virus: KMO weighs in

Wed, 28 May 1997 12:13:19 -0700

It's my day off, and I thought I'd take a little time to weigh in on a
few of the recent CoV threads. This will be one post which addresses
several topics.

First on the list is "The Age of Manipulation: The con in confidence the
sin in sincere." I've been reading this book in my spare moments for
the last week or so, and I'm nearly through it. This is a FANTASTIC
book, and it's not about penis-shaped bacon bits in salad dressing. The
illustrations and examples mainly serve to sell the book. They are the
packaging, not the substance. There is a big chunk [point to crotch] of
glossy pages filled with provocative advertisements, but these are the
same pictures that Key used in "The Subliminal Seduction" (published
when? Late 70's?) He makes very few references to these illustrations,
and in this 295 page book, he spends just the first 63 pages talking
about the use of images in advertising. Key's main focus in this book
is on LANGUAGE. He doesn't use the vocabulary of NLP or memetics, but
anyone interested in either of those topics will find much of value in
Key's book.

Much of what he has to say is along famaliar "the map is not the
territory" lines, but Key's fresh and compelling arguments for
skepticism on the subject of the Truth left me better able to articulate
something I like to believe that I already knew. Oh, what the heck,
I'll transcribe a couple pages. (BTW, if you want to read the typo-free
version, buy the book.)

The Logic of Excluded Middles

The law of the excluded middle was one of Aristotle's more imaginative
ideas. It can be briefly explained as "Everything must either be or not
be." Thought must be verbal: individuals can feel, but not think without
words. If verbal thought can be restricted to either one idea, thing,
or proposition, or to another idea, thing, or proposition, the world
becomes a neat, definable, orderly place in which to live. The real
world, where many things occur chaotically at the same time, is not like
this. Those who know and obey this law can fantasize that they know
precisely at any given moment where everything either is or is not. The
fantasy that there are only two sides to every question makes truth
easily attainable. The world will never be such a simplistic place.
When objects or people are perceived as either this or that, neither
this not that, they project into simplistic, two-valued reality
This illusion, consciously and unconsciously structured by millions
throughout the world, represents one of the truly great political,
social, judicial, and economic con games of all time. No reality
perceived by humans has ever been so simple as to possess only two
sides. The two sides are perceptually constructed, imagined, made up.
In reality, there can be as many sides as there are people involved--or
many more.
Perceived values might, were we educated in a more reasonalbe,
reality-oriented system, be more accurately assessed on a broad,
flexible scale between any two polarities--good-bad, weak-strong,
beautiful-ugly, moral-immoral, etc. Evaluation would involve qualitites
of more or less, rather than either/or. Whenever people are engineered
into an acceptance of a two-valued system, they have been set up to
accept black-and-white stereotypical non-sense. They have lost autonomy
and control over their perceptions. Perception can then be narrowly
channeled in virtually any desired dirction; truth can be logically,
often eternally ascertained.
Perceived reality, as expressed verbally, pictorially, or
mathematically, has an infinitie range of possible values, meanings,
orientations, and potentialities. The "two sides to every question" is
a fiction that flatters the human need to perceive the world in a
balanced, symmetrical, proportionate, simplistic illusion. With
language, almost anything is possible. Why not three sides,
twenty-seven, or even sixty-nine?
Verbal splits, divisions that cannot be made in the reality world,
further enforce the law of the excluded middle. Examples include mind
and body, thinking and feeling, emotion and intellect, and conscious and
There appear abundant economic justifications for verbal splitting. In
medicine, for example, there exists an entrie dictionary of
specialties. Medicine has become a depersonalized production line such
as those in automobile plants where workers assume limited
responsibility. Such systems were developed to optimize returns on the
physicians' investment in education and office equipment. They also
reduce work to repetitive, simplitic tasks. Physicians can always pass
the buck to another specialist. The victims, of course, are the
patients--both in physical well-being and in their pocketbooks.
Mind and body are totally integrated. No bodily function operates
independently. thought and feeling are likewise inseparable, as are
emotion and intellect. No one can be certain where consciousness begins
and ends. Conscious and unconscious are completely integrated,
interdependent processes. These functions operate all at the same
time. In the reality of the human body, these complex processes are
verbal concepts are fictional descriptions of perceived reality that may
not exist in any actual physical or biological way. Verbal descriptions
are useful from time to time as tentative, theoretical concepts or
conjectures. As individuals become more skilled understanding their
abstraction processes, earlier perceptions often turn out to have been
repressed and restricted. New discoveries both in science and everyday
life rely upon the availability of new reality perceptions, perceptions
previously unavailable. Virtually nothing in the human environment is
genuinely new. Something may be labeled "new" as a marketing or ad
ploy, but upon close examination, the pseudo-new usually turns out to be
the same old stuff, redesigned for perceptual hype.
Scholarship, science, and even business unfortunately train individuals
to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before. Entrepreneurs
usually know tht following someone's footsteps leads to the same places
where others have already arrived. Few, if any, discoveries result from
conformity. Societies, nevertheless, typically punish or restrict
nonconformity. The nonconformists in science, scholarship, art,
business, or any other form of human activity threatens the security of
conformists--usually in the majority. Like desoverers, discoveries are
rarely welcomed. They scare hell out of everyone with a vested

