Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Power Of Believing, Or Self-Deception

Even as a child I was always the curious one, reading books and taking things apart to see how machines and the universe itself worked. Trying to make sense of things around me defined me as a person. Yet part of what bothered me about human society wasn't really put properly into words until I began to read Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. I think it was the book 'Small Gods' in which it was first mentioned.

In the Discworld universe it's commonly accepted that a god or goddess can only exist with believers and that if enough people believe in a certain god, that god will come into existence, taking its place among the others at the really tall mountain at the center of the (flat) Discworld world. This is no different from in real life, where countless deities have been imagined and forgotten about again. While believing in a certain deity does not cause it to spontaneously pop into existence (as far as we know), the basic principle remains the same. Not just for religions but also for countless other things in human society.

When separating reality, we can divide things into 'real' and 'imagined', or more succinctly 'scientifically verifiable' and 'exists only while people believe it does'. Countries are an obvious fabrication falling into the latter group, as pointing to the ground and saying 'my country starts here' would in another time be deemed a sign of lunacy and cause for concern about said person's mental well-being. The difference between it and proclaiming to have heard voices instructing one to run around the city naked while covered in maple syrup are marginal at best. At most one can say that the first instance has certain financial benefits.

To any rational person it should be blatantly obvious in the face of the available evidence that there are no gods, that countries and currencies are a fabrication. That many things we humans concern ourselves with on a daily basis are completely thought up and of no relevance outside this imagined fabric of society. Relationships are another thing like that. To the unclouded mind it's impossible to not see that once one cuts away the frilly details, heterosexual couples exist for procreation. Or simply put, combining the genetic programming instructing the individual to produce offspring with the human brain's tendency to feel lonely and seek companionship. That these couples form solely based on what one's programming says are the desired parameters in said companionship should make it abundantly clear that the frill of 'love', 'soul mate' and such are the cover story humans make up to excuse these basic desires and give them an apparent purpose.

Opposing such sexuality-driven relationships is cooperation, whereby individuals come together to work together on a common goal. This is the purely rational type of relationship and generally referred to as a Platonic relationship. The only reason why not everyone is in the latter of relationship in society is due to the genetic programming. See for example so-called asexual individuals, who demonstrate a complete disinterest in sexuality. What this demonstrates is that many things in human society and interactions are driven by genetic-level programming. Even more interesting is how this type of programming can be passed on to offspring using epigenetic programming, which is a kind of meta-level on to top of regular DNA, provoking single-generation evolution.

Finally there is another type of programming at work, this one working on a neurological level in the form of viruses. Not physical, RNA/DNA-based viruses, but memes: certain thought patterns which can be transferred between individuals and which - if accepted by the new host - can alter the working of one's brain on a fundamental level, changing perceptions and behaviour. This is where the imaginary reality largely comes from. Ideas are memes, in essence. The idea of a country, of one individual being better than another (see kings, ministers, apartheid, etc.) are such memes. They propagate within a society, much like a physical virus does. Some memes are successful and find rich breeding grounds, while others fade and disappear.

This pattern memes follow coincides with the appearance of new countries, religions and cultures. At one point there was no Christianity or a Christian god, yet then it was imagined and became a successful meme. A few hundred years ago there was no United States of America or even the concept of it, yet now we can not imagine otherwise. This also shows that wars are due to memes. Because of memes which lived in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century the First World War became a fact. The memes responsible did not vanish after this, resulting in the Second World War and many smaller wars and conflicts lasting until today. All that people in them fought for was imaginary.

And thus we have come to the thing which puzzled me as a child already: how people can so strongly believe in things when there is no rational basis for it. As a child I struggled to accept that other children believed in Santa Claus and the like, as well as went to church in the belief that some supernatural being wanted them to do so. It always made me feel very awkward, such as when I visited such children at their home and they started praying at the dinner table. I didn't want to call out the new clothes of the Emperor for what they were, as that would be offensive.

The past decade my focus on what is and isn't real got another major test, when I had to separate fact from fiction in my own medical case. What were the facts, who was lying or just plain wrong? Why did I get such wildly differing results? Could hidden agendas be at play here? What medical politics was keeping those physicians from just being honest with me? And so on.

What those experiences have taught me the most is that I do not care in the slightest for imaginary things and that I would much rather spend my life living as far away as possible from religions, countries, politics and other purely imagined fabrications of the human mind. In the end they bring one nothing good. Scientific reality is where I have found solace since I was young, as it never lies or betrays and rejects deception.

In so far as I wanted to say anything with this post it probably is that want to make clear to myself and others why I think and am like I am. Truth, logic and reason have always been the cornerstones of me as a person and I do not wish for this to change, no matter how tough things may get. While it's easy to lose oneself in an imaginary reality, in the end it's where one loses one's humanity to the chaos of neurological and epigenetic programming. I do not wish to end up like that.


1 comment:

Patrick Horgan said...

You make so much sense, your memes must have invaded my brain.