon the success of co-evolved memes. So do you know of such work? It seems to me as a comparison as though folks would be putting in endless hours to understand the *generic* ways in which viruses and bacteria might work, yet ignoring the actualities of smallpox and measles and typhoid and aids and flu and all the other big hitters, not to mention most of the little hitters too. (I don't mean by this that memes are all like diseases, more like symbionts in many cases, it's a metaphorical comparison). Part of why I'm interested is that I'm trending to the opinion that the *same basic emotive portals* into our minds are being attacked in each case by the various different cultures. Hence the observation above that the 'humans are unnatural' meme appears in various subtlely different guises. So do other memes, and indeed much of the memetic wreckage of a declining or collapsed or never-quite-made-it culture, will often form the basis of a newer culture, yet with slightly morphed variants. This could be similar to how biological diseases track the same entry portals as the latter slowly evolve protections. I'll follow up with a email regarding a list of common interlinked memes as they appear with CAGW / environmental culture.

    1. Humans have a small number of emotions and some are better at promoting meme spreading than others - so, it does not seem very suprising that you are seeing memes using much the same small set of emotions to motivate their hosts. If you write up anything about how memes use emotions to manipulate their hosts, I encourage you to publish it, since this seems to me to be an under-studied area. Unfortunately, classifying emotional states seems to be a bit of a black art, so also be prepared for criticism.

    2. I do very little in the way of original work, it's mostly about drawing conclusions drawn from from rafts of other work, especially cross-discipline comparisons / connections where these normally don't inform each other too much, science still being rather cellular. Neither my main job or the area in which I have formal qualifications, so the citizen science route is the best option, and anyhow gets extremely robust peer review compared to some parts of academia 0:

  3. P.S. I noticed 'The evolution of God' before, but was rather put off by some of the reviews, for instance:

    'In this oddly old-fashioned book, which recalls Hegel more than anyone else, Wright speaks repeatedly of "design" and "goals" and "purposes" in human history. In the end, Wright allows himself to wonder whether the evolution of "God," the concept, might provide evidence for the existence of God, the reality. "If history naturally pushes people toward moral improvement, toward moral truth, and their God, as they conceive their God, grows accordingly, becoming morally richer," he writes, , "then maybe this growth is evidence of some higher purpose, and maybe -- conceivably -- the source of that purpose is worthy of the name divinity."

    ...which seems plain silly. His 'invisible hand' is selection, and it is no more aiming at 'higher purpose' than is biological selection. What works best for complex bio-cultural systems at any time is what will get selected, which result not everyone thinks is a moral improvement anyhow (indeed powerful memes constantly advertising moral decline are an important part of many memeplexes).

    1. Wright has his head fairy screwed on here, I think. The idea that what works best at any time is what will get selected is true, but it doesn't take into account the possibility of predictable regularities in the environment. We know what the environment is, it is the visible universe. Maybe in such a benign environment living systems get better and better at finding and utilizing negentropy until there exist powerful creatures who can create life, perform miracles and resurrect the dead - gods, IOW.

    2. Hmmm... Such creatures would not consider themselves as gods, even if those lower down the scale might view them that way. And beyond a certain threshold, even those lower down the scale would acknowledge them only as incredibly advanced, but not as divine (indeed such has been imagined the case even in some Star Trek plots, as far as I recall). This is an important difference because even the incredibly advanced may not be morally 'right' (as viewed from later times), just because they are advanced, as many natives on Earth have discovered. But I think such creatures are a red herring anyhow. It seems from the reviews that Wright is talking about our own historic spans, and 'higher purpose' pervading our own development to date as well as into the future, so sans any miraculous creatures. Unless you are proposing that such creatures already exist in our neighborhood, and are guiding our advance. The problem with this, apart from no evidence (well if the creatures were advanced enough maybe there wouldn't be any) is that we are reasonably able to explain our development from first principles without any reference to miraculous guiding hands. So they are either not present, or they are doing diddly squat anyhow. Nor is morality necessarily linked to negentropy. Morals are just reflections and reinforcers of standing cultural narratives, hence different for each culture, and likely the morals of a very alien culture would be perceived as shocking (not 'better') whether they are lower down the evolutionary scale, or indeed whether they are very much higher. Societies in recent history have moved to moral systems more appropriate to larger groups and relatively emphasized altruism, yet some historic societies would view our morals as fatally weak, for instance. And nor is there any guarantee that this direction is the way evolution will continue to go, either intermittently or permanently. Creatures as powerful as you posit may have no need of societies, for instance; what if altruism was largely alien to them? Nor incidentally is it true that most people see a moral improvement with advancing time anyhow, most major societies see themselves in moral decline. This is likely a feature of an improvement / policing function, executed by memes, but it makes it much more difficult to determine what people would perceive as an improvement anyhow, when most simply want a set of fictional morals they wrongly assume reigned in some relatively near past. I think Wright is just leaving the door ajar to the divine or mysterious betterment, maybe as a psychological comfort, or because he can't bring himself to fully embrace that massive complexity, which also includes all human thought and endeavour, can actually emerge from simple mechanistic rules. Nor does the fact that the universe may have a benign rule set that favours life, provide any underwriting of 'purpose'. If the universe wasn't benign to life, we wouldn't exist. On the assumption that there are many universes, our first proposition for our existence therefore (i.e. sans evidence), via Occams razor, should be a lottery, not 'higher purpose'.

