Re: virus: The "science" of memes?

Dave Pape (
Mon, 16 Dec 1996 01:43:07 GMT

At 12:41 13/12/96 -0700, you wrote:
>are a metaphor and you can't use metaphor for anything but
>communicating. You can't brainwash someone with a metaphor.
>>(And my point was only that you have not made memes 'invalid'.)
>And my point was only that you have not made memes "valid".
>>>The only way to validate anything is with evidence and I just
>>>wanted to know what evidence there is that memes is a valid
>>>science or a passing fad. Memes may be a useful tool but when?

Newtonian mechanics was a passing fad. AND valid science, too, I reckon.
There was shitloads of evidence in support of it, people aimed cannons with
the maths, Bohr, Born de Broglie and Bohm were all taught it in science
lessons... except eventually it fell out of favour, replaced by the yet more
accurate (in terms of modelling how things seem to work) quantum mechanics.
Valid science can rise and fall in popularity. BECAUSE VALID SCIENTIFIC

>I'm not predicting anything. I'm asking for evidence that memetics is
>not just another passing fad. I hope you don't mind me asking.

Based on how science has developed in the past, I think that most scientific
theories in their current states of development will "pass"...

>>Now, I note that you don't seem so fond of selfish gene theory,
>>so you might reject the usefulness of selfish meme theory as
>>well. That's your prerogative, I guess. To me, selfish gene
>>theory is so incredibly plain, simple, and straight-forward,
>>that Occam's Razor forces me to accept it.
>Usefull does not mean truthful (truthful in the sense that it
>accurately reflects reality without any internal inconsistancies).

I think that when Mr TwoChevrons talks about gene/meme theories being
simple, straight-forward and therefore appealing, he's actually saying that
they do seem to reflect how we see the world, and they do seem to have few
internal inconsistencies. And here's a gauntlet: give me an area of science
where the internal mechanics of the theory aren't under debate. Physics?
Well, quantum mech. doesn't explain things to INFINITE decimal places,
Newtonian's even less accurate, and the EPR paradox is still causing
foodfights at conferences. By your definition of "truthful", I don't think
there's ANY scientific or philosophical belief-system that's true.

BUT if you lower your sights a bit, and let memes into your life, you can
see science developing as a massive, (mostly) internally supportive
interaction of memes, encoded in brainspace all over the world. What
*Scientific Method* does is place a very hefty selection pressure on the
memes generated by scientists' brains. I don't think that science actually
ever demonstrates something to be totally true or false. I think that it
sort of simulates logic using non-logical processing methods (memetic
interaction) by having hit on this really heavy memetic selection strategy.

>>For all we know, Richard Brodie might be deprogramming people
>>with his 'Getting Past OK' book.
>But why guess? Either he is or he isn't. Is there any evidence that
>he is "deprogramming" people with his book /Virus of the Mind/?
>>Also, in the language of memetics, all deprogrammers do is rid
>>people of various memes, and is hence a subfield of memetics,
>>whether they want to be or not.
>There is no subfield of memetics...whether you want it to be or not.

Look at this argument. In this bit, it's down to the very non-logical core
of the discussion process. It's deadlocked, and so when one party fires out
a meme, the other party just fires back an opposing meme.

When an argument appears to progress logically, what I think actually
happens is that you are constantly firing out memes which internally support
your overall argument(-meme), and which compete for resource in the brain of
your opponent. To "win an argument" is thus to have your memes out compete
your opponent's memes for control of his/her mouth/body.

>>Correct. In the language of memetics, the scientific method is
>>a meme. Period.
>Meme: A unit of info in a mind whose existence influences events such
>that more copies of itself get created in other minds.
>The scientific method is not a meme. Period. It isn't spreading (I
>see you unfortunately haven't been infected by it yet either). Look
>at this month's issue of Sci American. Our society is being inundated
>with anti-science and psuedoscience. 60% of all Americans still
>believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old and it was
>created. Are you one of those people?

Well, maybe statistically the meme isn't in control of a higher proportion
of human brainspace than it was 20 years ago, but it still spreads, as new
generations of brains arrive at science classes... where did YOU hear about
scientific method? Did you invent it yourself? No... someone taught it to
you... in memetic parlance, the memes coding for what you call "the
scientific method" were transmitted from teachers' brains to yours, and you
became part of the scientific method meme's stake in human brain resources.
And let's have a think about the long-term picture... imagine 6000 years
ago. Much scientific rigour going on? Nope. And Now? Well, I hope there's
SOME... so I'd guess that the incidence of the SciMethod meme would have a
sort of


Curve... starting at almost zero incidence, and rising to current levels.
And, well, maybe we are bombarded with pseudoscience now, but we're also a
lot better at hard science than we used to be. PLUS, if you consider
ideas/memes to be subject to evolutionary pressures, then if the
evolutionary context of those memes is hostile, their population will drop.
So, if for some reason mormons took over the world, I'd suggest that
scientific method could be practised less and less, and this effect would
STILL be consistent with meme theory. Under those circumstances, mormon
memes would be competing savagely and on all fronts against SciMethod memes.
And you could tack on a downwards phase to the curve I just craply drew.

>>>Just concentrating on a theory's usefulness is a sure-fire
>>>method to kill progress.

