Re: virus: MEME UPDATE: To Censor Or Not?

Dave Pape (
Wed, 11 Dec 1996 23:59:12 GMT

At 19:57 10/12/96 -0800, Matt Wagoner wrote:
>At 00:59 12/11/96 GMT, Dave Pape wrote:
>>I don't believe in free will. What I feel as "new ideas" and "decisions" are
>>memes/ideas associating and competing in my brain. All my thoughts, even
>>those I used to think were "original", can be explained by memetic/cognitive
>>interactions like:-
>Et cetera.

Whoops. Opinionated new list-member causes offence. Sorry. I was keen to dip
in; maybe I should have hung back and observed a little more. But these are
my feelings about memetics, so I'm bound (by my very subatomic structure, in
my opinion) to try and justify them.

>As I'm sure you're aware, this view easily allows you to free yourself of
>any responsibility for anything you do. The technical term for this is

Well yeh, but there's a massive history of groups using reductionist
arguments to justify antisocial behaviour, and of scientists struggling to
distance themselves from those groups. I've heard right-wing voters take the
"survival of the fittest" slogan to mean that they can dump on any social
group they choose. And I disagree with them to the hilt.

I'm personally not making that cop-out. I stress my head out running around
trying to keep the various social groups in my life happy. Don't know if I
succeed, but my reputation generally seems to be slightly crap but fairly
/nice/. But I don't believe that I have freewill (note: didn't say "don't
have a soul").

My loss of faith in freewill IN NO WAY impacted on the consideration I gave
to the needs of the people around me. I didn't suddenly start abusing people
more just because I thought I'd ducked responsibility for my actions.

PLUS if I told someone they had no freewill, and they said "oh, then that
means I'm not responsible for all the crimes I fancy doing," I'd advise them
that all existing social sanctions would still apply to their actions.
Because I view social codes of conduct as memes, which evolve under
selection pressures. I can see massive evolutionary advantaged for a social
group in having habits which specify polite and honourable behaviour towards
group members... and less polite/honourable behaviour towards non-members.
Because it'll allow cooperation within the group, and effective competition
with other groups which are after the same resources. I don't see why having
a code of social conduct, of responsibility, means that members of a group
have to have freewill.

So, believing (or not) that I have freewill didn't affect my behaviour
(honest), and I think you can explain organisms feeling socially responsible
without imputing freewill on their behalf.

The cop-out you mention isn't in my opinion; it's in how people who accept
my memes are affected by them. If some people are affected by these memes
and react by abusing others, does that necessarily detract from the validity
of the original memes? They're copping out from social responsibility, but
they're not demonstrating that the memes were invalid.

> I agree that memes do influence us, the way we act and think,
>but to say that we have no free will whatsoever implies that we have no

Does it? I don't think we have anything that implies consciousness or life
which outlasts our biological life... I think there might be a MORTAL soul
though, except (you've guessed it), its development isn't dictated by my

Anyway: how much freewill do we have? Can you QUANTIFY the ratio of meme
control to freewill? Can you give me axamples of things you did this week
that were meme-driven, and things which you chose to do using freewill
AGAINST memes?

>I'm sure you can see the problems inherent in adopting that
>particular philosophy.

Well, it means I worry about death a couple of times a day. Otherwise... I
need a little clarification on this point. Some people might get nasty if
they think they have no free will. Well, they'll still be subject to the
criminal justice system.

>I know I don't like being told I have no soul.

Neither do I. As a biological entity, I gain little or no comfort from these
memes. But I can't shake them. They just thrill me because they seem to
explain so much. I did try to scatter a few "I think"'s and "I believe"'s in
my posting; it was a statement of what I think rather than what you SHOULD
think. But then, if you accept that transmitted thoughts are memes, so are
ALL arguments.

To sum up, I'd like to go down on record as saying that in no way do I think
that not having freewill justifies antisocial behaviour. Indeed, I believe
that all pro-social behaviour ever made has arisen from beings with no freewill.

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose (The more things change, the more
it's a meme thing)

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