Extropianism as a World Meme

David Musick (David_Musick@msn.com)
Wed, 4 Sep 96 19:50:31 UT

Chris Hind asks:

"Why can people blatently ignore the
facts when they're sitting right in front of their face?"


"Then how do you debunk christianity?"

First of all, people will see what they want to see and hear what they want to
hear. There's so much information coming through our senses and being
generated internally by the brain, that it is literally impossible to pay
attention to more than a small fraction of it. So we're very selective about
what we consider important information to process. What we pay attention to
is very related to our current goals; we pay attention to what we think will
help us accomplish our goals, and we tend to ignore everything else. For
example, when driving a car, we tend to pay attention mostly to things which
relate to our driving; other cars, the street signs, stop lights, pedestrians
crossing the street, things like that. Other details of our experience are
generally down-played or ignored. Not everyone has the goal of understanding
their world and maximizing their intelligence and creativity; most have goals
of having other people express approval of them and of getting done with the
drudgery which they find themselves engaged in.
So, if someone doesn't have a compelling interest in making rational sense of
their world, it is very easy for them to ignore the facts that are sitting
right in front of their face. Just like it is easy for me to ignore fashion
polls and god-knows-what-else is in those glamour magazines. It's simply
outside of the area of my interest. I don't value that information, so I
ignore it.
Most Christians don't value truth or rational arguments, so they will simply
ignore these things, much to the chagrin of those, like us, who do.
Presenting a Christian with a rational argument, especially one which
contradicts their beliefs, is almost always futile. First, they have to value
rationality and intelligence, otherwise, everything you say is just
meaningless garbage to them.
Probably the best way to communicate with Christians is to speak in their
language, and that means speaking as though you accepted their basic
metaphysical assumptions. As ludicrous as you may find their assumptions, you
will not be able to communicate with them unless it appears to them that you
have accepted their basic assumptions. Use their own myths and metaphors, but
use the ones that most closely resemble your own values.
They literally speak a different language than you do, and to communicate
with them, you must translate your ideas into their language. Yes, much is
lost in the translation, but you just have to make the best of it. Ideally,
you want to get them speaking your language, the language of the rationalists,
but it's not so easy to teach them, especially when they have no motivation to
learn it, and if they see it as hostile to their own cherished beliefs.
Some members of my family are into the particular variety of Christianity
called Mormonism. It's often very difficult to communicate my ideas to them,
but since I was raised in that belief system, I understand it very well, and I
can do a pretty good job of translating my ideas into their belief systems. I
just make a mapping of concepts. For example, I think about the God concept
and what it means to them, then I find something reasonably similar in my own
mind, that has the same type of meaning to me, that fulfulls a similar purpose
in my own mind, and I do this with all their other concepts, making a very
coherent mapping of my thinking onto their own. This way, I can speak and
sound like a Mormon, but the deeper structure of what I say will reflect my
own ways of thinking. It's the deeper structure that conveys my real meaning,
not the literal interpretation of the symbols I'm using, but the way that I
link the symbols together.
Each belief system is literally a different language, a different way of
linking up concepts. To really influence someone's thinking, you must have a
deep understanding of their conceptual map and speak to them as though you
think very similarly to them, by speaking in their own language. Then you
will better understand what changes to make to their conceptual map to lead
them in the direction you want them to go.
So, how do you debunk Christianity? You don't. You can't. At least not to
the believers; they have no interest in processing your arguments, and your
arguments are literally in a different language than they know; they don't
even know how to make sense of what you are saying; to them, it's nonsense.
But you can speak their language to them and help them re-prioritize their
values, so that they value increasing their intelligence *more* than they do
now, and you can help them to enjoy THINKING more than they do now. You can
discuss their belief system very intently with them, but don't criticize it,
or they'll just shut down. Discuss it as though you believe it and examine it
very closely with them. Talk about various points of doctrine with them.
Just get them thinking. Once they develop good thinking skills they will do
their own debunking.
But you must work with them, not against them. Work from the inside, as a
friend, not from the outside as an attacker. Teach them critical thinking
skills, by example. Learn to state your reasoning out loud, in terms they can
understand and agree with. Don't just state your conclusions, but lead them
through the process of reasoning, so that you can provide their mind with a
template that they can use. The reasoning skills are far more important than
whether you think the metaphors you are using are really bullshit when
understood literally. It's the function that's important, not the variables.
Once they know how to reason well, they will start questioning their own
assumptions, and you can help them through the debunking process, but not
until they're ready, not until they start doing it on their own.
Unfortanately, it doesn't seem like you've fully recovered from Christianity
yourself. You want the Christians to just accept the facts that are sitting
right in front of their face, and then they will be saved! :-) This is a very
Christian attitude, the stressing of instantaneous salvation, that if you
accept certain beliefs then you are saved, if not you are damned. Christians
tend to overlook personal development and focus instead on whether you're in
the club or out of the club. What really matters is personal development, not
whether you accept certain facts or not. I think the most important thing is
that people work on increasing their own intelligence, creativity and
happiness; their own Extropy, regardless of their religious preference. If
their religion is stifling them, then they will move beyond it, if their true
commitment is to increasing Extropy.
The memes we must spread are the ones which influence people to become
committed to increasing Extropy. And I think that the best strategy (somewhat
contrary to what I wrote previously about offending people's minds, but then I
don't try to be consistent; I'm still learning, after all), is to quietly
infiltrate various belief systems and insert some well-designed memes that
will promote increasing Extropy. We must attach these memes to the religion
itself somehow, so that it becomes a very important part of the religion, or
at least of the belief systems of the members of the religion. Most religions
I know of already have a lot of Extropian components, so it will mainly be a
matter of stressing those aspects more and slightly rearranging things so that
the Extropian Values are seen as very important by the members of the
religion. We should bring as little foreign material into the religion as we
can, but instead work with the religion itself to transform it into something
more Extropian than it already is.

- David Musick