    3. OK, we shouldn't argue too much in the comments. My
      two cents:

      Whether future creatures regard themselves as gods may be connected to whether they launch many simulated universes. Launching simulated worlds may well be common in the future and the creators will probably see themselves as "gods" of the worlds they create.

      Evolutionary progress is manifest today. That is why Wright and other "progressives" extrapolate out.

      It isn't just that the world is life-friendly enough for intelligent agents to exist. It is also the relative lack of disasters, decline and limits. Yes there are occasional big meteorite strikes, but so far these have been relatively minor setbacks. It is easy to imagine a world in decline, a world stuck in stasis or a world near its end. We see none of these worlds.

      One possible explanation for an over life friendly universe is via observation selection in a scenario where the universe is an evolving system that long predates the big bang. Highly intelligent agents would then lie in the universe's past as well as its future. Such scenarios have been explored by James Gardner in "Biocosm" and "The Intelligent Universe". There the visible universe has "creators" and life has a purpose - namely help the visible universe to reproduce - perhaps by triggering inflation somehow. In this scenario, the big bang is not the universe's beginning but its belly button. Such scearios are consistent with what we know and don't have a miniscule prior probability. If the ascent of living systems continues, we may have to start taking them more seriously.

      Anyway, I still think you are under-estimating Wright. He is generally pretty sane and sensible, IMO. Anyhow the content about "cosmic purpose" is only the very end of Wright's book. It is probably in part courting controversy to help sales. Most of the book is about the cultural evolution of god concepts. That's not really my cup of tea, but you are asking for case studies, and Wright's is one of them.

  4. >'OK, we shouldn't argue too much in the comments.'
    Is this not both fun and useful, (and may attract more readers / participants)?

    >'...and the creators will probably see themselves as "gods" of the worlds they create.'
    Why? Being a God is all about ultimate moral authority, not about creation, whatever it is one creates including a world. The wiser creators among us already know that when they create autonomous entities, from a potential Frankenstein to a business empire to a mainstream charity to a marketed pop group or whatever, these things will have a life of their own that will outgrow original intent and direction, and which cannot be held to moral or even operational absolutes. And gods of whatever kind are merely social constructs anyhow, emergent from memetic competition and the way brains react to memes (itself a product of long selection), so cannot exist in reality in any case because like all the products of strong cultural consensuses, they have fundamental contradictions at their heart.

    >'Evolutionary progress is manifest today. That is why Wright and other "progressives" extrapolate out.'
    Evolution is indeed manifest. Yet labelling its direction as 'progress' in any kind of way that aligns to what current cultural 'progressives' aspire to, is just as wrong as saying that the theory of evolution underwrites aspirations to a master-race, as was popular in the early twentieth century. On say gene-culture co-evolutionary time-scales, current progressivism is a tiny blip of subculture in a sea of modern competitive entities, some of which even within the same geographic territories have at least as much influence / adherents. And the total of all such modern entities is itself dwarfed by whole oceans of historic cultures. The aspirations and frustrations and tensions within and oppositions to and products of, modern progressivism, will one day be just as forgotten as all the equivalents for say Spartan culture today, and what tiny fraction of both their contributions to the future make it through, is a function of blind selection that we still have no means whatsoever to predict. In short, an extrapolation of values based on the assumption that evolution will do what progressives (or any other culture) aspires to, i.e. evolution is somehow 'on their side', is entirely wrong. In practice certain values *may* make it through, but even in theory we cannot know which ones, when, or how much they'll be mixed with other cultural input.

