Re: virus: It just keeps going, and going, and...

Tue, 16 Mar 1999 16:51:03 -0800

David McFadzean wrote:
> At 11:14 PM 3/15/99 -0800, KMO wrote:

> My point was the Tim was attacking a straw man. No-one is claiming
> that rationality is all that should be.

It seems that pushing the "faith" button produces a strong enough memetic-imune reaction in some folks to push them, temporarily at least, into the Breathetarian camp. That's my perception, filtered as it is.

> Some of us are claiming
> that it is the best "way of knowing", the best way to make
> decisions, and the best way to analyze ideas for merit.
> No-one is claiming that other methods cannot arrive at the same
> answers. Sometimes they can through pure chance (divination
> using random variables) or because they evolved to simulate
> reasoning (intuition, emotions, faith).

It seems odd to me that you think that if some non-rational process produces a beneficial result that it does so by simulating reasoning. I just don't see that as being the case.

> I doubt the silverbacks would disagree with any of the above,
> so what are we arguing about again? Are both sides attacking
> straw men? I guess I'm still looking for a clear, unambiguous
> statement about the alleged virtues of faith. So far all
> I've got it that sometimes it saves you time and the effort
> of thinking.

Well, don't underestimate that benefit. The rate of technological, cultural, and even biological change will never again (this side of the singualarity) be as slow as it is right now. Our frames of reference will never again be as stable as they are now. We'll never have less data from which to choose or fewer variables to consider than we do right now. In short, things are going to get increasingly complicated and increasingly weird, and I think folks would be well served by selecting a some bedrock principles to which they can refer when the going gets particularly hectic and bizare. You (David) know mine. If rational analysis of the available data suggests that I act to limit rather than facilitate the advancement and expansion of consciousness, then the combo of analysis and available data loses. You might well argue that it is the data and not the style of reasoning that is deficient, but one doesn't work without the other, and if the system gives bad output, and there's no fixing the part that doesn't work, it's of little comfort that the part that does work works perfectly.

Anyway, I don't expect anyone to be swayed by my previous paragraph. You say that you're still looking for a clear, unambiguous formulation of the virtues of faith. I would suggest that you let that go for the moment and consider this:

The goal of the Church of the Virus is to develop a meme-complex that is both a successful replicator and is beneficial to the host. Most people do not react favorably to being told that something they value, something in which they have invested their time, effort, resources and sense of self, is inherently inferior to what you have to offer. The intensity of this debate over faith and reason and vociferousness of the engaged parties should serve as vivid example of this principle.

Most people espose SOME kind of religious faith or sentiment. If we make it a fundamental tenent of the church that this aspect of the psyche of most people is a defect which must be expunged, then we will have eliminated 3/4's or more of the population as potential converts.

It would benefit the CoV almost beyond measure if we could find a value for faith. Imagine having something that you value and which you consider to be integral to your identity, and then imagine receiving the following 2 sales pitches:

  1. You have something of extreme value that no-one can take away from you. We have something that you can combine with what you already have that will enrich your life in ways you never dreamed possible.


2) What you have there is utter shit. You need to get rid of it and use what we use.

Approach #2 works for some products, e.g. cars, clothes, and consumer electronics. I don't think it would be particularly effective in selling the Church of the Virus.

It seems to me that if the CoV insists on strict atheism and rejection of all models, strategies and modes of living for which the underlying principles do not enjoy a high level of scientific corraboration, then the CoV will be limitted to a very small niche. The dominant players in that niche are groups like CSICOP, and Micheal Shermer's Skeptic's Society. You may be fine with that. To quote Ice-T again:

A lot of fans ain't shit!
Lemme repeat,
A lot of fans ain't shit!
Quick to flip if a hook don't hit
It don't make you nothin but a pop ho bitch! And I need ya
I love to bleed ya
All I ever wanted was a real nigga's praise But the sad muthafuckin' fact is
There ain't that many REAL muthafuckers these days.

If you're content with crafting a meme-complex that will bring together a small but tight crew of REAL muthafuckers, then catagorical dismissals of faith, in all its rich variety, can be the social-glue that binds your posse. If the goal is wider propagation, then it would behoove the CoV silverbacks to put their considerable intelligence and creativity into finding a role for faith that, at worst, does no harm. It would be better if we could be open to the idea that faith can play a uniquely valuable role and set ourselves honestly to the task of exploring the possibilities.