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Re: [nanotech] Re: screaming memies -- Memes vs. ideas

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  • Bryan Swinney
    Dear Folks, The injection of new nanotechnology jargon such as meme or memes into the discussion of nanotechnology is counterproductive. It simply adds
    Message 1 of 24 , Dec 31, 2000
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      Dear Folks,

      The injection of new nanotechnology jargon such as meme or memes into the
      discussion of nanotechnology is counterproductive. It simply adds
      complexity to the discussion without adding any specificity, while
      simultaneously adding confusion and wasted time in deciding its meaning and
      distributing the new definitions to the public at large.

      Bryan Swinney



      >On Mon, 1 Jan 2001, Andrew Martin wrote:
      >
      >> > What ideas are uncommunicable?
      >>
      >> Madness. Zen insight.
      >
      >These are not not necessarily ideas, and they are communicable.
      >
      >> > What will people believe, and why?
      >>
      >> As a general rule, what their friends, companions, tribemembers believe.
      >>
      >> > What ideas will they reject?
      >>
      >> Ideas/memes that go against the above core beliefs.
      >
      >Very true.
      >
      >>
      >> > How can we package our ideas so they will spread and be influential?
      >>
      >> Spread them on email lists, news groups and web sites, write about them,
      >> make speeches, demonstrate their influences in our own lives, write songs
      >> about them.
      >
      >Yes of course, but you're missing the point. We want to know how to do
      >this well, so it will be effective. What should I say in my speech so
      >people won't tune out? What should I put in the subject line so my email
      >won't get deleted unread? What insights does "memetics" have to offer,
      >as distinct from psychology, specific knowledge of the audience, etc.?
      >
      >> > How can we counter bad ideas?
      >>
      >> Be grounded in reality, learn more about the real world. Ask for proof. Burn
      >> the propagators of bad ideas at the stake!
      >
      >Got a light?
      >
      >> > What useful insight do you gain from the genetics analogy about these
      >> questions?
      >>
      >> Look at organised religion and cults. The memes involved act like viruses,
      >> disease outbreaks. They spread best in the young and innocent.
      >
      >The ideas spread like viruses. Why can't you just say that?
      >
      >> To build resistance against memes, learn more memes (building
      >> resistance). Infectious memes work best in mind with little knowledge or
      >> ways of testing memes/ideas against reality.
      >
      >Note that you _can't_ build resistance against genes. The analogy is
      >completely useless here. Bad genes die out because their carriers die
      >off. That's not a good strategy for winning intellectual battles.
      >
      >> > Mendel's laws, mutation rates, exons and introns, DNA recombination and
      >> manipulation, etc.... Where is the analogous content of "memetic science"?
      >>
      >> Memetic mutation and combination happens in religions.
      >
      >Yes, but without any of the interesting structure, noted above, which
      >makes genetics a (quantitative!) science and not merely a pile of babble
      >about the fact that children inherit characteristics from their parents.
      >
      >> Take Hinduism,
      >> Buddism, Tao, Zen. According to "Simple Zen", ISBN 0-7171-2987-X, these
      >> religions and philosophies have combined and mixed in several ways. Look at
      >> Catholicism and Protestantism, both split from the one core, each
      >> propagating in the the minds of believers over generations.
      >
      >I think there are a lot of books about the histories of religions which
      >record this branching and recombining evolution, and very few of them, if
      >any, contain the word "meme."
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >The Nanotechnology Industries mailing list.
      >"Nanotechnology: solutions for the future."
    • Andrew Martin
      ... science, merely babble about a hypothetical future science. There s better analogies in the links I posted earlier. Much better than my feeble
      Message 2 of 24 , Dec 31, 2000
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        > Perhaps, but until someone actually succeeds in doing this, you have no
        science, merely babble about a hypothetical future science.

        There's better analogies in the links I posted earlier. Much better than my
        feeble explanations.

        Andrew Martin
        ICQ: 26227169 http://members.nbci.com/AndrewMartin/
        -><-
      • Andrew Martin
        ... science, merely babble about a hypothetical future science. Here s the Journal of Memetics-Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission :
        Message 3 of 24 , Dec 31, 2000
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          > Perhaps, but until someone actually succeeds in doing this, you have no
          science, merely babble about a hypothetical future science.

