RE: virus: Faith, Logic and Purpose

Robin Faichney (
Sat, 15 Nov 1997 13:35:33 -0000

> From: David McFadzean[]
> At 08:25 PM 11/14/97 -0000, Robin Faichney wrote:
> >I don't
> >go along with your assumption that we can decide on
> >such things here and then go out and convert everyone
> >else to our view. Despite your objectivist inclinations,
> I thought we could figure out some stuff here, and publish
> it in case anyone else could benefit. Do you think we
> really can't or shouldn't make a difference?
Why do you keep reading "can't" as "can't or
shouldn't"? But no, unless you change your
tactics, I don't think you can make a

> >and my *relatively* subjectivist ones, I suspect I'm more
> >scientifically-oriented, and less morally-oriented than
> >you, i.e. I'm more interested in understanding how
> >things are, and less interested in trying to change them.
> You're wrong if you're insinuating that I'm not interested
> in understanding. But you're right in assuming that I
> think understanding is worthless if it isn't applied
> somehow by somebody. Otherwise why bother?
It's obviously nice to be able to apply an
understanding, but I find the "enlightenment
experience", that "aha moment" and the rush
that goes with it, to be sufficient motivation to
keep me seeking. Anything else is a bonus.

In addition to that, is the strong possibility, in
general terms, that a good understanding,
once we get it, will tell us not what to do, but
that either nothing can be done, or nothing
need be done (or both). Which is why
understanding must come first.

> >> Richard Dawkins and Susan Blackmore have also thought
> >> about this issue and came to the same conclusions.
> >>
> >Let me know when they join the Church.
> If you are insinuating that they wouldn't agree with
> my aims then you will have to do better than merely
> assert so if you want to convince anyone.
It's your methods that I, and I think they,
would disagree with. And if you want to
drop names, I think the onus is on you
to show that these people really are with

>the amount of
> >deja vu I get from this list these days is
> >making me feel nauseous!
> Perhaps you are right. Maybe it would be better if
> we kept our thoughts to ourselves. The future will
> happen just fine without us. Does anyone else vote
> for shutting down the mailing list and web site?
Did I say that? Take it easy, David, you seem
to be taking it personally, and getting irrational!

But I do think there are serious problems here,
and I think they're typified, if not summed up,
by the fact that you call yourself a memetic
engineer, and yet prize rationality above all.
Seems to me that the biggest single insight
memetics has to offer us is the realisation that
just when we think we're being perfectly
reasonable, we are being used by these
pesky memes. Advertisers are the nearest
thing we have to memetic engineers, while
philosophers are about the furthest from it.
(Except in the trivial sense that *any* kind of
idea juggling could be called memetic
engineering.) To me, to design good memes
is to build in the *non*rational hooks and
such that give them survivability. Memetic
engineering and rationality are alternative
ways of trying to propagate ideas, and
they do not complement each other.

To sum that up: you use rational argument
to try to spread the rationality meme, but if
people were significantly susceptible to
rational argument, they'd already be
carrying the meme! A real memetic
engineer would be using the techniques of
the advertisers.