RE: Individual - Collective / digest V1#1480

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Fri 27 Feb 2004 - 20:28:49 GMT

  • Next message: Chris Taylor: "Re: Individual - Collective / digest V1#1480"

    >From: "Richard Brodie" <>
    >To: <>
    >Subject: RE: Individual - Collective / digest V1#1480
    >Date: Fri, 27 Feb 2004 11:58:54 -0800
    >Ted Dace wrote:
    > > In memetics, what the
    > > fundamentalists maintain is that cultural evolution is a
    > > mechanical process reducible to memes. This view follows
    > > from the recognition that cultural evolution proceeds much
    > > more quickly than natural evolution and therefore can't be
    > > explained by genetic mutation. The "problem of culture" is
    > > thus "solved" by reducing culture to the blind, mechanical
    > > evolution of gene-like memes. In mechanizing human culture,
    > > the purist form of memetics becomes, not simply a science of
    > > culture, but *the answer* to all questions cultural. No need
    > > to posit anything human, like love, for example, which is
    > > reduced to the imperative of obtaining attention as well as
    > > the tactics of manipulating people by lavishing attention on
    > > them and promoting one's genes by assisting close relatives.
    > > Mechanization resolves all issues according to a simple
    > > formula. "Survival of the fittest" becomes as worn out and
    > > meaningless as "Jesus saves." Meanwhile, those who raise
    > > objections become taboo and are denounced as "wacky" or
    > > simply ignored.
    >That's a great description of "memetics fundamentalist." But who are these
    Anyone who would argue that memetics has usurped all social science and denigrate other fields of inquiry into factors influencing human behavior. If this mental condition were to develop amongst individuals smitten with memetics and left unchecked it could deteriorate from a narrowminded explanatory monism to a full-fledged monomania where every nuance of the human condition is attributed to memes.

    Dace's "memetic fundamentalism" might not be far from a more general Darwinian fundamentalism which that great 'marxian' paleontologist Stephen Gould has outlined in an essay found in _The New York Review of Books_ (June 12, 1997). This explanatory monism which as a dangerous idea could deteriorate into a pathological monomania is using selection as ultimate principle.

    There's a danger that this monism could carry over into the social sciences with disciplines such as evolutionary psychology and memetics being mere extensions of a general malady of Darwinian fundamentalism.
    >I don't think I've ever met one.
    Certainly no one on this list harbors Ultra-Darwinist complexes or would succumb to the temptation of glorifying memes as the local totem of the list's clan, making memes sacred and the rest of the social science world profane.
    >Everyone I know who understands
    >memetics also understands that it is simply one of many useful models for
    >explaining the past and predicting the future.
    I would hope so.

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