Xref: ncsuvx alt.atheism:4930 talk.religion.misc:31371
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Mike Morgan in Colorado Springs)
Subject: Re: Barbaric Theists
Date: 25 Sep 90 13:42:32 GMT
Sender: email@example.com (News)
Organization: Digital Equipment Corporation
In article <1990Sep24.060256.529@zorch.SF-Bay.ORG>, xanthian@zorch.SF-Bay.ORG (Kent Paul Dolan) writes...
>The disease being widespread, and its sufferers immune to what seems, in the
>minds of the non-sufferers, simple reason, it behooves the non-sufferers to
>keep out of the way _and_ inconspicuous for the duration.
You have an idea that a disease is at the root. You have some
agreement from Richard Dawkins. I'll quote some of his stuff that is
pertinent to this subject.
From ENGINES OF CREATION by K. Eric Drexler, page 35
"Where genes have evolved over generations and eons, mental
replicators now evolve over days and decades. Like genes, ideas split,
combine and take multiple forms (genes can be transcribed from DNA to
RNA and back again; ideas can be translated from language to language).
Science cannot yet describe the neural patterns that embody ideas in
brains, but anyone can see that ideas mutate, replicate and compete.
"Richard Dawkins calls bits of replicating mental patterns 'memes'
(meme rhymes with cream). He says 'examples of memes are tunes, ideas,
catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building
arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping
from body to body (generation to generation) via sperms or eggs, so
memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to
brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.
[From my Everyday Genius class I learned there are over a trillion
neurons in the human brain, each with up to 10,000 connections out to
other neurons. The number of associative patterns and networks of
patterns is astoundingly large. Perhaps with looping it may be
practically infinite. This provides ample room for memes to imprint and
pattern numerous times, in different and startling ways.]
"Some genes in cells are out-and-out parasites. Like herpes genes
inserted in the human chromosomes, they exploit cells and harm their
hosts. Yet if genes can be parasites, why not memes as well?
"In THE EXTENDED PHENOTYPE, Richard Dawkins describes a worm that
parasitizes bees and completes its life cycle in water. It gets from bee
to water by making the host bee dive to its death. Similarly, ant brain
worms must enter a sheep to complete their life cycle. To accomplish
this, they burrow into the host ant's brain, somehow causing changes
that make the ant "want" to climb to the top of a grass stem and wait,
eventually to be eaten by a sheep.
"As worms enter other organisms and use them to survive and
replicate, so do memes. Indeed, the _absence_ of memes exploiting
people for their own selfish ends would be amazing, a sign of some
powerful--indeed, nearly perfect--mental immune system. But parasitic
memes clearly do exist. Just as viruses stimulate cells to make
viruses, so rumors evolve to sound plausible and juicy, stimulating
repetition. Ask not whether a rumor is true, ask instead how it
spreads. Experience shows that ideas evolved to be successful
replicators need have little to do with the truth.
"At best, chain letters, spurious rumors, fashionable lunacies and
other mental parasites harm people by wasting their time. At worst,
they implant deadly misconceptions. These meme systems exploit human
ignorance and vulnerability. Spreading them is like having a cold and
sneezing on a friend. Though some memes act much like viruses,
infectiousness isn't necessarily bad (think of an infectious grin, or
infectious good nature). If a package of ideas has merit, then its
infectiousness simply increases its merit--and indeed, the best ethical
teachings also teach us to teach ethics. Good publications may
entertain, enrich understanding, aid judgment--and advertise gift
subscriptions. Spreading useful meme systems is like offering useful
seeds to a friend with a garden.
From page 67...
"Memes may be seen as agents of the mind that are formed by teaching
an imitation. To feel that two ideas conflict, you must have embodied
both of them as agents in your mind--though one may be old, strong, and
supported by allies, and the other a fresh idea-agent that may not
survive its first battle. Because of our superficial self-awareness, we
often wonder where an idea in our heads came from. Some people imagine
that these thoughts and feelings come directly from outside their own
minds; they incline toward a belief in haunted heads.
And back to page 37...
"Parasites have forced organisms to evolve immune systems, such as
the enzymes that bacteria use to cut up invading viruses, or the roving
white blood cells our bodies use to destroy bacteria. Parasitic memes
have forced minds down a similar path, evolving meme systems that serve
as mental immune systems.
"The oldest and simplest mental immune system simply commands
'believe the old, reject the new.' Something like this system generally
kept tribes from abandoning old, tested ways in favor of wild new
notions--such as the notion that obeying allegedly ghostly orders to
destroy all the tribe's cattle and grain would somehow bring forth a
miraculous abundance of food and armies of ancestors to drive out
foreigners. (This meme package infected the Xhosa people of southern
Africa in 1856; by the next year 68,000 had died, chiefly by
Ok, we can see that "information viruses" sometimes called memes can
do strange things to our mind, such as the Xhosa above. But religious
memes also include immune systems, which makes them extremely difficult
to "cure". After thinking about this I decided that information which
is organized to a higher level than basic low-level information is a
symbotic lifeform (needing human brains to live in)in the same way that
matter orgainzed to a higher level than basic matter is a symbotic
lifeform (needing the resources of the planet to subsist).
So perhaps we should attack the immune systems first, then let the
various other information viruses (like agnosticism and atheism) gain a
foothold. (As you can see this is a two way street. B^)
Everyone intelligent knows and understands that I am completely and utterly
unable to speak for Digital in matters of personal conviction.
"For man is the maker of all deities, inventer of all abstractions,
builder of all laws and from first to last, the measure of all things,
the very meaning of the earth." Harry A. Murry
"Man makes himself, and he only makes himself completely in
proportion as he desacrilizes himself and the world. The sacred is the
prime obstacle to his freedom. He will become himself only when he is
totally demysticized. He will not be trully free until he has killed
the last god." Mircea Eliade