Diego FontaniveScience, Pseudoscience & Media

Founder of the End of Fear Project, Italy

Diego Fontanive, born in Venice, Italy, 1973, has a background in Political Science, Sociology, Critical Thinking and Psychology. His main concern and field of research are the flawed systems such as for example religion, ideologies, dogmatic thinking and unquestioned common sense, that reduce our ability to think properly, therefore resulting in irrational psychological suffering, logical fallacies, biased cognitive approaches, meta-ignorance regarding our epistemic acceptances and various social iniquities. After becoming familiar with the contradictions embedded within the decaying, fallacious and conditioned structures of society, it became important for him to inquire, study and explain how all systems that come from ideologies, not just religions, fragment and warp our cognitive and psycho-social understanding of reality. Diego is a speaker and writer as well he is the founder and president of the organization EOF Project. He is also the creator and tutor of the critical thinking course 'All In the Mind' (different levels) for the Cambridge e-Learning Institute, Cambridge, UK. He is also board director of AAI (Atheist Alliance International) which is recognised by the United Nations. He wrote numerous articles for prominent members of the psychological community, sociological institutions, social science conferences and the U.N. Recent speeches and published articles involved the University of St, Cloud, Minnesota, US, (‘Survive and Thrive’ organisation related to the State University of St. Cloud), with a publication about the relevance of logical thinking throughout the aftermath of a cardiac arrest and a speech/publication at the conference ‘7th EIO conference ‘Europe inside-out: Europe and Europeanness exposed to plural observers’, 28, 29. 04. 2017. He is currently working on his first professional documentary called ‘All Is Not Well, an investigation into the gamble we play with our psyche’ which is a documentary about beliefs, the state of critical thinking, memetics and meta-cognition.



Talk Title

Meta-Memetic Thinking and Skepticism as a Meme 

An exercise in a course I developed consists in asking candidates who consider themselves sceptical to create a voodoo doll and add to it a picture representing the face of a loved one. They must perforate the doll using a needle. The majority of them refuse to take the test or manifest psychological frictions despite their awareness about the irrationality involved. An appropriate inquiry regarding scepticism is: what does it mean to be ‘sceptical thinkers’? Are we really sceptical thinkers? Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined the definition ‘memes’: a meme is an information that is copied from person/culture to person with variations but without a critical analysis and evaluation of it. Memetic thinking cares only about replicating itself while it does not examine the sound-validity or unsound-invalidity contained in memes. We can believe to be sceptical thinkers but perhaps this assumption can be memetic thinking. Regarding the mentioned experiment indeed; most candidates show how their idea of being critical and sceptical thinkers is more a memetic belief rather than a solidly rational cognitive quality, because another meme, (in this case the information concerning voodoo), can stop the process of rationalisation by awakening a dormant superstitious thinking. We can raise a few points and a proposition: -We all are affected by memes and think in such terms. -Evident memes are relatively easy to spot but what’s difficult is to decode hidden memes. -We can prove how even people who think to be sceptical often think in a manner which is not based on solid criticalness. -People are unaware about their memetic thinking and fallacious epistemic acceptances, condition called meta- ignorance (ignorance about ignorance). -People don't take this seriously while easily stick to memes. Like an anti-virus created against viruses can we also create meta-memes? A meta-meme is an intellectual instrument aimed to highlight the fallacious memes we come across with so to avoid their adoption, while it replicates a process of critical reasoning. Through a critical education, media, social initiatives, internet, we can raise meta-memes in form of questions, such as: -‘Can we think about our ideas without the thoughts that created such ideas?’ -‘Can we acknowledge that the interpretation is not the interpreted: the first is cognitive decoding, the second is reality’. Taking the meme of ‘religious freedom’ for example, the meta-meme, or ‘anti-meme’, would activate the understanding of how religious freedom isn’t a reasonable value because it implies freedom of indoctrination and anti-scientific thinking. Considering the today’s geo-political issues and the rise of anti-rationalism and pseudo science especially on-line, we can claim how meta-memetic thinking must be a pivot of education and can greatly affect a culture in terms of psycho-social progress, growth of secularism and high order thinking skills, as well prevention / recovery from religious beliefs, ideologies and broken logic.