Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 19: GroupThink analysis and examples (v)

For the GroupThink chart, see section (i) in 31st August post

Box C: Symptoms of GroupThink

C1. Overestimation of Group.
a) illusion of invulnerability
b) belief in morality

These two subsections have to be dealt with together with any suzerainty assumed by archaeology over "cultural heritage" but first we have to backtrack a little and remember that culture is an ever-changing thing and that cultures interact with one another and that the information passes in both directions. Moreover, these interactions are initiated by individuals for a wide variety of personal reasons. A couple of examples are when someone in one group arranges a marriage for one of their sons or daughters with someone in another group. This can produce a greater state of allegiance between the two families for economic reasons and/or for protection. When a number of such associations are made between families either of the cultures might decide to cement formal agreements between the cultures. Another example is when two groups with differing religious beliefs are in a position of sharing other relationships (familial, social, economic). A natural outcome is the realization of metaphors as the expression of unique religious histories and the societies gradually become blended, at first through the syncretistic adoption of elements of each religion, and then a greater ability to abstract and symbolize. Ecumenical movements are not just a modern phenomenon but go back in time at least as far as the Neolithic. Euan MacKie has seen stone alignments at Maes Howe in the Orkneys that reflect the same festival times as much later Celtic festivals. A segment of archaeology believes that Neolithic stone alignments had a purely scientific purpose and the paper speaks much of this including:
"The origin of the idea of “prehistoric science” almost certainly lies in Gerald Hawkins’ Stonehenge Decoded (1965) which, perhaps unwittingly, fostered the idea that this famous site was used as a “Stone Age computer” to keep the calendar in order and to predict eclipses. The author also has to take some of the blame; the title of his book—Science and Society in Prehistoric Britain (MacKie 1977) obviously perpetuated the myth and was ill chosen. By contrast, Colin Renfrew’s Before Civilisation (1973) had a chapter in which he summarized Alexander Thom’s basic discoveries but set them firmly within the real world of simple societies as traces of the religious activities of a professional priesthood of the kind that could be expected to emerge in the chiefdom type of social organization. If everyone the author included had paid more attention to Renfrew’s scenario, the mutual incomprehension that now exists between orthodox British archaeology and archaeoastronomy might not now be as basic as it is."
Rather than leaving this situation as an odd phenomenon where one view has been adopted and the other neglected by some sort of happenstance, we really should examine it in its psychological context. We often see projected upon the past the mindset of  an archaeological GroupThink. The reason that the religious aspect was neglected was that the assumption of archaeology being scientific was projected on to the material itself. Too often in archaeology, religious matters are gathered together under the term "ritual" and no further analysis is given. We see also, a very large percentage of archaeologists (and scientists) who profess to be atheists rather than agnostics (as might be more expected from people who believe in the importance of proofs). Atheism is a belief in itself and might be expressed as the "religion of materialism". Science took this wrong turn in the seventeenth century and in physics the universe started to consist of everything but Man. In the twentieth century, Einstein was the first physicist who brought Man back into a major theory in the role as "observer" but could not bring himself to go as far as quantum physics where Man becomes an integral part of the Universe. In the Copenhagen interpretation, the observer actually changes reality in the collapse of the wave function, but there is another segment which believes in the contrary many worlds theory where one thing changes or does not change in this universe, but the opposite happens as well and creates a new universe. In other words when we open the box and see Schrödinger's cat is dead, another universe then exists where the cat is alive. The reason for the other theory, I believe, is that some people cannot part with materialism enough to envision a state where a cat is both alive and dead at the same time. Remember it is not a matter of us not knowing whether the cat is alive or dead before we open the box, it is that either event is not realized until we observe it and that includes a situation whereby we open the box and another instrument in the box has recorded that the cat actually died some time before we opened the box. This time was part of the potential, but it did not become a reality before the box was opened. Before we opened the box, the cat was both alive and dead as a potential. Of course, this is a symbolic event as the cat is very much larger than an electron or photon and thus decoherence  will occur and we will not get any quantum phenomenon.

The funny thing is that an idea might not contain any mass, energy or space, or if it does, the amounts might be minuscule enough to at least severely limit decoherence (We don't know what an idea is, we can only see it registering in the brain and an idea is as much part of the physical brain as a T.V. script is part of the physical television. No matter how carefully we take apart the television set, we will never find the script).

In order to maintain and proliferate an idea we have to place great importance on faith and this becomes much easier to do when we create a group to do it. The group develops a greater sense of invulnerability (there is safety in numbers), and it enforces its belief in the creation of fixed morals which, when formalized and studied, become ethics. So strong is the resulting coherence that its members project this to everyone outside of the group. This, in turn, often cannot form itself into a version of the many worlds theory because we are all stuck in a single universe and it cannot take part in a quantum effect because of decoherence (many different ideas are also subject to decoherence in their own part of the universe). The solution that nature takes normally is to embrace such decoherence in the form of syncretism which severely reduces its illusions of materiality.

To maintain the group it is not only necessary to overestimate the group (size and importance), in order to express invulnerability, and to cement the group together through the creation of morals, it is also necessary to isolate the group from external forces which would bring about decoherence.

I will deal with the methods of this attempt to isolate tomorrow, but you can already see why "cultural heritage" is greatly concerned with fixing cultures and preventing their natural evolution through the psychological projection of GroupThink onto what is being observed. Within this isolation, nothing is allowed to change, even when such actions actually destroy cultures as cultures can only persist and avoid entropy by the reception of new ideas. The same is true in the evolution of ideas. I will leave you for now with a quote in preparation for tomorrow's post:
"The goal of these predators is to close your mind to new ideas. You can see this in public discussions, when people argue on different sides of a controversial issue. In such discussions the focus of the participants is never on learning something new, but on protecting their personal bias. Max Planck, the founder of quantum physics, has described this phenomenon. “A new scientific truth,” he wrote, “does normally not prevail in the way that its opponents become convinced and declare that they have learned something, but rather because its opponents eventually die out, and the following generation is familiar with the truth from the outset.”
Lothar Schäfer, Infinite Potential: What Quantum Physics Reveals About How We Should Live (Kindle Locations 256-261). Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony. Kindle Edition.

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