Archives for category: memetics


I slam Islam — often. But why? It is not because I hate the color of most Muslims’ skins; I do not hate Buddhism or Hinduism or Zoroastrianism or Yazidist “devil worship,” despite the darker skins of most of these religions’ proponents. It is the color, you might say, of the ideas in the religion. Those notions strike me as morally dark and socially dangerous and super-excessively narrow- and bloody-minded, the ultimate in-group/out-group malignancy.

While individual Muslims may be fine people, Islam itself is not a respectable ideology. And, really, my attitude towards any Muslim is: you have a moral obligation to throw off your nasty religion. But what do we say of Muslims in general, or do about the threat that many, many in their midst present? Well, here it gets tricky.

So, to make my main point, I post, once again, from F. Marion Crawford’s 1887 novel Paul Patoff, regarding the nature of Islam as perceived by two Russian brothers watching group prayer in the Hagia Sofia:

Alexander Patoff stood by his brother’s side, watching the ceremony with intense interest. He hated the Turks and despised their faith, but what he now saw appealed to the Orientalism of his nature. Himself capable of the most distant extremes of feeling, sensitive, passionate, and accustomed to delight in strong impressions, he could not fail to be moved by the profound solemnity of the scene and by the indescribable wildness of the Imam’s chant. Paul, too, was silent, and, though far less able to feel such emotions than his elder brother, the sight of such unanimous and heart-felt devotion called up strange trains of thought in his mind, and forced him to speculate upon the qualities and the character which still survived in these hereditary enemies of his nation. It was not possible, he said to himself, that such men could ever be really conquered. They might be driven from the capital of the East by overwhelming force, but they would soon rally in greater numbers on the Asian shore. They might be crushed for a moment, but they could never be kept under, nor really dominated. Their religion might be oppressed and condemned by the oppressor, but it was of the sort to gain new strength at every fresh persecution. To slay such men was to sow dragon’s teeth and to reap a harvest of still more furious fanatics, who, in their turn being destroyed, would multiply as the heads of the Hydra beneath the blows of Heracles. The even rise and fall of those long lines of stalwart Mussulmans seemed like the irrepressible tide of an ocean, which if restrained, would soon break every barrier raised to obstruct it. Paul sickened at the thought that these men were bowing themselves upon the pavement from which their forefathers had washed the dust of Christian feet in the blood of twenty thousand Christians, and the sullen longing for vengeance rankled in his heart. At that moment he wished he were a soldier, like his brother; he wished he could feel a soldier’s pride in the strong fellowship of the ranks, and a soldier’s hope of retaliation. He almost shuddered when he reflected that he and his brother stood alone, two hated Russians, with that mighty, rhythmically surging mass of enemies below. The bravest man might feel his nerves a little shaken in such a place, at such an hour.

My point is: if an American author of the 19th century could see the nature of Islam and its adherents, and prophesy the dire consequences of interfering in their lands and religion, why have our leaders been unable to accept this not-incomprehensible wisdom?

Are they morons, as we often said of George W. Bush? Are they secret communists, as some say Obama was, hoping to undermine the West? Or are they fools, like most people say Trump is, clueless about the ways of the world?

Whether moronism, subversion, or folly — or some strange hubris — American foreign policy in the Mid-East has exacerbated tendencies in the affected populations of Muslims, and we now find ourselves facing a growing number of Hydra heads, bent on mass murder at the very least.

Why would some Muslims want this? Well, there is no mystery. It is not as if we lack testimony from the jihadists themselves. Repeatedly, Muslim radicals have offered rationales for their actions. Excuses, at the very least. Courtesy of the British rag Mirror, there is even, now, a handy low-brow listicle, “ISIS reveal 6 reasons why they despise Westerners as terrorist’s sister claims he wanted revenge for US airstrikes in Syria.” Here is my synopsis of those points:

1. The West is predominantly non-Muslim; we are “disbelievers.”
2. The West is liberal-tolerant. The same principles that suggest to us that we not discriminate against Muslims migrating to our countries is the reason ardent jihadists hate us!
3. The West has a few atheists — and doesn’t persecute them!
4. For our “crimes against Islam,” unspecified in this accounting, but one would think these [alleged] crimes are somehow distinct from the reasons above and below.
5. For our governments’ “crimes against Muslims,” including drone strikes, bombs, embargoes, etc.
6. For “invading their lands.” This is obviously something different from #5, above. This is surely an idea of territorial sanctity, an idea that conservatives might understand instinctively, but of which (I suspect) progressives possess no clue.

Now, of those six reasons, the fifth is the one we can do the most about. Western nations do not need to attempt to settle every violent dispute in the Mid-East. Indeed, I find this fifth reason utterly compelling. Were America bombed and high-hatted by Muslims the way Americans high-hat and bomb Muslim populations abroad, I know good and well there would be plenty of bloodlust acted upon from here to overseas. I know my fellow Americans. They would seek revenge, and would keep a tally, demanding overkill, not mere tit for tat.

Reasons 1 and 3 are very similar, as are 4, 5 and 6. This indicates, I suspect, the general tenor of the complaints. And certainly the first three reasons are all integral to Islam in a fundamental way. The religion is not known for its tolerance of differing opinions. The Quran itself, in its later, Medina-based portions, is quite clear: the infidels must be killed, enslaved, or at least treated as second- or third-class citizens. Dhimmitude. Slavery. Mass murder. These three are characteristic of Islam-based societies. Look to the long, almost genocidal history of Islam in India, or the recent descent of Lebanon into chaos. Rising European jihadist terrorism does not seem so inexplicable, does it?

