Archives for category: memetics

The idea that truth-value is proven by use-value seems to rest upon a meta-meme, the notion that ideas firmly fit together in a tight system, that there is no looseness to the world.

It is my experience that there is a fair amount of looseness.

Nevertheless, I understand why we seek to make our beliefs fit together; avoiding cognitive dissonance is a good thing. But avoiding such dissonance should not be hastily accomplished, using short cuts that scuttle truth. Seeking cognitive consonance mainly by hunting to confirm previously held beliefs? That can lead us to error and prevent correction. Worse yet may be constructing theories that succeed not by mapping reality but by skipping cognitive steps. (My late boss R. W. Bradford called these “logical synapses.’ Though it may indeed be the case that bad ideas tend to lead to bad results, cooking up theories just to lead to good consequences can be perilous. The notion that something must be wrong because it leads to “bad consequences” is not only wrong, it can lead to bad consequences.

Too droll, that.

Examples abound. The belief in your own superiority may not be true, not in your career’s beginning — but it can lead to actual superiority, as in the case of “thinking like a winner” itself wins friends and followers, enabling you to become a winner in the end. Alas, the opposite can also be the case, as when an untrue belief in your inferiority can lead to demonstrable inferiority of status — thinking like a loser and appearing as a loser, despite many advantages, can derail an otherwise likely successful course of action, causing you to lose.

Sometimes having an incorrect belief can yield good outcomes; sometimes it can yield disastrous ones. What’s more, the same incorrect belief held by one person that serves to damage can prove helpful to another. Some people who believe they are spectacularly inferior to others take that hunch or prejudice as a spur to work harder, think harder, and place themselves in positions to take advantage of improvement. Just so, but mirror-opposite, are those many cases of people with high esteem who becomes criminals and thereby ruin their lives.

This variety of looseness turns out to be important in evolutionary theory.

Exaptation, for instance. This is a type of adaptation that Herbert Spencer relied upon in his discussion of the evolution of political institutions (see the first chapter of Political Institutions). The idea is this: a trait that was selected for — or arose because it was not selected against — can turn out to have much more significant advantages in some remote domain. The classic case seems to be in religion, where it appears that holding any “religious” or even merely metaphysical idea (such as the idea of truth not being logically and ineluctably linked to pragmatics) gives the person who holds to the belief a marker that encourages others to regard that religious person as more trustworthy than irreligious others. One person may hold to the belief in Zeus Pater and another in YHWH and another of Ishtar, but all three beliefs signal to co-religionists that the acolyte is cooperative and thus not anti-social.

The fact that piety to these three very different deities “works” — lead to good social results — does not prove that any of these deities exist.

What gets weird is the late-stage recognition that piety alone matters, that belief in some god is important, but which particular one does not. This ecumenical theory leads to a general tolerance, with only atheism to be despised, since only it would serve as a signal of a lack of trustworthiness. But things tend not to stand pat: general toleration eventually leads to tolerance of atheism.

And, contra The Jolly Heretic (anthropologist Edward Dutton on YouTube), it is obvious that a serious atheistic stance can also work as a signal of cooperativeness. Indeed, in America, atheists sport longer marriages than theists, on average — thus atheism proves a key indicator of what religion itself is supposed to indicate.

Perhaps what matters is that self-transcendence notion. Merely demonstrating recognition of one’s self as a being with a non-trivial consciousness of the cosmos (with or without supernatural elements) signals not only to others, but also to self, that selfishness and criminality and similar traits are dead ends. Furthermore, atheism in a theistic society may indicate a greater commitment to self-transcendence than does theism. (Here we see self-transcendence competing directly with conformism — conformity signaling one kind of cooperativeness, commitment to transcendent ideas signaling another, perhaps more valuable variety.)

