virus: RE: virus-digest V2 #304

Wright, James 7929 (
Mon, 24 Nov 97 16:13:00 EST

Date: Sat, 15 Nov 1997 23:43:29 -0500
From: Eric Boyd <>
Subject: virus: <Buddhism>
Hi, Eric!

Back after a week off financing the Disney memes with my family, I
finally have some time to respond. If there is such a diversity of ideas
wandering around that calls itself "Buddhism", how does one tell what is
from the rest of the universe? But I digress....
>>sum up : BELIEVE = blind faith
>> Believe = "good" assumptions, rationally extending
>> trust to other ideas from people
>> you trust, "scientific" faith.
>> believe = I can "prove" (to whatever standard I
>> hold for proof) this, and make you believe
>> too, probably.

You got it! <VBG!> I actually communicated to someone! (jumping up & down
for joy! Stopping, puzzled: )Now what?

>>I'm not really sure why it would be necessary to
>>BELIEVE -- all that is necessary is that one
>>hold the belief, and think it valuable, for that
>>is sufficient to begin propagating it.

Is it that ideas require a certain "repetition frequency" to compete with
all the other memes/advertising/mental clutter, and that ideas one
doesn't BELIEVE in won't be repeated as often / compete as successfully
as those one BELIEVES in?

>>It might be argued that actually having a cogent
>>argument for the belief would make it easier to
>>propagate, but I think that would be crediting
>>the average human with too much intelligence.

Beautifully self-explanatory, in illustrating what is required for
intelligent persons to propagate a meme deliberately and consciously.

<Snip quote / joke>
>>Similarly, getting people to Believe has more
>>to do with your skills as a speech maker (your
>>knowledge of memetics) then how good the ideas
>>are supported by reason and experience.

At least partly true, since effective public speakers make their living
by propagating memes, and the better their public speaking skills, the
more money they should make! However, thoughtful persons in the audience
can create great humiliation by accurately pointing out flaws in public
This is, to me, where the American press has FAILED the public - no one
spends much time pointing out how full of holes the usual stump speech
is, especially around election years. Since all public money comes from
private effort, how can one raise taxes without taking more money from
the private sector in some fashion? Yet any politician can simultaneously
promise to "save Social Security" and "get the government off your
backs", in the same speech, without being instantly laughed to scorn in
the newspapers.

>>(and people so convinced would SAY they believed)

We address this later.

<Snip "replace Buddhism with Science in the above paragraph">
>>Indeed, this is lots of fun! It would be interesting
>>to write an essay on the memetics of science... just
>>to see how far you could go.

Infinitely, I suspect.

>>I think it all really comes down to this: all
>>idea complexes are subject to memetic pressures,
>>and nothing is immune... if the system does not
>>have some major safeguards built in, eventually
>>all that will survive is the memetically evolved
>>propagation engine[1]. (this is basically what I
>>think fundamentalist Christianity is now)

>>Science, like Buddhism, has several "anti-memetic"
>>guards in it, BUT IT IS NOT IMMUNE, and neither
>>was Buddhism. That's why we must be on our guard
>>at all times -- let us not let the powerful forces
>>of memetics take down the best institution humans
>>have ever constructed.

This is also accurate: if David ever develops his religion to propagation
stage, it also had better have some powerful "anti-memetic safeguards",
to prevent its corruption as it propagates.

>>> A more subtle point, perhaps -
>>> How does one distinguish <faith> from <understanding>?

>>I don't think there is any real difference once
>>the opinion is HELD -- the only difference is HOW
>>one got there.

We disagree somewhat here - for me, <faith> holds elements of doubt
within it, for if I truly comprehended each and every facet, I would have
<understanding> instead of <faith>. TO me, this is what the Buddha was
trying to accomplish - not the creation of a new <faith>, subject to
corruption by dogma, scripture interpretation and rituals, but the
creation of an <understanding>, which would be self-regulating and
self-correcting over the eons - so much for the best of intentions,
anyway! <Rueful VBG!>

>>This is why it is BETTER to TRAVEL than to ARRIVE.
>>(I'm amazed how long this truth has held for me)

This is accurate.

>>quote: <snip good story about speed of light>
>>> I'll try to find the URL for any who might be interested.
>>I'd certainly be interested... if only because it shows the memetic
effects on science.

I'll try to dig it up.

>>> The question I propose, however, is how do you
>>> distinguish between BELIEF and belief, as I used
>>> them above, from an outside / disinterested
>>> perspective (which I am attributing to Eric, here)?

