Re: virus: Fundamentals

David McFadzean (
Tue, 26 Mar 1996 22:12:01 -0700

Dan Henry wrote:

> You state your purpose is to be an alternative to all the irrational
> religions out there, but I've always thought of science as that alternative.

Science is many things: a rigorous method of inquiry, the body of knowledge
derived by that method, the human enterprise pursuing knowledge by that
method. But it is not a substitute for religion. Science may tell us what is
true but it has nothing to say about what is good, what goals to pursue,
and the fundamental meanings of life and death. Its realm is strictly epistem-
ological and, as such, cannot stray into metaphysics (which deals with
non-falsifiable propositions), ethics or aesthetics. I'm not saying that
science doesn't depend on those areas (it does), but they are still outside
of science proper.

> You seem to embrace the scientific method, but I'm not sure what your
> religion adds. Is there anything you worship? Perhaps it's an unwarranted
> assumption that all religions worship something. Actually, the only
> characteristic I can think of that applies to every religion is that of
> faith in something (that is, belief without the existence of, or need for,
> proof). But I'm also fairly ignorant of most theologies.

The word 'religion' has been notoriously difficult to define. In that sense
it is not unlike the word 'game' (I believe this line of thought is due to
Wittengenstein). There is no single essential quality possessed by all
games; for each candidate attribute (teams, fun, equipment, rules), it is
possible to find an exception.

Most religions are spiritual in nature, worship a deity or some kind of
transcendent/mystical entity, and (as you pointed out) rely on faith.
True, but I claim that none of these properties are essential to a religion
and I'm not the first. This is one thing (perhaps the only thing) that I
would agree with L. Ron Hubbard on, Scientology is great in concept (a
science-based religion), but really (Really) poor in execution. So much so
that I'm reluctant to even mention Scientology in the same sentence as Virus.

> Needless to say, your definition of "religion" left me unsatisfied. It's
> not quite circular, but I prefer definitions that capture the most
> fundamental characteristics of the term being defined. On the other hand, I

Despite my disclaimer above I'm going to take another shot at defining the
essential quality of a religion. A religion is a system of beliefs and practices
that gives (or intends to give) meaning to the lives of its followers. It is
a system because the beliefs are interelated and mutually supportive, in other
words a meme-complex. How's that?

> feel your definition of "god" goes way too far. There is no reason to
> ascribe characteristics such as omnipotence, omniscience, or perfect
> mortality. You might as well throw in "and has a long, flowing, white
> beard." Those characteristics are unnecessary in describing a concept, our

The characteristics I included have well known philosophical meanings
with reasonable concensus. I'm not sure what the beard is supposed to add.

> only evidence for which is the existence of the universe. Perhaps you're
> merely providing as rational as possible a description of what some other
> religions (i.e., western monotheisms) refer to as "God." If that's the
> case, is there a place for god in your church?

Not a god by that definition. It has been shown with reasonable rigor that
an entity possessing those attributes is logically impossible.

> resonate within a certain group of people. The C of V can use the "meme"
> concept well or poorly, consciously or unconsciously, but it will use the
> "meme" concept. Though it may be a tool that the C of V uses particularly
> well (the way the LDS uses missionaries well), it can't be used to define
> the essence of your religion.

The point I was trying to make is that there is much to be gained from
consciously engineering the memes rather than letting them evolve
haphazardly. Everyone "has" a philosophy, even if it only manifests itself
in unconscious dispositional behavior. I claim that it is better to analyze
your beliefs, strive for truth and consistency, and choose your philosophy.

Which reminds me of another definition of religion I used on a friend who
claimed that Virus is a philosophy as opposed to a religion. The difference
(I said, making it up as I went) is that Virus is an *applied* philosophy.
It isn't intended to be an academic exercise, it is a way of living. Virus
is being designed to change the world (hopefully for the better).

> Maybe what I'm looking for is some sort of integrating, unifying,
> beautifying framework. What's the F=ma of the Church of Virus?

As much as I would like the Virus memes to come together in an elegant
framework, I suspect they won't boil down to a single simple formula.

> I hope someone can educate me on the tenets of the C of V (wrt the above
> questions). I also hope I don't sound too contentious, but given the nature
> of the C of V, I'm sure I would not be your church's first Doubting Thomas.

Quite so. Constructive criticisms such as yours comprise the basis
for directed memetic evolution. Thanks for your comments.