Sunday, April 29, 2007 12 Comments

Terminology and an open floor

The other day I tried to design a paranormal-independent terminology for talking about the phenomenon we call "religion." I suggested calling a received belief system a "kernel" and an institution that transmits received beliefs a "monitor."

On further reflection I don't like "monitor." Too many things are called monitors. (In case anyone cares, what I meant was not the square thing that sits on your desk and shows you my blog, but a virtual machine monitor - an ancient, rather mainframey terminology.) But I'd rather go with a hardware analogy - "repeater." (See the Wik.)

If any of my readers (perhaps two or three have stuck around after the Andrewlanche) has any better suggestions, I am certainly open to them. (Unqualified Reservations is not a mere outlet for my deranged, extremist rants. It is a community of individuals whose goal is to learn, grow, and change together. Please let me know if I'm layin' it on too thick.)

So a religion is a kernel, and a church is a repeater. But not all kernels are religions, and not all repeaters are churches.

The interesting question then becomes: how do we separate repeater and state?

The floor is open for your comments. Also, in case you have any large chunks of text from obscure Eastern European novels to paste into the window, this is not only allowed, it is encouraged.


Anonymous George Weinberg said...

The interesting question then becomes: how do we separate repeater and state?

I don't think most people would think this is even a desirable goal.
The idea of religious toleration is dependent on the idea that religious differences are not of such a nature as to cause miscreants (literally, people who believe the wrong thing) to commit intolerable actions.
If members of a sect don't want to eat bacon, great, more for the rest of us.
But if, say, a sect exhorts its members to commit ritual murders of nonmembers (as the Thugee of India are said to), then it's absurd to insist that the existence of this sect must be tolerated, much less that its members should be entitled to the same presumption of innocence as anyone else when murders occur.
Conversely, if you genuinely believe that members of a certain sect have a higher moral standard than others, then it's quite appropriate that you show preference to members of that sect when placing people in positions of authority.
Similarly for other "repeaters".

But to answer the question you asked, there's only one way: eliminate the state.

April 30, 2007 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...


An excellent response. I agree - sort of. More to follow...

April 30, 2007 at 6:37 PM  
Blogger Conrad H. Roth said...

This sounds like Deist thinking to me: reduce religion to the barest essentials. Kernels, of course, have a dangerous tendency of growing into repeaters.

How does your model make room for divisions such as priesthood / prophet, or Pharisee / Sadducee, or papacy / monasticism, or Sunni / Shiite? Presumably within any repeater (or at least many repeaters) we can distinguish a stabilising force, and a revolutionary force, both of which invoke the same kernel.

No Eastern European novels for now. Never liked them much anyway.

May 4, 2007 at 2:46 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...


I love the Varieties! Your questions will be answered shortly, I hope, on the main page.

May 4, 2007 at 7:56 PM  
Blogger Conrad H. Roth said...

I'm charmed, and look forward to it....

May 4, 2007 at 8:11 PM  
Anonymous robert said...

If religions are repeaters, they are unreliable and thus more than just propagation machines for a kernel belief. Their content shifts to reflect the cultural consensus of the faithful. I find myself reaching for a biological rather than a hardware metaphor: religious texts are the genetic code, and hermeneutics and praxis translate them into the phenotype of religions as practiced.

Radical Islam seems to have some problems with church-state separation currently, but perhaps there are some Koranic passages that could plausibly be interpreted as parallel to the "render unto Caesar" code in Matthew and lead to expression of church-state separation in the Muslim phenotype. I won't hold my breath, but it could happen.

I just read your manifesto for the first time. Here are a couple ill-considered thoughts. Maybe you address them elsewhere. I'll read the rest of the posts, but I want to get on the board.

You mention several small city-states that have grown rapidly in recent decades. Their success is in some senses parasitic (in a good way) on the larger state system. Yes, they have permitted the rapid creation of wealth, but they have done it by leveraging the security environment created by bigger military powers. While they are good models of how to lift up a small state, they don't provide much of an example for the hegemon or the major global and regional competitors.

Towards the end of the manifesto, I kept being reminded of Bruce Bueno de Mesquita's selectorate idea. Unless a ruler is Fnargl - essentially a platonic dictator - he is always beholden to a class of selectors. In a liberal democracy, it is large; in, say, North Korea, it is a much smaller class of generals and power brokers. In either case, the ruler has to provide rents of one sort or another to the selectorate. The advantage of a broad selectorate is that it helps prevent certain truly outrageous instances of rent-seeking (cf. the titanic wealth of Fidel Castro or Yasser Arafat). It also militates against the formerly widespread practice of pillage: killing the men, taking over their women and girls, and incorporating their boys à la Ghengis Khan. Not sure how this fits in with formalism, but my gut feeling is that selectorate theory argues for a kind of inefficiency as the price of stability.

June 12, 2007 at 1:59 AM  
Anonymous robert said...

Oops. Meant to jump in on the latest entry.

Technology is a bit of an idiot filter, isn't it?

June 12, 2007 at 2:03 AM  
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February 7, 2009 at 1:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


March 6, 2009 at 10:02 PM  

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