>>YOU CAN'T on the face of it -- however, if you ASK someone to justify
their BELIEF, it will
>>become obvious which form it is...

I'm not sure even if it's possible then - what test do we use? Appeals to
authority: the Pope or Dawkins? Use of texts: Bible or "Darwin's
Dangerous Idea?" Rational argument: based on what source? This is even
trickier than it looks.

>>> I am also questioning the existence of the "Buddhist
>>> meme complex" in the singular - it would seem there
>>> must at least two, since the Buddhism I am familiar
>>> with does not include FAITH as you apparently consider
>>> it to be. Or, more simply, the existence of "forms of
>>> Buddhism" negates the existence of a "Buddhist meme
>>> complex"; the existence of disparate characteristics
>>> among schools prevents attributing FAITH or even <faith>
>>> to all of them, which I thought you were proposing.

>>This is a very good point -- I have no idea how I could modify my
thesis to take this
>>into account. Perhaps simply narrow the scope to some school of
Buddhism which exhibits the
>>signs (or enlarge it to deal with each separate school).

The first approach would be far easier, and might fit within a thesis

<Snip alternate possibilities section>
>>> Ideology is another loaded word. I need a definition
>>> from you on this one, because I associate ideology
>>> with leftist and Marxist organizations, which Buddhism
>>> does not resemble.

>>Sorry -- I was completely unaware of the negative connotations of that
word. It is my synonym for
>>"world view" or -- my personal favorite -- "thought castle"

Amazing how English warps from user to user, isn't it?
<Snip "rediscovering Buddhism again and again">
>>hehehe. I don't know about you, but I had basically
>>decided that desire was the enemy years before
>>I found Buddhism (I think... my child hood
>>memories are dim, but I do recall saying that
>>HOPE was the worst of all evils BEFORE I read
>>that Zen book) -- of course, I hadn't worked
>>out the Four Noble Truths as such, nor found a
>>sure way to the elimination of desire, but
>>it was coming. Anyway, you are right here --
>>preservation of knowledge is important.

You are a rare individual if you gave up the appeals of materialism
without prompting.

>>EVERYTHING depends on the slow accumulation of knowledge -- indeed, I
found a quote in
>>The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors that is simply right -- that the
Bible is a book
>>of it's time -- and that the flaws and ignorance we see in it proves

>>It's not that the book is "wrongheaded" but rather that it represents
the "state of
>>knowledge" *2000*+ years ago, and so it's not surprising we know better

You are being deceived unwittingly: you are paying for schooling and
getting an education! <VBG!>
Seriously, this is particularly accurate.

<Snip "preservation ... textbooks" section>
>>Of course, I've also been reading Confucius lately: it's surprising,
but we still have MUCH to learn
>>from this man -- who lived 2600 years ago.

>>China was WAY ahead back then, and it shows.

Yet Confucianism degenerated into empty ritual, draconic laws about
"filial piety / duty" and bizarre civil service exams without resemblance
to the civil service duties required in China. Apparently, Confucianism
required stronger "anti-memetic safeguards" than were provided.

>>> If it is tested, found true and attributed to the
>>> Buddha, it can be considered part of Buddhism.

>>Of course, if it is tested, found FALSE, and
>>ascribed to the Buddha -- well, what can we
>>say but that is it Buddhist anyway?

We can say that the great man made a mistake, point it out as such, and
ignore it otherwise. Can I turn up the phlogiston for you?

<Snip "corruption of ideas" section>
>>I like analogies -- this case is similar to Christianity
>>as well. Does it matter if a concept actually came
>>from Jesus or Paul? Both are ASCRIBED to Jesus, and
>>both are now treated as "Christian" ideas.

It should matter - if Jesus didn't say it, and Paul did, then it's a
"Paulian" idea, not a "Christian" one.

>>So what if we can prove Paul was an impostor?

Then women have been terribly mistreated in Christ's name for Paul's idea
for over two centuries, and the sooner we abandon the principle, the
better. Likewise, the denigration of physical sex (It is better to marry
than to burn) and so forth. A movie called "The Last Temptation of
Christ", which I have only seen a clip from, would probably make a
similar point.

>>No -- what people *say* is the Buddha's we might
>>as well *treat* as the Buddha's, for I can't see
>>how we gain by arguing over names.

>>So it's *all* part of the Buddhist meme-complex[s]

Again, here we disagree - Buddha himself, in your quote above, suggested
that his ideas (or ANY ideas) must be tested for truth - he surely
couldn't have meant that false ideas should be kept, as part of tradition
or for any other reason. PURGE false ideas from all meme-complexes, not
just Buddhism, Science, or philosophy, but education, government, etc.!

