RE: virus: C of V: Another Religion

Vicki Rosenzweig (
Fri, 31 Jan 97 12:00:00 PST

Naive faith is really charming. How long, my Randite friend who
does not sign your posts (I have a really stupid newsreader, I'm
afraid, and all it gives me is "from owner-virus"), have you been
online? After you've seen the "good times" "virus warning" and
the "$250 cookie recipe" message a few times, or spent a week
reading, it's hard to believe that valid ideas will
necessarily triumph online any more than they do in other arenas.

Besides, I haven't granted that external reality exists: I just find it
amusing to act as though I believe in it, rather than dismissing it
all as an elaborate series of hallucinations. Also, you're cleverly
evading my main point, which is that even if one accepts that there
is, or may be, an external reality, it doesn't follow that we have, or
can have, any reliable information about this. One of the things the
human senses and brain are observed to do is filter out certain
data (you can dismiss this, if you like, but the only alternative is
solipsism, which you seem to be rejecting a priori). Given that,
how can we ever know what's really going on?

"There is only one context -- the context of existence and human
knowledge." That's a quote, pulled out so I can look at it a while.
It's pretty. Let's see what it means. (I'm going to try to stick to
standard English, with as little jargon as possible, here.) Either
human knowledge and existence are the same context, or they
aren't. If they aren't, then there are two contexts. Thus, you are
asserting that human knowledge is the only context of philosophy.
Speaking as a science fiction fan who hopes to live long enough
to meet extraterrestrial intelligence, I find this both limiting and
improbable. Even ignoring nonhuman intelligence, this suggests
that what we don't know isn't knowledge. That's very self-limiting.

Also, you're letting yourself be trapped by your beliefs. Some
entity could be systematically providing you false data about the
universe. (Or could be doing the same to me, of course.) If that
entity were consistent, you would be completely convinced
that the only context was the false data you were being handed.
Fine, they're your axioms and you can restrict yourself to what fits
in them, but I don't propose to do the same.

In the Darwinian terms you cite (a good move here, certainly),
the ideas that will spread aren't necessarily those that are true.
Ideas spread for a variety of reasons: because they're useful
(the invention of the container, for example), because they
comfort people, because it's not safe to do anything other than
repeat them (the "convert or die!" approach), and so on.

The problem with "A is A" is that it is then interpreted to mean
is either A or not-A," and "A thing that is A will never become not-A."
Those are false and deceptive ideas. For example, many people
believe that the most important single fact about a person is whether
that person is male or female. (An odd belief, but a common one.)
They have no idea what to do with people who used to be male and
are now female, or people who are neither. (All attempts to define
who is male and who is female, and include everyone exactly once,
seem to fall down on exceptions like people with XXY chromosomes
or ambiguous genitalia.)

From: owner-virus
To: Church of Virus
Subject: RE: virus: C of V: Another Religion
Date: Thursday, January 30, 1997 11:14PM

Hi. I've been getting a variety of responses from my post entitled: C of V:
Another Religion. This is a very active and interesting list and I'd like to
reply to the feedback I got so far.
This post will show:
1.The problem with all attempts so far to refute Rand's axioms.
2. Why the concept of 'things are what they are' is not only a useful
but is necessary and valuable.
3. Why the philosophy of objectivism will ultimately dominate cyberspace
Darwinian natural selection.
When I made the suggestion that the CoV is like a religion in which
are a higher power, some people (ie Dave M, and Gay) explained that just
memes are an influence doesn't mean people are slaves to them. And, that it
is a
good concept to use in order to understand the spread of ideas and
This I agree with.
However, others seemed to imply that memes do, in fact, control
individuals, as if it were a higher power. These people, in response to my
explanation of why this contradicts Rand's irrutable axioms, decided to
the axioms.
Attacking Rand's axioms cannot work. For instance, the notion that
there is
an external reality out there was implied by all who attacked this notion.
R dismissed this idea while implicitly stating "there's this guy out there
taking axioms as absolute when they're not". Similarly, Richard B dismissed
'existence' as a 'meme distinction' while making an implicit claim that
"there's a situation out there where someone is treating 'distinction
like it's not just an invention of the mind". A few other people made the
mistake of refuting their own statements.
Vicki made an interesting point that axioms can change, depending on
context. And, she gave an good example of how Euclidean geometry has
axioms than the new and improved non-Euclidean geometry. However, this
change of
axioms does not apply to philosophy because in philosophy there is only 1
context -the context of existence and human knowledge. (I think Bertrand
made a similar mistake of "creating his own logic" because it was
possible to start out with different assertions.)
Tim R. made, in my opinion, a great attempt to attack the
axioms-particularly, the notion that "things are what they are" or "A is
A", by
acting like a human contradiction. First he says the post isn't worth
to but he responded anyway. Then, first he argued that there is no free
will and
then he argued that there is free will. He took a position that 'A is not
A' and
then dramatized it.
Richard made an argument that free will is not necessary to try to improve
yourself and gave an example that Windows '95 has programs that correct its
mistakes. The problem with this argument is- who activates the programs,
and who
activates the activators-it is an infinite regression that must come down to
individual free will.
Why are these axioms like 'things are what they are' important and
does this have to do with memetics? In a nutshell, if you understand that
are no contradictions, then you can identify and eliminate 'good memes'
that are
bad or false. Furthermore, this would make it possible to know when certain
dishonest people manipulate others through 'good memes'.
Objectivism will dominate cyberspace through natural selection. Most
will acknowledge when something is logically true or false, (like Thadeusz
pointed out that the 'distinction-meme' idea was self-refuting and Dan P who
showed why axioms are valid.) Also, when hoaxes are exposed, people won't
to them. In cyberspace, irrationality gets busted.