Re: Dennett article on post-modernism

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Sun 16 Mar 2003 - 02:52:17 GMT

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    Scott Chase said:

    "This points out the limitations in the pathogenic analogy for memetics. Your blatant comparison of ideas to a diase organism fails to account for responsibility as it connects to human behavior. We have little control over what pathogens we might uknowingly pick up and spread. We do have some control over how we relate to ideas and thus hae some level of responbility for consequences of implementation of our ideas. If you went too far in the direction you're aiming at, we'd have to drop the idea of responsibility altogether. In that case lawyers and prison guards would be suddenly unemployed.

    "I don't think being infected by a bad idea would be a good defense to use in a court of law."

    I think you misunderstand my point, which is that bad people can use good memes for bad purposes. The person who invents of passes on the good memes is NOT responsible for what the people who pick it up do with it, any more than the man who uses a hammer to crack another man's head cannot blame the man who invented the hammer for what he did. Trying to accept responsiblity for what everyone does with the memes we invent or pass on to other members of society is an impossible task. Look at what people have done with religious memes. The memes were meant to bring harmony between people and time after time were used as an excuse to go to war with people. That is NOT the fault of the meme nor the man who created the meme.

    Not long after the Europeans came to the Americas, two things they brought with them changed the lives of the people who lived here forever. One was the use of steel for knives, pots, pans and guns and the other was to introduce the horse to the North American continent. The native population quickly became dependent on both and used both for the purpose of killing each other and the Europeans who brought the new tools to their part of the world. Others, of course, used them for making their lives better. But the tools brought by the Europeans changed the culture of the native Americans completely and forever. As Captain Kirk might have put it, the Europeans violated the prime directive. Well, if people of one culture mingle with people of another culture, some of the culture of each will rub off on the other. That's what memes do.


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