          Here's the "Journal of Memetics-Evolutionary Models of Information
          Transmission":
          http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit/
          Is this babble?

          Andrew Martin
          ICQ: 26227169 http://members.nbci.com/AndrewMartin/
          -><-
        • eugene.leitl@lrz.uni-muenchen.de
          ... Because meme is shorter than ideas spreading like viruses . And because meme has become associated with a number of other meanings not associated with
          Message 4 of 24 , Jan 1, 2001
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            Mark Gubrud wrote:

            > The ideas spread like viruses. Why can't you just say that?

            Because "meme" is shorter than "ideas spreading like viruses".
            And because "meme" has become associated with a number of other
            meanings not associated with "ideas".

            Um, don't you feel kinda silly claiming "meme" has no meaning
            nor conveys any information whatsoever?
          • Ed Minchau
            ... influential? ... that ... analogy...? ... viruses/virii. ... shells. ... machines. ... Aren t they? A cell, ie a neuron, can be viewed as a little
            Message 5 of 24 , Jan 1, 2001
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              --- In nanotech@egroups.com, Mark Gubrud <mgubrud@s...> wrote:
              > On Mon, 1 Jan 2001, Andrew Martin wrote:
              >
              > > > > > How can we package our ideas so they will spread and be
              influential?
              >
              > > There's a distinct analogy here of creating mental virii, memes,
              that
              > > operate like computer virii.
              >
              > So maybe we should be talking about mirii.
              >
              > > > > > What useful insight do you gain from the genetics
              analogy...?
              >
              > I still haven't gotten an answer.
              >
              > > My analogy is more towards packaged memes/ideas being like
              viruses/virii.
              > > They are typically infectious, like genes packaged in virus
              shells.
              >
              > Yeah, but this analogy has its limits, too. Ideas aren't little
              machines.
              >

              Aren't they? A cell, ie a neuron, can be viewed as a little machine;
              so can a group of neurons and the connections between them. An idea
              is the physical manifestation of a meme in a human brain, formed as
              connections are made or lost.

              :) ed

              > > Studies of the history of religion and cults should be able derive
              > > equivalents to Mendel's laws, show something of mutations, and
              comparing the
              > > historical courses of several of them should show details of
              recombination
              > > and manipulation.
              >
              > Why would anything analogous to Mendel's laws show up? You don't
              have
              > homologous pairs. Mutuations, recombinations, and deliberate
              manipulation
              > can all be said to occur in ideological systems, but in a completely
              > unstructured and unrestricted way, subject only to the particulars
              of
              > fact, logic, and psychology. I still see no abstract science of
              > "memetics" that would impose any restrictions on the type of
              changes that
              > occur or make any specific predictions about what changes will
              occur.
              >
              > > That's correct. Neither does the book I'm mentioned. But then
              again, Mendel
              > > discovered his laws by observation and experimentation. By
              observing
              > > history, it should be possible to induce memetic laws for society
              as well.
              >
              > Perhaps, but until someone actually succeeds in doing this, you
              have no
              > science, merely babble about a hypothetical future science.
            • Samantha Atkins
              ... No. A machine implementing an idea or a design is not the idea or the design. If it is special purpose it may be said to embody the design. But a
              Message 6 of 24 , Jan 1, 2001
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                Ed Minchau wrote:
                >

                > >
                > > Yeah, but this analogy has its limits, too. Ideas aren't little
                > machines.
                > >
                >
                > Aren't they? A cell, ie a neuron, can be viewed as a little machine;
                > so can a group of neurons and the connections between them. An idea
                > is the physical manifestation of a meme in a human brain, formed as
                > connections are made or lost.
                >

                No. A machine implementing an idea or a design is not the idea or the
                design. If it is special purpose it may be said to embody the design.
                But a computer, for example, is not Microsoft Word (a program) even if
                it is running Microsoft Word (and little else due to bloat!).

                - samantha
              • Bryan Swinney
                Dear Debators, Something has happened that will be taking all of my time and attention for the near future. I regret having to withdrawing from this
                Message 7 of 24 , Jan 1, 2001
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                  Dear Debators,

                  Something has happened that will be taking all of my time and attention for
                  the near future. I regret having to withdrawing from this discussion for a
                  period.

