..are contagious. In the same manner that a host for an infection might be more susceptible to disease based on their physical health; an initiate for a radical group may be more susceptible to infectious ideas based on their mental health – a state of mind directly impacted by their government, economy, inherent and inherited beliefs and religion.
If this hypothesis is correct, then the same models that apply to viral pandemics also apply to terrorist growth and outbreaks.
I believe this is a reality many governments have difficulty discussing, as they should. However, actions speak louder than words and our (Western world) responses to many situations indicate we likely already fear an outbreak of the wrong ideas. (research prolonged occupation of the middle east)
I imagine there may come a time in the future when people may be “quarantined” in the interest of national security for fear of their beliefs spreading. Some people believe this may already be occurring (alex jones). Irreligion may be the solution.. but also consider that widespread irreligion is in and of itself – a religion.
Are some beliefs a disease?
A quick google scholar search for “virus impact on evolution” will show you various information that biologists have speculated regarding viruses as catalysts for changes in hereditary traits.
You don’t have to believe in evolution to understand the concept. Simply understanding the nature of a virus and how your immune system defends against this virus (by ultimately combining with viral DNA) will illustrate how simple it is for you to pass down your modified DNA (and virus) to your children.
Ideas are similar. Upon inception, the idea has the ability to travel between many individuals rapidly. The nature of an idea, whether good or bad, suggests you will at some point in time discuss the idea. Your beliefs and understanding surrounding this may determine how likely you are to pass on what you have discovered with others. Ultimately, others will discover this same idea, whether stumbled upon independently or gathered from you. A pattern emerges as you follow the idea, and closely relates its movement to that of a virus.
In a broad definition of the word disease (wikipedia), it is “any condition that impairs normal function”. In medical terms, normal function can generally be identified by comparison with a group of individuals. i.e. If all persons can run then a person who cannot run is not normal.
Psychology is still comparatively a young science that in practice as a widely accepted profession is barely 50 years old (wikipedia). Considering this recent growth of psychology in the world, and the determination that certain persons may be diseased in their method of thinking, it is now commonplace for us to understand a disease not only as a physical ailment, but as a mental one as well.
With this in mind, and the notion that ideas travel with virus-like behavior, it would seem that some ideas and the beliefs that they carry can be regarded as diseases if they are against the norm.
Signs and Symptoms of Thought Disease
Since many ideas that have contributed to mankind were at some point in time not regarded as normal (Wright Brothers), to create a model for an idea pandemic, you must first identify what are the signs and symptoms of a “thought disease”.
This area is where things are difficult, as it seems nearly impossible to classify certain types of thought as “diseased” without disregarding core beliefs that may seem logical and consistent.
To understand this further, lets look at some of the origins of thought.
Origins of Thought: Survival of the Hunter and the Farmer
Consider the follow example:
A man hunts an animal that has done him no harm. He does not need to eat the animal, so necessity of sustenance is irrelevant. He simply hunts for pleasure.
Our core beliefs as human beings tell us that in some cases hunting may be necessary for survival, but our body of laws and beliefs governing our state may allow us to hunt irregardless of direct survival need, to hone our skills as hunters and potentially prevent us from lapsing as hunters.
So the idea that hunting without consuming your target game is as logically consistent as hunting and consuming your target game. However, if you disregard the core belief that we are hunters, or consider that we have mentally evolved from the original hunters that once defined us, then there is no longer a reason to hunt whatsoever, and you may instead focus on other tasks resulting in a completely different mindset, such as that of the farmer.
So who is diseased in this scenario? The hunter? Or the “farmer”? (simply someone who chooses not to hunt).
Logically both seem right and consistent, but philosophically there is a deeper inner conflict – the choice of violence versus peace.
My derived conclusion is that violent thinking is a source of what I would consider “thought disease”. If my hypothesis is correct, anywhere a pattern of violence is identified, a pandemic model illustrating chaos on systems in contact and in close proximity will exist.