What is a Red Queen Religion?

    JM Smith of the Orthosphere has written a post responding to a post of Francis Bergers's which referenced a post of mine that used the phrase "Red Queen Religion."  I have enjoyed reading Smith's post, which used the phrase to refer to an individual Christian's practice.  Then, in the comments, the phrase was used in yet another way to refer to competing worldviews.  Since the original purpose of my post was     I used the phrase in the sense of the Red Queen hypothesis from evolutionary biology.  However, after reading the Wikipedia article, which says: 

"The Red Queen hypothesis, also referred to as Red Queen's, the Red Queen effect, the Red Queen model, Red Queen's race, and Red Queen dynamics, is a hypothesis in evolutionary biology which proposes that species must constantly adapt, evolve, and proliferate in order to survive while pitted against ever-evolving opposing species"   

    I realize now that there are at least two ways to view the Red Queen hypothesis.  One is in terms of species competing with each other.  But I was thinking more in terms of how the phrase was used in this post by Bruce Charlton where he says:

     "Mutational damage and other forms of entropic damage to organisms will spontaneously occur and accumulate - therefore each lineage is on a treadmill sweeping it backwards towards extinction; and the basic and minimal function of natural selection is to keep the organism moving forwards at least as fast as the treadmill is tending to sweep it backwards."

    After reading Francis Berger's statement

    "Many Christians view judgement as the Achilles' heel of their faith."  I thought about how statements such as "Judge not, that you may not be judged, For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again." (Matthew 7:1-2) have been used in bad faith arguments for the purpose of attacking Christianity.  And there are other features of Christianity that make it seem weak from a perspective of "social technology."  J.B.S. Haldane encapsulated this idea fairly well in saying: "Jesus left no code of law behind him like Moses ... and his moral precepts are so different from those of ordinary life that no society has ever made any serious attempt to carry them out  such as was possible in the case of Israel."

    So, should we refrain from thinking about such matters - do raising such questions only serve to undermine faith?  Or maybe, is this a feature of Christianity rather than a bug?  If Christianity is what we believe it to be, then maybe the essence is not a sort of social technology, but something bigger than that.  In that case, we shouldn't be worried about thinking more deeply about the faith because Christianity can always accommodate more.  Raising such questions isn't undermining Christianity but going deeper.  

    That being said, there are some important caveats.  First of all, it has to be a good faith question.  People who are just raising questions to wear down the faith will end up chasing their own tails or inventing fake answers.  Secondly, it may not be the proper time to find an answer, in which case we may have to live with an incomplete understanding.  And, thirdly, the increase in understanding may be very small.  When I said we can always go deeper in our understanding of Christianity, I meant that if it is needed, then we can do it.  But it may not be needed, or it may be needed only to a small degree.

    Can we draw a parallel between the small-scale increase in understanding and the development of Christianity as a whole?  If Christianity is a Red Queen religion, then it will tend to degrade of its own accord and so if this happens it is our own fault for lack of proper maintenance.  On the other hand, is there something else going on?  This is the point Bonald raises in this post

    "The anti-intellectualism to which I object is the assumption that the answers to the great intellectual problems are easy, that no serious intellectual work or fundamental re-evaluation of given ideas is needed.  This must not be true today, at least if Christianity really is true even though so few seem to find it credible.  The solution must require breakthroughs in our thinking and our imagination.  Having a more forcefully orthodox episcopate or holier priests will do nothing about the fundamental problem of people wanting to be as liberal and materialist as possible."

    In other words, maybe the way to help Christianity is not to spend our effort maintaining but in doing something else, moving forward to something else.  Certainly not liberal (fake) Christianity and certainly not discarding the substance of the faith, but something at a level between the societal and the metaphysical level.  And this would not be more advanced, but just different in the same way that Medieval and Ancient Christianity were different but there was still continuity between them.  

    So, if we can increase in understanding if we really want to know, then in the same way, if we have reasons for believing that we need to develop Christianity then we really can do it.  To use a metaphor, if Abraham was asked to leave his land and go to another, he could be assured that there really was another land waiting for him.   


2 comments:

  1. "If Christianity is a Red Queen religion, then it will tend to degrade of its own accord and so if this happens it is our own fault for lack of proper maintenance. "

    Something in that for sure - but if we add-in that Men's consciousness is also developing (evolving) then it would explain why this maintaining is very difficult. Indeed while the old religion is degrading and becoming inadequate for that reasons, we ourselves are needing something more and more different - so the need and the provision are getting further apart.

    "if we have reasons for believing that we need to develop Christianity then we really can do it"

    Yes, I agree. Probably at the individual level - insofar as a person can conceptualize a need, he has the ability to fulfil that need.

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    1. That is a good point. It is not just declining due to normal means but this is exacerbated by the development of consciousness.

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