But, in the West, it is common for good, peaceful folks to pontificate about how Islam is “just like other religions,” or is “really” a “religion of peace,” or “Christians commit terrorism too.” That latter is especially nincompoopish, as this video argues successfully:

What I’ve been trying to argue since at least 9/12/2001 is this: with Islam such a dangerous memeplex, it is sheer witlessness and folly to stir the hornets’ nest by trying to rule people who have commitments to that meme system. They will resent it. And retaliate. And, grounded upon their own sacred texts, will seek to subvert, conquer, destroy.

Islam spread, initially, by the sword. The Messenger, Mr. M. himself, is said to have died not long after this admonishment: “Muslims should fight all men until they say, ‘there is no god but God.’”*

That is quite a challenge for accepting Western liberalism. Perhaps it will prove to be a bigger challenge than Communism has been so far. We will see.

But first, admit the truth. Do not meddle in their internecine affairs if you can at all avoid it. And perhaps cordon off the Islamic peoples. Not for idiotic market-protectionist reasons, but for reasons of our own survival, to protect our way of life. For Islam is not a loving religion, aiming for peace. It demands conquest. And the more Muslims that congregate in an area, the more pressured and emboldened they become to adopt the entelechy at the heart of Islam: “confident submission.” To Allah. To “God.” And to their interpretation of what this Deity supposedly demands.


* As quoted in Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1991), p. 19.

An idea that presumably references reality should be judged on the merits of its accuracy . . . in mapping that relevant, pointed-to reality.

If the idea refers to existents, to things of a physical nature, then the idea should not be contradicted by evidence, by the facts. Empirical investigation would be the primary way to test the idea, to judge its worthiness for continued use. Belief should be based on this, if at all possible.

img_0363Trouble arises, of course, when empirical tests become difficult or impossible. Then we have to engage in more roundabout and elaborate testing. This is especially the case in the social science, since complexity necessarily complicates analysis as well as testing. And, perhaps more fundamentally, all human interaction (the realm of the social) depends upon human action, which rests upon choice — and choice (in its most deliberate forms, anyway) is the result of speculation about alternate courses of actions and the expected value of the effects of those actions. Any action must at least in part be judged in terms of what was not chosen — what did not, in effect, take place — as well as in terms of what was chosen — what was demonstrated in the act(s) themselves. This is necessarily metaphysical, in the “not-obviously empirical” sense.*

And then there is this issue: some ideas are so constructed that they derail critical thought, scuttle reasoning, and prevent the search for faults. Self-defensive theories, you might say.

Polylogism is a great example of this. Polylogism is “many logics,” and is the fairly widespread belief that there is one logic for one person or group and a different [and “equally valid”] logic for another. “You cannot understand this because you are a woman [or man]”; “you cannot understand this because you are of the wrong race”; “you only believe that because you are a capitalist”; “you only say that because you are an x [or y].”

Now, it may be true that some of these expressions pertain to some thoughts. Men may be so constituted to be more likely than women to believe that some things are true and others false — and vice versa. But the likelihood of a belief does not mean that the belief cannot be tested without reference to the believers’ sex. Truth-value is irrelevant to belief likelihood. Polylogists deny this. They say (sometimes witlessly, without thinking the idea through) that one’s perspective prohibits epistemic transcendence. We are confined to our categories. Rationality cannot be universal.

It is all very self-defeating. And, in reality, a mere formalization of variant of the ad hominem fallacy.

C. S. Lewis wrote a charming essay on this problem, “Bulverism,” and I heartily recommend that you look it up. Ludwig von Mises wrote incisively on polylogism in a technical way, and this I also highly recommend — though his manner of presentation is fairly difficult for novice readers.† Unfortunately, I’ve never actually come across a technical discussion of polylogism that is as clear Lewis’s informal presentation. Part of this is no doubt the result of the inherently metaphysical nature of human choice. And this is all the more difficult for us, today, because metaphysics itself is strongly resisted by today’s dominant modernist and post-modernist philosophical traditions.‡

I should probably go downstairs and pull out Man and People (Norton, 1963), by Ortega y Gasset. He may very well have dealt with this in the book. In memory, it seems relevant. I do know that this book made a more convincing-to-me case for a generally praxeological approach than did Mises’. Alas, I’ve not read Ortega’s final masterwork in nearly 40 years.

Nowadays, memetics deals with “mind viruses” such as polylogism. (There are others.) I am not aware, however, of a formal memetic analysis that takes a look at such self-defensive meme-plexes (I call them “memetic traps”) and relates them to the traditional lists of logical fallacies. That would be extremely useful.

I have a lot of studying to do on this issue. Hints from my friends and readers would be most appreciated.

* This should provide a clue as to why metaphysics keeps on cropping up in human science and philosophy, despite attempts by logical positivists (and others) to beat it down: we are beings where non-physicality is an essential aspect of our reality.

† C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Eerdmans, 1970), and Ludwig von Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, Third Edition: Revised (Regnery, 1966), pp. 75-89.

‡ Trends in philosophy are looking up, however, now that logical positivism has waned in influence, and some of its main contentions against metaphysics have been found wanting.