virus: Memetics: our obligations

Eric Boyd (
Sat, 22 Jun 1996 20:31:53 -0500

Hello Everyone;

A few days ago, Prof Tim threw open the door to a discussion of what
exactly memetics tells us about how we should communicate. I seem to
have deleted the actual message, but I remember it, and so should you.
The message that spawed it was about the "Memetic Obligation" of a
"Memetic Vector" to speak clearly... to define terms, to make the meme's
you are trying to get across as simple and clear and straight forward,
open to all audiences, etc. (of course, we knew this is good already,
but it's nice to see that memetics justifies it)

Now, I've been thinking. (it's all I've got!) Memetics can tell us a
lot about communication. After your mouth is open, memetic's hayday
begins. What I want to know now is: what can memetics tell us about
/when/ you should communicate? Do we have an /obligation/ to /open/ our
mouths? At a functional level, I'm asking if we should be "infecting"
others with the meme meme. Or with any memes.

See, I have this Christian friend, Evelyn, and I've been listening to
her preach about Christianity now for a few years. I sometimes
half-hardidly argue a few small points with her, but I don't really
enjoy it. She's too innocent, to naive. Recently attended her Church
with her a couple of times, and learned a little. But she questioned me
a little on why I was going, and, to shorten the answer down to 1 min
intead of 10 hours, I answered "to learn". She said I was welcome to
learn, as long as I wasn't "just building evidence evidence against
Christianity". Since, in a way, I was (although not really [1]) she
made me feel kinda guilty, and I haven't attended since.

[1] I was studying Christianity to see if it meets the level 3 criteria:

1) The meta-meme is internally consistent (a /valid/ worldview)
2) The meta-meme is /useful/, ie provides some benefit in the form of
happiness (or hope), an intellectual tool, some real world
applications (like building planes), etc..
3) The meta-meme /does_not/ claim to be the _only_ truth. (this is to
avoid intellectual hypocracy inside the level 3 framework)

The deal here now is that I think Christianity fails both 1 and 3. And
so, in a way, I was building evidence to support that, and thus working
for the rejection of Christianity.

Really, I think the entire issue here could be resolved if I just knew
whether telling her the entire story (ends versus means, Zen, E-Prime,
the aphorists delimma, Post-Structuralism, memetics, level 3, etc.)
would be a "good" thing. I don't want to hurt her. And yet I like to
get over the impass, here. Not attending Church is shutting off a
valuable source of memes!

So what does memetics have to say? (and I'm working with nothing here.
Just writing ideas down)

Obviously, the idea of "conscious variation of memes" which is my entire
goal here has something to say. Should I not try to introduce her to
new meme's as well, in an attempt to widen her meme-space? The thing
is, I not sure that that is altogether to safe. Her control over meme's
will not be good. And she has a classic level 2 mind. I can see three
basic things happening:
1) She doesn't understand. Is /incapable/ of understanding:
Notes on the Significance of Intellectual Context
Why is it that so frequently when you are speaking to a person who
believes in authoritarian, statist ideas, the person apears to listen
but does not really hear what you are saying? Governmental Authority
is, for him, an axiomatic concept. He literally cannot see any other
starting point - cannot conceive of a society which is not founded on
coercion - and if you try to go beyond his frame of thinking, he merely
accuses you of expressing vague generalities. It is as Orwell said it
would be: "You will lose the ability to think certain ideas, and then
you will be totally incapable of ever trying to act on those ideas."
In such a discussion, most people quickly reach a point where they
are not able to respond even when they have the discussion in front
of them in writing. This is because they have reached the boundary of
their intellectual frame of reference and they cannot cope with the
questions without the mental flexibility to expand that frame of
reference so as to encompass an area which contains the answers. They
are prisoners of an inadequate reality assessment, and it is usually
a waste of your time to engage them in discussion, simply because
they will find your presentation to be quite literally incomprehensible.
(once again a quotation from that objectivist place:

Of course, this would make the entire exercise useless. Why bother?

or 2) She will understand and reject it all. She'll say the Devil has
planted it all in my brain, and that I should pray for Jesus to come
save me. Classic Christian response[2]. Whether or not she'd let me go
to her Church would seem very debatable. My money's on this one.

[2] "Those who deny reason cannot be conquered by it."

3) I'll make her think real hard. And she'll never be the same. Then
we'll both go to Church as level 3 memetict's.

I can't see that any of these options are really all that desirable.
The last would be my "victory" but I'm not sure it would be worth it.
Evelyn is a very nice, good woman. Why should she have to change? And
here's the big one: Am I willing to accept that kind of responsibility?
What if she isn't strong enough to face "relative" morality and no
ultimate Truth? How then?

So anyway, back out of the functional look at the issue, I'd say that
those objections were based primarily on an understanding of what a
level 2 mind and it's meme's are about. At level 2, one _is_ ones
memes. Not that Evelyn beliives in the validity of Christianity, but
rather that Evelyn _is_ a Christian. No matter how long and hard I look
at Christianity, I can never become like that. I will never seriously
beleive that there is a God. I may adopt the beleif, but it will never
be more than just a rational "yes" to the God meme. As such, I think
I've probably missed the Christian boat anyway. Most of the happiness
comes when one /surrenders/ to Christ, and lets the meme control you.
See I cannot "welcome Jesus into [my] heart
and soul"

Anyway, without something "higher"[3] than memetics, I can't see that
this message goes anywhere. Sure, conscious variation of meme's is the
hallmark of a Memetic Vector, but awareness of the intrinsic Level 2
state of most people makes an "enforced" variation a morally difficult

[3] The "higher" thing must ultimatly come from a precieved "truth", I
think. If we could rely on said word to justify "enforced memetic
variation" all would be well. Yes, it might hurt the intended
recipients, but it is the only way to the Truth... unfortunatly, since
level 3 is all about an understanding that Truth is entirely relative,
this doesn't work. Evelyn already has a "Truth" so why should I bother
bringing her to another? Similar arguments can be set up around meme's
like "freedom" and "awareness".

In conclusion, I'm seeking your replies. What does memetics have to say
about our /obligation/ to speak? Do we have an /obligation/ to /begin/
speaking, or merely one to speak clearly when we do?


I detest what you say, but I will defend to my death your right to say
it. -- Voltarie