                  May God bless and keep you in the meantime.


                  Bryan Swinney
                • Mark Gubrud
                  ... Yeah, and it s sure a _lot_ shorter than ideas spreading like viruses, except that they re not exactly like viruses, because they don t have protein
                  Message 8 of 24 , Jan 1, 2001
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                    On Mon, 1 Jan 2001 eugene.leitl@...-muenchen.de wrote:

                    > > The ideas spread like viruses. Why can't you just say that?
                    >
                    > Because "meme" is shorter than "ideas spreading like viruses".
                    > And because "meme" has become associated with a number of other
                    > meanings not associated with "ideas".

                    Yeah, and it's sure a _lot_ shorter than "ideas spreading like viruses,
                    except that they're not exactly like viruses, because they don't have
                    protein coats, and they don't force you to make their parts so they can
                    self-assemble and launch back into the air, and people tend to spread them
                    for other purposes not necessarily explicit in their content, and people
                    receiving them often understand them differently than the people who sent
                    them... well, see, they're really like genes, see, except they don't have
                    any of the structure of genetics and neither does their evolution... but
                    that's the point, don't you see, they _evolve_, ideas spread from person
                    to person and they _evolve_, cause like, some are successful and others
                    die out ... just like viruses and plants and societies and like, Wow man."

                    > Um, don't you feel kinda silly claiming "meme" has no meaning
                    > nor conveys any information whatsoever?

                    It's pseudoscientific cult jargon that usually conveys no more meaning
                    than a secret handshake. It's also Dawkins' reification of a completely
                    trivial observation, which explains little and nothing of much interest.
                  • Mark Gubrud
                    ... Industrial strength. An all-you-can-eat babble buffet.
                    Message 9 of 24 , Jan 1, 2001
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                      On Mon, 1 Jan 2001, Andrew Martin wrote:

                      > Here's the "Journal of Memetics-Evolutionary Models of Information
                      > Transmission":
                      > http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit/
                      > Is this babble?

                      Industrial strength. An all-you-can-eat babble buffet.
                    • eugene.leitl@lrz.uni-muenchen.de
                      ... [...] ... For a more detailed view on this you should check out http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v3/n11s/index.html (dicovered by Torsten Nahm). ... --
                      Message 10 of 24 , Jan 2, 2001
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                        Samantha Atkins wrote:
                        >
                        > Ed Minchau wrote:
                        [...]
                        > > Aren't they? A cell, ie a neuron, can be viewed as a little machine;
                        > > so can a group of neurons and the connections between them. An idea

                        For a more detailed view on this you should check out
                        http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v3/n11s/index.html
                        (dicovered by Torsten Nahm).

                        > > is the physical manifestation of a meme in a human brain, formed as
                        > > connections are made or lost.
                        > >
                        >
                        > No. A machine implementing an idea or a design is not the idea or the
                        > design. If it is special purpose it may be said to embody the design.
                        > But a computer, for example, is not Microsoft Word (a program) even if
                        > it is running Microsoft Word (and little else due to bloat!).
                        >
                        > - samantha
                        >
                        > The Nanotechnology Industries mailing list.
                        > "Nanotechnology: solutions for the future."

                        --
                        ______________________________________________________________________________
                        icbmto:N 48 10'07'' E 011 33'53'' http://www.lrz.de/~ui22204
                        ED 90 04 33 EB 74 E4 A9 53 7F CF F5 86 E7 62 9B 57 F9 CF D3
                      • eugene.leitl@lrz.uni-muenchen.de
                        ... Protein coats? Now you re being deliberately dense. It s similiarity, not identity. ... Of course they make you act as a vector, they make you blab about a
                        Message 11 of 24 , Jan 2, 2001
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                          Mark Gubrud wrote:
                          >
                          > Yeah, and it's sure a _lot_ shorter than "ideas spreading like viruses,
                          > except that they're not exactly like viruses, because they don't have
                          > protein coats, and they don't force you to make their parts so they can

                          Protein coats? Now you're being deliberately dense. It's similiarity,
                          not identity.

