Re: never wanting to grow up

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Mon 26 May 2003 - 23:28:46 GMT

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    At 03:06 PM 26/05/03 -0700, Dace wrote:
    > > From: "rhiggins7" <>


    > > the disitinction here seems extremely arbitrary and
    > > contrived to propogatte an "Us vs Them" belief structure within the
    > > community.
    >It's not the least bit arbitrary. Not all information flows memetically.
    >Much of it flows according to standard models of information transfer,
    >developed and refined over many years by social scientists. To claim that
    >all shared ideas are memes is to defy conventional science.

    Let me help you with an example. "Objects fall when released" is certainly a shared idea, but in most cases not a meme since it is learned by any small child playing with blocks. I.e., you don't have to teach this fact of life to each new generation because they learn it by experience.

    >This is why
    >memetics is often rejected or simply ignored. To avoid confrontation with
    >the well-established science of information transfer, we must define exactly
    >which ideas are memetic and which are not, i.e. which ideas actively
    >replicate and which ones are passively replicated through standard means.

    "Culturgen" is a term predating "meme" which means the same thing. A culturgen is an element of culture that is passed on, like patterns of decoration on pottery or the means of making pots, chipping rocks to make tools or ways to make shoes. These culturgens or memes are no real problem to explain because they are useful to learn, but they do require being passed down as elements of culture. That makes them memes.

    "Bleeding" as a medical practice was harmful in virtually all cases, but it too was a meme that was passed down from generation to generation. As a meme it did not induce behavior to teach others to bleed people.

    Now suicide cults memes are *clearly* harmful and they induce those who hold them to actively try to infect others. I think your claim is that the only memes are those in this class, or others that induced behavior to spread the meme. There certainly is a difference between such classes of memes. There are genes known as segregation distorters that result in an all male population of mice that have similar effects. But they are still

    > > And why would the fact that a Meme is true or false have any
    > > impact on how it is replicates?
    >If an idea depends on reason to be transmitted from one person to another,
    >then it plays no active role in its transmission and is therefore not a
    >meme. But it will be "true," at least relative to an idea that conflicts
    >with reason.
    > > Only the "Belief" in the truethfullness of a
    > > meme will impact its viralents. Many of our most deepest held beleifs
    > > science and reason are essencially subjective memes but we believe them to
    > > be true.
    >I agree. A meme's virulence depends in part on how many people believe in
    >it. If "everyone" believes something irrational, you're a lot more likely
    >to abandon reason and believe in it as well. A lot of "scientific" beliefs
    >are little more than materialist dogma.

    > > More disturbing in this post is the implied belief that somehow "it
    > > is those awfull lying Memes that supress Our great Ideas from changing the
    > > world".
    >Can you explain why you find this disturbing? If memes are indeed
    >responsible for the persistence of irrational beliefs, wouldn't memetics
    >benefit us by helping us identify which of our beliefs are memes?
    > > I wonder if anyones got a good Idea on how to counter this Meme.
    >Chill out, dude. We're just having a conversation here.

    I think the case is much stronger to consider all replicating information patterns in culture to be memes and *then* start fixing them along a helpful symbiote to nasty parasite spectrum.

    There certainly is another spectrum you could rate them on. For example, a really good joke would be more likely to induce people to spread it than a poor one.

    How would you rate the method of multiplying numbers under nine by nine? It is so useful that parents are induced to teach it to their kids even if the schools don't.

    Keith Henson

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