Re: virus: The seven deadly memes?

Sat, 29 Jun 1996 17:23:03 -0500

>I think it's a mistake to confuse memes and genes.

Neither Richard nor I have confused memes and genes. Memes affect which
survival strategies conscious organisms employ, and those survival
strategies have a significant impact on the replicative success of of the
genes which use those organisms to "lever their way into the next
generation" as Dawkin's puts it.

A good strategy; one that leads to the propagative success of genes, is to
reside in an organism which can, through the dessemination of particular
memes, cause competing organisms to eshew successful survival strategies.
While the organisms which house your genetic competetors practice celebacy
and abstemious living, your organism spreads his (this is primarily a male
strategy) seed far and wide and gobbels up as much as he can.

>Genetic evolution acts on a
>times scale much larger than cultural evolution. Therefore to say: cultural
>situation A benifited subgroup B's genes over the all others is not reasonable.

Sure it is. See Bloom's "The Lucifer Principle."

> Talking about reproductive fitness gets a little complicated in a cultural
>setting. Is it better to have four children or convert four hundred disciples?

As far as your genes are concerned, it's infinitely better to have four
children than to convert four hundred followers, none of whom carry your
genes. In the first case, your genes have four avenues into the future; in
the latter case they have none.

> Memetics is an interesting idea becuase it changes our conception of what it
>is that makes each of us unique. In the past it was held that immortality,
>after a fashion, was obtainable through children. Memetics argues for a
>different emphasis.

True, but we were talking about evolutionary psychology, which takes more
of a genetic perspective than a memetic one. Memes enter into the equation
as a means of coercing competetors into abandoning successful survival

>Immortality is to be obtained in the procreation of ones ideas. Having
>children is an inefficient way of reproducing ones own image, though many
>people find it rewarding for other reasons. A more direct way is to infect the
>population with your memes, the ones that you find significant and value; give
>people the proper mental tools and they will start to think like you.

I tend to agree here. Did I send you a copy of the Collected Infection and
C Supplement? If not, send me a snail mail address and I will. If I have,
then you have evidence that I'm expending far more energy on propagating my
memes than I am on spreading my genetic seed. But once again, when you're
talking about the role of memes in genetic propagation stratetgies, it
doesn't matter how many converts you make if your genes don't get passed

>Actually, the situation you described was detrimental to the Popes.

It was bad for the Church, and maybe even bad for some Popes who employed
the double standard, but it was unequivocally good for the Popes' genes.

>cultural system would allow them to completely dominate the environment with
>their own (genetic) progeny and the memes to which they at least payed lip
>service were seriously weakened (a la The Reformation and the rise of
>secularism) by their obvious hypocrisy.

Thier genes didn't care. The strategy was bad for Popes qua Popes, but
great for their genes.

>In addition, this hypocrisy undermined
>future Popes ability to disseminate any memes whatsover, since they had the
>reputation of being disreputable sources.

Once again, the selfish genes don't care about the continued integrity of
Papal authority. Bad for the church, good for the genes.

>All in all, I'd say they screwed up,
>from a memetic point of view. But that's probably because they weren't
>thinking in those terms at the time, anyway.

The Popes screwed up, the Degeerate Popes' genes scored.

>The "Seven Deadly Sins" appear, to me, to be a list of archetypes in which the
>Prisoner's Dillema applies. Wrath is the most obvious, but the others are also
>similar non zero-sum situations. Take any one of these situations and the
>"natural" (max-min) tendency is to defect.

Defection is only the most effective strategy in single-round prisoner's
dillemas. In repeated dillemas, selling out gets you ostracized. 'Tit for
tat' is the best strategy in repeated p-dilemma situations in which there
is no chance of accidentaly defecting or mis-reading a cooperative act as a
defection. When the noise gets turned up, the more successful strategies
are those that allow a potential partner to screw up a few times before
labeling them as a defector.
The challenge of finding successful real-world survival strategies is more
like a repeated prisoner's dillema than it is like the single-round

>Thus, within Religion we see an
>attempt to dissemiante memes which break society out of continious defection
>cycles. The problem is, instead of attempting to provide individuals with the
>tools to make effective decisions, Religion tends to simply enforce those rules
>which work empirically. These sins are not deadly to the individual, they are
>deadly to society.

Exactly! In an environment where most everyone respects the rights of
others and limits their own propagation opportunites, the individual who
habitually commits the seven "sins" makes out like a bandit (from the pov
of his genes). Even if he's caught and punnished, i.e. stopped, he's
still likely to have reproduced far more than his 'moral' competetors.
What's more, if he's accumulated power and wealth, he's not likely to be
stopped any time soon.

Consequently, an excellent survival strategy is to get everyone else to
regard successful survival stretegies as sinful. Religions are very good
at this.

>A lot of what one sees in Religious doctrine are "good ideas" which make
>society function better than without them. I think it is important that we
>don't throw away the "baby with the bathwater". I am not a relgious person,
>but I don't think everything said in religion is wrong.

Now we've drifted into a very different debate. I agree with The Church of
the Virus and Luciferians on the social value of most religions and their
behavioral mandates. I'd much rather live in a society based on genuine
recognition and understanding of a social contract. Religious dogma can
sometimes make people act AS IF they recognized the value of cooperation
and self-restraint, but it also generates an environment ripe for
exploitation. I'd much rather teach people WHY they should act with
moderation than simply lay down the laws and threaten those who don't toe
the line with eternal torment.

C embodies the memes I value and wish to promote. Cheif among them is
Consciousness. Dogmatic adherence to religious mandates is antithetical to
the promotion of conscious deliberation. You warn against throwing the
baby out with the bathwater. In the religious tub, I see "mindless
adherence to beneficial behavioral norms." The bathwater I'm working to
throw out is the "mindless" part.

Take care. -KMO


BTW, I'll send a free copy of "C: The Collected Infection" to anyone on the
Virus list. Just send me a snail mail address.


Resistance is Futile.