RE: meme as catalytic indexical

From: M Lissack (
Date: Tue 27 Jan 2004 - 15:28:10 GMT

  • Next message: Chris Taylor: "Re: memetics/memics/mimetics"


    In your world the word token meme works. In the scientific world it is so overloaded with conflicting notions (including those expressed by Dawkins himself) that it is next to useless as a unit of analysis. My article is an attempt to help the field advance. Your postings seem to indicate that you are opposed to the idea that the field needs to advance.

    You have a distinguished resume but you are not an academic nor a philosopher nor a true scientist. To refer people to works of years ago and say you "have done all you can" is to ignore all of the work and efforts that have gone on since those works you cite were written. And I never recall asking for your
    "help." I wrote an article, it was published, and people are commenting on it.

    There is no established "definition" of a meme. There is a loose collection of fuzzy notoions which all share the label or word token "meme."

    Science does not advance by treating definitions as given but by questioning always questioning definitions.

    Your web site fails to point to much of anything post the year 2000. Do you believe that all worthy work
    (save your own postings) stopped then? Do you really believe that a book you wrote more than a decade ago was prescient enough to answer challenges raised after the book was written?

    Yes I am challenging the "conventional wisdom." I am not the first nor will I be the last. You as a self proclaimed author of that "convention" are much more interested in defending your territory than in addressing the many questions which get raised here and in other forums.

    So for the last time I ask you again to respond to Bruce's challenges with something other than hubrus or platitudes. If you have no interest in memetics as an academic field fine. If you think Bruce has raised unnecessary issues tell us why you think so. If you think Bruce's challenges can be easily answered tell us how to do so. If you think Bruce's challenges are invalid tell us why. But stop answering by telling us that you said all that in Virus of the Mind. You did not and you could not because Bruce's challenges came much later.

    --- Richard Brodie <> wrote:
    > 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
    > This was distributed via the memetics list
    > associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of
    > Information Transmission
    > For information about the journal and the list (e.g.
    > unsubscribing)
    > see:

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    =============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see:

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