Of course, there are atheists who hold to their atheism in a way that signals to me STAY AWAY. Just so, however, there are theists whose manners of belief signal obvious dangers. I think of Islam as a memeplex with disastrous social consequences except in one dimension: the Islamic memes tend to replicate, often in a predatory way. The modern world succeeded because Europe found a workaround for the bottleneck of Islam: America, really. So we have several different dimensions upon which to judge social utility, and then contrast it with truth.

My resistance to Islam — my confident resistance — is not exactly popular these days. Against it is the poisonous notion that “all cultures” are equal, an absurdity related to the idea that all races are equal, which is itself . . . problematic, in part because, whatever it means, it is irrelevant to the basic individualistic foundations of Western civilization.

What we now witness is our civilization in a decadent phase, with Christianity having metastasized into progressivism, a political cult that holds an abundance of absurd beliefs and destructive practices. One of them is to try to shame people for objecting to the Islamic memeplex, just as progressives shamed folks when I was young for ‘red-baiting,’ that is, for resisting the memeplex of communism. Progressivism is an unhinged meta-belief that opens up a society to many dangers (which itself helps define decadence), including being taken over by those it defends as “just as good as the rest of us,” meaning criminals, jihadists, communists, etc. It’s a childish way of looking at the world, thinking that “good” depends upon equality, and objecting to even thinking in terms of inferiority and superiority. It’s a hopeless muddle.

But it is a familiar muddle.

That muddle relates to the adoption of ideas not for their truth-value, but for their social effects.

Racists hold bundles of notions, some of them not incorrect, but with crucial and quite significant errors. Of course, racism itself can lead to horrifying injustices. But to fight racism, some folks go so far as to spout nonsense, like the currently popular pieties “race is a not a scientific concept” and “races do not exist,” and such malarky.

These are over-compensations. Rather than strike at the root of what is wrong in racism, anti-racists often prove too hysterical to bother with careful thought. Invidious racism being quite bad, its foundations in a kind of collectivism (individuals are less important than groups) and in folk statistics (imputing to individuals in a group traits that are commonly found in the group but not defining of it) leading to some dangerous results and infecting minds away from truth and towards social discord — sure. But anti-racists find it more convenient, especially when engaging with not very bright people, to attack the foundational notions of the distinctions upon which racism rests — especially the idea of “race” itself — rather than the precise errors that lead to bad results.

You often see this in philosophy, too, where the method becomes mere debunking, where debaters aim to show not merely that their opponents are wrong in one regrettable detail, or in a specific synapse in an argument, but totally.

Racists are bad because they (horrors!) believe in races!

How simple. How satisfying to say. How foolish.

And all this rests upon an expectation that ideas are best seen as fitting together in the tightest way possible. Progressives, having learned to argue incorrectly against racism, then apply the same sort of gambit to religion, and criticism of same. One mustn’t criticize a world religion! So I have been told, and this we often hear.

Funny thing is, most of the folks who marshal such an absurd prohibition themselves ridicule, mock and censure Christians relentlessly.

It is hard to consistently hold a goofy idea.

But it can be done, by gum.

The world of our experience is amazingly complicated, and navigating it is difficult. It takes a fairly high IQ to do so without cultic thoughts. It may be that the requirements for thinking well about the social world are too hard for current levels of IQ in our society.

If true, it would just be another form of looseness of the very systems that make up our complex reality.

twv

There are ideas that twist in on themselves, involving paradoxes that trap weak minds.

The most interesting of these are memeplexes that (a) suggest actions or even full policies that (b) yield results that, in turn, (c) seem to bolster the ideas themselves, but which (d) actually logically undermine the ideas because the policy (e) artificially produces the effects of the memeplex itself.

