The “mind parasite” is becoming a common trope in the zeitgeist. At least in the podcasts and media, I follow. It’s the Joe Rogan and affiliated crowd that seems to be harping on this idea. There’s the book by Gad Saad called “The Parasitic Mind.” Here he is on the Jordan Peterson Podcast talking about it:
It has over 1.4 million views, and the book is a best seller. More recently, philosopher Andy Norman was on the Joe Rogan Experience talking about his book, “Mental immunity.” He takes the concept of the parasitic mind slightly further by discussing ways to build up an immunity to bad ideas or what he calls Mind Parasites. He was wishy-washy about who determines the bad idea, which makes me think of thought policing.
I have listened to most of “The Parasitic Mind,” and I have listened to several of these guys’ interviews. Both men are what I would call humanists or material atheists. They’re Sam Harris types. So pretty much if you disagree with them, you’re irrational. Their position is, “I don’t like those ideas, so I’m going to compare them to illnesses.” It’s a cheap rhetorical trick and unimpressive. But this is what materialist atheists do.
The other thing material atheists like to do is rebrand old ideas as new ones and then make money and gain notoriety from those old ideas. Richard Dawkins has made a second career(he has a first career as a world-renowned biologist), stealing arguments from Nietzsche and earlier atheists. So what these material atheists are saying is interesting and is thought-provoking, but they’re just rehashing arguments society at large has forgotten. Nietzsche made thoughtful and robust arguments against God and religion. These arguments are worthy of debate and discussion. I would argue the mind virus people are doing something similar. Ideas act as a contagion, but instead of taking concepts from the most famous atheist, they take concepts from the devout Catholic Rene Girard.
I first heard about Rene Girard from an interview Peter Theil did with Eric Weinstein. Eric Weinstein is a little hard to pin down, but he’s very friendly with material atheists. It’s a good conversation. Peter Theil is an interesting person, and Eric Weinstein is sufficiently curious.
But the concept that lies at the root of all of Girard’s theories is the idea of mimesis. Mimesis is the idea that humans copy each other and that it is at the core of being human. Humans “Mime” each other. When I first heard this, I was unimpressed. Everyone knows our capacity for rationality is at the heart of being human. But upon letting that idea marinate, I realized that mimesis is essential. Mimesis is the core of education and the passing of knowledge. What good is being rational and discovery if you can’t pass it on and teach it? The ability to teach and build upon logical findings is a defining human characteristic. Rationality without mimesis is not that impressive.
Mimesis is so ingrained in humanity that we often don’t realize we are copying people. But instinctually, we seem to know that it’s essential. The concept of having Role Models or heroes speaks to this truth. And the phrase my mom used to yell at me when I was younger, “Be a good example for your sister,” also speaks to this innate subconscious human tendency to imitate each other.
I won’t go into the whole history of Rene Girard or his entire theory on scapegoating, which builds on mimesis. That’s a topic for another post. I’ll recommend his book, “I See Satan Fall Like Lightning,” for a good introduction to Mimetic theory and Rene Girard.
There are practical implications to this understanding that humans have a mimetic desire. We will subconsciously copy the people we are around, or in the modern world, we will imitate the media we consume. Therefore we must surround ourselves with good people and good ideas. We live in a world that is antithetical to most Christian beliefs. Every day anti-Christian views bombard us. Humans have an innate instinct to imitate others, and the culture is constantly pushing people who do not represent Christian values. Is it any wonder people continue to fall away from the church?
The best example of this is the conservative Christian high schooler that goes off to college and becomes a liberal atheist. They’re just copying their peers. It’s mimetic desire in action. It makes complete sense why the kids become atheists; It does not make sense why conservatives continue to send their kids to these schools. Your environment and your community are indispensable.
I’m not advocating for a complete withdrawal from society. I don’t have a solution. But I do believe that recognizing the problem is the first step in solving the problem. I suspect that we’ll begin to see more groups and communities emerge that are ideological in the future. In the meantime, be aware of what you’re around and what is influencing you.