RE: virus: The "science" of memes?

Schneider John (
Tue, 17 Dec 1996 05:48:03 -0500

XYZ wrote:
> >I showed two examples where the use of memes is 'useful', as you
> >requested. I did not purport to prove anything.
> And you have done a fine job of not proving anything.

Pointless statement.

> You didn't give any examples. You just asserted it was useful in
> very vague and general terms.

Yes I did. If they don't satisfy you, then - oh well.

> Your mistake is that you believe that useful = truthful when it
> clearly cannot mean that.

I do not believe that and never claimed that I did.

> >>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.
> >Well, it has proven capable of standing against your attempts to
> >poke holes in it, and it does have its uses. Why don't you tell
> >us what would constitute the sort of "evidence" that you're after,
> >then perhaps we can answer your question much more quickly.
> I called it a fad and it is a fad. Your inability to show that it
> isn't is proof of that. If you can't figure out what evidence is or
> is not, then you have a problem understanding what evidence is.

So it's a fad according to your determination of what 'fad' is.
Don't study it, then.

> >If you would be kind enough to point out the internal inconsist-
> >encies, perhaps my viewpoint will change.
> Refer back to my first posting to which you replied. I pointed out
> several inconsistancies. Would you like me to repost it as proof
> you don't pay attention?

You made some arguments that blasted Richard Brodie's book, which
I'm not defending so much. (I made similar comments to him at
first, and partly agree with you, except I reject your vehemence.)
But you also blasted selfish gene theory ("Richard Dawkin's pet
theory"), and I will defend that theory. You have not pointed
out any internal inconsistencies /which have not been answered/
in that particular theory.

> Well, IF this and IF that, I suppose MAYBE it could happen? You
> have no idea. Why don't you admit that you are making things up?
> You have no idea if it works, you are just pretending that it works
> without one single piece of evidence. Maybe YOU should ask Richard.
> Then you might just have a small piece of evidence for once.

You're the one looking for evidence this particular piece of
evidence. YOU ask him. This also has more to do with Richard's
theory than selfish gene theory.

> >>There is no subfield of memetics...whether you want it to be or
> >>not.
> >I said, "in the language of memetics", which you do not speak.
> That statement still doesn't change the facts. I stated the
> observation that there is no subfield of memetics. I stated a
> fact and you stated meme speak.

Exactly. If you aren't here to talk meme-speak, then what the
fuck are you doing here? That's what we do here. If you're
not speaking meme-speak, then /obviously/ it's pointless to
talk about subfields. I thought you were handy with logic!

> >>So how do mutations get passed on? ESP? Psychic miricles?
> >Replication. How else? (You might want to give a clearer
> >example, including at least two generations of an example
> >species, if you want a better explanation.)
> Then why did you say that "Genes don't change. They either die off
> or survive"? Genes do change and that is how mutations (=change in
> genes) gets passed on.

Pardon me. We may be talking completely different languages here.
'Mutation' to me means change in DNA, not genes. I'm speaking
'selfish-gene-speak' and you are speaking something else.

> >And whatever theory you use might be misleading you.
> Now you are beginning to think logically. Now turn that logic onto
> yourself instead of gullibly believing whatever meme speak dictates
> you to believe in.

I have always done that. Have you? Memetics never dictates that
anyone believe anything. Whoever fooled you into thinking that!?

> >Are you suggesting a different theory?
> Yes...a more scientific theory would do.

Then please provide said theory. I happen to think memetics is
quite scientific so far. Formulating testable predictions which
aren't obvious anyway is hard, though, which is why I agree that
calling it a 'science' is a stretch.

> >>It is obvious you don't know anything about evolution. Try
> >>reading something about punctuated equilibrium for example.
> >Which books have you read? Perhaps I'll have a look at them and
> >see if they cause me to change my stance. In the meantime,
> >perhaps you could give another example which is harder to wave
> >my hand at.
> If you want to remain ignorant the rest of your life, wave your
> hand all you want. I suggested that you read about something before
> you talk about something you don't understand or know anything
> about.

