From: Scott Chase (email@example.com)
Date: Fri 13 Feb 2004 - 21:03:46 GMT
>From: Chris Taylor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Subject: Re: what is a meme?
>Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 15:35:51 +0000
>> <This sort of thing makes clear why this area _should_ be left to
>> The anti cross-disciplinary tone of several comments on the list
>>recently have been disappointing to say the least, indeed as a social
>>scientist I could easily take offence. Don't forget that all disciplines
>>have their wackos- Rupert Sheldrake for instance (sorry Dace)- and their
>>areas of the unknown- how about some biologist defining life, for instance
>>(oh, and if someone can, maybe you should tell NASA so they know what to
>Yeah well that's one that is better addressed from a Dougie-style point of
>view of asking why we need such a definition (presumably, ultimately, for
>press releases and grant proposals). Life isn't a thing, it's an arbitrary
>classification, that's the key, which of course you knew.
>Prions are great for laying that issue wide open (as, of course, are
>viruses, lots of endosymbionts etc., and stuff that should be 'in' that
>isn't due to host medium, timescales and so on, but I digress).
>I hate that I'm coming across as an anti-cross-disciplinarian -- I've felt
>driven to defend an offhand statement; the gist being that anyone can do
>this stuff (i.e. apply evolutionary thought) not just card-carrying
>biologists, but that the most appropriate place to start is in the study of
>a few aspects of biological systems.
>> There is no contesting that the social sciences have been rather
>>over-infected with wackos and wacky ideas in recent times, but some of us
>>are developing immunity to the wilder strains of relativism, postmodernism
>>and the other crap. Also we are_all_trying to find things to say about
>>of the most complex systems humans are aware of- human society and that's
>>bloody hard especially when the natural sciences have been lagging so far
>>behind in getting around to study human society, meaning that the social
>>sciences had to start somewhere, and they were bound to be largely wrong
>>about most things early on- just like Aristotle or Pliny or Galen were in
>>the early days of science, but at least they made a start. I'm willing to
>>be enlightened, as long as there isn't too much heckling and cat-calling-
>>science lecturers treat their students the way they sometimes treat social
>>scientists? If so, no wonder applications for science subjects are
>>through the floor.
>Actually, just to be awkward, a little heat added to the light might
>generate some interest -- all too often science (as it must due to the
>demands of the media for neat packages) is portrayed as uncontentious,
>fully collaborative progress towards truth. I came out of my science
>A-levels with the impression that there was little left to do but fill in
>Also, despite Douglas' determination to cast me as an excluder, by
>exploiting the kind of relaxed mannerism that generally goes unpunished
>here becuase we know, broadly, what we mean, I am certainly not that. To me
>social science is fascinating; all I said is that biological theory is a
>good place to raid for ideas to get going (whoever might be doing that).
>The reason is not that I think SS is flaky -- we all have nutters in our
>midst -- I have been lectured by some. My point is that certain disciplines
>are appropriate to the study of different levels of granularity; biology
>(through various subdisciplines) has good stuff for looking at the smaller
That sounds a heck of a lot fairer. I kinda got a little too upset over the social science bashing I perceived on this list.
Crossing disciplines can be fun, but one discipline by itself is difficult
to grasp so trying to be competent in many disciplines would be nearly
impossible, unless you are independently wealthy and have no social life. It
would be ironic that someone would have to give up their social life to
devote all their energy to researching social life.
> Chris Taylor (email@example.com)
Have you considered the eschatologic implications of your e-mail address? A certain religion has been waiting for you to return and Mel Gibson just made a movie about the first coming.
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