Re: virus: Faith, Logic and Purpose

David McFadzean (
Wed, 19 Nov 1997 10:02:53 -0700

At 11:23 PM 11/17/97 -0800, Tim Rhodes wrote:
>On Wed, 12 Nov 1997, David McFadzean wrote:
>> I don't think I ever said faith doesn't have a use. I've seen
>> faith comfort people after a personal loss. Wearing my cynical
>> glasses, I see faith memes gathering around events involving death
>> and destruction like sharks at a feeding frenzy. Is it necessary
>> to believe something that is false in order to find comfort? I
>> don't believe it is.
>I wish I could agree with you, but my experiences helping others calls
>that belief into question.

OK, let's start with a less strong claim: I don't think it is necessary
for everybody to find consolation in a falsehood. As evidence I offer
my own experience surviving the death of two grandparents in the last
3 years without having to believe that they went to a "better place"
or that I will meet them again some day. Agree or disagree?

>> Yes it can. You have to appeal to whatever rationality is present
>> to make rationality memes more powerful in the belief system, and
>> the opposing memes less influential.
>How does this work in the short term. Over time you may be right, but
>what about today? What about right now?

It seems that some rationality is hardwired by our genetics so you
can appeal to that right now today.

>I'll give you a real f#&king world example: A friend of mine called me
>last night. His uncle was just diagnosed with cancer, twelve small tumors
>in the brain and two larger ones in his lungs. He called me for comfort.
>What is the rational response?

Depends on the context :-) But seriously, you seem to be asking whether
it is justified to lie to your friend in extreme circumstances such as
this. A common response is to tell the distraught person that "everything
will be OK, you have nothing to worry about". I say it would be better
to confront the truth (I'm not saying dwell on it). What is wrong with
saying "I'm here for you no matter what"? That's the truth, isn't it?

>> If scientific theories aren't True with a capital T, then what are they?
>That was my point. True, capital T or no, limits you. You may be okay
>with that limitation in ever aspect of your life. I am not. Sometimes I
>find it useful and rational to behave in a manner that is based on
>assumptions I know are not true, beliefs without a rational basis.

I agree, but I don't see how this is an objection.

>An interesting point, clinicly depressed individuals routinely rate
>their own personal power and abilities more accurately than non-depressed
>Truth is not always power.

Clinically depressed people have chemical imbalances (I think by definition),
so you may be stretching a bit by drawing some causal correlation between truth
and depression.

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus