I hope to build some rigor into and shed some light on what I see as an important difference between how memetic systems and logical (formal) systems arrive at what might be termed "truth" or "consensus," or if you like, a concept of what is generally considered to be true and correct, and a basis for further action.
My perception is that the two systems have very different approaches to this, and get very different results. This is important because we are more or less taught that clear thinking, fairness, openness (1), benevolent and beneficent institutions, democracy, and so forth are how things "really work," when in fact reality may be very different, and the promise of enlightenment and democracy may in fact be a Big Lie.
A less pessimistic and cynical view may be along the lines of what a number of enlightened statesmen have penned, that is, that democracy is something you have to work at. If we entertain this viewpoint, then hopefully exploring the differences between logic and rhetoric's approach to truth and memetic truth.
I hope to identify a few factors, try to characterize why large groups of people and individuals seem hell-bent on "believing" any number of things which are demonstrably false, either by solid evidence or logic or both.
As I've said before, this is one of the major pillars of memetic engineering, that is, to understand why it's often so difficult to change people's minds, and how in the past political change has been accomplished through mass murder, and how patently horrible ideologies from classism to racism to sexism to Nazism have been ensconced for centuries, causing untold misery, and yet are bewilderingly difficult to uproot. Certainly just explaining to people how they should do things differently is at best completely useless (at worst makes them dig in their heels...!), which never ceases to flummox liberals.
Rigor and Negative Hypotheses
In logic, an hypothesis or proposition may be disproved, that is, gotten rid of entirely, by a single, simple contrary example. Furthermore, a negative hypothesis cannot be proven or disproven because it would typically require an "exhaustion" of the set of all cases, for instance, "There is no Santa Claus," cannot be proven since there's always the possibilty that the Jolly Olde Elf is still out there, merely having so far evaded observation, lives most of the time in another dimension, and so on. In other words, there is nothing in the power of the scientist, researcher, rhetorician or logistician to settle the question until and unless Olde Saint Nick deigns to reveal himself, or some mother's child manages to spy, and obtain uncontrovertible, and reproducible, evidence. Good luck with that one.
A big thing about scientific and logical theories and their proofs or falsification is that one usually specifies how to disprove the theory within the theory itself. "I predict this," gives everybody the chance to look for that this, and if they find it, the theory is upheld, for now, and if they fail to find it, and the observation is considered to be properly conducted and reproducible, then the theory fails.
Hence the Santa Claus problem. It's makes it impossibly hard on experimentalists, since it's impossible to "check everywhere" and therefore it's impossible to state that there is no Santa Claus. Even evidence that mom had a cache of different wrapping paper for the gifts "from Santa" so they wouldn't be the same as the ones from mum and dad, is no proof. It is merely evidence, and all it does is undermine the idea that there are presents from Santa, and they were wrapped with different paper from mum and dad's gifts, which one would expect for a gift from a third party.
A theologian would probably call this something like a "test of faith." I for one never experienced the "when did you find out there was no Santa Claus?" moment because I realized, even at a young age, that disproval of a negative hypothesis is impossible, and that Santa Claus could still always turn up. My conclusion was that it was not a very important question, however tantalizingly unsolvable it might be.
The positive hypothesis for Santa Claus is not really any better. The only way to prove that there is a Santa Claus is to actually find him, and even if you find a fake Santa, the real McCoy might still be out there. It's kind of like the theory of black holes, and I remember the time when Hawking had thoroughly laid down what they were like, but it was the informal consensus that he would never get the Nobel Prize for it since everybody knew that we'd never actually fly hundreds to hundreds of millions of light years out there to observe one, so, like Santa Claus, it was just a matter of personal belief.
Since then, we know there are black holes because we've actually photographed them, as well as measured the gravitational waves generated on the fabric of space time by their collisions, exactly as Hawking, Einstein, and Schwartzschild predicted, based on lots of other theories upheld by observation.
Santa Claus may get his Nobel Prize yet.
Iconography and Plausibility
Enter Macromemetics. The fact that Santa Claus, Olde Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Captain Santa (3), and so on (I hope I'm making my point) is an icon, or a MIAO (2) means that there is an enormous memetic inventory associated with it.
I can't say, yet, whether this is a root cause, a primary differentiator between memetic access to hypotheses, particularly negative hypotheses and logical access to them. There may be others, and this is where I think we may have to build some experiments.
Logic tells us that things are either true or false based on rules and facts, and science adds that there may be ways to measure these facts. What does memetics do? First off, individual humans are memetic agents who "say" (4) that things are true or false. There is no requirement that they go through any sort of rigorous process before they say it, so insistence on facts, or logic, or kindness, or whatever is useless, which should surprise no one.
So why do they say it? And more importantly, how can we (5) get them to say something else? More to the point, how can we (5) get large numbers of them to say something else?
One theory is that an established icon, like Santa Claus, has a huge memetic inventory associated with it, so no matter what, it is always possible to deploy memes that assert or de-assert the "truth" of the icon, or any hypothesis associated with it, e.g., it's existence (6). And it has memetic inventory on all sides, existence and non-existence. But memetically, for an established icon, there isn't really any such thing as non-existence. In a memetic environment, Santa Claus never really 'non-exists' so much as 'un-exists'.
If this sounds silly, let's kick it up a notch and put out the idea of the "unexistence of racism" or the "unexistence of sexism" or "the unplausibility of de facto genocide," or even the "un-existence of Nazism." (9,13)
In some sense, in terms of memetics, if you're talking about something, no matter how absurd it is, you're accepting it as plausible.
The Un-existence of Santa Claus
Let's cut to it. My idea is that we need to get people to stop talking about something in a destructive way, or to stop doing things we don't want them to, or however you want to put it, change the world for the better by getting people to stop doing stupid shit and justifying it with ridiculous pseudo-logic and non-facts (7). I have a few theories and as yet half-baked ideas about this based on theories I've put forward and in some cases proven (8) before. I think I'll just try to state them and then justify their veracity as far as I can, and then propose experiments for them after that.
Immunomemetics to the rescue! To get people to start saying or doing something else, you need to inject a system of immunomemes that allow others to bully them, and still others to support that bullying. It's also good to inject new memes that can tie into innocuous memes that are connected to the targeted meme and be deployed instead.
Slavoj Zizec tells us that "the excess is with us forever" (9), and I tend to agree for purely memetic reasons, and perhaps the cure is memetically motivated as well. You can't stop articulating the memes, for once they appear, and once they are connected to enough other bodies of context, they are there forever. It is like why we study history, or why Winston Smith in 1984 was charged with continually updating and erasing history, but erasing it in such a way that the elements which were familiar seemed not to change. He observed, when he made up the character of a young soldier who had died bailing out of a plane in the Indian Ocean, to take the place of an un-person (10) whom he was having to redacted out of a past edition of a newspaper, that it was easier to create a dead person than a living one.
So in a sense, the effort to control history is an effort to control what people talk about, moreso than what they believe to be true. It is a way of whisking away the possible immunomemetic responses are tailored such that the powers that be may make the statements they will (11) and there is nothing that one can say against them, or saying anything gives everybody else the opportunity to attack the dissenter, which is always much more convincing, and ultimately anybody who wishes to remain in authority must achieve this state of self-sustainment.
How Facts, Logic, and Memes Contribute to Truth
Theories are vulnerable. Memetic systems are not. Why? A theory in logic is a structure in which facts and propositions and axioms all fit together to support the conclusion. Any defect results in the conclusion being wrong.
Remember the alogical nature of memes and memetic systems. Memes don't contradict each other (12), they only re-enforce one another. A meme helps another meme if it establishes a context where the second meme may be deployed. MIAOs are a super example of memes re-enforcing each other. They bring a lot of memes into play all at once, some logical, some illogical, some nonsensical, some practical.
