Re: transmission

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Thu 22 May 2003 - 00:02:33 GMT

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    At 11:54 AM 21/05/03 -0400, you wrote:
    >on 5/21/03 9:07 AM, Keith Henson at wrote:
    > >
    > > Memes are in competition for a limited resource, human brains. This is the
    > > main factor that makes memetics so interesting since memes can induce
    > > behavior that affects how many are carrying them. "Convert or die,
    > infidel!"
    >This makes no sense. Sooner or later mentalist memetics gets around to
    >talking about memes as though they were living beings flitting about from
    >mind to mind.

    To some very limited extent they are. A virus is just a hunk of DNA or RNA. Is it a "living being?" If your cells are being converted to more SARS viruses and you need a ventilator just to breath, such nit picking questions are far from your concerns.

    Dawkins' major contribution was to popularize the "selfish gene" paradigm. "Unthinking" genes and memes can be modeled as "striving" entities because of the Darwinian effect. Genes that make more successful bodies become more common as time progresses. Memes that people spread become more common. Purely a mechanical consequence of the way evolution works, no thoughts on the part of memes or genes required.

    >People compete with one another for all sorts of reasons, individually and
    >in groups.


    >People say do things like: "Convert or die, infidel!" Arguing
    >that what's really going on is that memes are manipulating people for their
    >own replicating ends is just silly. It was a bad idea when Dawkins advanced
    >it, and it hasn't improved any for all the elaboration and repetition it has
    >received by others.

    It is a clever shorthand that lets you say in a single word like "striving" the long winded logic of how evolution works to make some genes (or memes) more or less common as time goes forward. It was a good way to put a complicated explanation in a few words, but some people have a lot of trouble groking it.

    I no longer find total lack of comprehension of simple concepts to be all that strange. One universal (in my experience) characteristic of scientologists is that not a single one of them (sample size = 200 at least) can tell you why blind and double blind experiments are needed to test drugs and medical procedures. (They can't *imagine* that people could fool themselves.)

    Keith Henson

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