Re: virus: Re: virus-digest V1 #120

XYZ Customer Support (
Thu, 26 Dec 1996 14:05:45 -0700

> From: Schneider John <>

> > I agree. And I see that memetics is already doing something. It
> > isaffecting the way media are perceived by people who know about
> > memetics.

> > This is changing the way people use media.

How has it been *directly* responsible for that?

> > In fact, I would venture to say ( without trying to sound self
> > important) that the poeople best equipped to use memetics are
> > those involved in creating content for media-- those that write
> > cultural texts and make it their life's work to be aware of how
> > those texts interact and influence individuals and cultures.

Science only discovers and is up to businessmen,
artists, TV evangelists, the military and so on to find practical
uses for it.


> I have a feeling that XYZ would dismiss that by categorizing it
> under some already-known branch of knowledge... but it directs
> me to wonder the following:

No, not dismiss. If most (or even all) of memetics falls under one
or more other scientific disciplines, then the knowledge uncovered
by those other disciplines can help us to more throughly understand
what it is that we are supposed to be worshipping here in the
church of the virus.

> I've yet to see an argument directed at XYZ (so I'm hoping s/he
> reads this) which simply states that: memetics is a useful paradigm.
> It is a way of looking at culture "from the idea's (or meme's) point
> of view". Memetics is a language that was devised in order to help
> us more easily discuss our ideas, our own memes, when we're utiliz-
> ing this paradigm.

Paradigms are a shift in thinking and not a way of thinking.

> > What's sensationalist?

> I suppose: pretending like the theory is more powerful than it
> really is. For instance, Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" was
> discussed a bit at the time, and we all said, "Great book!",
> even though the book sensationalizes NLP by suggesting that we
> might be able to program people by just flashing the right image
> in front of their eyes. In a certain sense, all of science fiction
> is sensationalist.

Sesationalist as used by journalists, is when something is portrayed
in a false light, merely for the effect it have from pushing the
audience's buttons and selling papers or TV time.

> > There is a sensationalist body of baroque art that relies upon
> > 'soft porn' images to portray the visions of St. Teresa and the
> > rapturous beauty of heaven.

I am sorry about that John. I forgot that you are an artist and that
there is a different definition for "sensationlist" for artists than there
are for journalists or psychologists.

> > My hackles got up when I read posts that (literally) said that
> > work such as mine is worthless unless it meets the approval of one
> > person's value system-- and a value system that is poorly defined
> > to boot. I am not a gullible sensationalist. If what I do is not
> > scientific by your's or another person's definition then you have
> > a right to express that opinion.

Memes are not art. They don't exist anywhere outside of our own minds.
But that doesn't mean that the expression of those memes can't be
art or that memes aren't valuable. If memes weren't valuable, we wouldn't
have people fighting to the death over ideas behind such things as
racism, religion, or memetics. Hehehe!

> > But to assume that "nothing is being done" and to take the job
> > away and get some "real men in here who can" is well, kind of hard
> > to take. I spend a lot of my free time on this list and I come to
> > it with a genuine interest. I don't want to have to leave it
> > thinking that I have nothing to contribute because I am not a
> > scientist. -- even though XYZ suggest I can become one.-- maybe
> > I don't.

The first step of all scientific disciplines is to gather data. Your input
about memes or your perception of memes or your reaction to memes,
scientific or not, is always valuable to a real scientist. Even art is
valuable to a scientist and that is why some scientists even refer to
art as "brainprints" (-- an allusion to fingerprints).

> XYZ desires a 'more scientific' understanding of memetics, and I
> am not opposed to getting a better understanding of it along those
> lines either. Your statement above (about how teaching memetics
> to art students may make them less gullible to advertising) could
> be turned into a scientific study without too much difficulty.

Expressing memes is not the same as knowing memes.

> > But XYZ does raise a good question with, "Where are the results?"
> > That's why I refrain from dubbing memetics 'science'.

> > Well, maybe it is a philosophy then. Existentialism has results.
> > Post modern theory has results. Both have radically changed a
> > technology we use every day-- language.

But language is a fad also.

> > language. Granted the technology is not as materialistic as "a
> > better rocket engine" and as far as "putting someone on the moon
> > goes"--- well that has to do with what you consider to be a sense
> > of place. The moon is a place, surely, but are there not semantic
> > "places" as well?

Semantics is the study of fads.

> > XYZ has every right to every word s/he has written. S/he also has
> > every right to the flack it has garnered. The art of good arguement
> > often requires one to see things from another person's perspective.
> > If someone uses the tactic of blocking, absolutely, another
> > perspective-- well, does one need to go further?

Very good point!

> Well, I'm a theorist, so I'll just suggest the experiment, and then
> wait for the experimentalists to come back with the results (har).
> Anyway, take your above discussion of where you're using memetics
> for a class. That could be made scientific by having two large
> groups of students, all Pepsi drinkers, all kept unaware of the
> experiment; only one of which is taught about memetics in your
> course. Bombard both groups with Coke advertisments at every
> opportunity. Then see if their is any statistical difference in
> consumption of Coke by students in either group. (A crude experi-
> ment, to be sure, but I'm more of a physicist than a psychologist;
> maybe someone else around here commonly runs this sort of experi-
> ment, and can provide comment.)

This is not a memetics experiment. This experiment has already been
done and it doesn't prove anything about memes but it does prove
that people are suggestable and can be preconditioned. Let's come up
with an experiment that can ONLY (or mostly) be explained by memes.

> > Well, I'm sorry if I have done this. But to my perception, you
> > were jumping through XYZ's hoop.

Wow! I have such control over people in this email group...and I didn't
even know it!!!!! Hehehe!

> > I think one of the most destructive behaviours in any group is to
> > introduce elitism. It is a divide-and-conquer tactic. Many people
> > turned on Richard when he introduced "Level 3", thinking of it as
> > an elitism. Those that agreed that they could "see" the three
> > level model were accused of "calling themselves Level 3" and
> > holding themselves up above the rest.

Maybe it was only the *way* he presented it and not the concept
that elicited knee-jerk buttons labeled "elitism".

> In a certain sense, memetics just labels 'scientific method' as
> a meme-complex, and we might wonder: is XYZ chaffing at what s/he
> sees as an elitist tactic? And now here you are chaffing back
> when XYZ touts science in a way seeming almost elitist? Who's
> right?

Whoever holds the facts. The scientific method is not a meme-complex
but rather, it is an innocculation against ideas (read: memes) that
have no place in reality. The scientific method is a test, a checklist
of logical questions, the demand for evidence and proof, of any idea.

> Memetics: the scientific method is a meme-complex.
> Science: memetics is an offshoot of social/behavioral science.

> I think these are both true (and useful) statements;

They are both useful but only one is true.

> they are just spoken in two different languages.

Now you are encouraging elitism. The scientific method is just
plain english while meme-complex is meme-speak.

> No worries; (I really have a degree in physics and I really do like
> science... so - next time I get excited about science on the board,
> you'll know it's my level 3 nature, a reulst of my consciosness of
> purpose - that purpose being "understand things scientifically
> whenever possible". Oops! Now I'm sounding like a level 3
> elitist... ;-) Ain't the 'elitist' meme grand?

You just described the definition fof level 2 and not level 3 thinking.
Sorry to burst your self-eliting bubble! Hehehe!

John, maybe someday we will get into that topic about the collapse of
wavefunctions, the superposition principle, and how it reveals a weakness
in science (Oh your God! You mean the scientific method has a
weakness?) and not in reality, but let's tackle one subject at a time here