Re: memetic error (?)

From: Douglas Brooker (
Date: Thu 12 Dec 2002 - 20:53:35 GMT

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    This can be seen in legal systems. Legal theorists can become known through canonic readings of subsequent scholars. John Austin is known to many legal scholars solely through the interpretation of Hart and others, rather than the original. see Morrison Jurisprudence from Greeks to Post-modernism.

    The same can happen with respect to court judgements and legislation. In effect, the primary texts become secondary, superseded by a more collective text of prevailing opinion and thinking. There's a folk saying attributed to the American bar, that when really pressed, as a last resort, judges have actually been known the read the statute they are supposed to be applying. This is a bit tongue-in-cheek, and far from true, but makes a point.

    From these phenomena one can claim that so-called modern systems of positive law function much the same as so-called tribal systems based on collective oral narrative. In science, the phenomena might suggest the way even so-called 'hard sciences' rely on collective processes of narrative in ways that contradict the narrative science tells about itself.

    a problem is explaining how speech functions on multiple levels.

    William Benzon wrote:
    > The World's No.1 Science & Technology News Service
    > Scientists exposed as sloppy reporters
    > 19:00 11 December 02
    > Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition
    > A cunning statistical study has exposed scientists as sloppy reporters. When
    > they write up their work and cite other people's papers, most do not bother
    > to read the original.
    > The discovery was made by Mikhail Simkin and Vwani Roychowdhury of the
    > University of California, Los Angeles, who study the way information spreads
    > around different kinds of networks.
    > They noticed in a citation database that misprints in references are fairly
    > common, and that a lot of the mistakes are identical. This suggests that
    > many scientists take short cuts, simply copying a reference from someone
    > else's paper rather than reading the original source.
    > To find out how common this is, Simkin and Roychowdhury looked at citation
    > data for a famous 1973 paper on the structure of two-dimensional crystals.
    > They found it had been cited in other papers 4300 times, with 196 citations
    > containing misprints in the volume, page or year. But despite the fact that
    > a billion different versions of erroneous reference are possible, they
    > counted only 45. The most popular mistake appeared 78 times.
    > The pattern suggests that 45 scientists, who might well have read the paper,
    > made an error when they cited it. Then 151 others copied their misprints
    > without reading the original. So for at least 77 per cent of the 196
    > misprinted citations, no one read the paper.
    > Still, you might think that the scientists who cited the paper correctly had
    > been more dutiful about reading it. Not so, say Simkin and Roychowdhury.
    > They modelled the way misprints spread as each new citer finds a reference
    > to the original source in any of the papers that already cite it.
    > The model shows that the distribution of misprinted citations of the 1973
    > paper could only have arisen if 78 per cent of all the citations, including
    > the correct ones, were "cut and pasted" from a secondary source. Many of
    > those who got it right were simply lucky.
    > The problem is not specific to this paper, the researchers say. Similar
    > patterns of errors cropped up in a dozen other high-profile papers they
    > studied. The trouble is that researchers trust other scientists to repeat
    > the key message of a paper correctly. This means that when misconceptions
    > take root, they spread like weeds.
    > Simkin and Roychowdhury promise that between them they read all the
    > references listed in their own paper including a book by Sigmund Freud.
    > Their advice to other scientists is "read before you cite".
    > Hazel Muir
    > ===============================================================
    > This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    > For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    > see:

    =============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see:

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