Re: virus: Church of Virus/Memetics/Faith

John \ (
Sat, 24 May 1997 23:24:44 -0400

At 07:17 PM 5/24/97 -0600, David wrote:
>>I'll define "sufficient proof" as "enough proof that most people
>> in a certain pool can consider the issue at hand to be proved."

>What about the pool of people (this particular group counts a number of
>pancritical rationalists among them) who believe that nothing can be
>proved? Sure some beliefs have an enormous amount of evidence to
>support them, but everything is open to revision, and therefore not

Er, okay, let's try this. We'll get close to what I mean eventually:
"enough proof that most people in a certain pool can consider a conclusion
to appear to be true enough that they feel they can act as though it is."

Deconstructionists and the like are no different. They act as though it has
been proven that everything is open to religion.

[snip... look in the archives if you must, dear lurkers...]
>OK, I can see why you would want to do that if you happen to be talking
>to a fundamentalist or a unitarian (and also happen to know that they are
>in fact a fundamentalist or a unitarian). So if you are willing to adapt to
>them, then why not us?

Because I've accepted the definition ya'll -- or at least, you -- have
given yourselves(yourself) as "mimetic engineers," who create
thought-viruses that modify the way people think. This is an
cognative-undercover operation. I *could* try to be sneaky and
thought-virus you into believing in faith[1], but as you have chosen to
take the direct method in attacking faith, I've taken a direct method in
defending it; a demonstration of the very concept I'm talking about, where
you risk enrenching someone in the very position you wish to shake them from.

>First, I don't think calling faith anti-rational redefines it in the least.

That's because it's been so successfully redefined as anti-rational
already, buy the fundamentalists & athiests alike. As I've posted before,
once I actually got into reading the Bible I found it to be quite mutable,
full of no answers, and plenty of doubt and confusion. This, oddly, made me
feel *better* about it than worse.

>Second, I don't see how that would "turn over the whole of human history
>and most western art to be defined and controled by the likes of Jerry

Maybe not "the whole of human history" but at least the western bit. See,
what i mean is that if we(I) let the Fundamentalist Wolves take
Christianity without a fight, they can claim the right/ability/power to be
the authorites of interpretation on Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, etc.
Also, all religious music (Bach, Beethoven, Handel) becomes "theirs" --
since they represent "religion" and it is "religious music." The
fundamentalists have not shown themselves to be responsible or kind
stewards of such material.

>> Not so, but close enough. There are those niggly tautologies that Aristotle
>> covered; IE, I either came in first in the footrace (unlikely) or I did
>Or you tied for first, or no-one finished the race, or ....

In which cases I have not won...

>> not. I have the genitals of a male, or I do not. These, as a whole, do not
>Or you were born with genitals that are somewhere in between male and

In which cases I do not have male genitals, I have genitals that are
between male and female.

>The point is the your so-called tautologies are not. There are no
>analytically true statements because they all depend on meaning which
>depends on context which makes them synthetic.

"Close" is "close," not "the same as." I mean, even in horseshoes, you get
less points for being close than getting a ringer, eh wot? "4" is not
"sorta 5." I tried that argument in the Registrar's office. She didn't buy
it, I won't here either.

I won't deny that there are shades of inbetween -- there always are. but
those shades of inbetween are _in between_ -- they are distinct and
different from each other. [ Since we're talking logic here, you won't
think it's rude if I identify the error here? Fallacy of the Continuum:
"Assuming that small differences are always unimportant or that supposed
contraries, as long as they are connected by intermediate small
differences, are really very much the same." ]

>> they do not concern us because they can be obviously
>> proven. We wouldn't care if we couldn't argue about them.
>Not so obvious now, is it?


>OK, if I adopt your definition for now, I will have to say that literally
>our beliefs are based on faith. Would you agree with that?


>> I do not feel that this is an
>> overly-broad definition, because most of the people I know of who have
>> faith have come to this definition *before* hearing mine. Or talking to
>Since I've pointed out that faith now encompasses all beliefs, would you
>agree it may be overly-broad?

Hmm. One has to wonder why you thought this would work. What are you
assuming about my belief structure that lead you to think I would object to
faith encompassing all beliefs? Or am *I* incorrectly assuming about your
assumption? :-)

>> This definition is also the *basis* for the oft-heard statement about
>> Athiests having *faith* that there is no God.
>Oft-heard, yes. But true? Nope. I'm sure some atheists have faith that
>there is no God (i.e. back to my definition, belief without good reason),
>but that is certainly not true of all, or even most atheists. (
>is not the only site I host, come visit

I'd like to see good reason that you believe there is no God. I don't just
mean the judeo-christian one here, I mean G(g)od(ess)(-head).

>> I had good reasons not to take the chance: embarrasment. Wasted time
>> investment. Etc. Not only did I have to assume that you were the author, I
>> also had to assume that the site was still active, and that your e-mail
>> address was functioning and correct.
>OK, if you are saying you had better reasons to believe that I would not
>respond, yet you chose, against logic, to believe that I would respond
>anyway, then I agree you had faith. Is that what you are saying?

"Against logic" in the sense that logic dictated that there was a good
possibility that the time would be wasted, and I acted as though that was
not a concern. Yes.

>> Er. You see, what I'm saying is that to make an assumption, you have to
>> believe -- "have faith" -- that it is true. I could just as easily say that
>I don't have to believe a hypothesis is true in order to test it. No more
>than a logician does when she assumes the negation of an axiom in order
>to derive a contradiction and thus proving that the axiom is true.