Blahblahblah... You didn't answer the question. Also - see
Alex Williams' response to that particular statement of yours.

> >A random mutant, of course, will not have survived long. The
> >/species/ will only mutate as the environment demands.
> Replication is not random until the environment demands it to
> be random? Then replication cannot be you like
> contradicting yourself?

Our confusion here arises from our different understandings
of the term 'mutant' (mutant DNA (you )vs. mutant gene (me).)

> I never appealed to any did (ie -- Dennet,
> Hofstadter, Dawkins, etc). I appealed to common sense logic.

Blahblahblah... YOU asked the question, appealing to authority!
I answered your question with those names, and also questioned
your appeal! (this is going nowhere fast....)

> >>That observation puts an end to that "replication is random and
> >>inexact" dogma.
> >It would also put to rest any theories of evolution at all. The
> >species which pass through unchanged are just based on /exact/
> >replicators. But when we talk /evolution/ we're talking /inexact/
> >replication.
> If replication were inexact, there would be no such thing as a
> science of heredity since whether an organism inherited a trait or
> not would be random and not predictable. Mendal and his genetic
> experiments proved you wrong many years ago.

Replication of DNA is inexact in some lifeforms, and exact in
others. Did Mendal show this to not be the case? (This may,
once again, be our mix-up in DNA vs. genes)

> >So? Nobody guaranteed they would be less fit. Statistically, if
> >I've X% chance of having a fit kid, then as long as X% doesn't
> >change from kid to kid, I might as well have as many as I can,
> >in hopes of making more fit ones.
> So, pay attention. Unless you *can* gaurantee they are fit, you are
> wasting your time. You don't gaurantee fitness by making more bad
> copies. Evolution is concerned with QUALITY and not QUANTITY. The
> trilobites are extreme proof of that but you just can't seem to
> understand that simple concept.

Did it ever occur to you that QUALITY might include quantity?
It was a RANDOM disaster that did the trilobytes in... I will
wager that very same disaster also finished off some other
lifeforms which reproduced under different strategies - hence
NOT preferring one method over the other. (Please note! I
could be wrong: maybe every other species BUT the trilobites
survived. I sincerely doubt it though.)

> >My point was: why not have two fit kids instead of one fit kid?
> >Why can't a species perfect both 'making fit kids' and 'making
> >many kids'?
> My point was having more kids isn't serving my genes. Quality
> raising of kids is serving my genes. You can't raise quality
> children when you have thousands of them.

We are not talking 'raising' of children here. What about a
species that do not rear its offspring? I think you'll find
that such species have a shitload of offspring - and that is
due to the fact that if they only had one, it just wouldn't
survive. That's what I'm getting at. I agree wholeheartedly
that quality includes more than just quantity, but to claim
that it doesn't include quantity at all (as you certainly
appear to be doing) is just absurd.

> >I can recall that from the top of my head: a random disaster.
> >The environment is random. This example has no bearing on selfish
> >gene theory.
> But you can't seem to recall that gene replication is not random.

Gene /selection/ is not random. Replication of DNA is inexact,
so which gene is selected at the moment a new DNA is formed is,
for my intents and purposes, random. But the resulting organism's
/fitness/ is selected (not randomly) by the environment (although
the environment itself is random). Therefore the gene that is
selected, in the long run, by the environment is not random, even
though the tiny process of replication is random.

> >>Science doesn't have boundries...people do!
> >Have you ever heard of "Godel's Incompleteness Theorems"? Logic
> >has bounbaries and so does science.
> Name one boundry.

Tell me the position and momentum, exactly, of a particle.

Godel's theorem says: for any formal system for determining truths,
there will exist truths which it cannot determine and/or falsehoods
which it thinks are true. Godel proved this logically long ago.

> > Well, instead of arguing about it, let's just wait and see.
> > A bold statement. We shall see.
> Why wait? What is there to stop us from finding out now instead
> of gullibly going along with the crowd for nothing?

