RE: virus: Absolute Truth

Marek Jedlinski (
Thu, 23 May 1996 21:17:20 +0200 (MESZ)

On Thu, 23 May 1996, J. McVean wrote:

> I don't think this is a reasonable goal... just as painting
> everything the prettiest shade of blue isn't a reasonable
> scientific goal.

Neither reasonable nor scientific, but it might still be
a worthwhile goal for some people. The whole ideology of
communism in its late days was nothing more than that:
trying to cover rotting things under pretty paint.

[Hitler's memes; truth value of memes]
> My take on what Tad's saying is not that Hitler lost due to a
> random event. He lost, despite the fact that his memes were
> incredibly virulent, because what he was saying simply wasn't
> true. If a meme spreads very readily but is in the long run,
> detrimental to its host, it will be discarded. I think Tad is
> saying that untruthful memes are ultimately detrimental, even if
> they are initially very catchy.
> And if he's not saying that, then I'll say it :-)

Yours is an appealing meme here, but I beg to disagree. What are
the oldest, most long-lived memes around? Belief in God is one.
Should we infer from the very virulence and survival potential of
the religion-meme that God indeed exists? Intuitively I _liked_ your
idea at first, then it occured to me that it seems to offer the
promise of helping us verify the truth of a belief/idea/meme:
wait long enough, if it has survived so far it's probably 'true
to the nature of the universe'. Do I read your intentions correctly?
That would give us a slow but reliable truth-test; yet my example of
religion-meme seems to contradict that: the fact that a meme has
survived since practically forever does not seem to be proof enough.

Memes evolve to coexist with and/or outperform other memes. Is there
more 'truth' to miniskirts than to long ones? Less? Some supporters of
a soccer team X host the meme that the team X is the best all 'round;
while the supporters of team Y believe the opposite; each group will
at times be ready to beat the other to a pulp; whose meme is 'truer'?

Proposition: "TRUTH" is a symbiotic meme: it has the quality of
attaching itself to other memes. The "truth" meme is in fact a meta-meme
(highly abstract) and as such needs a "low-level" host meme to materialize.
(I.e. it is used to qualify another statement or belief: 'X is true'.)
In return, it strengthens the host, enhancing its survival potential.
The net result of the symbiosis is that both memes survive longer and
infect a larger number of human carriers.

Corollary: "LIE" or "UN-TRUTH" would thus be memetic parasites:
they too attach to the host and live off it, but in the end they
bring about the host-meme's demise.

(Alternative corollary: the 'truth' and the 'lie' memes are used by
other meme complexes as - well, equivalents of biological warfare.
Two conflicting memes ("God exists", "God does not exist") will
seek to inoculate themselves with the truth meme and attack
the rival with the lie meme.)

Well well, I had no idea I was going to say something like this ;-)

> (please correct me if I'm wrong)

Me too!