                          > self-assemble and launch back into the air, and people tend to spread them

                          Of course they make you act as a vector, they make you blab about a
                          nifty idea, thus encoding the information virus (or symbiont) into
                          its transport form (it has several, including hosts imitating behaviour),
                          until it hits a susceptible target, gets translated back into its
                          canonical genotype, changes in neural circuitry, and starts expressing
                          its phenotype, one of which goes something like "hey, I recently become
                          illuminated, and a burning thorn bush spoke in a thunderous
                          voice to me [...] now go forth, and preach upon the herd as I hath
                          preached upon ye, and do no cease until every single infidel is
                          converted, or they have slain thee (but preferably, slay the particularly
                          hardy cases by yourself, and of course you're protected by God Himself,
                          so you're virtually invulnerable, but just in case you should manage
                          to be killed: you will sit to the right side side of the Deity henceforth,
                          in eternity, amen). And yeah -- the Deity will indeed get pissed &
                          will smite thee with a lightning bolt of divine wrath, in case you change
                          a single iota of this Scripture".

                          > for other purposes not necessarily explicit in their content, and people

                          A thing has a certain meaning in one context, and will shift meaning
                          in another. If this alters meme's virulence, then it just has a lousy
                          global fitness.

                          > receiving them often understand them differently than the people who sent
                          > them... well, see, they're really like genes, see, except they don't have

                          Sure, errors in transcription. This is called mutation, and creates diversity,
                          which has positive, negative or neutral impact on fitness.

                          > any of the structure of genetics and neither does their evolution... but

                          Why? They do have genotype and phenotype. They replicate, and mutate.
                          They get selected for fitness. They interact, building meme clusters.
                          Their hosts coevolve with them.

                          > that's the point, don't you see, they _evolve_, ideas spread from person
                          > to person and they _evolve_, cause like, some are successful and others
                          > die out ... just like viruses and plants and societies and like, Wow man."

                          It's not a concept's fault that airheads are picking it up, and running with
                          it. Obviously you're immune to the meme meme, at least in the mutated
                          form you so far came into contact with.

                          > > Um, don't you feel kinda silly claiming "meme" has no meaning
                          > > nor conveys any information whatsoever?
                          >
                          > It's pseudoscientific cult jargon that usually conveys no more meaning
                          > than a secret handshake. It's also Dawkins' reification of a completely

                          I disagree here. You're being pretty hard on the concept, here. No
                          one claimed it to be scientific, it's threshold at best.

                          > trivial observation, which explains little and nothing of much interest.

                          Well, I don't think Blackmoore's book only contains trivialities. But let's
                          just agree to disagree here.
                        • Mark Gubrud
                          ... You can argue that a successful idea appeals to blabbermouths, so that it propagates from blabbermouth to blabbermouth. But blabbermouths have their own
                          Message 12 of 24 , Jan 2, 2001
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                            On Tue, 2 Jan 2001 eugene.leitl@...-muenchen.de wrote:

                            > Mark Gubrud wrote:
                            > >
                            > > Yeah, and it's sure a _lot_ shorter than "ideas spreading like viruses,
                            > > except that they're not exactly like viruses, because they don't have
                            > > protein coats, and they don't force you to make their parts so they can
                            >
                            > Protein coats? Now you're being deliberately dense. It's similiarity,
                            > not identity.
                            >
                            > > self-assemble and launch back into the air, and people tend to spread them
                            >
                            > Of course they make you act as a vector, they make you blab about a
                            > nifty idea, thus encoding the information virus (or symbiont) into

                            You can argue that a successful idea appeals to blabbermouths, so that it
                            propagates from blabbermouth to blabbermouth. But blabbermouths have
                            their own motivations, usually having little to do with the content of the
                            ideas blabbed. And the ideas that do appeal to them do so for complicated
                            reasons that are not predicted by the "meme" metaphor. Again, the point
                            is, the science(s) you are interested in are psychology, sociology,
                            ideology, linguistics, culture studies... The idea that ideas may appear
                            and propagate as replicating quanta is useful, but it hardly constitutes a
                            theory, and making it an overarching paradigm may cause you to overlook
                            other, equally (or more) important factors, such as the hierarchical
                            structure of society and communication within it, the interests of those
                            who control channels of mass communication, and the role of motivation and
                            logic in determining how people react to ideas. The reasons why ideas are
                            successful are not necessarily to be found in the ideas themselves.
                            Focusing your attention on them as "memes" or "mirons" is likely to
                            distract you from more fruitful considerations. The basic project of
                            "memetics," to create a science of ideas as particles obedient to some
                            supervening laws, abstract from their content and context, is thus far
                            barren, precisely because the structure that would enforce such laws just
                            ain't there; or in any case, whatever structure is there just ain't that
                            much like genetics, virology, or biological evolution.

