Re: MEME: History, Nazis, and >H

Robert Owen (
Mon, 06 Dec 1999 00:54:29 -0500

Eliezer S Yudkowsky wrote:

> "Hitler was inhuman", you say. Why? Because you think of yourself as
> being "human", and everyone in your group must be good guys, and all the
> bad guys must be in another group. This group polarization reflex is,
> of course, one of the same pieces of mindware underlying the success of
> the Nazi racial-superiority meme. By calling Hitler inhuman, one is
> demonstrating (1) that one shares the same basic mindware with Hitler
> and all other human beings, thus demonstrating (2) the falsity of (a)
> one's own statement, (b) the Nazi philosophy, and (c) the mindware itself.

If you will reread my message, you will notice I use the word "inhuman" once and only once, in the first paragraph. The reference is to my Germanic ancestors, and was intended to emphasize the devasting contrast between what happened in Nazi Germany and the German people themselves. The term is used as an negation, not an attribution.

At no time do I attribute personal characteristics of any kind to Adolph Hitler.

The final paragraph is introspective, and the phrase "psychopathic predator" neither refers to Hitler nor any other individual but to my query about human nature or what it means for all of us to be human. It expresses a modal doubt about the actual effectiveness of socialization or civilization when the barbaric again and again historically to overwhelms it. This is all the more distressing because cultures descending into barbarism do not seem to be aware of what is happening to them. I'm afraid you will find it incomprehensible when I tell you that I feel personal shame and guilt over these hideous events.

Did you deliberately set up a straw man, or did you misread my post?


Robert M. Owen
The Orion Institute
57 W. Morgan Street
Brevard, NC 28712-3659 USA