Re: Aunger vs. Pinker on Galton

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Thu 21 Apr 2005 - 01:30:38 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: Aunger vs. Pinker on Galton"

    --- William Benzon <> wrote:

    > on 4/20/05 7:18 PM, Bill Spight at
    > wrote:
    > [snip]
    > >
    > > I was also disappointed by Blackmore. In "The
    > Selfish Gene" Dawkins
    > > talks about memes replicating by "a process which,
    > in the broad sense,
    > > can be called imitation." Now, that statement
    > cries out for more
    > > detailed explication and analysis based upon
    > social learning theory. But
    > > Blackmore takes off her psychologist hat for a
    > second and says, "Hey,
    > > it's imitation."
    > >
    > But at least Blackmore is within the realm of the
    > more or less possible.
    > Even if she takes imitation at unanalyzed face
    > value, one can imagine that
    > something would be left of her ideas if one were
    > more careful. But Aunger's
    > confusion is so massive that it's hard to imagine
    > anything coming of his
    > book. It's also hard to imagine how it ever got past
    > editorial review.
    After the errors I noticed I'm more skeptical about the rest of the book. There's parts where the subject matter isn't my forte and I'm nervous about spending too much time committing it to memory if it might lead me astray. The first part of his book was interesting and I wasn't sure about the way he represented ev psych and evoked culture but it did get me thinking. The Aunger I saw in the contributions to _Darwinizing Culture_ was a diffident and critically reflective Aunger. In the _Electric Meme_ I was hoping for more of the same, but maybe in his enthusiasm to branch off into replicator theory and neuroscience he put the cart before the horse.

    When he's talking about replication in biology, I'm hoping for a competent description of DNA replication, but instead get something that grates on my nerves and makes me worry about the rest of the book. It kinda short-circuits me and I start getting all flustered. If someone is going to revolutionize memetics with a whirlwind attack on what replication entails, they might want to get their facts straight about DNA replication (as can be found in undergrad texts). I thought his discussion of prions was interesting, but I'm not competent enough in that area to know if he covered it without flubbing the basic facts.

    There were parts of Blackmore's book that I found interesting, like how she meshes Festinger's cognitive dissonance with the development of memeplexes. This is an area I wish she would have fleshed out in more detail. Blackmore started annoying me with the self-negation stuff. She was taking a hardcore philosophical stand on that one.

    The idea that components of cultural stuff might integrate and that consonance and dissonance are important factors to consider OTOH was a plus IMO. This could be fertile ground.

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