<Snip section on "Authority">
>>You are right -- I think that coming across as an "authority" is part
of the MEDIUM of essays.


>>I was told in grade 12 never to put "I" into an essay -- do you know
WHY? It's because removing
>>"I" makes your essay more authoritative, more "true" in the eyes of the
Early memetic engineering! <VBG!>

>>So I deliberately put many "I"'s into my essay.

>>Honestly, though, if one wants to avoid seeming like an authority,
essay's are best avoided.

>>You are right -- I am NOT an authority on Buddhism -- my three books
(several chapters from
>>the religion text book) hardly qualify me as an expert in the field.

>>I just think that trying to write an essay where I DON'T come across
as an authority
>>would be like trying to talk without making any sounds...

Sounds like a Zen koan! "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" "How
can one talk without making any sounds?"
Haven't you ever heard of sign language? <VBG!>
<Snip "associates (unwantedly)" section>
>>True enough. I was aware of this on writing --the books I read had
only a small section on
>>"protestant" Buddhism, and it sounded very different, but I couldn't
spend either the time or the >>words (I was already 500 words over the
limit) to do better.


The art of the essay, as opposed to the form of the essay, requires fewer
rules than are taught in school. Do you really think Wordsworth and
Thoreau and all those other worthies gave two flips about word limits?
They used as many words as the subject demanded, and no less (and no
<Snip "infallible words" section>
>>Your view of "infallible words" seems very strange. How exactly would
believing in the Absolute >>Truth of the Four Noble Truths cause people
to kill?

>>(after all, they highlight compassion highly)

Just as the Christ said, "The greatest commandment is that ye shall love
one another", yet history produced the Crusades, New World conquest,
Inquisition, etc.

>>Because, you see, it's only the Christian's view that theirs is THE
ONLY WAY which makes them
>>violent. The Buddha's words have no such exclusivity, and so we should
not expect to see
>>this behavior, even if they did have ideas about "infallibility".

So it seems that Buddhism's "anti-meme safeguards" have held, at least so

>>You are right about recitation of Bible versus, though -- I've still
think it is a form
>>of Bible Idolatry -- which is, of course, condemned by the very same

..... whereas Christianity's have not.

>>> You have very generous standards - was Idi Amin a good
>>> Islamicist, Torquemada a good Catholic, and Stalin a
>>> good Communist as well?

>>My knowledge of history sucks, but it seems to
>>me that Stalin at least was a VERY GOOD ruler.

>>The people loved him.

>>Of course, he was EVIL too -- but that doesn't
>>mean he wasn't good at what he did.

>>The other two I've never even heard of.

Stalin was not beloved of the hundreds of thousands he had purged - and
there were, literally, hundreds of thousands. His non-aggression pact
with Hitler made him blind - he never thought Hitler would turn on him,
and that miscalculation cost the lives of many millions more of his
people. If the only criterion of "good ruler" is "able to hold onto
power, at any cost, for a long time" then yes, he was good. As for being
a good Communist -
"ideal" Communism is practiced in every family in the world: "from each,
according to his abilities" translates as "from the parents, who can
"to each, according to his needs" translates to "to the children,
according to their requirements".
Now Stalin killed numerous countrymen, for various reasons: did this
fulfill their "needs"?

Short history: Idi Amin was dictator in Uganda, an African country. He
was corrupt, brutal and ransacked the treasury to finance his whims
/desires / programs. When his people finally overthrew him, he fled to
Saudi Arabia as a "good Muslim"; out of pity, I suppose, they granted him

Torquemada was chief of the Spanish Inquisition; he conducted the trials
that condemned many to death after extracting their torture-driven
"confessions". Whatever crimes a Catholic might commit, the worst was
"heresy"; conviction of it carried an automatic death sentence in
Torquemada's courts. In the name of Christ, he tortured, maimed and
killed people, to drive the Devil out of the world.
<Snip "Piedmont Chasism" section>
>>No -- but the other way, I would argue, IS TRUE.