My favorite example is the idea, common in the South before emancipation, that Africans were not capable of education and responsible living, so it was better (for their own good!) that they be slaves. This is the “natural slave” notion. The thing is, the allied act, or policy, was to prohibit slaves from being schooled, and prevent them, in general, from acting responsibly. This kept the enslaved African-Americans ignorant and unpracticed in the arts of living, thus “proving” that they were inferior to white masters and white freemen. But of course a moment’s thought should show the flaw in reasoning here. The evidence for inherent inferiority is artificially produced by the very acts that the thesis suggests. So what is proven is no natural inferiority, but an artificial one. A policy-driven one.

Keynesianism shows another such implicit paradox. Keynes argued that markets cannot equilibrate after a sudden deflationary shock because of “sticky wages,” that is, inelasticity of a factor of production, which naturally produces unemployment. But Keynes and his Keynesian acolytes did not attempt to remove any government policies that made wages inelastic — and as Sidney Webb privately cursed, there were indeed policies of unions and governments that very much did make wage rates inelastic. Instead, the Keynesians sought a workaround in fiscal (and later monetary) “stimulus” . . . that catered to the popularity of the prejudice for wage rate rigidity by placing the focus elsewhere, which in turn exacerbated the stickiness of wages, thereby “proving” that wages are naturally sticky.

(This was all something of a red herring for curing depressions, since the real problem after an unexpected deflation is sticky long-term loan rates, holding borrowers to terms that become increasingly difficult to pay off in the context of plummeting prices, as Irving Fisher so ably explained. But the Keynesian policies effectively distracted policymakers from reforming wage contract policy and thereby fueled evidence for the sticky wage rates.) 

What we see in these instances is

A. a theory about cause and effect that
B. by association of ideas (intuition) goes hand-in-hand with a policy or set of actions that
C. produces effects that seem to confirm the theory A.

My chief conjecture about this process is that people tend to develop notions like Theory A because such theories suggest Policy B, which is what they really are concerned with. Policy B does not, as intuited, offset the unpleasant or seemingly disvalued effects of Theory A, but instead reinforces them. Whether the “naturalness” of Policy B’s perverse effects are understood consciously by inattentive people (which has to be often the case, since in politics and government most people run on intuition, not reason and evidence).

The most common example of this process is in state aid policies. Here people theorize, for example, that discrimination and poor education and inadequate nutrition leads certain grouos of people to lag behind the average in productivity and economic success. That is the Theory A. Naturally, and not implausibly, since one does not like the effects of Theory A, one seeks to help people . . . through an extensive welfare state. That is Policy B. The problem is, Policy B provides sufferers of poverty (in this case) many disincentives to advance on their own. And the policy actually incentivizes people to ape behaviors that would trigger and even increase their subsidies, effectively taking them out of the market. Which is what we have seen, with the trendline in poverty sloping downward before the War on Poverty and leveling soon after the “War” commenced.

twv

712ACAE8-55AA-4566-A0F7-44CCA5EF70A9

What question would you ask Satan that he has never been asked before?

As Answered on Quora

“So, how tired are you of that old memetic trap, ‘the biggest trick the Devil ever pulled was to convince the world he did not exist’?”

Of course, that would probably be the best I could come up with on short notice.

If I spent time in his waiting room, though, I would surely formulate something much better.

“Your greatest invention is without question the State. Ubiquitous, useful for no small good but even less doubtfully for much greater and horrific ill. It is all demons and ideologues can talk about. But, I have to wonder: after all these millennia, do you still laugh when people call it God’s ordained instrumentality, as they did when kings were worshipped as gods, or the servant of The People, as they do even unto this day? I mean, I find it hilarious. Do you find it at least worth a chuckle?”

Satan polishes an antler and his slender mouth grows wider and wider.

I cannot determine if it is an evil grin or the knowing smile of a serpentine sage.

twv

Dr. Jordan Peterson came into fame and infamy for refusing to comply with a Canadian law forcing him to use the “preferred pronouns” of self-designated “gender non-binaries.”

Recently, he was challenged by linguist John McWhorter on this issue, mainly on the tangential matter of psychological insight. McWhorter’s point was that while he admitted that some students who desired a peculiar manner of address might indeed be trying to push a power play upon him, he could not be sure, and it was just easier to comply with their requests, no matter how bizarre.