    >'It is easy to imagine a world in decline, a world stuck in stasis or a world near its end. We see none of these worlds.'
    Indeed we don't, though an example of 1 is rather thin, and the local blossoming on Earth has definitiey had many temporal and regional setbacks that I'm sure would not comfort the virtually uncountable number of individual biota exterminated or damaged by same, even for those higher forms actucally capable of being comforted ;) Yet I don't see how this changes the argument in any way. To state that benign rules, even if say they were arbitrarily twice as benign as now (half the number of exterminations above, for instance) are any kind of evidence for 'higher purpose', is just an ultimate circular argument. And one that invokes more difficult questions than it solves.

    1. We don't seem to be on the same page regarding evolutionary progress. In which case you won't like Wright's position on the topic either.

      I generally view denial of evolutionary progress as neo-Marxist nonsense. Evolution accumulates survival adaptations, remembering more than it forgets. The idea that what is favored is environment-dependent is empirically just nonsense. Photosynthesis, strong struts, strong cables, membranes, nuclear fusion, etc are all of widespread value in a universe like ours.

      Science gives us a concrete yardstick for measuring the progress of ecosystems - via maximum entropy thermodynamics. Ecosystems have got better at dissipating sources of negentropy over time. As for the idea that similar ideas were promoted by disreputables who promoted the idea of a master race, I would respond: so what? That has no bearing on what is scientifically true. Progress is an objective, measurable, scientific phenomenon. Which tribes of past humans thought what about the topic just does not seem very relevant.

      IMO, modern progress denialism is a triumph of political correctness over facts. Supposedly, belief in evolutionary progress is associated with the idea that some humans are better than others, which conficts with Marxist egalitarian dogma, and must therefore be eliminated as a form of forbidden thought. Alas, evolutionary progress is so obvious, that not even the denialism ringleaders can bring themselves to deny it. Gould, for example, modelled progress as a random walk bounded on one side by a wall. That's a shitty and mistaken model of evolutionary progress, but it is still a model of progress over time. IMHO, the whole "progress denialism" memeplex is just a big neurotic screw-up.

    2. You have me utterly wrong on this. I'm a very staunch believer in evolution, in evolutionary advance, and have no truck whatsoever with any denialism of same, or any neo-marxist anything. But *cultural* ideas of progress, as for instance expressed by 'progressives' lately, and other cultures in the past, have nothing to do with the way this advance occurs, and do not predict or align to it. All emergent cultural consensuses are necessarily (group) deceits - their 'job' is to create consensus in the face of the unknown, which hence requires the denial of uncertainty, among other things. Therefore any culturally constructed, rather than scientific, notion of 'progress' and what that means for us, will definately be just as nonsense as neo-Marxism (which indeed is linked to more leftist 'progressives'). And religion / gods represents just such another nonsense cultural construction too, hence to invest its principles in anything to do with evolution or the origin and life-capabilities of universes, is likewise just nonsense. My beef with Wright is said religious nonsense, plus the fact that any sense of 'moral' advance is simply an expression of current cultural aspirations, and has nothing to do with negentropy or system complexity or any other of the physical characteristics you quote. While evolution will continue with advancing such properties, quite likely Wright and most everyone else will be appalled at whatever moral sets exist in say 500 years time.

    3. OK. When I wrote: "Wright and other "progressives"" - I just meant "Wright and other proponents of evolutionary progress". No commentary on other aspects of Wright's political views was intended.

      I don't remember all the details of Wright's dabbling with theology at the end of his book, but IIRC, it was in the vein of de Chardin's "noosphere" - which IMO can be dressed up in semi-scientific clothing by making reference to the possibility of future planetary-scale intelligent systems. In my own dabbling in this kind of theology, I prefer to talk about "angels" rather than "gods", but Wright can call them 'gods' if he likes.

    4. OK, thanks. 'Progressives' miscued me somewhat, but folks endemically mistake / conflate cultural notions of progress (moral, religious, whatever), with what evolution is doing and where it is going. When one sees this, one knows that objectivity is already compromised. To some extent the error is understandable because the word 'progress' itself is laden with cultural implications. 'Advance' is perhaps better, but even this may be interpreted as advancement in terms of current cultural preferences; maybe 'develop' is even better, though of course language being itself cultural there is likely not an ideal choice 0: But regarding extremely advanced intelligences or any other potential features of life / universes, imo all religious terminology is best studiously avoided, because it comes with massive cultural pre-conceptions that readers will not be free of, and indeed even atheist writers (myself included) will likely not be free of.

  5. >'One possible explanation for an over life friendly universe...'
    Indeed one cannot rule this explanation out, and we should be open to all possibilities. However, 'over life friendly ' is just an arbitrary value judgement. Compared to what? We have to date observed no other universes for comparison. I think a more plausible default explanation absent such observations, is that there could be uncountable numbers of both life friendly and unfriendly universes out there, randomly originated. Even if the former are a very tiny subset, by definition we could only be inside this tiny subset, so it is all we would see. Another possible explanation is that the processes required for life are virtually ubiquitous, i.e. will exist in the vast majority of the universes and the rule sets emergent within them; since we don't know what maths constrains rule set emergence, we can't rule this out either.

