Wed 6 May, 2009
A memetic hazard is a memetic structure that can be reasonably expected to cause some form of personal or societal harm. The False Standard of Proof memetic complex is a memetically hazardous thought process common to a number of hazardous memetic complexes. The False Standard of Proof complex is a primary usurper of Rational thought processes; it is a mechanism of transfer from rational thought to Memetic Thought.
At its core, this particular complex is a dysfunction in understanding of rational thought processes. The host may (and usually does) claim to be thinking ‘scientifically’ about whichever beliefs that this construct is adjunct to, but close examination of the logic paths for the thought process will reveal one or more dysfunctions.
One of the primary dysfunctions is the False Occam’s Razor. Where Occam’s Razor states that the simplest explanation for a phenomenon is the most likely, a host for this construct will either misidentify the criteria for determining the simplest explanation or will mistake ‘most likely’ for ‘certainly true’–that is to say, they will not accept the possibility of uncertainty in a conclusion as being a valid conclusion.
A second primary dysfunction is Faulty Evidential Weighting. The host will weight personal anecdotal evidence, especially that which supports their conclusion (see also Reverse Conclusive Thinking) as much more reliable than empirical studies (which will often be discounted as ‘statistical trickery’ etc.).
A third primary dysfunction is Reverse Conclusive Thinking. Hosts subject to this dysfunction will adopt conclusions based on various beliefs without subjecting them to proper scrutiny, and will afterwards look for supporting evidence, rather than scrutinizing the evidence and logic pertaining to the postulated premise before accepting it as valid.
A fourth primary dysfunction (which is more a hook to a human psychological tendency, but is included in the listing of dysfunctions due to its inordinate strength) is the discrimination in acceptance of knowledge weighted very inordinately towards previously-held information, vastly discounting novel information’s veracity. The key distinction here is a matter of degree: while there is some normal tendency towards regarding information originally imparted as being more true than subsequent corrections, a host subject to this particular dysfunction will weight the previously held information vastly in excess of the normal human tendency.
Secondary dysfunctions of thought may be present; these may be artifacts of other memetic complexes or constructs to which the host is subject. These may manifest as a tendency towards certain logical fallacies (e.g. arguments to authority) or as other assorted illogical processes.
One particular symptom of this complex is the typical demand of the host for proofs of competing axiomatic statements, proofs which are generally rejected as being false or inadequate–no logically-derived or competing memetically-derived statements will be regarded as valid, and the dysfunctions described above will be used to discount their legitimacy.
Excising this particular complex is not an easy proposition. It is generally very deep-seated and self-supporting and self-perpetuating. Attempts to teach rational thought patterns past the time at which the dysfunctions are crystallized (generally during preadolescence?) will run up against and tend to reinforce the dysfunctional thought process; care must be taken to avoid this reinforcement as much as possible.
It may be possible to circumvent this process by careful introduction of cognitive dissonance. After careful mapping of the host’s particular implementation of this memetic complex, counter-memetic postulates can be crafted that use the same processes to generate obviously false conclusions. Combined with careful introduction of rational explanations for the same postulate that produce an obviously correct answer can sometimes induce successful realization of paradigm shift.