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Memes That Hurt

Theism gets a lot of attention as a nasty meme. Among people I know, romance gets attention to. And parenting and education memes. Fad diets. Scientism. Post-modernism and nonsense philosophy. Environmentalism and various political memes.

There are other memes that are less obvious. One of the very worst memes in existence is the idea that some problems are too small to bother solving. It's everywhere. I could give examples, but that never seems to work. People need to figure out how to spot it for themselves. They can't just watch for things on my checklist of examples. Be on the lookout whenever people dismiss something and say it's too much trouble. Sometimes it manifests itself as laziness. Sometimes as scorn. The constant factor is that there is undue resistance to a small potential improvement because it's small rather than because of some actual defect in the proposal. Watch for anytime someone goes to more trouble avoiding trying a possible solution to a problem than it would take to do it.

What I do want to say, rather than examples, is why it's so bad. It sabotages piecemeal change. It completely prevents gradual improvement. And that's the only approach which really works. Where would the Earth be if a single mutation was deemed too small to bother with? It'd be nowhere. Evolution could never have created anything. When you rule out small changes, you prevent all improvement from getting started, which leaves only disastrous revolution available.

Elliot Temple on September 19, 2008

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