Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Malignant memes and memeplexes

Memebuster - Richard Dawkins
Suppose there was a disease which had killed millions in the past, was still killing thousands every week, and had the potential to kill billions in the future. Shouldn't the disease be investigated scientifically? Shouldn't cures be developed? Should ways be found of stopping its spread? Well there is such a disease - religious fanaticism - which many scientists and philosophers such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett regard as a contagious mental illness. But relatively little work has been done on the causes of the disease, and even less on potential cures and prevention. 

Memebuster - Winston Churchill

Viruses of the mind

The infectious nature of religious fanaticism was first recognised by Winston Churchill, who wrote about his experiences of counterjihad operations in the Sudan: "How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property - either as a child, a wife, or a concubine - must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome." 'Hydrophobia' is an older word for rabies, which is a disease caused by a virus that results in mad aggression. Churchill had recognised the infective nature of jihadism, and drew the analogy between the insanity-causing biological virus of rabies and the cultural virus of Mohammedanism. In the 1970's and 80's, Richard Dawkins and other thinkers were to give a more formal description to this phenomenon of contagious religious insanity ('viruses of the mind') with the introduction of the term 'meme', and its derivatives such as memeplex, memoid, memetics and memetic engineer.


A meme is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena. Memes are cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures. According to memeticist Susan Blackmore: "Some memes are almost entirely exploitative, or viral, in nature, including chain letters and e-mail viruses. These consist of a “copy-me” instruction backed up with threats and promises. Religions have a similar structure and this is why Dawkins refers to them as ‘viruses of the mind’. Many religions threaten hell and damnation, promise heaven or salvation, and insist that their followers pass on their beliefs to others. This ensures the survival of the memeplex. Other viral memes include alternative therapies that don’t work, and new age fads and cults. Relatively harmless memes include children’s games, urban legends and popular songs, all of which can spread like infections. At the other end of the spectrum memes survive because of their value to us. The most valuable of memeplexes include all of the arts and sports, transport and communications systems, political and monetary systems, literature and science." The terms 'going viral' and 'memes' have now entered popular use, especially when referring to rapidly spreading internet memes. An interesting topic, to be covered later on this blog, is whether such knowledge of memetics is itself a meme (the Metameme), whose spread can immunize against more violent memes much like infection by the mild cowpox virus can immunize against the lethal smallpox virus.


A memeplex is mutually-reinforcing association of memes. Individual memes compete with each other and evolve. Part of the way they become better at making copies is to join together with other memes in a mutually-supporting group. A combination of memes (known as a "memeplex") is often able to get itself into more minds than single memes. Memetics is the study of memes, and from a memetics standpoint, a religion is a memeplex — collection of memes. One of the constituent memes might be, for example, "This holy book is the literal word of God." We know it's the word of God because it says so and God tells the truth. Many memeplexes contain such self-referential truth claims.

Malignant, parasitic and exploitative memeplexes

In this view, religious belief is a self-perpetuating delusion - a self-referential belief system which contains within itself the instructions for its own propagation. Such exploitative memeplexes are often described as the cultural equivalents of computer viruses. A malignant memeplex carries exactly the same fear-driven psychological motivation as a chain letter - "If you propagate me then something nice will happen, if not then something horrible will happen". In order to justify themselves against attack by reason, religious memeplexes place absolute reliance on faith, which is seen as being superior to reason. They also contain self-referential or circular claims to the truth, which on examination are found to reduce to logical absurdities such as "This memeplex says it is the divine truth. Since it is the divine truth whatever its says must be true. Therefore it must be divine truth because it says so and all competing memeplexes must be the work of the Devil". These two types of self-referential statement "propagate me" and "I am the only truth" provide the driving force for exploitative memeplexes to invade the minds of their hosts. In addition, many memeplexes contain the instructions "Help people who believe in this memeplex, attack people who do not". These commands being the ultimate cause of all religious hatred, wars, pogroms and persecutions throughout the centuries. The general defining features of exploitative memeplexes can thus be seen to be self-referential 'closed-loop' type of circular statements, and a strong tendency towards hatred and intolerance.

