RE: The Redefinition of Memes: Ascribing Meaning to an Empty Cliché

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Wed 10 Dec 2003 - 04:22:43 GMT

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    At 08:13 PM 08/12/03 -0800, you wrote:
    >and Keith your devoted enemies have reached thousands as many people as
    >you ---- but i'll bet you are sure they are wrong and you are right
    >having a significant group of followers does not "right" make
    >you of all people should know that

    You misunderstand my relation to scientologists. I don't consider them enemies. They are victims of Hubbard's memes in the same sense tuberculosis patients are victims of mycobacteria. It does not make sense to consider a TB victim an enemy. It does not make sense to consider scientologists and other cult members, even the followers of Bin Laden as enemies. Deluded, yes, dangerous, yes. Sadly you may have to kill them if they can't be cured of their delusions, but enemies, no.

    You are correct about numbers of followers. It doesn't matter how high a fraction of the US population believes in angels or ETs, there still isn't any evidence for them.

    But with respect to "meme," or any other word, when a large number of people use it in an established way, it is confusing and counterproductive to communication to attempt to change the definition to something different. If you need to refer to a new concept, use a phrase or make up a new word, something I notice you did in the essay with "glom."

    Your inversion of usual word order induced me to look you up on the net. I cannot tell from what I found if you are a native speaker of English or not, but you have impressive credentials. (I know only one other person with your kind of experience.)

    I share your concerns about many of the same social issues, particularly the redefining of business ethics in recent decades. (Shades of scientology ethics!) The schools that educated Enron executives should be disgraced and made to suffer--perhaps on the scale of the Anderson accounting group.

    The Amazon excerpt from your book, _The Next Common Sense_, flows nicely.

    Your essay at from which you quoted a bit on this mailing list sounds like it was written for a philosophy journal, which I suppose it was. After wading through the prose, I still disagree with your proposal to redefine memes and memetics.

    Memes/memetics is a very simple concept, that Darwinian evolution applies to elements of culture. It so simple it is verified a thousand times over just from common knowledge and trivial thought experiments. There is no need to make it more complicated, not even much need to test it. You just apply it as a tool to help understand the part of the world where memetics applies.

    Ghod knows that study gets complicated in a hurry.

    If people want, we can take this off line.

    Best wishes,

    Keith Henson

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