Re: virus: Observations on Virus

Tracy Harms (
Wed, 25 Oct 1995 21:51:39 -0700

Many good responses have already been offered to Tyson Vaughan, but I'll
put in my two cents worth anyway, though I mostly just agree with what
others have already said.

Tyson Vaughan challenged:
>Virus is too dogmatic. . . .
>Yet the memes in this meme-complex have been written down. That is dogma.

No, that is DOCTRINE. Perhaps Virus is too doctrinaire, but that is an
entirely different matter.

David McFadzean replied:

>Dogma has the connotations of something held to be true no matter
>what the evidence to the contrary. I don't think it applies to
>science or Virus.

Exactly. This is the key attribute which Virus eschews. "Dogmatism"
tends to be assumed anytime anybody is strongly opinionated, but the label
is generally limited to the intellectual intransigence David indicated.

>Dogma isn't any more inherent in religion than the worship of supernatural
>entities, i.e. only if that's how you define religion.

I am in full agreement, and claim further that this indicates why Virus is
such a commendable excercise in religion.

The correlation between science and Virus is not accidental. Popper (yes,
here I go on Popper again) was important for producing a philosophy of
science which exposes the counter-dogmatic processes of scientific
advancement. Bartley, whose emphasis was philosophy of religion, took
Popper's work to completion by showing that dogmatism (and fideism) are not
necessary components of rationality. I do not think that this need be
interpreted as the end of religion; I prefer to see this as the touch-stone
for the viability of non-fideist religion. That is, religion without
faith. (Which, IMO, is an issue which subsumes and overshadows that of

T.V. again:
>The two [Extropian tenets] which which really disturb me are: 1) the
>unquestioning faith in technology; 2) the belief that evolution is a
>progressive process.

I second the motion of Damien's that as to (1), it is not unquestioning;
there is some awareness of the risks of the Extropian enthusiasm. But yes,
Extropians are famous for overreaching in their technological optimism. If
the philosophy they ultimately turn to didn't undermine that so severely,
I'd be worried about it, but the stage seems set for serious reappraisal of
the limits of technologically imposed success.

And Damien is also correct that most Extropians, or at least those who have
done their homework, "would know that biological evolution is not
progressive in the way people used to think it is." It is progressive in
the sense of being DIRECTIONAL, not in the sense of guaranteeing
increasing happiness, well-being, wisdom, love, or any other noteworthy
human value.

But as to Tyson V's suggestion that Virus will remain of small subscription
and minor social significance, I'm not very opinionated one way or the other.
I tend to agree, but warning bells go off: said agreement comesfrom
predicting that the world will stay pretty much as it is, and THAT I am
convinced will NOT be true for the socio-religious side of things.

>If people in the Virus
>community don't continually question and challenge its positions and remind
>the community as a whole of the overarching vision of adaptable
>meme-complexes, there is a very real danger that postulations can become
>dogma. That seems to be, historically, one of the ways in which dogma has
>developed in various belief systems.

Very important, this. Promoting the world-view which is open to perpetual
revision is a major task. But I, for one, think that this is a new and
rare perspective. The major outlook, the dominant attitude of European
culture, has been very different. I don't think dogmatism has occurred
much by lapses from attempts to avoid it; dogmatism has been the prevailing

I imagine one external ministry of Virus being to promote evolutionary,
fallibilist attitudes and appreciations; more exactly, to widen what
Bartley called the econiche for rationality. The internal ministry which
is inseparable from that is supporting and encouraging those who may turn
directly to the Church of Virus for support in that regard. That should
ideally involve the wide concerns of civilized people, not just
intellectual scholarship.



"Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises."
Samuel Butler