>>I disagree; Example of progress by concentration on usefulness:
>>Quantum mechanics. We don't know where a particle is when we are
>>not looking (the question has no meaning, according to the theory),
>>but we do know that the theory gives splendid results for predict-
>>ing experimental outcomes. The fact that the theory is counter-
>>intuitive is of no accord: it works, it is useful, and that is
>>what counts.
>Your misunderstanding again. Quantum mechanics is more than just a
>useful theory. It isn't even a theory. It is a branch of science like
>physics is a branch of science. The theorems and hypothesis used in
>that field of science are the same as in any science. They don't use
>those theorems and hypothesis just because they are useful, they use
>them because they are scientific. Useful is only secondary.
>Knowledge is primary.

"Knowledge is primary over usefulness" is a minority meme. Ironically, it
has quite a firm hold over some of the territory in my brainspace, as well
as yours.

But most people I meet tell me emphatically to think less and earn more.
Meaning that theory and the search for understanding of the world should be
secondary to getting some benefit OUT of the world.

But you KNOW in yourself that knowledge is primary.

Memetics can reconcile your KNOWLEDGE that knowledge is primary, with most
people's KNOWLEDGE that usefulness and comfort are what make ideas good.

Because, the experience of completely KNOWING something is what you feel
when that "KNOWN" idea, or meme, has massive domination over other memes in
the competition for your neural resources. So, the memes in your head are
structured so that the meme "knowledge is more important than usefulness"
can sit pretty, with very little competition.

My interpretation of memetics says that memes must live in symbiosis with
genes. Memes that confer a biological disadvantage on their hosts tend not
to be very populous, because their hosts will tend to be outcompeted by
memehosts whose memes are physically/biologically beneficial to them.

In most people's heads (certainly people living closer to the breadline than
I bet either of US are), memes are strongly selected for when they provide
comfort and income etc. for the host. So for most people, the meme
"knowledge is more important than usefulness" will be outcompeted by memes
consistent with usefulness having primacy over pure knowledge.

>>>You can't have progress if you don't question the validity of
>>>everything at least once in a while.

D'you know what questioning validity is? It's when memes impinge on your
brainspace which compete for resource therein with the incumbent memes of
your current belief system.

>There are millions of useful speculations out there in the world.
>Pop-psychology is chock-full of useful speculations. But
>useful=useless if you are looking for something that accurately
>reflects reality. You are getting sidetracked by the usefullness of a
>hypothesis rather than the accuracy of the hypothesis.

Most human beings don't give a monkey's about reality. Think about it. I had
lunch in a fantastic 800-year-old pub today, and I was listening in on
conversations, and there was proportionally more talk about /contemporary
media celebrities/ than there was about how accurate Born's quantum matrix
maths is. I mean, what's the world coming to?

Memetics as a system of explanation can explain how you will spend ages
arguing that knowledge is The Goal, whereas millions will go to the wall
arguing to the contrary. To me, that gets closer to representing reality
than just shouting for more scientific method, because it explains why the
Scientist shouts one way AND why the Creationist/Capitalist shouts another.

...["limbs" amputated]
>That's because there is no limb. Fads can last forever no matter how
>weak they are in logical reasoning.

But I'd say that they last at very low levels of memetic population. EG,
memes coding for belief that the Earth's flat still exist, but they don't
code for

>>This doesn't mean it's any more valid than alien-abuction theories
>>(although I'd certainly like to think it is), but it happens to be
>>one theory that gels with my personal past experience and way of
>>thinking, (unlike UFO theories), and that is why I pursue it.
>It agrees with your world view so you accept it by faith?

All your objective evidence is PART OF YOUR WORLD VIEW. And if I had
infinite time I'm sure I could push you far enough to admit that there are
things which you DON'T have objective evidence for. We can try, if you like.
I say "what's your evidence that x exists?", and you answer, and then I ask
what makes you think your evidence is valid, and you describe the design &
testing of your apparatus, and I ask why you think the apparatus should
theoretically work like that in the first place, and you explain, and I ask
what your evidence is for those arguments, and we carry on, and I KNOW that
you'll eventually not know something, because I'm SURE that you don't know
EVERYTHING, and then I've got you, because you're accepting things which
agree with your world view, by faith in something that you don't understand.

[Argument about validation of stuff]

>Another falsehood. I've heard that line so many times from xians. You
>ask them, "Prove that God exists" and they reply, "Prove that he
>doesn't exist". Hehehe. You can't prove the non-existence of
>anything. But let me tell you this, if you cannot prove or disprove
>the existence of something, then you cannot disprove that it isn't
>your imagination. Prove that memetics isn't your imagination. This is
>the scientific method.

The colour red is in your imagination. Thinking that you are a single entity
and not a colony of cells is in your imagination. Thinking that your cells
are entities and not a dynamic arrangement of molecules is in your
imagination. Thinking that any molecule is an entity and not an arrangement
of atoms is in your imagination. Consciousness is in your imagination. All
ideas, theories, theorems and faiths are artefacts of imagination. Every
object you think you detect is in your imagination. Things only exist to you
because you detect them, and you do that with your brain.

And we say that memes are how these ideas are coded in, and spread between,
human brains.

Anyway. Enough memetic predation already! I am an old man and must sleep.

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose (The more things change, the more
it's a meme thing)

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