I do enjoy your attempts to counterexample, but you have not yet
done so successfully. No gullibility yet. Please keep in mind
that I don't take this theory as any sort of 'ultimate truth',
(as you seem to think that I do). For me to look at it and be
interested is not gullibility. For you to look at it and instantly
claim that it is wrong, without adequate support for this determina-
tion, is foolish. Now, you may have adequate support, but have
just inadequately communicated it to me. Until you succeed, which
I'm thinking you will not do, I see no reason to conclude that you
do have the adequate support for your determination.

> >Good grief! Evolution just isn't that scientific! It is about
> >explaining facts which are already there.
> Like I said, you don't know what evolution is all about then. It
> is a science (and always has been). You are just being sidetracked
> by the media hype surrounding it and not knowing how to sift
> between pop-science and real science. Many christians have that
> same problem, but I guess that is because they don't want to
> believe in facts but in their own little fantasy.

Blahblahblah.... enlighten me as to what evolution is all about,
will you? You can call me stupid all day long, but that is hardly
going to make me (or you) any smarter. Comparing me to Christians
is silly. You're the one who is touting your God (scientific
method) here. We are the ones with a little toy theory, and
you are abhorred that it doesn't gel perfectly (in your head)
with your God. Get off your high horse.

> >Evolution is repeatable. OK, I'll by it: and we can control it
> >by playing with genes, which strengthens theory of evolution
> >based on genetics.
> But not random replication since random implies we could never
> control it.

Nor do I think our control would be so absolute.

> >You fail to realise that your reasoning cannot accurately reflect
> >reality. You /must/ experiment.
> That is right. Now tell we what I have been asking you all along,
> what experiments have been performed with memetics to prove it's
> accuracy?

Recall that I agreed with your questioning of its status as a

> >Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle tells us that our knowledge via
> >experiment is limited, thus our knowledge of 'reality' is limited.
> It is a principle and not a law or even a theory. Scientists don't
> understand what happens at a quantum level so they are just
> quantifying their uncertainties in reasoning and not their
> uncertainty in reality. You are confusing the two again.

Wrong. It quantifies their uncertainties in reality. (Must you
end every comment with "you are confusing ... again", or those
flippant comparisons with new-age and/or religious thought? You
have no idea what or how I'm thinking; you only know what I
communicate to you. If you knew anything about memetics, you
would realize that and keep it in mind at all times.)

> >Knowledge is limited. When we go beyond its limits, we are left
> >only with 'useful'.
> Your knowledge is limited. There is no limit to what we want to
> choose to learn. Attitude and belief limits your knowledge.

My knowledge is limited. I agree. So is yours. Just because
you put no limit on "what you choose to learn", that does not
mean you've learned it! Your knowledge is limited. Science
is limited. If you think about it properly: all it does is
define more and more accurately its very limits.

> >Your examples have shown no inaccuracies. If inaccuracies are
> >there and you can see them, then you have failed to communicate
> >them to me. So far as I'm concerned, selfish gene theory is
> >useful for accurately reflecting evolution. If it weren't useful
> >in such a way, I likely wouldn't even be on this list.
> Appeal to authority again (ie -- this list)? I'm sure there is a
> UFO abduction list out there on the Internet. Bad argument.
> Communication takes time, all I ask is that you learn how to be
> a good student and stop limiting your knowledge.

Hardly an appeal to authority of any sort. You have failed to
communicate the inaccuracies that you think are evident in selfish
gene theory. The list has nothing to do with that.

> >You are limiting yourself to a search for truth, when no such
> >beast exists. The best you can do is find facts, explain them,
> >and maybe predict new ones.
> Wrong, there is no such thing as "absolute truth". Truth exists
> (the operation of your computer using the cmp and jne statements
> for example). The goal of science is to continually search for a
> "more truthful" theory and not for absolute truth.

