Re: virus: The Battle of/for Ideas

Eric Boyd (
Wed, 12 May 1999 12:10:15 -0400


Tim Rhodes <> writes: <<
<If I'm wrong I should feel bad> could be the same meme that kept you from becoming a Christian a couple years ago, you know? It's an essential part of our internal feedback loop. I think you may be being hopelessly optimistic again. How people "should" feel is often a long way from how they "do".

Re rejecting Christianity: I doubt it. I emerged from almost total innocence into that situation -- if you had to give my position before that "battle" a name, it would be "experiential" atheism:

"There is a new definition of atheism not found among the current orthodox: it is the non-experience of deity. It is not anti-theist, it is supportive of the natural quest for meaning in myth, symbol and practice, and challenges any construct that places itself in the position of worship or unquestioning obedience, whether it be called deity or law. Atheism is substantiated by the experience of no-god, or the lack of experience, not by belief or rational counter-arguments to theism. This definition comes, in part, from Pascal who conceives of a person so made that s/he cannot believe - a person who by nature is experientially limited to atheism."

I am entirely unsure how I managed to remain innocent that long (up to the age of 15 or 16), but I'm sure the fundamental "blame" (and I'm not sure if the negative overtones are wanted or not) rests with my parents. So, in short, "I haven't rejected God -- I've never met Him" was my position then. The Bible I read then, however, went a considerable way towards a stronger atheism -- and really, the only thing that kept me in tension at all was the presence of a (beautiful) believer. I do not (now) regret my decision[1] to choose truth over love -- but it was a very difficult one at the time. It was a defining moment in my life.

As to feeling bad being an "essential part of our internal feedback loop", I couldn't disagree more. I think feeling bad is an unnecessary side effect of intellectual development -- a coercion induced irrationality which is entirely unnecessary to the process. Perhaps I'm being "hopelessly optimistic", but can you tell me *why* we need to feel this pain you seem so intent on advocating?

Finally -- "How people "should" feel is often a long way from how they "do"." Agreed. My theory is that this strange situation (which needs explaination) is caused by coercion damage -- and possibly memetic survival strategies as well. What's your theory?

If you watch two bucks fighting for a mate, you would be right to characterize the struggle as a "battle of genes". But it is not the genes that go away bloodied by the conflict, is it?

No. However, I fail to see the relevance of this to our argument. If you watch two humans arguing for truth, you might be right to characterize the struggle as a "battle of memes". In this case, however, it *is* the memes that go away bloodied -- at least for rational arguments. One meme "wins", and the other is rejected -- and both humans walk away having learned something (*especially* the human who held the losing meme)

Now, if you want to talk about irrational arguments where the humans somehow *identify* themselves with the memes, and *will* feel personally hurt by arguments made against those memes; but keep the memes in the end anyway (so that, like in your analogy, the memes/genes do not get bloodied), by all means. But I ask you: which of those two situations has the humans in control of the memes, and which has the memes in control of the humans?

(I understand this debate to be about the humanity of argumentation -- that is the direction I wish the final sentence above to be intrepreted in)

Tim: I agree that this is a situation where "rational people may disagree" (and that is a *sweet* line). However, I think that we can both learn considerably more by keeping this exchange going.


[1] Note: terming it a "decision" rather overstates the consciousness of the role I played. More correctly, I found myself unable to believe -- and thus forfeited the possibility of love (with her).