RE: meme as catalytic indexical

From: Richard Brodie (
Date: Tue 27 Jan 2004 - 15:01:39 GMT

  • Next message: M Lissack: "RE: meme as catalytic indexical"

    M Lissack wrote:

    > Richard you are ignoring the question. How do you know that
    > it is the meme that is the replicator rather than something
    > else being the replicator and the meme only being the sign?

    The very question indicates to me a basic lack of understanding of the scientific method. A definition cannot be right or wrong. It's simply a definition. Some definitions are more useful than others for building theories that explain and predict. "Meme" happens to be defined as a cultural replicator and a fair amount has been written about memes in the last almost 30 years based on that definition. Many people find the definition useful. Some do not.

    > Some ideas thrive some ideas do not. What is that
    > distinguishes them? What is the mechanism for their thriving
    > or failing?
    > Sure you can cite many examples of ideas that have been
    > replicated but what is the cause of the replication?
    > Memes as replicator is an assertion that the meme is its own
    > cause for replication. Idea as "Final Cause"
    > if you will. But what distinguishes the causes between
    > successful and unsuccessful memes?
    > When word meanings change over time have the memes changed,
    > failed, succeeded, or mutated and what distinguishes these
    > from the change in environment.

    As I said before, if you've read my book and are still asking questions like these I doubt there is anything else I can write to help you understand. I gave it my best shot at answering these questions in the 250 pages of Virus of the Mind.

    > You are happy with memes as they are. That is not what my
    > article or Bruce's challenges are about. If the world is
    > happy with memes as they are --- wonderful. But memetics is
    > presently not treated as science and lacks academic credence.
    > Without either credence or the "science" label it gets
    > little in the way of research attention or funding.

    Well, then, why don't you just redefine "funding" to be a catalytic indexical and then you can catalyze your own semiotically? ;-)

    > Maybe memetics is fine but maybe it is like cold fusion or
    > the misapplications of catastrophe theory.
    > Your web site contains many stories but little in the way of
    > serious research. Some of us who think memetics could be so
    > much more find that to be an unacceptable state of affairs
    > for the field in general.

    My web site is for the general public. I believe the Journal of Memetics site has the serious research, such as it is, and I have a pointer to that site on mine for the academically inclined.

    > Dawkins made an offhand remark when he coined "meme."
    > To treat an offhand analogy as the "word of god"
    > instead of as an initial idea worthy of research and subject
    > to change is to suggest that all memes can be subjected to
    > evolutionary forces except for the meme meme.

    My first wife used to complain sometimes that I wasn't considering her feelings when I made a decision she didn't like. Usually, though, I was considering her feelings but decided against them anyway. I think we have two problems here. First, I don't think you understand (or perhaps understand but disagree with) the pragmatic approach to the philosophy of science: that scientific theories are not True or False but useful or not. I conclude this based on my judgment that you are arguing that the established definition of meme is wrong. Second, I don't think you understand what Dennett calls the "intentional stance." Reading his "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" is a good way to familiarize yourself with that philosophical position. All replicator theory is based on that.

    > Memes as catalysts and memes as replicators differ mainly in
    > the notions of cause and of actors. All of the stories found
    > on your web site can be recast as meme as catalyst without
    > losing anything except these two notions.

    Sure. Reality can be described any number of ways. However, memes are not catalysts, they are replicators. If you want to look at information as catalyst it could be a very interesting perspective, but why confuse people by using a word with established meaning to denote something else?

    > I still await someone else to suggest an answer to Bruce's
    > challenges or explain why they should be rejected. Telling
    > me I have suggested that the word of god is wrong does neither.

    I think Bruce's challenges are great. I don't think anyone here but you used the term "word of god."

    Richard Brodie

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