Rabid religions

More detailed analysis will usually show the following features: Like a virus such as rabies, a successful memeplex must perform two actions: - Overpower the resistance of its host. - Bring about the conditions for its spread. To establish itself in the mind of its host it will use some or all of the following mechanisms: [1] Promise heaven for belief. This may involve frustrating the host's normal sexual urges and redirecting them into sexual fantasies of the hereafter (72 virgins). [2] Threaten eternal punishment in hell for disbelief. [3] Boost the believers' egos by telling them they are 'chosen' or superior to believers in false memeplexes. [4] Disable the faculties of disbelief ('immune response') by claiming that faith is superior to reason. [5] Establish itself as the One True Memeplex, usually by some sort of holy book containing a circular self-referential argument that short-circuits valid logic. Once it has parasitised the mind of its host, a memeplex needs to propagate itself. A successful memeplex will contain instructions for some or all of the following: [6] Holy war - convert or kill all unbelievers. [7] Intimidation and terrorism - threaten and discriminate against unbelievers. [8] Enforced social isolation or even death to apostates. (An apostate is a host which has cured itself of a meme-infection. It is especially dangerous to the memeplex because it might pass on memeplex-resistance to others). [9] Fecundism - encourage true believers to breed faster than believers in false memeplexes. [10] Censorship - prevent rival memeplexes from reaching potential hosts (a theological doctrine known as 'Error has no rights') and forbid rational analysis of the memeplex itself. [11] Disinformation - spread lies about rival memeplexes.

Topics to be covered by this blog include:

> History of the meme concept > Terminology > The Psychocultural dual aspect of memeplexes > > Psychological factors > > > Threats and promises > > > Sociobiological interactions > > > Induced Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors > > Cultural factors > > > Memetic cultural modification to favor the memeplex. > > > Privilege, entitlement and status > > > Legal influence: censorship, blasphemy and apostasy

> Uses and limitations of biological analogies
> > Darwin's universal acid
> > Parasitic behavioral modification
> > Inheritance of memeplexes

> Otherizing and demonising carriers of competing memeplexes.
> > Tribalism: Totem and Taboo
> > Cultural destruction and Jahiliyyah
> > Dhimmis and Harbis

> Information control versus the free market place of ideas
> > Impact of the internet and holographic information

> Memetic Engineering, Memetic Engineers and Memoids
> > Political expediency
> > Identity politics
> > Religious memeplexes as weapons of mass destruction

> Parasitic Replacement of normal mental functions. 
> > Axiom replacement, circular reasoning and presuppositionalism

> Memeplexes and sex
> > Fecundism
> > Sexual repression and 72 virgins
> > Sexual jihad, pedophilia polygamy and sex slavery 

> Memebusting - how to destroy malignant memeplexes
> > The Metameme
> > Mindfulness meditation
> > The power of ridicule
> > Hitting the Achilles heel

> Memetics, atheism, secularism and spirituality.
> > Spiritual but not religious

Spirituality versus religion

This blog isn't antireligious or atheistic and doesn't claim that all religions are worthless fabrications and pathogenic viruses of the mind. What it aims to do is sort out the wheat from the chaff by identifying bogus cults and their methods of propagation, plus suggestions for deconstructing, disempowering and discrediting these malignant memeplexes. Destroying evil cults saves lives, and relieves the suffering of those who are persecuted and repressed by them. It may even prevent World War III.

Both Jesus and Buddha warned against bogus cults and exploitative memeplexes:

Memebuster - Jesus
JESUS Matthew 7:15-20, King James Version (KJV) "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."

Memebuster - Buddha
Kalama Sutra

"It is natural that doubt should arise in your minds.

I tell you not to believe merely because it has been handed down by tradition, or because it had been said by some great personage in the past, or because it is commonly believed, or because others have told it to you, or even because I myself have said it.

But whatever you are asked to believe, ask yourself whether it is true in the light of your experience, whether it is in conformity with reason and good principles and whether it is conducive to the highest good and welfare of all beings, and only if it passes this test, should you accept it and act in accordance with it." 

So destroying pathological memeplexes can be seen as a virtuous action by Christians and Buddhists; a service to humanity similar to eradicating lethal plagues. Some suggestions as to how this can be done will be included in future posts.

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