OK - I was waxing poetic with above statement. But allow me to say
that the goal of science is to explain and predict the outcomes of
experiments (facts). The closest thing I have to 'truth' there is
'experimental fact'. The theories which explain experimental fact
are either useful or not useful, never 'true'.

> >Superstring theory is the physicist's "theory of everything". It
> >is quite logical, although experiments are impossible (requiring
> >energies higher than we can achieve).
> There you go limiting yourself again. They aren't impossible, we
> just don't have the equipment to do it right this very moment.

Gee. Nor do we have the equipment to test memetics very well.
You are limiting yourself by ignoring it.

> >You have not pointed out any logical weaknesses in logical
> >reasoning. You have tried to provide contradictory facts,
> >but have not done so. You have not attacked reasoning at all.
> I have attacked your "logical reasoning" very succesfully.

In one area: you have shown that memetics is not yet fully a
'science'. I agreed to that. Congratulations.

> > > You tell me: is "I pursue it" the same as "I accept it by
> > > faith"?
> Of course it is the same (does the words "blindly pursuing" mean
> anything to you?). Duh.

Did I say "I blindly pursue it" or "I pursue it"? Duh indeed!

> >Prove that /anything/ isn't your imagination. That argument goes
> >absolutely nowhere..... Can you not see that neither can be
> >proven? Can you not see that neither can be disproven? Such
> >things are /outside/ of your precious scientific method... PLEASE!
> That is done everyday. Much of what is around you has been proven
> to not be mine or anybody else's imagination. Your argument is
> weak. Stick your hand in a live socket and let's see if electricity
> is just your imagination. I know electricity is real. We have
> evidence that it is. Nothing outside the scientific method here.

That is all well and good. Now, tell me both the position and
momentum of a particle, exactly, and maybe I'll play along with
the notion that nothing is outside of science.

> >Study quantum theory to rid yourself of that silly delusion that
> >the scientific method can make everything 'reasonable') Can you
> >not see that this is exactly why we go by what is 'useful'? This
> >is Richard Brodie's reasoning (or, it's similar, anyway.)
> I am studying quantum mechanics right now, so that is how I can
> tell you don't understand that either. Stop reading these pop-
> science books and get the real thing! I never equated the
> scientific method with reasonable or even logical. It is a method
> that gives results whereas your "useful method" doesn't.

Memetics is a result of applying the scientific method to ideas:
first we make an observation (culture), then we formulate a theory:
(memetics - evolution of ideas). Next step: test the theory...
well, if somebody hosts a certain meme, that person will behave
according to how that meme says one will behave. So - if you are
taught scientific method at an early age, you will host that meme,
and will behave according to how that meme says you ought to
behave. And lo and behold, you do! Proof is happening all over.
As you said earlier: "Evolution is happening every day Wake up!"
Evolution of ideas is happening every day. Wake up!

Recall, that 'memetics' is young. Quantum mechanics was once
young too, and was ignored by a lot of very smart people who
were dead wrong about it (like Einstein, for one).

As far as the popular literature I like like to read, I mentioned
Dirac's "The Principles of Quantum Mechanics, 4th ed." in my last
post. That is hardly pop-science. I have studied it up to and
through two semesters at the graduate level, so have plenty of
other textbooks sitting at home. Dirac's is my personal favorite,
even though I never used it for a class. You'll be disappointed,
I'm sure, to learn it, but you'll find that I've forgotten more
than you'll ever know about quantum theory; (*note: that was a
smartass comment not to be taken seriously!) And concerning your
approach: I notice you study quantum mechanics after-the-fact, now
that it gives good results. Would you have ignored it, or attacked
it, prior to those good results?

I'll respond to your next post on this /science of memes/ thread,
but that will be my last post. I am no longer interested in
arguing with you: nothing useful, and no new 'truths', are coming
out of this discussion. Maybe someone else will take up the
torch. (Please note that I myself am rather a newcomer here,
and I also thought memetics was a crock just a few months ago.)

- JPSchneider