RE: Sue Blackmore (and other luminaries)

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Mon 10 Feb 2003 - 11:36:51 GMT

  • Next message: Michael Lawrence: "RE: Sue Blackmore (and other luminaries) - Dennett"

    I'm debating about whether or not to go to London on Saturday for the anti-war protest (not that this will stop the war, political expediency wins out over what's right every time) so I myself might have to save my pennies, but thanks for the info.

    Speaking of Ms Blackmore, did anyone catch her on Horzion the other night?

    It was a programme about near death experiences which seemed to side with the true believers, cobbled together with a bit of Roger Penrose's idea of consciousness residing in quantum states in microtubules in the brain. Blackmore, who I believe is writing/has written a textbook on consciousness, was there as a voice of reason putting near-death experiences (NDEs) down to brain behaviour in such states.

    It was one of the worst Horizon's I've ever seen from the point of view of its science, appearing to want to legitimate those who interpret NDEs as evidence of god, the afterlife etc. etc. There was absolutely no critique of the NDE narratives (all about meeting dead relatives, god, jesus etc. etc.- this was an almostly exclusively christian sample of people), and rather specious "memories" of operating procedures, and "recognising" of nurses were taken as unproblematic evidence of a complete dislocation of brain and mind. Dare I say it, but at the beginning of the programme the narration suggested something Sheldrakean about NDEs, with IIRC a comment along the lines of 'perhaps the brain is a receiver of consciousness'. The programme never really developed this line though.

    Anyway, speaking of luminaries of the memetics world, I see that both Dawkins and Dennett have new books out. Dennett's is about freedom and does talk about memes (acc. to a review I read), and Dawkins' book is apparently a collection of his articles, including the famous one where he talks about religion as a virus of the mind and other stuff (e.g. his piece about the death of Douglas Adams). I can't recall the Dennett book title, but I think the Dawkins book is called 'The Devil's Chaplain'.

    I've recently been reading Mark Buchanan's 'Nexus', one of a number of books about small world/network theory that are around at the moment (there are others by Barabasi, Watts, and Strogatz, all three of whom have done some of the key empirical research in this area). Buchanan is (or was) New Scientist editor, so the style of the book is very much in the style of the magazine, and late on in the book he starts talking about memes- although he gives Gladwell's Tipping Point more space and more status. I think it's an interesting book of relevance to the list.


    > ----------
    > From: derek gatherer
    > Reply To:
    > Sent: Monday, February 10, 2003 8:15 AM
    > To:
    > Subject: Sue Blackmore lecture Wednesday 5.15pm London
    > Don't forget, those of you who are within reach of
    > central London, that Sue Blackmore is speaking at the
    > Victoria Park Plaza Hotel ( at
    > 5.15pm on Wednesday. For a free ticket and programme
    > for the free parts of the rest of the event, go to:
    > and click on Free
    > Exhibition on the left hand bar. There is actually
    > quite an interesting free session tomorrow (Tuesday)
    > at 2.30pm on Systems Biology with David Fell from
    > Oxford Brookes University, and on Thursday there is a
    > NASA module demonstration at 10.30am.
    > This is what the web site now says:
    > Guest Keynote Presentation:
    > Dr Susan Blackmore
    > The Evolution of Meme Machines
    > We humans are all meme machines. So are the
    > photocopiers and telephones, computers and web servers
    > that we have built to help us. But why are they
    > changing so fast, and were they really designed for
    > our benefit?
    > According to the theory of memetics, they were all
    > designed by memetic evolution for the sake of the
    > memes themselves. Like genes, memes are replicators.
    > That is, they are information that is copied with
    > variation and selection, which makes an evolutionary
    > process possible. As with other evolutionary
    > processes, memetic or cultural evolution happens for
    > the benefit of the replicators themselves, in this
    > case the memes. The internet, the web and all its
    > consequences are just what we should expect of the
    > rapidly accelerating evolution of meme machines.
    > Dr Susan Blackmore has done many interviews for
    > television, and presented programmes, including a
    > "Horizon" on alien abductions and 'The cleverest ape
    > in the world' for Channel 4. She is now more
    > interested in science, especially evolution,
    > evolutionary psychology, memetics, meditation, and
    > altered states of consciousness.
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    > 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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