Monday, July 14, 2008

Women Priests: Meme Evolution in Action

One of the often-heard "proofs" that Darwin was wrong comes from creationists who say, "Where are the evolving species?" They assert that at any point in history, there should be transitional forms, species with partially-evolved traits, and claim that there are no such species around today. DNA evolution is glacially slow, and creationists think the universe is only 6,000 years old, so perhaps we can forgive them for this stunningly boneheaded belief.

But memes, the evolution of culture and ideas, evolve much faster -- we can easily see ideas changing and competing over mere decades, or even years or months. Today we have a perfect example.

The Church of England is finally allowing women to become bishops. This has caused great consternation among the more "conservative" members of the COE, and some have threatened to split the COE in two over this. The Vatican, of course, condemned the COE's recognition of women's rights, calling it a "further obstacle to reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Church of England."

To a student of memetics, this is an incredible example of evolution in action. We have two competing memeplexes, one that says God doesn't want women as his representative here on Earth, and the other that says women are equal to men in God's eyes. These two species have to compete in the meme-ecosphere. Which one will survive?

Roughly a century ago, a new memeplex arose that says women are and should be equal to men. It started with womens' suffrage, but quickly moved into other arenas, such as family law (the right to divorce), equality in the workplace, and clothing styles (remember the scandal of the bikini?). In 1972, "Title IX" finally gave girls equal status with boys in school athletics. It didn't take long for the equality-of-women memeplex to butt heads with Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

This is a perfect example of "transitional species" in a meme ecosphere. There are various competing ideas, and they're in a stiff competition. The "no-women priest" memeplex is facing the equivalent of an ice age: The weather has changed, and the ecosphere (our brains) that it once found quite comfortable is now downright chilly. It's memetic evolution in action, and the churches that make the right choice are the ones that will survive.

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Dear readers -- I am no longer blogging and after leaving these blogs open for two years have finally stopped accepting comments due to spammers. Thanks for your interest. If you'd like to write to me, click on the "Contact" link at the top. Thanks! -- CJ.

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