RE: virus: Re: Memes and Jello

Mark Hornberger (
Tue, 20 May 1997 19:06:36 -0500 (CDT)

On Tue, 20 May 1997, Gifford, Nate F wrote:

> Mark Hornberger wrote
> ... But I think computers *are* just a tool - what is
> significant is what we do with them, how we project our creativity or
> ability onto the new medium of the internet and whatnot.
> Computers are just a tool in the same sense that the gasoline tractor was
> just a tool ...
> America still hasn't recovered from the tractor <i.e. save the family farm
> ...>
While the advent of the gasoline tractor and other technological
conveniences has had negative impacts, I believe that, on balance, we have
reaped enormous benefits from the advances. I'm not an agriculture
specialist, but I would guess that our population could never be fed with
preindustrial agriculture.

> And we are another animal, *just* or otherwise.
> We are sentient and self-aware, but tend to take ourselves a bit too
> seriously, IMHO.
> Perhaps you'd care to substantiate this. I would argue that we don't take
> ourselves and the effects of our decisions seriously enough.

In a way, I agree. But I was thinking of the time-honored yet absurd
belief that the world was created for our express convenience and use. Or
our tendency to define justice in a way that serves our interests. I was
also thinking of the hundreds of thousands (or millions?) of Americans in
therapy because they 'just don't feel right' - not the ones with medically
verifiable problems, but those indulging their narcissistic intellectual
exhibitionism tendencies. The list goes on. But in another way, I agree
with you. But most don't even recognize the ramifications of their
decisions or beliefs, so it can't really be said that they don't take them
seriously enough. My favorite example of this is the huge number of
Americans who are in love with big government, the nanny state. They
decry 'unequal distribution of the wealth' and sundry other ills they
attribute to capitalism, and propose socialistic alternatives that are
touted to cure our problems. Yet when I point out the history of China,
Russia, Cambodia, etc., trying to illustrate the dangers of a government
that can take and do whatever it wants to achieve the ends that those in
power deem necessary, they refuse to see the correlation, or that
empowering government and reducing the sphere of freedom enjoyed by
individuals can or does lead to a totalitarian state, of whatever degree.
They decry the inhumanity forced onto workers in capitalist systems by
making them mere 'cogs in a machine' while failing, refusing, to compare
the quality of life to that of, say, a 17th-century farm worker, who was
blessedly safe from capitalism yet had a lifestyle few would envy. But
I'm rambling, I know. But in that way I agree with you, sort of.

> I question
> how sentient of self-aware we <the species> really are ... on the other
> hand, someone pointed out to me that the last episode of Roseanne EVER is
> going to be on this week, so perhaps we are learning.
Aw, Roseanne wasn't that bad of a show. Not all sitcoms can revolve
around the well-to-do, or the svelte.

> But again, I meant no disrespect by what I typed. It is an interesting
> field.
> I wasn't indicting the list as a whole - if I'm right, I did say
> 'sometimes,' meaning only a few specific posts made me think of this. Was
> I saying Memetics are irrelevant or superfluous? No.
> I agree that Memetics are one of the most interesting fields in the social
> sciences. I'm not sure that Memetics are really differentiated from
> anthropology, sociology, or psychology. I think Memetics are just a
> different way of analyzing the data.
> Let me share an example from Dayton politics. Recently the mayor had a
> well-known fundamentalist preacher from the Promise Keepers group at an
> annual prayer breakfast. There was lots of discussion in the local press
> since many people felt the choice of speaker was inappropriate for an
> interdenominational breakfast. Let me include two paragraphs of a letter
> that defends the mayor:
> Far from being an affront to me, the mayor's bearing throughout this prayer
> breakfast business, as far as I understand from press reports, is to be
> commended. As we now live in a mainly post-Christian country where
> sanctimonious political correctness and "other gospels" are considered to
> have replaced straight-ahead Biblical teaching for all practical purposes,
> even amongst some professing Christians, it is refreshing to find somebody,
> especially a public figure, standing up for Christ.
> It may come as a surprise ... that Jesus Christ did not present himself
> 2,000 years ago to birth some all-embracing, multi-doctrinal love-in. We
> were not given the go-ahead to erect some worldwide chummy club where
> everybody else's heresy is acceptable to us as long as ours is as well; and
> where none dare quote the word of God. Jesus came to same mankind; God's
> way ... If people are going to get hot under the collar about what they
> perceive as the mayor's exclusiveness then they should take up the matter
> with God. After all, He made the rules. You are either for Christ or you
> are against Him (Matthew 12:30).
> Before I discovered the meme paradigm I would probably have analyzed the
> above paragraphs logically. Accused the writer of begging the question and
> got on with the paper. Although I am certainly not the one to do it ... I
> would think that a psychologist might diagnose this poor soul as having a
> severe religious infection, and perhaps bring him some peace by showing him
> ways to reconcile his infection in society by modifying the symptoms of the
> infection <intolerance> to be more in bounds with civilized behavior. Note
> that this man's stridency is self-defeating in the long run, since he will
> keep alienating people who don't follow the commands of HIS MIGHTY
> My point is that memetics gives voice to the consequences of accepting an
> axiom...Accept Jaysaus into your life so you can be a blithering idiot. To
> return to my original point, that while computers are just machines ...
> they're machines that change our potential: Rantings like those above are
> fairly common in mainstream Dayton. In the Glass Teat Harlan Ellison wrote
> about the dissonance he felt as a cultural Icon visiting Dayton in the
> early 70s. He called Dayton's inhabitants mudwumps. Since the 70s Dayton
> has become MUCH less what brought on this change?
Christianity is a belief system that millions look to for guidance,
strength, and purpose. Granted, I think it's founded on spurious or
mythical historical events, but it doesn't seem to matter to most. But
within this belief system, he was right - you can't be open-minded of all
other faiths, admitting them into the communal group-hug of spirituality,
and still call yourself Christian. Unlike most "Christians," he was being
true to his religion. Do I think all Christians are deluded nuts? No.
I've come to believe that some people do need faith in God, providence,
and life after death to keep them sane, not to mention to keep them
reasonably honest. They are who they are. Who knows? I could be wrong,
and end up in a fairly warm place with a pitchfork stuck repeatedly into
my butt. I agree with Kant that religion relies on faith, and that faith
and logic are not complementary.

Mark Hornberger