Re: virus: The Battle of/for Ideas (was: Faith and Works)

Eric Boyd (
Tue, 11 May 1999 17:43:46 -0400


Tim Rhodes <> writes: <<
But if we both share that meme, if neither one of us pulls back for the sake of the other (because it's only a battle of ideas, after all), who benefits from that? Certainly not you or I. We get to get beat-up and beat-on with wild abandon for the sake of "the battle of ideas." We get the kind of society where compassion is weakness and compromise a moral sin. ("Failing your ideals.") We get a world where ideas are more important that the people who hold them, more important than the social structures that contain them. More important that you or I.

See, I saw it from exactly the reverse angle. By seperating ourselves from our memes, we destroy the environment in which most memes thrive -- we allow ourselves to lose memes much faster, if reason shows them to be wrong, and we avoid the negative emotions which those same meme's try to invoke in us for thinking about their negations, or their competition. The winners are thus us -- we gain *conscious* control over our memes, instead of letting their evolved memetic hooks (one of which is "dogmatic faith") control us, we control them. I personally am more than my ideas -- and much of that "more" simply cannot be carried over the internet via email. You can battle only with the ideas I express -- not with me personally. Sticks and Stones: they cannot be found in cyber-space. An idea which cannot stand up to rational criticism is not worth holding anyway.

The fact that two people can see this situation from exactly opposite view points is perhaps telling.

It isn't <a battle of ideas>, its a battle of individuals _with_ ideas. It _is_ personal and it always has been. No, it's not pretty. People will get hurt. Our words have repercussions, and sometimes they aren't nice. That's the way it is. Conflict causes pain. We need to be responsible for that pain--not our ideas, not out memes, but _us._ And glossing that over with platitudes so that we might become better and stronger warriors in the cause of our memes doesn't change that one way or the other. It just makes us into better tools.

I agree with the first sentence[1], but not with the conclusions you draw -- people get hurt only if they have some kind of irrational theory that says "If I'm wrong I should feel bad", rather than the much more extropian "I'm glad I found this mistake I have carried around with me all these years -- what a great oppourtunity!"[2] Verbal conflict does not cause pain. (even ad hominums cannot cause pain -- if they arn't true, there is no reason to feel upset, and if they are true, then the source of the pain is ones person, and should exist irregardless of others pointing it out.)

As to being tools -- you're the one who links the the death of an idea with the pain of the person. Which one of us do you think makes a better tool for a vicious meme?


[1] Interestingly, the intentional stance for a memetic perspective is exactly opposite -- if you truly feel this way, perhaps memetics should be cast out as an "evil" science?

[2] It is my contention that the former of these theories is in fact a coercion induced irrationality steming from coercive punishments in our childhoods -- that, in essence, our parents instill this "hurt" in us by "disiplining" us every time we make a mistake, rather than helping us to learn from it. I suffer from it to a small degree -- but the conscious recgonition of the irrationality of it has reduced the effect by orders of magnitude.