>>The existence of a meme-complex IMPLIES the existence of a community
to support it. (now for >>the question of the hour: if I say
meme-complexes don't exist, what does the former sentence >>mean? unnnn
*bsssstt* three strikes, I'm out)

>>A revision of my essay is in order, if it implied the above. (and I
think you are right it does)

Does the existence of a meme-complex imply the existence of a community
to support it? If I publish a thousand-page book detailing the religious
practices of the Amon-Ra period in ancient Egypt, will it cause a revival
of the religion? (WARNING: This could be true! The Thomas Moore book
"Utopia" has spawned several attempts to create such a community!)
<Snip small argument section>
>>unoh... I'm very interested in the continuing development of my idea
that perhaps NO MEME'S
>>exist -- that, "in fact", memetics is not science but rather a POINT OF

Quite possible.

>>Working from within an intention entity stance is like working within
an inertial frame in physics
>>-- it's just your view point.


>>One is then forced to wonder what would correspond to the Speed of
Light (which
>>is the ONE absolute in relativity -- mass, time and distance all vary
to MAKE it never change)

Does there have to be one?

>>Ideas, virions? What is the absolute idea in "intentional entities"
which everything
>>else varies to make absolute? Could that be God?

>>What a sweet idea! Give me a couple of days here...

>>(last I checked I had four of five different ideas about what God could

Watch out! We're supposed to be chasing rationality here! <VBG!>

>>quote: <snip faith, zen stuff>
>>> The existence of a singular "Buddhist meme complex"
>>> is something I dispute. I consider there to be too
>>> many varieties and schools to speak of it as a
>>> single entity, with common traits but not exclusive
>>> and common memes to all schools.

>>Agreed... but then, you could say the same thing about Christianity.

And I would - but then, no one has tasked me to write an essay about it.

>>Interestingly, the same sort of issue comes up in genetics... when do
we begin
>>to say this gene-sequence has mutated too far to call it the same
>>(or family, or whatever)?

>>Anybody know how they deal with it in genetics?

No help here - I would call ANY variation sufficient - which leads to the
defensible viewpoint that each of us is unique, and special. I suppose
that interbreeding is a consideration, but then, how do ideas interbreed
without automatically mutating?

<Snip "rationalization and Christianity"section, I agree with you>
<Snip first part of "meme-complex " section>
>>> Buddhism might be considered an "anti-meme complex"
>>> that spreads using memetic techniques at their
>>> minimum level - "I learned it, and don't fear
>>> death anymore. You can too!"

>>Sure it can -- but as I showed, it can also be viewed as a full scale
memetic complex.

I can agree to the extent that the schools that involve <FAITH> are
full-scale memetic complexes - just as the Scientologists claim church

>>Everything falls to the the God of memetics!

>>You must BOW DOWN!


I can't bow down, since Wade is giving me that look again - he goes crazy
when people bow to anything besides Scepticism! <VBG!>
<Snip preamble section>
>>I think we need to begin a campaign to kill that "a house divided
against itself will

>>It, David, is a meme you should be fighting. It seems far enough away
from the source of the
>>problem -- faith -- that you could actually take it on and NOT activate
>>"danger" memes, and yet it's destruction would be of immense help to
your fight.

I like this - it makes sense, and a lot of it.
<Snip preamble section>
>>The point is to BE *AWARE* (can I hit this meme any harder?) of the
problems -- to
>>try and solve them if we can, or find ways to USE them, if possible.

>>To be always on guard against the God of memetics -- who is not
interested in
>>the truth, but rather in propagation, that -- THAT -- my friends, is
the real
>>power that studying memetics gives us.

I can agree with this.
<Snip agreements>
>>> We do view Buddhism differently, but
>>> that need not cause conflict - there are still several
>>> questions regarding intent, faith, and so on to be
>>> resolved - if they can be!

>>Yes -- it's clear to me that my essay needs work. Perhaps in a few
weeks (maybe over the winter >>solstice) I will fix it up. I'm afraid it
will be much bigger, as I will have to expand many sections.

>>Anybody interested in having me repost it when I'm done?


>>[1]The other serious project I'm working on is the application of
entropy to memetics -- a sort
>>of philosophy of decay towards the "pure meme". Or perhaps towards
oblivion... I have not decided

>>The problem with all these new ideas is that my head swims in them... I
think I'm absorbing
>>new material TOO FAST... all the connections between them just flow in
and all I can do
>>is write them down and hope I'll have time later to develop them!

Isn't education wonderful? And you sound like you're getting a good one.
The Internet really is a modern wonder. What if memes decay toward truth,
known falsehood or oblivion, all at once?


>>(BTW, I got the essay back: 74%!!!)

Is this good, bad or indifferent? It's been a long time since I took
college courses; are you pleased with it? What had you expected? How did
the rest of the class do?
Best of luck,