virus: Infection and belief

Glenn Grant (pawn@CAM.ORG)
Mon, 3 Mar 1997 15:48:40 -0500 (EST)

>"David McFadzean" <>
>> Alex Williams <>
>> Does knowledge of Christianity /really/ denote `infection'? If we're
>Not at all.

I think it does - if we're talking about fairly thorough knowledge of the
Christianity meme; see my entry on "Infection" in the Memetic Lexicon. By
my definition, if a meme is successfully encoded in your brain, then you're
infected. Other writers have used "infection" to mean that the host
'believes' in the meme, and wants to infect other people with it. This is
what I call an "active infection". A passive or inactive infection does not
make the host want to transmit the meme to someone else.

If you have only sketchy and incomplete knowledge of Christianity, you are
at best only partially infected, and unlikely to pass it on to others in a
viable form. And yes, I think a partial infection can confer immunity, as
Alex goes on to suggest...
>> going to use the bio-viral model, what would the equivalent of `once
>> infected, infection fought /off/ successfully and antibodies still
>> present or natural immunity'? We may carry memes that make up passive
>> /knowledge/ of Christianity, but does that really imply infection?
>Let me try again: For instance, if we both *sincerely* say "Jesus Christ
>is my saviour", then that indicates that we are infected by the Christian
>meme even though the actual information pattern that caused that particular
>speech act to be executed may be radically different in our respective neural

Sincerity has little to do with infection (again, by my definition), though
it can certainly help you infect others. Most memes do not rely on "belief"
as an infection strategy - only religious memes, and even then it isn't
necessary. I'm sure there are televangelists who have no sincere belief in
Christ, but have made every attempt to communicate the Christmeme to as
many people as possible.

Otherwise, though, I agree with David here: what the meme means to you
personally has little to do with what the same idea means to another host
of that meme (a "co-host"? Heh). I think that a meme probably means
something slightly different to every host that carries it. The same string
of symbols - "Christ is my saviour", say - can replicate from one mind to
another, even though those symbols may have very different interpretations
and associations for each host. Seems to me that a meme could benefit from
this kind of vagueness - just what do you mean by 'saviour', and is it the
same as what 'saviour' means to me? The vaguaries of language help the meme
exploit different needs in different hosts - everybody wants to be 'saved'
from something, right?

Hmmm. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? :)


-----------------------Glenn Grant-----------------------
Web: <>
"The courts may not work anymore, but so long as everyone
is videotaping everyone else, we'll be okay."
-- Marge Simpson