Re: last issue of JoM

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Sat 28 May 2005 - 16:47:26 GMT

  • Next message: Kenneth Van Oost: "Re: A review of "The Selfish Meme""

    Scott Chase wrote:
    > 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
    > Dirlam?

    More than this, I was puzzled by the suggestion that memetics and psychology should be competing disciplines. Psychology is about studying human minds and memetics is about human culture. The two are obviously inter-related but the focus of each is quite different. It struck me as a bit like saying that there's a crisis in chemistry funding so it's time for biologists to step into the breach.

    > 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...

    Agreed - I think that Edmonds's utilitarian challenge to memetics is a valid one, and perhaps the most serious criticism currently to be levelled at it. But I think the pulse beats on nonetheless - there's work to be done, but I don't think we've yet established that it's a lost cause.


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