                            > its transport form (it has several, including hosts imitating behaviour),
                            > until it hits a susceptible target, gets translated back into its
                            > canonical genotype, changes in neural circuitry,

                            Very bad metaphor here; "genotype" is a specific coding which is
                            universal in all organisms; the neural changes that occur in individuals
                            in response to ideas expressed by others are unique.

                            > and starts expressing
                            > its phenotype, one of which goes something like "hey, I recently become
                            > illuminated, and a burning thorn bush spoke in a thunderous
                            > voice to me [...] now go forth, and preach upon the herd as I hath
                            > preached upon ye, and do no cease until every single infidel is
                            > converted, or they have slain thee (but preferably, slay the particularly
                            > hardy cases by yourself, and of course you're protected by God Himself,
                            > so you're virtually invulnerable, but just in case you should manage
                            > to be killed: you will sit to the right side side of the Deity henceforth,
                            > in eternity, amen). And yeah -- the Deity will indeed get pissed &
                            > will smite thee with a lightning bolt of divine wrath, in case you change
                            > a single iota of this Scripture".

                            It seems to me you have a fiery preacher pumping up the congregation, and
                            everybody's gettin' excited and jumpin' and shoutin' and they're all full
                            of the Spirit and they each understand it in their own way and they'll
                            each go out and preach the Gospel that they know, which probably has
                            little or nothing to do with what the preacher said.

                            > > for other purposes not necessarily explicit in their content, and people
                            >
                            > A thing has a certain meaning in one context, and will shift meaning
                            > in another. If this alters meme's virulence, then it just has a lousy
                            > global fitness.

                            I don't see your comment here as related to the snippet of mine, but I
                            note that here you have implicitly acknowledged the failure of the meme
                            model, since "global fitness" is presumably what you are after. If
                            unpredictable changes in "virulence" cause unpredictable changes in
                            "global fitness," then what can you predict?

                            > > receiving them often understand them differently than the people who sent
                            > > them... well, see, they're really like genes, see, except they don't have
                            >
                            > Sure, errors in transcription. This is called mutation, and creates diversity,
                            > which has positive, negative or neutral impact on fitness.

                            Again, in the genetics case you have a universal language. You need that
                            in order to be able to talk about "errors". So here you can discuss error
                            only relative to the particular words which are used to _express_ an idea.
                            The canonical example is the "game of telephone," but the assumption is
                            that verbatim relay is the goal. But if ideas have some objective content
                            apart from the particular words that may express them, that content is not
                            accessible to such an approach. In fact, each person understands the idea
                            in his/her own way, connects it with a unique set of experiences,
                            associations, and conceptual constructs, and then tries to express his/her
                            understanding in words. That is a process wholly inaccessible to the
                            "meme" approach, which posits self-replication of idea particles, as if
                            people were empty vessels, mere sites for the action of "selfish memes."

                            > > any of the structure of genetics and neither does their evolution... but
                            >
                            > Why? They do have genotype and phenotype. They replicate, and mutate.
                            > They get selected for fitness. They interact, building meme clusters.
                            > Their hosts coevolve with them.

                            As I said, your "genotype and phenotype" seem completely inappropriate
                            metaphors. Replication, mutation, selection, interaction, clustering,
                            and coevolution are valid metaphors, but the process does not have the
                            structure that makes genetics a quantitative science. You observe that
                            ideas do all these things, but you cannot use that observation to make any
                            predictions about how they will do them. You have not made any progress.

                            > I disagree here. You're being pretty hard on the concept, here. No
                            > one claimed it to be scientific, it's threshold at best.

