Re: memetics-digest V1 #1318

From: Dace (
Date: Thu 20 Mar 2003 - 17:00:17 GMT

  • Next message: William Benzon: "Re: Different words for the same thing?"

    > From: "Reed Konsler" <>
    > Ted:
    > "We don't need the memetics model to account for the recognition that
    > are caused by bacteria...Since the idea turned out to be true, now lots of
    > people
    > believe it. No need for "selfish" units of culture propagating
    > But the prior belief-- that ulcers are caused by stress-- is not only
    > but harmful. The extreme difficulty of uprooting this belief can be
    > ascribed to the autonomy and resilience of the belief itself. Of course,
    > bad ideas are memes, then every idea is potentially memetic. That the
    > bacterial explanation of ulcers is a meme can only be demonstrated
    > indirectly."
    > That's a false dichotomy. Ulcers are a symptom. The presence of ulcers
    > statistically correlated with the presence of certain bacteria. It's also
    > correlated with ingestion of particularly acidic chemicals. It seems to
    > correlated with stress, to the extent you can quantify that.
    > The proximate cause of ulcers is an increase in stomach acidity beyond the
    > ability of the mucous lining to protect against it. There isn't any
    > ultimate cause, because (like most chronic medical problems) it's a result
    > of an upset equilibrium. Anything, or any collection of things together,
    > that upsets the equilibrium will cause the symptom.
    > Because you come up with a new theory doesn't mean all the old ones are
    > wrong.
    > Because you create a "wonder drug" doesn't mean you have solved a medical
    > problem.
    > Another example. Many people are depressed. Depression has many causes:
    > biological, psychological, and environmental. Depression is linked to
    > reduced serotonin levels in the brain. That is a proximate cause and it
    > be treated using an SSRI like Prozac or Zoloft. These drugs are quite
    > effective and a blessing, but it would be a mistake to think that the
    > have "fixed" the problem. There are not single theories or simple
    > solutions. It isn't necessary, for instance, to choose between taking
    > Prozac, praying to God for strength of will, meditating, and trying to get
    > your life organized and on the track you want. You can do all at once.

    Hi Reed,

    Thanks for the info. The assertion regarding ulcers was Keith Henson's, not mine. I was merely making use of his example to make a point about memes. The tendency to reduce a complex event to a single cause may be a memetic strategy to help us respond to situations instead of feeling paralyzed by their complexity.


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