From: Scott Chase (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Fri 27 May 2005 - 21:27:44 GMT
--- Derek Gatherer <email@example.com> wrote:
> The last issue of the current incarnarion of JoM is
> Please excuse spelling mistake in the title of my
> article (ooopps...)
Hi Derek. Not kissing up, but I thought your article was the most constructive and reasonable of all of them. More on that later.
There's certain things that grate on my nerves about
the ways some memeticists approach their discipline.
One of these pet peeves is exemplified by a rhetorical
game played by Marion Blute in his article. What ever
problems may exist with the gene concept, at least it
has a good track record, from the pre coinage days of
Mendel's factors, through the rediscovery and coinage
of the "gene" through the modern synthesis and
molecularization of the gene. I've tended to lean more
towards the molecular and developmentally relevant
conceptions than the evolutionary conception of
Williams and Dawkins myself. If there's some fuzzy
nature to the multiplicity of gene concepts, I think
its a lame rhetorical strategy to say we should give
the meme concept a similar break. Memetics must fight
for itself without pointing to genetic fuzzy wuzzies.
Blute also reveals the linguistic bias I've seen in
memetics focusing on the "digital" encoding of
linguistically relevant units such as phonemes and
letters. Sure words are important but what are images?
Plus I'm not so sure I'd emphasize the importance of
listening to parents over media or peers. What if your
parents are rabid racists and your friends are more
progressive (or minorities) or the media is conveying
more inclusive messages? What if your parents are
ignorant and peers are smart and concerned for your
well beng and telling you things at odds with what the
parents are saying?
What if personally conveyed information (such as from
friends) is leading you towards doing damaging stuff
like trying dangerous drugs and media sources such as
television news or afterschool specials are pointing
to the dangers of such drugs?
I do like that Blute brough up the emerging and
important study of inteface of ecology, development,
David Dirlam's article also grated on my nerves for
different reasons. Funny how he mentions Lashley for
pointing to lack of a analytical unit in psychology.
Maybe so, in toto, but Lashley was one of many who was
searching for a unit of memory (the engram) and as
I've said before the internalized meme (your nemesis)
and the engram are in the same boat, but at least the
engram doesn't have the extra Darwinian baggage to
struggle with if the boat capsizes (bad analogy?). For
an "in the noggin" approch to memetics, the neuromeme
competes with or at least is complementary to the
engram. Funny how Aunger left this one hanging in his
book, dismissive of the engram and Lashley. See my
previous detailed posts on this... Eminent (or
prominent?) neuroscientist Steven Rose says he's
hunting for Lashley's engram in _The Future of the
Brain_ yet is dismissive of memetics. Should I value
Aunger's approach or Rose's to this topic?
The best neuromemetic approach I can sink my teeth
into is that of William Calvin and he gives much
respect to *psychologists* such as Lashley and Hebb.
Heck, his hexagonal thingies are indebted to Heeb's
cell assemblies and Lorente de No's anatomical
observations and notions of reverberatory cicuits.
There do seem to be cortical columns consistent with
Anyway, Dirlam is using the rhetorical point that
since psychology seems to be in trouble, it's
opportune time for memeticists to pounce. Shall they
colonize psychology like the Universally Darwinian
sociobiologists and EP'ers or just save the day with
the meme as magical unit of psychology? It's a little
ironic that Dirlam is bashing psychology for fluffy
concepts. How would academic psychologists in fields
like social psychology, motivational psychology, or
developmenntal psychology cotton to the notion of
memeplex or think about gene or viral analogies for
ideas? I especially loved the irony of Dirlam saying
memetics has a history of self-criticism. Maybe some
memeticists are self-critical, but are all of them? Is
Edmonds, in his article, has a good point to make about whether memetics gives any "added value" to understanding phenomena. Using memetic lenses to recast phenomena in a new light might not actually illuminate anything more than cause confusing shadow effects (Plato's cave argument). One can mistake metaphor for reality. Edmonds is pretty harsh about the prospects and seems to be proclaimimg memetics effectively dead, but maybe we should check for vital signs. Can we feel a faint pulse still? Hmmmm...
I think memeticists should approach things with more
humility (am I breaking an ironymeter here?), instead
of plotting invasions of other disciplines for
territory to conquer, which seems to be what Dirlam
was hoping for. If psychology is floundering due to
funding problems or theoretical difficulties, can the
memetic troops be rallied to the Jolly Roger. Will
they need to do battle with the EP'ers first?
Anyway, I liked your article because you're giving
respect to other disciplines. That's important.
Focusing on what has been done already in these
disciplines could bear fruit. Sociologists,
psychologists and historians might have important
stuff to say and have laid the groundwork upon which
memeticists could do a little tweaking here and there
or do some good old fashioned Popperian falsification
as you say. My *ad nauseum* tangents into history over
the past several years always had a bit of the memetic
approach at least implicit if it wasn't obvious. See
my recent challenge on the topic of Ernesto "Che"
Guevara's iconic image, for instance. My recent
reading o body dysmorphic disrders and body image also
carries a tad of the memetic blarney at least
Though agnostic on memes, it does bring some of the
disciplines I'm interested in together, so I continue
to follow it and though critical I see some stuff
that's not too bad. I think that stuff that the
critics like Dan Sperber and Maurice Bloch have to say
is important and I have one of those tension of
opposite things going on where I'm trying to grapple
with the complexity of it all without succumbing to
the simplifying allure of a single approach.
So...if the journal is switching hands, what will
become of the discussion list?
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