Re: virus: The Battle of/for Ideas

Tim Rhodes (
Wed, 12 May 1999 23:07:00 -0700

Eric wrote:

>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.

I remember the references you made to this at the time (or soon after). The story really has the making of a Viral tragedy for the age (if you're distanced enough yet to see it as that, I guess); bittersweet and painful, yet honest and instructive, with no easy answers.

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

That your (and my) preconceptions of how things "should" be are in error in most of these cases and that we have failed to understand the nature of the situation and/or the nature of the individuals at hand.

If you ran a series of experiments and the data didn't come back like you predicted, would do you create a new theory to try to justify how your predictions were right despite the fact that they don't match the data? Or would consider your original hypothesis suspect and look for a new one?

If your ideas of how people "should" act don't mesh with how they really "do" act, which one needs some rethinking; your theories of what "should be" or what actually _is_?

>>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)

And if the self is a symbiotic construct of our consciousness and our memes? What then is the result?

>Now, if you want to talk about irrational arguments where the humans
>somehow *identify* themselves with the memes,

see above.

>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 think on a very basic level they are interwoven in most cases--the self and their memes--but again, I understand your point.

The former is a better working perspective for one to hold about oneself and ones relationship to their own ideas. But the latter is a better working perspective to hold about others and how they may relate to the ideas that they hold.

(Does that make any sense?)

-Prof. Tim