Well, prudence was not Peterson’s issue with the law, and, were I in such a position, it would not be mine, either. Besides, there is an issue even more basic than politics. Easier? How is changing the basic, most in-grained features of one’s language “easier”?

But there is one sense in which McWhorter is right, it is easy to comply. Because the whole thing is in most cases a non-issue. And I am surprised that a linguist of McWhorter’s brilliance would not make a point of it. One does not address another by a “gendered” pronoun, in today’s Engish. One uses “you.”

sure-ill-address-you-by-your-preferred-pronoun-shall-it-be-you-or-thou

What all this talk about preferred pronouns is really about, as near as I can make out, is how we address others “behind their backs,” so to speak.

“I’m asked, often,” says Professor McWhorter, “to call people, singularly, ‘they.’”

In the third person.

So, what these gender-obsessed youngsters are really fretting about is not how they are addressed, but how they are referred to — in conversation in groups where they are being referenced to other people with personal and possessive pronouns.

Peterson is surely in the right that this sort of thing should be negotiated. People who cannot handle social negotiations of this sort may understandably yearn to cry to Big Brother to enforce the exact terms, but if they are bucking a long tradition, they need to stop being such . . . juveniles. And conjure up from deep within themselves a little tolerance.

And maybe even respect for the past. And biology. And . . .

After all, is it not the people who wish to change others’ behavior, and tradition of long standing, who must prove the most? The burden of persuasion usually falls upon the radicals. It is they who must be expected to be the more tolerant and forgiving. (Amusingly, in the collective, their non-gendered pronoun falls trippingly off the tongue as well as the typing fingertips — for there is no gendering of “they/them/their/theirs.”)

That they are not tolerant, in this issue, but demanding, instead, is a sign that they are pampered, “privileged” whiners with little to recommend them as civilized beings.

And, as for me . . .

mygender-meme

twv

 

 

 

N. B. The first graphic “meme,” above, is from my second memegenerator.net account: Wirkman. (Not my first, Lucian.) The second graphic meme refers to a philosophy central in the early science fiction novels of F. Paul Wilson, which featured prominently in his LaNague Federation books such as Healer (1976) and An Enemy of the State (1980). “KYFHO” stands for “Keep Your Fucking Hands Off.”

Sibelius MONUMENT

Early adopters of a meme — which could be a folkway, a technology, an idea or whole ideology — are different from late adopters; indeed, early adopters are psychologically distinct from late adopters across time, even regarding the same idea.

This means that the early adopters of “progressive” statism in the 19th century and early 20th centuries do not look like current proponents of the same ideology. That is, because today’s progressives are late adopters — indeed, holdouts . . . as their ideology, once dominant, begins to receive significant cultural challenge — they are essentially conservative or reactionary in temper.

This explains current ideological conflict, and the outrageous censoriousness of the left. The people who think they are radicals are conservative, and the people who think themselves conservatives may, in psychological fact if not on some historical ideological maps, be the radicals.


From Alex Ross’s The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (2008):

In 1984, the great American avant-garde composer Morton Feldman gave a lecture at the relentlessly up-to-date Summer Courses for New Music, in Darmstadt, Germany. ‘The people who you think are radicals might really be conservatives,’ Feldman said on that occasion. ‘The people who you think are conservative might really be radical.’ And he began to hum the Sibelius Fifth.

IMG_1239

It has become commonplace: the hallmark of today’s self-identified Left is to play encomiast* to diversity while brooking scant diversity of opinion. Indeed, difference of opinion now fills them with scorn and rage.

What do we call their error here?

They have ready terms for people who hate or discriminate against others on the basis of race or sex: racism and sexism, respectively.

They have ready terms for people who hate or discriminate against gays, trans people or foreigners: homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia.

