RE: virus: Power

Reed Garrett Konsler (
Sat, 3 Aug 1996 18:57:35 -0400

>Yes, now the companies tell you that what you're eating is bad for you.
>And people still buy it. People already knew that the bag of chips or
>steak dinner was clogging their arteries, and they didn't care. If the
>point of the nutrition facts was to get Americans to eat better, then it
>failed. Similarly, if the govt. tried to legislate people into being
>vegetarians, meat would be right up their with cuban cigars, which goes
>with my next point...

I think we should be careful about what we call facts. The trends you
describe indicate that the vast majority of people don't base their life
decisions strictly on the basis of evidence validated through ostensibly
scientific processes. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for science, standards
of evidence, and such things. We must all admit, however, that "Science!"
has been abused since it's inception as a mechanism of understanding. Just
becuase "scientists say" something doesn't make it so anymore. After all,
three out of 4 doctors whould recommend shoving an asprin up your nose
twice a week if you gave them an AMA journal study saying it prevented
nasal cancer in lab rats and a thousand free samples. The universe is
exapanding, no it's contracting, wait...

I'm a scientist. I like science, I belive in it. But we must recognize
that the principles of science and medicine have been compromised somewhat
by politics and economics. Is it any wonder that people are becoming wary
and incredulous? I'm becoming wary and incredulous.

When I was a kid I was told that scientists said that Cannibis was bad.
And so was LSD, and so is heroin, and cocaine. Ethanol and cocaine were
OK, moderation. But "scientists" weren't saying that. There
were (and are) still active debates on the effects and dangers of drugs in
the scientific community. Cannibis smoking isn't that bad for you, and LSD
is one of the least toxic chemicals you can put in yourself. Obviously,
anything psycoactive has it's dangers. Actually, the most dangerous thing
about LSD and Pot these days is that it isn't regulated in any way (being
illegal, you know) and so the consumer has no way of determining if it's
contaminated and no legal redress if it is.

Oh, by the way, Cocaine and Heroin are on the bad side. No preaching, but
they're very addictive and hard on your system...anyway.

So what do you know? Is Pot OK or really bad for you? Is drinking milk
good or bad (some "scientific" studies indicate it's bad, and there are
better ways for women to get calcium)? Is steak good or bad (I'd like to
point out that a lot of "advances", in "Western culture" at least, were
based on fundamental improvements in one time a little meat was
the best medicine for poor health)? Who shot Kennedy? Is welfare a needed
saftey net or a self-perpetuating system of destruction? Is there a
genetic difference in racial intelligence (repeat after me: "No, Reed,
there is not.")?

It's a question of ontology. What do you know, who do you trust/believe?

So, let's not sit around here like wannabe philosopher-kings lamenting how
unsopisticated and useless the "unwashed masses" are becuase they don't
recognize how simple things would be if everybody just acted and thought
like we did. If what we believed was really so obviously right people
wouldn't need to be convinced of it's would be obvious. Give
the "common person" a little more credit: they might be afraid, a little
unsophisticated, and prone to violence...but they are not stupid, hopeless,
or useless. I agree with Stephen: lets teach people how to listen
(critically, of course).

>My point is that if good people do nothing with their knowledge of
>memetics, the militant ignorance of cultural viruses and the evil of
>designer viruses will take over. There is no turning back.

Look, memetics is a cool idea. It's a useful model. It will make
consultants, speech makers, and book writers (like yourself) beau coup
bucks...especially if you can whip up a frenzy about it. It is not the
silver bullet. It makes some things easier to discuss and understand but
it does not open areas of understanding completely heretofor undiscovered.
I've become immune to the "danger, Will Robinson: we must save the little
people from the bad [insert bad thing here]" meme. It's cliched.

One reason I'm against using the "danger/crisis" reflex to get people to
learn about memes is that it is a short-term motivator and in our rapidly
changing society one rapidly gains a tolerance to such indicators. By
trying to scare people into assimilating the meme: memetics you'll end up
wasting the idea's rhetorical value without communicating enough knowledge
to innoculate people against "the militant ignorance of cultural viruses
and the evil of designer viruses".

*****Ken Sartor
>I think when ones position is weak then one is forced to make
>decrees: no cigarette ads on tv, wear seat belts or we will fine
>you, if we find drugs in your house the house will be confiscated,
>etc. When ones position is strong, one can simply have ads or
>counter ads that argue your position (as i think the surgeon
>general has done with cigarettes). I.e., i think natural selection
>of memes can solve these types of problems - and probably more
>efficiently than strong arm techniques.

I disagree with this. The problem is again with ontology. Our environment
is littered with information, misinformation, prejudice, foolishness, etc.
What you and I know to be "right" is not shared universially. Making
decrees is a short-cut towards consensus. If people don't agree, at least
you can make them act as if they do. This isn't a requisitely evil thing.
Here's a related comment from "The Human Zoo" (a little pitch to get you
consider reading the book):

"...'law forbids men to do only what the artificial conditions of
civilization drive them to do'. In this way we can see law as a balancing
device, tending to counteract the distortions of super-tribal [urban]
existence and helping to maintain, in unnatural conditions, the forms of
social conduct natural to the human species...Tyrants and despots can, of
course, impose harsh and unreasonable laws restraining the population to a
greater extent than is justified...A weak leadership may impose a system of
law that lacks the strength to hold together a teeming populace. Either
way lies cultural disaster or decline." [p26]


Reed Garrett Konsler