RE: Whacking on memetics

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Tue 17 Feb 2004 - 11:24:49 GMT

  • Next message: Van oost Kenneth: "Re: Whacking on memetics"

            <again, why is the word culture used over and over again when what is at issue is social life??
    Been trying to avoid posting, as generally my interests have been piqued by non-memetic sub-threads to messages, and I want to contribute more relevant stuff (so list contributing becomes meaningful, rather than displacement, activity). Plus my sysadmin keeps sending me nasty messages about having a full mailbox...

    Anyway, this comment stands out a mile. I think you need to clarify and justify this extensively. Memetics is about culture- the artefacts, practices and, some would say, beliefs common to societies. "Social life", well I'm not quite sure what you mean by this- everyday social interactions? or do you mean it in the colloquial sense of having a social life- i.e. friends and leisure activities etc.? do you mean it in the sense of institutional roles and relationships i.e. our positions, functions within social institutions?

    If it's the first of these, then to apply evolutionary theory to that all you really need is evo psych. But what evo psych doesn't seem able to explain is cultural trends- i.e. those that are evident across hundreds of miles, millions of people, indeed sometimes stretching across nations and continents. Does memetics offer better explanatory prospects? Still a question being worked on.

    Any clarifications you can offer?


    (Incidentally, I have been thinking more about the slating of social science from some on the list with no consideration whatsoever of entire branches of social science that have never bought into the solipsism, relativism and blank slate-ism (is there a proper term for that?) of other parts of the discipline, and routinely engage in very important studies that the natural sciences never touch upon. One are, that I'm very familiar with is political communication/journalism studies. Extend this into public understandng of science/science communication work- work of real importance to those scientists concerned about the wider dissemination of their work but dismissive of the specialists in analysing the means of disseminating that work, and you've got another area of important, valid, and credible social science research. To me memetics isn't a natural science idea taking over from necessarily wrong social science approaches, it's a proper social science, in principle anyway, in which the discoveries of the natural sciences are used to ground investigation of culture. To criticise all social science for some parts' youthful mistakes, would be to dismiss all of Aristotle, say, because his science was essentially, and fundamentally, wrong, even though it helped lay the groundwork for ways of thinking about the world).

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