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Faith and Rational Empiricism 

Frazer posted a nice email to the Level-3 list in which he described how worldviews are formed by piecing together evidence. The exception, he said, was the insane religious fanatics who made their worldview from something called “faith.” Faith is a charged word among rational empiricists, who see it as counter to everything they stand for.

How then does someone graduate from the Level-2 worldview of rational empiricism to Level 3, in which other worldviews must be employed besides the one that seems to be so logical and inevitable? I would say, in fact, that careful use of faith is essential to operating at Level 3. (I'd say further that rational empiricists have plenty of faith-based positions which they are blind to.) One method would be to apply that rational empiricism to the workings of the mind itself, looking at it as a data-processing engine driven by memes.

We are already choosing ways to look at the world based on evidence. This is the essence of rational empiricism: believing what seems by the preponderance of evidence to be true. To apply this methodology to Level 3, we must take a step back and examine the cause and effect of self-programming with certain memes. To a large degree, self-programming with “true” memes produces excellent results. But there are notable exceptions. Cancer patients have been documented to respond better when they harbor certain “faith-based” beliefs, such as the belief that they have control over their cancer. Football players and soldiers perform better when they adopt the faith-based belief that they are destined to win. Experience with thousands of students has taught me that adopting beliefs such as personal accountability—that the results in my life are caused by the choices I make—causes vastly increased personal success and empowerment.

So the empiricism—always done with an implicit eye toward pragmatism—becomes not about what one model of the world is true, but about what memetic self-programming truly produces the desired results. This is the key that unlocks the doorway of Level 3.

So, then, how do I find these elusive memes that, while not necessarily “true,” yield results that I want in my life? Use the scientific method of observation. Look around for people who seem to have what you want more of. What are their beliefs and behaviors? How do they look at the world? How do they respond in certain situations? Through this process it is possible to take a good crack at ferreting out the relevant memes. Then the hard part becomes trying them on for myself. For quite awhile it just “doesn’t feel like me” to be using this foreign programming. But with perseverance, that feeling goes away, replaced by the same comfort we had before, but more power and success. It’s a rocky, uphill road to Level 3, but what else is there to do?

Richard Brodie
February 2000

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