Cortmaior: Memes, Morality, Free Will

Timothy Perper/Martha Cornog (
Wed, 11 Jun 1997 16:39:34 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Wed, 11 Jun 1997 16:39:34 -0500
From: (Timothy Perper/Martha Cornog)
Subject: Cortmaior: Memes, Morality, Free Will

>On Wed, 11 Jun 1997, Paul C wrote:
>> Timothy wrote:
>> >
>> >To say that the "memes* made me do it is, as Robin Wood pointed out, a sort
>> >of Nuremburg trial defense from the Nazis. Thus, McVeigh -- the character
>> >who seems to have planted the Oklahoma City truck bomb -- *could* claim
>> >that he is innocent, because "the memes" seized control of his mind. And
>> >now we reach the central point.
>> meme would mean it would not be able to be passed on to future "generations".
>> In McVeigh's case it seems his defective memetic code may be erased from
>> the meme pool permanently.
>I don't want to start a big argument about how evil the us military is...but...
>it might happen anyway.
>One thing we might want to remember when considering MvVeigh's "morality"
>and motivations, is that he was in the armed forces. What does the US military
>teach? It teaches that the most powerful way to convince people that your
>ideology is the right one. He spent 4 (maybe more?) years in the army (if I
>recall correctly), served in Desert Storm and was highly decorated...he was
>_very_ good at what the army taught him how to do...which was _kill_ in the
>name of things you believe in. My point? When you question whether or not
>the memetic code that he was following was "defective" you have to question
>where he got the military, which isn't to say that whatever ideas
>(memes, I mean) that he had planned on spreading weren't defective...
>I'm more than a little tired right now, so I'm wording this as well as I'd
>like to, but I think my gist is clear....
>Jonathon Cortmaior

TP: You're wording it fine. The army -- any army -- teaches (= instills
memes) that killing people is an excellent way to ram your own memes down
other (living) people's throats. They, of course, try to kill you back,
and it escalates. Jon's point is quite accurate: McVeigh's memes weren't
defective at all -- the morality *he* believed in justified him.

My question is if such an assertion is a defense at law. I'm not talking
about "justifiable homicide" or some such claim, but the argument that the
person is not the active agent, but the memes are. That view is close to
what I've seen on some of these postings (and by now there is no way to dig
up who said what, but I tend to associate that view with the Platonist
position about memes).

In the view of the new science of memetics, would McVeigh have had a
scientifically legitimate defense in saying "My armed service memes made me
do this"?

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