From: William Benzon (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Tue 18 Feb 2003 - 14:00:08 GMT
on 2/17/03 10:53 PM, Keith Henson at email@example.com wrote:
> Ah, so far memetics is close to epidemiology, more a mathematical abstract
> understanding of how diseases spread than it is on the details of how a
> particular bug makes people sick.
So why aren't memeticists gathering real data about real phenomena to test
their mathematical models? There are people who do this, but they aren't
Henrich, J. (2001). "Cultural Transmission and the Diffusion of Innovations:
Adoption Dynamics Indicate That Biased Cultural Transmission Is the
Predominate Force in Behavioral Change." American Anthropologist 103(4):
(If you google Henrich's name you should find his website, where you can get
a PDF of that paper, and others.)
> To get into *why* this meme and not some
> other one spread well, you have to consider the class of memes involved. A
> better way to chip rock or make pots or shoes spreads by people seeing that
> they can spend less overall effort on the new approach than the old
> one. That's easy to figure out, since the people can use the extra time to
> hunt more or make more babies.
> The pathological cases, like Jim Jones or Heaven's Gate baffled me for
> about a decade. You can read the story of how I came to understand how
> these worked in the paper at http://human-nature.com/nibbs/02/cults.html,
> but in short form, cults memes induce large amounts of highly rewarding
> attention between members. For some people the rewards are on a par with
> addictive drugs and involve the exact same reward pathways.
You've got an interesting conjunction of information in that article, but
it's not closely reasoned scientific argument. Your discussion of the
brain's "reward" system is far too vague. And much about dopamine is still
obscure. Specifically, the idea that it is a "reward" chemical is not fully
accepted. See, e.g.:
Ikemoto, S. and J. Panksepp (1999). "The role of nucleus accumbens dopamine
in motivated behavior: a unifying interpretation with special reference to
reward-seeking." Brain Research Reviews 31: 6-41.
Panksepp, J. (1998). Affective Neuroscience. New York, Oxford University
What bothers me is that you seem to think this is all a slam-dunk, that the
fundamental intellectual issues have been worked out and all we have to do
is clean up some details here and there. On the contrary, fundamental
issues are still very much up in the air.
> My work makes it clear that you have to consider more than memes. The
> power of memetics is that it brings out the replicating aspect of
> information in human societies.
And all it does with that viewpoint is says that information spreads, which
is hardly news. Memetics seems to be an earnest attempt to give the mere
fact of spreading some mysterious explanatory power.
> But besides that viewpoint, you have to
> consider in addition a person's genes and their mind, shaped by genes,
> memes and experiences.
But you have to consider these things in some detail. Memetics doesn't give
you any tools for doing so. Rather, it just gives you the doubtful
assurance that it will all work out in the end when someone else -- those
guys over there, perhaps -- does all the intellectual dirty work and gets
the details worked out.
* * * * *
I really don't want to get into a long debate about this. I did that in the
early days of this list and have no desire to repeat all that. I figure
memetics will keep ticking along regardless of what I or anyone else says.
-- William L. Benzon 708 Jersey Avenue, Apt. 2A Jersey City, NJ 07302 201 217-1010 "You won't get a wild heroic ride to heaven on pretty little sounds."--George Ives =============================================================== 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: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue 18 Feb 2003 - 13:56:08 GMT