So, what do we call their hatred for people with different philosophies, who diverge on matters of facts and values?

Shall we dub them with an “ism” or a “phobia”?

If it is to be the latter, may I suggest xenologophobia?**

I have many ideas for the ism variant, but I suspect I should merely ask others for the exact term that has been fixed upon by professionals. (Call this a bleg.)

Nevertheless, I proceed. And I note that it would be especially satisfactory to base the epithet on the philosophical nature of the error.

How? Well . . . racism and sexism, for example, are not just about hatred or “discrimination.” The error in these attitudes, if we drill down to principle, limns the nature of the prejudice: racism is the “making too much of race” by imputing some generalizations about a race to individuals of that race regardless of merit.

Even were the modal Swede socialist-minded, it would be an error to assume that every Swede you meet is a socialist, no matter how statistically relevant the identification with Swedes and socialism. This would be racism, were Swedes considered a race. (Otherwise we could call the error Swedism? I mean, ethnism?)

Similarly with sexism. “Sexism is judging people by their sex,” wrote the coiner of the term, “when sex doesn’t matter.”

Leftist ideologues who will not debate their opponents respectfully, who exclude non-leftists from the community of scholars on criterion of lockstep ideological agreement, put too much stock in their ideas, and have abandoned liberality, tolerance. We could simply and rightly call them illiberals. But that doesn’t quite get to the heart of the matter.

They negatively judge people by their ideas when ideas don’t really matter . . . by ideologies when ideologies shouldn’t matter. But we can’t call these illiberals “ideaists” (“idealism” already having been nabbed for other purposes). Too clumsy.

But hey: we do not need the -ism or -ist, really; there are other suffix options: think of Christianity. Isn’t there an -ity suffix, or something similar?

How about idiots?

twv

* Encomiast, remember, was defined by Ambrose Bierce as “a special, but not particular kind of liar.”

** If they fear even going halfway to meet people they disagree with, for fear of endlessly parsing disagreement, we could call them Zenologophobes.

50D5222B-75BB-4FCF-9A56-26F164371F07

Read the rest of this entry »

Caught a few moments of Scott Adams, on Periscope last night. He explained why calling terrorists such as yesterday’s New York pedestrian killer “cowards” is “not very good persuasion.” Mayor Bill de Blasio just did that, as GWB had in mid-September 2001.

Adams is of course right. “Coward” is inapposite. It makes no inroads into the belief system of would-be terrorists, surely the rhetorical target. As I explained, years ago, in defense of Bill “Politically Incorrect” Maher’s infamous ridicule of Bush’s “faceless cowards” designation, the cowardice charge is weak-minded and pathetic.

A better insult — better even than Trump’s “losers” epithet — would attack the terrorists’ faith and efficacy.

Adams suggests “burning in hell.”

A spin on that might be:

“Damned raisin-eaters.”

You see why, right?

twv

I make little visual memes every now and then, in part to help me remember ideas. A visual aid, so to speak. You can find most of my “creations” under the IoaB/vMemes menu on this site.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Robinson Jeffers quote

I am an amateur at best in the visual realm, so my attempts to marry words and images into pithy graphic memes tend to be somewhat primitive. No wonder I outsource some of my ideas to others, for better treatment. Still, in case you missed the vMemes section of IoaB, above, here are a few — some of them recent, others not:

If you want to see want to catch the latest, click to receive email notifications of new posts on this blog, Discriminations.info — I’ll try to blog each new one, and link to its permanent location at memeVigilante.com.

The first on the list, above, is today’s most recent.

Rooster Advice #1

N.B. Sometimes I use Adobe products to cook these things up; often I just use Apple’s Pages and do a screenshot. The rooster meme, for instance (intended to be first in a series, but who knows?) is a very simple Pages effort, made (as most of these are made) on my iPad Pro. Also, my wirkmanv account on Instagram usually publishes these at release time, too.