Re: Meme-set conflicts [was Re: some U.S. observations and notes]

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Sat Dec 15 2001 - 18:10:54 MST

"Robert J. Bradbury" wrote:
> Rather than comment on "opinions", I would like to STRESS
> a need for the most stringent adherence to the "facts"
> to the degree that we can determine them.
> On Sat, 15 Dec 2001, Samantha Atkins wrote:
> > Please. You cannot reasonably claim that Mohammed orders them
> > to kill all non-Muslims. This is historically, religiously and
> > theologically false. As I have said many times it is also a
> > very dangerous mis-interpretation likely, if believed widely,
> > to turn this world into a bloodbath.
> Spike, I tend to agree with Samantha here. I don't believe
> that the Islamic faith calls for the killing of infidels.
> However, making a point against Samantha, I did see a PBS
> special on the history of Islam that *did* suggest that in
> Islamic regions it was perfectly accepted to impose a special
> "tax" on non-Islamic individuals.

Reminds me of the special taxes and much worse that the Catholic
Church imposed. But I doubt that this tax is a matter of firm
doctrine adhered to be all either.

> Samantha's humanistic position is fine in principle (as
> we extropians can sit in our lofty towers and preach how
> we would like it to be) but it ignores the problem of the
> aggrievances of history.

What lofty towers might those be? Our "lofty towers" got
knocked down. We
start from where we are. The aggrievances of history are "what
They do not determine what will happen next. That is up to us.

> I'll comment by simply asking the question of:
> "Why is the Islamic faith now followed by ~1 billion people?"
> Certainly a majority of them were taught by their parents -- but
> the fundamental question becomes *what* fraction of original
> converts, from Jewish/Christian/Pagan religions, were "voluntary"?

Today? Pretty much all of them. In the past? It varies just as
it does
for Christianity.

> While, I do not place Islam in the box that Spike does (Kill the infidels),
> I cannot ignore the fact that it seems *highly* likely that many conversions
> to Islam were the result of coercion. This is particularly true if the
> "tax the 'infidels'" policy is accurate.

This doesn't seem very relevant or helpful as far as determining
how we should
act now to further our goals.
> Now, while some might claim that such expansions were a direct
> response to the Crusades -- it becomes necessary to delve deeper
> into Islamic history to determine precisely *how* the Islamic
> faith spread out of Saudia Arabia in the first place.

You could do the same exercise with the spread of Chrisitianity
of course.
But what would be the point?
> While the Christian "meme set" has a seductive hook (everlasting
> salvation) I am unsure as to what ideas in the Islamic faith have
> a "trumping" meme. If there are no trumping memes one can only
> conclude that Islam has been spread primarily by violence and/or
> coercion.

For "trumping memes" or reasons people convert you need to talk
with the people and examine the faith. It is probably pointless
to second-guess it here.
> So, IMO, Samantha, Amara, Spike, et al have a number of problems.

Really? I don't think so. This is a strawman argument with a
bit of argument from authority thrown in.
> One can be a non-violent, pacifist, humanist, etc. but if one
> does *not* wrestle with the problem of how to "convert" billions
> of individuals with meme sets with 1000-2000 year histories
> which are in fundamental conflict with extropian principles
> (i.e. evidence is required) then a problem presents itself.

I have no need to convert anyone. If they like the way I live
and think then they will look into it or try it on. If not,
not. But I don't think all Muslims are uniform in the least or
that they have a firm memeset that is antithetical to peaceful
co-existence. I do not think that based on reading the Koran or
looking at history.

Nor do I think that any and all memesets that do not require
full materialistic-science evidence for important things are
automatically anti-extropian or in serious conflict with
extropianism. It is possible to be very much for transforming
humanity and this planet using technology (among other things)
and still believe and live by quite a bit that does not have
this kind of evidence as to its validity. I think this is a
very important thing to be aware of and to keep in mind also.
Otherwise we too easily fall into a trap of assuming that any
but full rational, materialistic transhumanists are our
"enemies". This is not conducive to the spread of
transformative memes.

> The problem is being non-violent, pacifistic, etc. is *not*
> a surviving meme. In a world where some fraction of individuals
> will exploit the terrain, they will extract the resources from
> individuals who allow them to do so, eliminating such individuals.

Actually, non-violence has turned out to work surprisingly well
in some very nasty situations. Ultimately, I believe a meme
that eschews physical violence from human/sentient relations is
essential to our well-being. That some of us may be taken
advantage by those who do not share that meme does not change
the value of the meme and certainly doesn't make it worthless.
At some point sentient beings get tired of killing those who are
completely peaceful and who wish only to improve life for all.
It is the rare psychopath who cannot be touched eventually by
such examples.

> Christianity or Islam may be "neutral" (highly interpretable) religions.
> If they do not impose *strong* constraints against *all* acts of aggression
> then they are useless from a game-theoretic standpoint -- they do not
> promote increased trust and as a result increased survivability.

I do not find the "game" of the game theory very interesting.
Its rules are contrived.

> If Samantha and Amara choose to adopt nonviolent solutions
> against individuals who choose violent solutions, their memes
> lose -- simple, end of discussion.

The discussion is not over yet.

> Now, Spike's more subtle
> solution of "meme changing weapons" is perhaps even more
> dangerous -- it is the adoption of non-rational coercive
> approaches to changing "incorrect" meme-sets. It would be
> an acceptence of the fact that we cannot win the battle
> with reason and must resort to coercion instead. To me this
> seems somewhat worse than the Islamic coercive method of imposing
> taxes on "infidels". At least in that situation I could
> potentially move to a non-Muslim environment.

Yes. Coercing minds directly is not the answer. It is the
worse form of violence and enslavement.

> I think this is not a simple problem for either extropians
> or humanity in general. It is the fundamental question of
> "when can I not protect my meme set from your meme set?"

Why assume there is anything that requires such "protection"?
Memes don't grow only or even primarily by force or by being
protected. Some memes grow by simply being a better alternative
or by absorbing and transforming other memes.

> If your meme-set allows you to kill me to eliminate my meme-set,
> then your meme-set is fundamentally dangerous. If your meme-set
> says you will never kill my meme-set, even to preserve your
> meme-set, then it is a very noble meme-set but one that can
> easily be taken advantage of, even eliminated.

It is not so easy to take advantage of as you may think. The
British discovered this in India. The rascists discovered this
when facing the non-violence marches of the Civil Rights
movement. The Russians discovered it for a time longer than
studying the military forces involved would allow in the "Prague
> This gets into some very subtle issues as to when meme-sets
> may be voluntarily changed. If an individual asserts that
> their meme-set is correct, can never be modified and is more
> valid than yours, then I would tend to label that person as
> fairly dangerous to my survival.

Assertions and clinging to regardless of evidence and the
melting of hearts are very diffrent things. That a human is
dangerous in his current thinking and practices does not make
him less human or justify wiping him out with violence
proactively or attempting to wipe out what one believes to be
his memeset. An attack will call out defensive behavior and
counter-attacks. The interplay of memes and the spread of memes
that are actually helpful is more subtle.

- samantha

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