On the topic of atheism vs agnosticism, what would happen to your
position on the topic if you defined your terms as follows?

Atheism: a lack of theistic belief. Not synonmous with an active
believe in the non-existence of God which is defined as anti-theism.

Agnosticism: the beleif that humans CANNOT KNOW the truth about the
existence and non-existence of God.

When you cast the debate in those terms, don't you find that agnosticism
makes the much sronger claim and is therefore harder to support? The
question of the God's existence or non-existence MAY be beyond the scope
of empirical science, but this is not necessarily so.

And finally, a bit more transcription. From a comic book this time.
Dave Sim, author of "Cerebus" has been publishing in the back of his
monthly comic book his correspondence with comic-book author Alan
Moore. Moore is the author of "The Watchmen," "V for Vendetta," and
"From Hell." Imagine my delight when I read the following from Mr.
Moore on the topic of art: (my emphasis)

The idea that Art should only ever be a mirror to reality has always
seemed ass-backwards to me, given that Art is always and everwhere
well-groomed and impecably turned out, whereas Reality wears a pair of
two-year-old Adidas trainers and a Toy Story T-shirt. As far as I'm
concernied, it's rather the job of reality to try and reflect Art.
***The purpose of Art is not to mirror reality, but to shape it by the
imprints and aspirations that it leaves in the human mind.***

When I read that, I thought, "This guy doesn't know it, but he's talking
about art from the perspective of memetics. I was wrong. He did know
it. The report of the correspondence continued in the next issue, and
Mr. Moore went on to write:

In my own ritual sacrifices, I have burned objects of meaning and
significance to me, including the original to one of the magical
drawings I sent you a while back. The idea is to sacrifice, in the
conventional sense of "giving up," something which is of value to me.
It is also to remove the physical component of the object, leaving only
the memory or Idea Space presence of the object intact. In my terms,
this removal of the physical component makes the object "sacred, i.e.,
existing only on a level above the tangible and material world.
Richard Dawkins, author of the excellent _The Blind Watchmaker_ and a
staunch materialist who would have no truck at all with any of my vague
metaphssical notions, would maybe describe this "Idea Presence" as the
sum of a person's memes, a sort of idea-space equivalent of genes, an
ideological genetic code that will endure after the death of the
individual and contnue to interact with the material world. Dawkins
cites the fact that while there are no measurable genetic traces of the
philosopher Socrates to be found anywhere in the world, there are
memetic traces to found on every hand: Socrates' ideas are still current
and still have their effect upon the world of human thinking. My own
ideas are perhaps a tad more mystical than Dawkins', but he provides a
useful model.

Well, just thought I'd share that with all of you. Carry on and take
care. -KMO