No, but if you are going to live based on a hypothesis, you'll have to
believe it. And, of course, you do live based on many hypotheses. Many of
these are supported by reasonable expectations, but not nessicerally
through lab-science.

>> Therefore God must either be:
>> a) not all Good.
>> b) not all powerful.
>> c) not.
>So what did you decide in the end?

d): both a) and b).

>> Note that this tests fit with empirical evidence; it considers
>> contradictions -- and it considers the issue of an unknown entity.
>Yes, but that says to me that when you say "faith" I should
>tranlate it to "belief".

Good move! I do think there's a shade of difference, but it's a
degree-and-application issue. Kind of like square/rectangle.

>> (I have some basic problems with Occam's Razor as I generally hear it
>> applied, incidentally).
>For instance? (I'm not saying it isn't often misapplied. Almost as bad
>a Heisenburg's uncertainty principle. I literally winced when the UC was
>referenced in The Lost World.)

I heard it applied in a religious argument this way:
"God cannot exist since God is an unknown and unnessicary entity in
explaining the existiance of the universe." This, of course, is also a
logical fallacy, identified in my manual as "Arguing from Ignorance."
Because it hasn't been proven, this person is saying, it doesn't exist.
Incidentally, in the same thread someone said that there was a 99%
probability that God did not exist. He was unable to produce the way he
came up with this statistic.

On the other hand, I'll head you off here: It is also Arguing from
Ignorance to say that
God exists, and to offer as evidence the fact that the existance has not
been *disproven.*

I do not make this fallacy. I gleefuly admit that I have no evidence at
all. It's just useful to me to believe in God.[2]

>I agree with the above [not what I just said up there, btw -- John], and
>would add that it is a mistake to equate the two.

Hmm. Well, maybe it's not really a mistake since it's so close to belief. I
mean, belief is *almost* faith, isn't it? ;-) It's only kind of a mistake,
which is really no mistake at all.

I'm unsure; I want to say that faith is a degree and application of
"belief." IE, I believe that when CNN says they are broadcasting live, they
are. To say I have faith in that seems a little exagerated.

>People believe in God because they
>don't understand the difference between good and bad reasons for
>belief. I know that sounds condescending but the evidence supports it. I
>like to be proven wrong if you would like to try.

Hey! I'm majorly guilty of condecension. Educate me. What are good/bad
reasons for belief?

>> It would only increase confusion among that group of people who have
>> dismissed all relgion and beliefs not based on scientific data to be
>> nonsensical, irrelevent, and an emblem of stupidity; likewise, among the
>> ultra-pentacostals.
>If you are implicitly accusing me of being in that group of people then
>I deny it. (Both groups :-) You seem to be attributing logical positivist
>beliefs to me because they are easy to attack, not because I have
>said anything that would indicate that what I think.

I quote from Virian Sins and Virtues:

>Through some twist of fate western society has come to regard faith
>as a virtue. To hold an idea as true despite all evidence to the
>contrary is an abdication of reason. Convictions are the end of
>knowledge, not the beginning; they are the enemy of truth more than lies.

Since Faith is the prime element of all religion, (and, as I've said
before, all knowledge not based on either/or mathematical logic fact) I'd
have to say this is a logical positivist argument. If I am incorrect, I've
mis-read it.

Especially considering that I'm yet to see any evidence to the contrary.

>But if you can't back up (offer good reasons for) your beliefs then you
>have to admit you are indistinguishable from all the loonies with
>beliefs. Not all good reasons have to be published in a peer reviewed
>academic journal (though that often helps).

Fallacy of Continuum again. I hope you don't think that rude, since
rationality and logic is part of the issue here. And I'm not saying that
since you are making a logical error your position is invalid. That itself
would be a logic error, but since it's not being made by me I'll not look
it up. (It's late.) What I want to point out is that you have staked out
beliefs, and then seek to rationalize those beliefs with what you see
around you. I do the same: seek to fit what I see to what I believe. The
difference: I admit the rationalization and the cognative leap I make. No
Black Knight with no arms or legs here! :-)

>> The middle ground will grasp it -- has grasped it -- quite clearly.
>The higher ground can see where the middle ground has been misled.
>No, I don't mean that. I'm just trying to illustrate that making assertions
>of this kind doesn't really mean anything.

Daaaah.... sorry. Excuse me? I got lost somewhere between the

>There is no easy answer to how to nail down what constitutes sufficient
>reason. But that doesn't mean we have to dispense with the idea. It is
>merely a starting point. Once we agree on that much, then we can move
>on to discussing it in more detail.

:-) Wake me up when we get there. If I'm still breathing, that is.

>> church-goers called Heaven's Gate kooks, I wonder? My pastor did, from the
>> altar, right after a plea for shutting down children's Sunday Soccer
>> because it desicrated Sunday. I think Rev. McCready is a Baptist in
>> Methodist's clothing....)
>Funny thing about those Heaven's Gate kooks, at least their beliefs
>(in a space ship following the comet) were physically possible as opposed to
>most mainstream religions...

you forgot to include "physically possible, insofar as we understand
physics." Remember: it is physically impossible to break the sound barrier.
[Again, Arguing from Ignorance.]

---- Stop! Footnote time! ----

[1] What a concept!
[2] When I say this, I'm usually accused of committing Pascal's Wager. I'll
re-iterate: I do not believe in Hell, therefore Pascal's Wager is not
something I take seriously.

John Williams ICQ Address: 1213689
Various Artists: Raising the Tide of Mediocrity for Two Years