virus: Re: virus-digest V1 #48

Reed Konsler (
Tue, 15 Oct 1996 21:04:18 -0400

>From: "Hakeeb A. Nandalal" <>
>Date: Sun, 13 Oct 1996 13:27:37 +0000

>Kenneth Boyd wrote :-
>>Regardless of the total space, if a meme takes too much
>>power to understand, it may not stay in long enough to compete.
>I'm tempted to agree that a "large" mind is required to hold a large
>"meme" like atheism, but what about brilliant theists like Einstein and
>DeCartes? I read in NewsWeek that one of the top Genetic Engineers
>working on the Human Genome project teaches Bible classes in his spare
>time. Can we differentiate between one "type" of brilliance versus
>another? These men are physics smart but "God meme" stupid?

I'd be really careful about describing memes as "large" or "small" in
relation to one another. How memes are encoded, retrieved, transmitted,
and function within the brain is still unknown. Even the idea that
discrete "ideas" get encoded somewhere may be misguided. At this time
memetics is a theory which has yet to be corroborated by the
neurobiological tests which might disprove it. No matter the results of
future tests we can be assured that memes will be even more difficult to
define and categorize than genes, which are not as simple and independent
and we might belive based on intro genetics courses.

But, let's say that memes turn out to be very like computer programs of
significant complexity. The "size" of a program is hard to determine by
looking at it's output into the environment. Anyone ever using anything by
Microsoft has probably wondered if there isn't a more space/time efficient
way of executing those programs. My mother took computer programming back
in the punch-card days. She told me about an assignment that her class was
given: "Write a program that finds prime numbers". Everyone in the class
submitted their cards, one at a time, to the engine in the basement of the
local bank. She was pretty proud of hers, since it worked faster that many
of her classmate's due to "short-cuts" she had placed within it. However,
like most of the programs, as the numbers to be sieved became larger the
program ground to a halt.

Then this guy loaded in his cards. The machine hummed for about 15 minutes
and then in one rapid burst spit out the first 1000 or so primes, 10 times
as many as the next best program in that time (my mom's).

She still has no idea how he did that.

Anyway, the point I'm making is that if you difine programs by their
function (like: Athiesm) it kind of like saying "word-processor"; with all
the attendant ambiguity.

>I believe the answer lies in a mental "uncertainty" chip in our heads
>and there is a random element if we're "pro God meme" or "anti God
>meme". The probability however is not equal, there are more people with
>"pro God meme" mental chips than those with "anti God meme" mental
>chips. This we can tell from observation of our societies where theists
>out-number atheists by something like (say) 10 to 1. Has anyone ever
>done a study of the actual ratio for say a single State or the whole

Isn't this like asking how many Republicans there are? I think the meme
that causes one to claim memebership in a group may be somewhat independent
of the memes normally ascribed to members of that group...if the tapestry
of hedging Catholics I've known throughout my life is any indication.

>There is no way to tell how someone would "believe" based on their
>academic record or their memetic environment - it all boils down to a
>random element.

I don't think it's random. Somewhat unpredicatable...but that's more due
to a lack rather that a failure of suficiently detailed models.

>From: (KMO prime)
>Date: Sun, 13 Oct 1996 17:56:41 EDT

>The scholars and theologians in most any long-standing religious
>tradition tend to have very different religious beliefs than the laity in
>that same tradition. The "God meme" is often maintained in the minds of
>the laity in conjunction with a memetic allergy to analytic thought.
>This is definitely not true of most religious scholars. To maintain a
>place in the cognitive architecture of minds like those of Augustine,
>Thomas Aquinas, the current Pope, or any number of sharp-thinking
>believers (and we all know at least one person who maintains both complex
>rational thought processes as well as theistic belief) the "God meme"
>must decouple itself from a memetic allergy to rationality.

Perhaps there are a multitude of programs (or program-sets) which cause
their host to express "God-meme" behavior. Like programs to find prime
numbers, there are lots of ways to arrive at similar functional

>For me, the problem area on which this line of thought treads is one of
>memetic incompatibility. What makes two memes antithetical to one
>another? We all know people who simultaneously hold ideas which are not
>compatible with one another from a logical standpoint. Human brains seem
>quite adroit at sustaining contradictory beliefs. Meme-complexes which
>employ a meme-allergy to reason seem to encourage the host to sustain
>contradictory beliefs. What is it that makes two meme-complexes
>incompatible? Obviously, religious meme complexes and analytic ones like
>the scientific method, both of which color one's perceptions to a
>significant degree, can not only co-exist in the same individual, but
>deeply integrate themselves into the memetic fabric of that individual's
>On what basis do memes compete with one another? Human brains seem to
>have finite storage capacity, so there would seem to be competition
>between memes for this limited resource, but that would seem to pit all
>memes against each other equally in a memetic free-for-all. That
>doesn't seem to be the case. Some memes facilitate the propagation of
>some memes and hinder the propagation of others, i.e. there seems to be
>some memetic mechanisms which give rise to compatibility/incompatibility
>relationships between memes, but I have no idea what those mechanisms
>What do you think?

Dawkins used the "row-boat" analogy with respect to genetics. For
instance: if the energy currency of the organism is ATP and a gene encodes
for an enzyme which utilizes UTP as an allele that gene (to the extent that
there is genetic pressure for high-throughput) will be selected against.
Another example is an enzyme which carries out one transformation in a
sequence of synthetic events A-->B-->C-->D-->E. No matter how good the
C-->D enzyme is, it's useless without it's cohort. Althernatively, if a
mutant enzyme is incredibly efficient at the transformation X-->E it's
unlikely this mutant will prosper unless there just happens to be
disposable X in the cell cycle. Genes bunch into cohorts and envolve
together in the same way predators and prey evolve together.

Maybe memes do the same thing. I'd like to differentiate a functional meme
cohort (meme-complex) from a self-consistent buch of ideas. Functional
systems need not be self-consistent or rational (and if, as we suspect,
conciousness is hacked together from a bunch of neurobiological spare parts
it's very likely not rational of self-consistent).

A certian amount of meme-conflict might, in other words, be structural and
not based on content...a concept which leads me to think McLuanesque

>From: David Leeper <>
>Date: Sat, 12 Oct 1996 21:37:18 -0500

>4) There would seem to be part of us that "sits apart" from all this, and
>makes decisions at a
>higher level. It decides how much of our resources go into the "sexual
>eco-system", the
>"logical eco-system", and so on. Perhaps a good term for this part of us
>would be a
>"meta-meme", its is a meme that influences which _types_ of memes are
>favored and which _types_
>are disfavored.

Ack! It's the Cartesian Theater! Begone, vile thing! ;) Seriously
though, I'm a strong supporter of Dennett's hypothesis (elaborated in
delightful detail in "Conciousness Explained") that the "Central Meaner" we
refer to as "I" within ourselves is the brains user-illusion of itself and
in fact there is not one central physical or metaphysical part of us that
observes, selects, and/or controls behavior.

Another way of saying this is that when you say: "There would seem to be
part of us that "sits apart" from all this..." that the most important
part of this sentence is the "SEEMS" part; what is apparent is not in fact.
Dennett gives several experimental examples of how this principle
functions at the perceptual level...and since conciousness in circumscribed
by perception (and the reverse) I find myself dramatically persuaded that
there is, in fact, no single "I" or center of
perception/conciousness...despite the fact that it certianly seems to be
the case.

I hope that doesn't sound too mystical. Maybe I'm misinterpreting what you
meant. If not, I can try to elaborate it further (though Dennett does a
much better job than I could hope to here).


Reed Konsler