Re: virus: Absolute Truth

Ken Pantheists (
Thu, 23 May 1996 12:36:54 +0000

J. McVean wrote:
> Richard Brody wrote:

> > As I have stated, the scientific method is a way to steer the evolution
> > of memes toward practical, useful, and accurate ones. Now you may say
> > that there are memes that are practical and useful, but not accurate.
> > The scientific method doesn't help us with those, does it? Could it? I
> > think so, if we made it a scientific goal to program ourselves with the
> > most useful memes.
> I don't think this is a reasonable goal... just as painting
> everything the prettiest shade of blue isn't a reasonable
> scientific goal.


> 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.

You are deluding yourself if you think that Hitler lost just because he
wasn't right. I am not saying that he "was" right either- so don't go
thinking I'm a Nazi. Your point of view paints all of us a pretty shade
of blue.

Hitler lost because those who opposed him had enough resources and
technology to do so.

He spread the same memes that resulting in North America becoming
colonized by the Europeans. The first nations of North America did not
have the means to offer effective opposition. The Indian Wars were the
result of the genocide meme and the war of acquisition meme. Let's not
kid ourselves here. And if Hitler was so wrong, why did it take so long
for the rest of the world to decide this? Why were boatloads of fleeing
Jews TURNED BACK off the coast of Newfoundland??

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,

But you don't know they are detrimental until you have tried them out
and lost a war or fallen flat on your face. You cannot be as
future-seeing as you propose. Truthfulness of action occurs in hind

Richard is proposing that science should include, as one of it's goals,
the betterment of life by allowing for what is useful. Even if it means
(in the most extreme example I can think of) saying- Okay, okay- the
world sits on the back of a turtle. For now, why not? If it's useful to
you to think so and it doesn't harm you or anyone. When you decide that
you want to become an astronaut however, you will find that the meme is
no longer useful.

Okay! I can here "cultural relativism" being murmured all around me. And
I can smell the tar and feathers heating up.

But let me present this.

The Roman empire, and the Catholic Church were all incredibly successful
at spreading their memes because they did not totally supplant what was
useful to indigenous populations with what they believed to be right.

The romans and the catholics incorporated the belief structures of

"You worship a corn goddess? Uh- okay- well the Virgin Mary is a corn
goddess too."

Granted, the church has, in the last two centuries, been less flexible.

BUT you cannot kill the need for human beings to express what they don't
know by using aesthetic forms. Even if you go around calling it blue


Because ultimately those aesthetic forms become truth, become science,
depending on how useful they are. And we discover how useful they are by
trying them out.


Because that's how we get on with our lives and our family's lives and
the life of our community- city- country-. Not because we are ignorant,
but because we are alive and we know- from our first seconds outside the
womb, that we don't have to understand something to experience it.

We just get on with experiencing it and figure it out later.

My interpretation of what Richard is saying is similar to what I tell
students in an acting class. "Slow down. Be in the moment. Don't play
the end of the scene until you get there. Allow what your scene partner
gives you to change you. Rationalize it later"

That is what living consciously means to me.

As a side track- this reminds me of a folklore text I picked up in a
theatre bookstore in San Francisco. I was talking to the store owner and
he said that it was a good book because it didn't dwell on the
archetypes in the stories, but discussed how the stories were
individually constructed. Because ultimately the stories are about
people- when was the last time anyone walked up and introduced
themselves as an archetype?

This fits in with the above- *somehow*. I'll figure out how soon. :)

Ken Pantheists            
Virus Theatre