                            It's a metaphor, nothing more. And it has the unfortunate effect of
                            dehumanizing the subject, making it seem as if people don't really have
                            minds at all, creating the false expectation that you can explain ideas
                            and culture in terms of some simple mechanisms having nothing to do with
                            the _content_ of ideas and culture, and of human beings themselves.

                            > Well, I don't think Blackmoore's book only contains trivialities. But let's
                            > just agree to disagree here.

                            I leafed through it at a bookstore once, and I looked at the first chapter
                            online when we started this thread. I didn't see anything that could be
                            called science or new knowledge. If you have something specific in
                            mind...
                          • J. R. Molloy
                            From: Mark Gubrud ... Possible insight: Brains infected with malicious memes should be excluded from uninfected populations to
                            Message 13 of 24 , Jan 4, 2001
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                              From: "Mark Gubrud" <mgubrud@...>
                              > > > > > What useful insight do you gain from the genetics analogy...?
                              >
                              > I still haven't gotten an answer.

                              Possible insight: Brains infected with malicious memes should be excluded
                              from uninfected populations to prevent a pandemic. Until someone develops
                              a vaccine for the theology meme, those who are not immune (children,
                              feeble-minded) deserve a theology meme-free zone.
                            • Mark Gubrud
                              ... Do you really think that a single religious person would be able to infect an unmaccinated population of atheists with the mirus of faith? It seems to me
                              Message 14 of 24 , Jan 4, 2001
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                                On Thu, 4 Jan 2001, J. R. Molloy wrote:

                                > Possible insight: Brains infected with malicious memes should be excluded
                                > from uninfected populations to prevent a pandemic. Until someone develops
                                > a vaccine for the theology meme, those who are not immune (children,
                                > feeble-minded) deserve a theology meme-free zone.

                                Do you really think that a single religious person would be able to infect
                                an unmaccinated population of atheists with the mirus of faith?

                                It seems to me that religion is deeply embedded in culture and is
                                inculcated from early childhood. In adopting a religion, people are
                                usually conforming to a group. The religion offers much more than an
                                isolated "meme"; it provides many, many ideas, a complete world system, a
                                moral order, and above all a community. It provides rituals, images,
                                magic and mystery, passion, ecstasy, release and serenity. It comes with
                                enforcement mechanisms for those who stray from the flock, regular
                                refresher doses of theology, or hellfire and brimstone, whatever keeps
                                people coming back. It is an institution, a society and culture unto
                                itself. How much of that do you explain by calling it a "meme"?

                                An isolated jesus freak in a world of atheists would quickly become an
                                atheist, or, if she did not, people would just think she was crazy.
                              • Samantha Atkins
                                ... It is a very dangerous meme indeed that preaches the segregation of people for what ideas and notions are in their heads! Are people with sweet reason and
                                Message 15 of 24 , Jan 5, 2001
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                                  "J. R. Molloy" wrote:
                                  >
                                  > From: "Mark Gubrud" <mgubrud@...>
                                  > > > > > > What useful insight do you gain from the genetics analogy...?
                                  > >
                                  > > I still haven't gotten an answer.
                                  >
                                  > Possible insight: Brains infected with malicious memes should be excluded
                                  > from uninfected populations to prevent a pandemic. Until someone develops
                                  > a vaccine for the theology meme, those who are not immune (children,
                                  > feeble-minded) deserve a theology meme-free zone.
                                  >
                                  >
                                  It is a very dangerous meme indeed that preaches the segregation of
                                  people for what ideas and notions are in their heads! Are people with
                                  sweet reason and other forms of antimemeotics rather than locking up
                                  those whose memes displease you.

                                  - samantha
                                • Andrew Martin
                                  ... from uninfected populations to prevent a pandemic. Until someone develops a vaccine for the theology meme, those who are not immune (children,
                                  Message 16 of 24 , Jan 5, 2001
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                                    > Possible insight: Brains infected with malicious memes should be excluded
                                    from uninfected populations to prevent a pandemic. Until someone develops a
                                    vaccine for the theology meme, those who are not immune (children,
                                    feeble-minded) deserve a theology meme-free zone.

                                    I believe the best way is free, universal and ongoing education of the
                                    population. The evidence is third world and first world countries.

                                    Andrew Martin
                                    ICQ: 26227169 http://members.nbci.com/AndrewMartin/
                                    -><-
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