    >'Anyway, I still think you are under-estimating Wright.'
    Quite possibly. I was only saying why the reviews had put me off, yet you're right reviews are not always representative.
    >'That's not really my cup of tea, but you are asking for case studies, and Wright's is one of them.'
    And I appreciate very much your taking the time to point me at this. If serious inroads are going to be made at constraining 'resource allocation failures', we need to know not just how memetics operates generically, but specifics about particular memeplex emergences that support major social control, and which (presumably via long gene-culture co-evolution) seem to have a relatively small number of common threads. What would be invaluable is data on the history of emotive memes such as (using my own descriptions for these) 'we are special', 'our times are special', 'the past is always better', 'the natural order is good', 'disaster is imminent', and various others indeed including 'original sin', or in it's generic form within both secular and wider religious memeplexes (i.e. not just Christianity), 'we / humans are bad / unnatural'. I'd appreciate anything you come across with respect to same, or anything that breaks down mainstream secular or religious cultural narratives to this level.

    1. My understanding is that the jury is still out of the whole "adapted universe" hypothesis. The most credible works on the topic I have seen are the two books by James Gardner. However they present very little concrete evidence favoring the hypothesis. It is somewhat interlinked with another "intelligent design" hypothesis: simulism - the idea that the visible universe is a simulation in a computer built by aliens. These hypotheses do not seem to me to be in conflict with Tegmark-style multiverses containing very many possible worlds. It may just be that such spaces are dominated by self-reproducing entities. It isn't easy to estimate the chance of these possibilities panning out. However it is clear that many atheists are not doing the correct sums when dismissing these possibilities on grounds of parsimony.


    2. Here are some books on the evolution of religion where the authors know a bit about cultural evolution:

      Breaking the Spell - D. Dennett
      The God Delusion - R. Dawkins
      God Virus, The: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture - Darrel W. Ray
      The Religion Virus: Why We Believe in God - Craig A James
      The Evolution of God - Robert Wright
      Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society - David Sloan Wilson
      In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion - Scott Atran
      Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict - Ara Norenzayan

      I am pretty sure that there are some case studies in there. For example, Darwin's Cathedral has 40 pages devoted to "Calvinism", and another 30 pages of "historical examples".

      However, I must say that I don't recall seeing too many lists which are like your lists. Maybe we should be thinking about cults too. There are plenty of "how cults work" books, and maybe they feature content more like what you are talking about.

  6. Re simulism, indeed one cannot rule out this or indeed practically any explanation yet, simply because our knowledge and evidence is so thin. But the default grant of greater likelihood I guess ought to go to simpler explanations, as long as they fit current knowledge at least as well. It has always bothered me for simulism though that the resources required to simulate say, a planet, down to the level of every sub-atomic particle (even at our current state of knowledge of such particles), would be many orders of magnitude greater than the planet itself. Upscaling, ditto for a universe. Even assuming astounding leaps in computational capability. (This is for a full simulation, of course; in a targeted simulation nothing exists unless you seek to interact with it - but that starts to sound like a conspiracy theory ;) So why not just make a universe instead of a simulation? Which universe we unfortunately couldn't distinguish from one emergent purely from natural rules, whatever those are.

    Many thanks for the list. I bought 'In Gods we trust' very recently, and still need to digest, but my first flick through is not looking too hopeful. From your list Darwin's cathedral looks like a pretty good bet. I'm not comfortable with Dawkins somewhat militant atheist stance against religion, as though the delusion implies some kind of flaw in believers. We are all subject to cultural influence, and considering he's a passionate believer in CAGW I find his stance somewhat ironic.

    Your point on cultures is well made. I think most mainstream religions start as cults, and being less entangled with all the complications of mainstream society they are theoretically simpler to understand. OTOH the fact that they haven't (yet) made it to mainstream success may mean they are missing the crucial memetic equation, or at least that the time for their equation has not yet come. What I've seen of cultures so far seems to concentrate more on psychology, but this is only half the story; the memes that trigger that psychology are the actuals we can detect and monitor. I probably need to delve more there though. Yes my lists are trying to get down to the lowest level resolution of potent emotive memes, which lego bricks assembled in differing ways ought to give different cultural expressions. Most other lists seem more complex and more domain dependent (i.e. not common to all cultures).

    1. doh!

      Your point on cults...
      What I've seen of cults...