How do memes oppose one another? The equivalent to a logical contradiction in the world of memes would be where a given meme opens up the memetic fabric to the deployment of an immunomeme, and one that attacks other memes in the system. (14)
Examples might be a system of racism and hatred that somehow didn't trigger any immunomemetic resistance until you started talking about killing people or herding them into camps, and then people get upset. So the trick is to avoid actually publicly deploying the really offensive stuff, or work on breaking down everybody's defenses, or injecting immunomemes such as "it's the only solution" or "it won't be as bad as it sounds" or whatever so that the resisters are shouted down in one way or another.
So memes re-enforce one another, so long as there is not another memetic system out there with immunomemes that attack the main memes in our system. I'm exploring the idea that immunomemetic systems eventually evolve into normal memes, over time.
Summary and Conclusions
I'm not sure I've reached any great conclusions here, perhaps more to look into later. However, memes worry about whether they may be deployed, and whether their deployment will allow for the deployment of more memes in their memeplex. This is the supportive and alogical nature of memes.
We come back to what is the nature of immunomemes. What do they do? One possible answer is that they transition the memetic fabric, the environment back into their own memetic system. Memes die from atrophy, more than anything else. A successful memetic system is the one that keeps the brains running its own memes, and turns away others.
How do we change things? We have to create new memes that re-enforce the old memes, and thus avoid the immunomemeplexes. We have to have a deep understanding of how racism functions, for example, and then come questions like how do we replace the racist memes? We want to replace the action memes first, and the signal memes, maybe never. Does that mean that we joke about it, or that we say nothing -- probably the former. The edict that the majority (oppressor) class are not allowed to say anything, to make the jokes, to make the comments, is Macromemetically speaking, may well be deeply misguided.
I have yet to put forth proposals for experiments to determine how truth and memeplexes work. I'll keep on that. Let me know if you have ideas.
(1) I wrote an essay on the counterintuitive nature of government secrecy. This topic probably merits more ink later on.
(2) Memetic Iconic Anchoring Object
(3) Thank you again, Japan.
(4) Some would dredge up the word "believe," but "say it's true" is really the same thing. Things are true or not true regardless of whether you "believe" them, and if you believe something, it doesn't really matter if it's "true" or not. This is the phenomenon that we want to explore.
(5) This is not the Imperial 'We', by the way. It's more of the pseudo-non-passive 'we' of we'll decide who's going to actually do it later, which I by the way intend to do.
(6) A quality of most any religious or mythical entity. Note that the French have not stopped saying things like 'avoir une bosse pour les mathématiques' (have a 'bump' for maths) despite phrenology having falling into disfavor as a science.
(7) This is one of the two or three "High Goals" of Macromemetics, by the way.
(8) Demonstrated experimentally, more evidence welcome.
(9) This is one of the less-supported assertions, in my view, that he makes in A Pervert's Guide to Ideology, but it actually makes perfect sense memetically. In fact, the opposite would be weird. That is, the extra ideological content that is added to a source of simple pleasure, through some cultural or ideological process, shall we say, cannot be removed again. He then goes on to explore how the hard rock band Ramstein attempts to do something very like that with Nazi iconography, i.e., draining the icons and symbols of their Nazi meaning, or, let's see if I can get this, articulating the icons used by the Nazis as pure elements so that they may be enjoyed beyond the Nazi horizon of meaning and thereby be drained of their Nazi articulation (I'll have to transcribe this the next time I watch the show).
(10) The political science / historical term is probably "non-person," while Orwell used, I believe, "unperson" in this context (possibly due to the fact that "unperson" is a Newspeak word, while "non-person" is not -- thanks Kris!).
(11) As in, such-and-so people are too stupid, not to be trusted, the bad things they say happened to them never happened, are the master race, or are sub-human and may be done away with as we see fit, and so on.
(12) Well, they do, but not in the way we think of logical propositions contradicting one another.
(13) There's the question of neo-Nazis, are they actually somehow carrying the torch of the original Nazis, and what would that even mean? When we talk about Nazis in history, are we keeping alive the evil they perpetuated, or is there a right and a wrong way to do this?
(14) Even when this seems to be true, it often isn't. Memes that seem to be immunomemes against something like, say, sexism, actually re-enforce sexism by bringing up, re-establishing the context for, the only sexist memes, or variations thereupon.