Re: virus: Brain Tennis

Wed, 23 Oct 1996 08:24:55 -0500

(attn: I have taken the opportunity to respond, at length, to 
 Mr. Barbrooks' post, which is quoted by KMO.)

KMO writes: > [clip] Mr. Barbrook's efforts definitely fit my conception of > level two thinking.

So? Suppose everything he said was in fact true: that, in fact, memetics is identical to demon-possession. Can you then blame him for thinking memeticists are kooks? Not in the least. The problem with Barbrook is that he just doesn't know what he's talking about in the first place:

Barbrook (as quoted in KMO's post; reformatted): > [clip] > > For thousands of years, priests have been claiming that matter is > controlled by spirit. The Bible opens with the famous line: "In the > beginning was the Word." Plato's parable of the cave asserts that > the material world is just a shadow cast by the divine. But in the > modern world, most people would think that you were crazy if you > still believed that human destiny was controlled by spirits. Yet, > by using biobabble, Aaron [who Barbrook is debating] can sound > credible when he asserts that "ideas acquire people." As long as > you rename them as memes, it is possible to believe in possession > by demons and angels without sounding completely mad!

Barbrook has not understood the statement "ideas acquire people," (which may in fact be Aaron's fault for not communicating his own idea so well. Regardless.) All Aaron means is that it is the same thing to say: "people accept ideas" as "people host memes"; this does not mean that the memes 'possess' us in the slightest

> This is why it is very ironic that memetic theory seems to be so > popular in the United States as a method of attacking Christian > fundamentalism. For the proponents of meme theory are really not > that different from their creationist opponents.

They are not so different in Mr. Barbrook's mind, or, as Mr. Barbrook understands religions, (perhaps in agreement with how other understand it), and as Mr. Barbrook understands memetic theory, which I assert: he does not.

> When religion is denounced as a glorified computer virus,

It is not. *Any* idea (meme) is a 'glorified computer virus'. Religion is not denounced for that reason... it is denounced for all the standard reasons - all memetics does is explain why some- thing so silly as religion (according to all the standard atheist reasoning - nothing new) can stay in existence: because it is an entire meme-complex: with built-in survival requirements (e.g. "spread the word", "have faith despite appearances", etc....)

> the meme theorists are themselves putting forward a mystical > argument. Just like Christians, they're claiming that the Word > can control the real.

What is "mystical"? Either an argument works or it doesn't. Quantum mechanics works, even though it seems "mystical". Would Mr. Barbrook agree that 'people act according to various beliefs they accept'? If so, then the identical statement 'people act according the various memes which they host' should also be accepted.

> As an atheist, I have no wish to defend the idiocies of believers. > However, it is important to challenge the condescending and ignorant > assertion that Christianity can be simply explained away as a self- > replicating idea. The power of religion has never been derived > from its bizarre beliefs. Above all, religion is a set of social > practices: a magical guide to regulate our profane affairs. > We may deplore the sexual repression and group exclusivity > encouraged by the faith, but we cannot deny that Christianity > has provided a real structure for how humans should live down > the centuries.

Once again: we reject Christianity for all the standard atheist (or in my case agnostic) reasons, and we only use memetics to explain how the "idiocies of unbelievers" can remain in vogue through the centuries: becuase they are part of religion, which is a self- replicating idea (meme).

> As Ludwig Feuerbach pointed out, religion is a mystical way > of expressing our real bonds with each other as members of a > community beyond the individual.

So? That neither helps nor hinders the memeticists' argument.

> It is no accident that meme theorists cannot construct a materialist > analysis of religion. Your belief, Aaron, in demonic possession by > memes is a way of denying the Promethean power of humanity.

Mr. Barbrooks commits a cardinal sin of purporting that he knows what Aaron believes. As stated above - Mr. Barbrooks doesn't seem to know what he's talking about.

> We may not be able to choose the historical circumstances in which > we find ourselves, but we are a self-creating species. No meme can > do it for us.

Nobody has suggested this (that I'm aware of) anyway. Who is he arguing with?

> We're the only ones responsible for our own destiny.

Right on - choose very carefully which memes you will host.

----------------------------------- -- JPSchneider --