RE: virus: Faith, Logic and Purpose

David McFadzean (
Mon, 17 Nov 1997 14:42:16 -0700

At 06:35 PM 11/17/97 -0000, Robin Faichney wrote:
>> From: David McFadzean[]

>> How much understanding do you need before you can
>> start applying it?
>Seriously, in the ideal case, of course, your
>understanding would be perfect, but short of
>that it's a judgement call that it's difficult or
>impossible to generalise about.

Right. So realizing that I have an incomplete
understanding (and always will), I think it is
a good idea to try it out, tell other people
about, let them criticize it, try to answer the
reasonable criticisms, and thereby evolve the
understanding. What's wrong with that?

>Susan Blackmore is into Buddhism, and has
>talked about its anti-memetic-viral properties.
>I guess she, like me, would see either
>Buddhism, or something like it, as a better
>way of controlling memes than is rationality.

I didn't realize that Buddhism and rationality
were incompatible.

>Dawkins I don't know about, but why don't
>you write to him and see what he thinks
>about the CoV?

I think this quote is quite relevant:

It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the
threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, "mad cow"
disease, and many others, but I think a case can be
made that faith is one of the world's great evils,
comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.


>(BTW, it doesn't help my case to say so,
>but I first heard of this list from Susan
>Blackmore! On the other hand, I'm
>fairly sure she's not a member. David?)

Not obviously.

>> Get a grip, Robin. You essentially called into question
>> all of my beliefs and work, and the only thing I did
>> was say maybe you're right.
>David, I have your card right here, you're
>Director of Technology for Kumo Software
>Corporation. And you say I called into
>question all of your beliefs and work? C'mon,

Sorry, I guess I deserved to be misinterpreted here. I mean
beliefs and work concerning the CoV.

>The point that I'm trying to make is that if you
>really believe that rationality is the answer,
>then a memetic perspective is redundant.

I claim that rationality is the answer if you are looking
for a good way to make decisions. It might be good for
something else, but that is not (currently) my claim.
I don't think rationality is The Answer.

>You spend all your time arguing against
>faith, and the like, and memetics seems like
>icing on the cake, if that. And I don't

I think that might for the same reason logic is a perennial
topic of freethought mailing lists. It is sort of a meta-
discussion about what constitutes valid list discussions.

>believe that the concept of "choosing your
>memes" is compatible with a thoroughly
>memetic view, because on that account all
>that's happening is competition between
>memes, while "you" are utterly irrelevant!
>Which, as Susan Blackmore says, is where
>memetics and Buddhism come together.

I agree, but I was hoping you could see through the
clumsy terminology to why a memetic paradigm is

>Because memetics is about irrationality. Every
>time you attempt to push peoples' buttons, you
>are exploiting their irrationality, and therefore
>compromising your own ideals. You should

If memetics is instead about unrationality, then I would
be compromising nothing.

>either give up on button pushing, or admit
>that irrationality sometimes has advantages.

Even if memetics was about irrationality, I think there are
situations where it is rational/reasonable to act in such a
way that could be validly interpreted as irrational/unreasonable
from a different perspective. Same action, different contexts.

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus