Re: Words and memes: criteria for acceptance of new belief or meme

From: Francesca S. Alcorn (
Date: Mon Feb 18 2002 - 17:43:59 GMT

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    Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 12:43:59 -0500
    From: "Francesca S. Alcorn" <>
    Subject: Re: Words and memes: criteria for acceptance of new belief or   meme
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    >On Monday, February 18, 2002, at 10:59 , Francesca S. Alcorn wrote:
    >>Where I lived in Africa, the people believed that lightning was
    >>"called down" on you by people you had pissed off (or rather by the
    >>witch doctor who was *paid* by the people you had pissed off. - a
    >>sort of lightning-for-hire scenario). While this may not have led
    >>to an invention of the lightning rod, it certainly made people a
    >>little more cautious and careful around each other - which probably
    >>strengthened social bonds/community. So it may not have been
    >>verifiable in the sense that you are talking about, but it had it's
    >>pay offs.
    >What is verifiable and empirical is the bank-account (or whatever
    >passes for lucre) of the shaman in that tribe. His behavior is also
    >definable and predictable by the same accounts....
    >Who starts a confidence trick, and why? I prefer Barnum to Freud.

    The difference between Barnum and a Shaman, is that Barnum *knows*
    he's a con, and the Shaman *knows* that he's not. It's all in the
    memes. (my belief memes, not your behavioral memes - by your lights
    they are indistinguishable.)

    I should, on the interest of accuracy point out that a shaman is not
    the same as a witch doctor. A witch doctor does things *outside* of
    what is socially acceptable - calling down lightning, casting curses,
    poisoning etc - while a shaman works for and inside of social norms.


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