Germs Make Us Proselytize
“Man is a form of expression who is traditionally expected to repeat himself…” ___Marshall McLuhan, “Understanding Media”
Richard Dawkins made the simple connection between germs and behavior by pointing out that when we have a cold germ, we sneeze. We sneeze because sneezing is the best process by which to spread airborne pathogens to other persons. A cold germ invokes behavior from us, and therefore we are the collective form of expression of our “creator” the germ and the genes.
If we are the behavioral expression of germs, then what we call mechanization, as McLuhan points out, is, “a translation of nature, and of our own natures, into amplified and specialized forms”.
We are, in fact, amplified and specialized forms of the germs and the genes, the tiny mocrorganisms that inhabot(I inadvertently created an interesting word there by my mispelling; “inhabot”, a robot that inhabits us, composed of “in” and “habit”) our bodies. That makes us, in essence, machines. But machines in amplified and specialized forms are not alive. What seems to separate life from non-life is the urge to reproduce at all levels, and to invoke behavior that ensures such reproduction is maximized if possible. Life not only reproduces, but it reproduces by strategy, and the strategy, from amoeba to civliizations, is not all that different.
Certainly genes influence behavior, and the limited number of genes in a cold germ can hi-jack our own bodies to invoke behavor of its own for reproduction. As long as a reproductive strategy works, there is no reason to alter it.
It’s not a grand stretch from that to propose that proselytizing, and the strong zeal we feel for conversion of others, comes from those microorganisms, or rather algorithms bred into us from our evolutionary past, causing us to seek not only those that are like us, but to create a larger pool of selection by making others more like us. The more people of the opposite sex who share our worldview and opinions, the more we can reproduce ourselves. “Ourselves” in this case is not an actual description of “me” specifically, but of a pool of similar “me’s” to maintain the same gene expression.
What the germ does to our bodies by invoking behaviors, the proselytizing meme does to our mind by invoking a similar strategy. For example, the religious person is not so much convinced by truth, but by the idea that “all those people can’t be wrong”. It becomes a statistical process by which we can eliminate enough differences within ourselves that we can sacrifice our individual self for the ‘greater good”. Anything that reproduces random individuality, therefore, is selected against, and behaviors that invoke cohesion and unity for reproductive purposes is selected for.
Religion, for example, does not seek individuality, but ecumenicism, the process by which differences can be tolerated for a greater reproductive unity. The question is, toward what end? There seems to be no answer, except that unity allows more people to live, while individuality provides less certainty for reproduction.
The strategy for reproduction, however, can follow strange destructive behaviors, with a reproductive algorithm becoming of less and less use for reproductive emnlargment, often resulting in self termination, like those religions who take poisons because they are convinced that they will get their reward only by the sacrifice of their lives.
Religions, like viruses, will select strategies that allow them to live as parasites, only affecting behavior to the degree that it maximizes reproduction, while minimizing the possibility of the death of its host. In this sense, church and state are alike. Government and religion takes as much as it can safely take from you while allowing you enough to survive reproductively as an individual for the greater good.
Church anbd state, like the human body, will select and maintain a library of different members for future reference, as “junk DNA” is stored for future reference tro similar attacks. Conversion of many members, therefore, serves as a reference a junk DNA collection, Borg-like(from Star Trek) to select the best strategy for a new attack.
The language reflects this need. “I was once just like you”, “I was lost, but now am found”. Found by whom? The new collective that closely resembles the reproductive needs of that individual.
A s Hoffer points out in “The True Believer”, mass movements are interchangeable. We can select new movements that better fit our reproductrive needs and provide adaptive strategies that may create modified versions in new forms.
As Hoffer writes:
“Since all mass movements draw their adherents from the same types of humanity, and appeal to the same types of mind, it follows that (a)all mass movements are competitive, and the gain of one in adherents is the loss of all the others.(b)all mass movements are interchangea ble. One mass movement readily transforms itself into a nother. A religious movement may develop into a social revolution or a nationalist movement; a nationalist movement into a social reviolution or a religious movement.”.
Hoffer writrs that while the content of various movements are different. the actual causes of the proselytizing zeal that drives them to unite are basically the same. Another way of putting it is that if the purpose of life is to reproduce, the algorithms driving the decision -making process of life will follow a similar strategy that selects for certainty and minimizes uncertainty. The more available in the pool, the less need for careful consideration of the effects of loss. The strategy becomes tautological: “that survives is that which survives”.
If a machine-like ehavior in the face of danger had no value until men began to make war on each other, it is easy to see how a reproductive algorithm can become stressed to the point that it focuses on reproduction of one set of traits at the expense of all others. The greater the army of machines, the greater the chances of reproduction of related traits, which will be modified and selected in future generations, etc.
It boils down to algorithms, patterns of decision-making that become statistical and operate according to the same general principles. Terms like “greater good” make sense to us because we are programmed to think that way at the most basic levels.
The amplified extensions of ourselves, even computers, have no need to reproduce themselves, so we seek to reproduce ourselves through them. They are extensions of us, even to the point that we plan on “uploading” ourselves in to them at some future date.
Church and state were merely the process of “uploading” ourselves into a greater system, but now the algorithms themselves can be the driving force of a machine which is the full extension of ourselves. If “narcissus” comes from the same root as “narcosis”, the final uploading of ourselves into machines is the complete narcosis, the numbing of all response to our environement for the applications of algorithms that represent the environment to us. no more need of life, no more need of reproduction.