Re: Memetic Parasitism

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Thu 21 Jul 2005 - 16:32:30 GMT

  • Next message: Robin Faichney: "Re: Memetic Parasitism"

    Chris Taylor wrote:
    > Hiya.
    > Sorry -- EP still won't wash, and I've been partially party to
    > most of the recapitulations of the arguments supporting it.

    I don't think Keith's explanation was wholly dependent on its EP element. What I liked was two things: first the "memeoid" idea; and secondly the distinction between this level of obsession, and tbe psychological reasons why some people might become so obsessed. The psychological side of the distinction doesn't need to be limited to EP for that distinction to hold up, I shouldn't have thought - although actually yes I would be interested in Keith's longer version of it.

    I guess to a certain extent we're all capable of putting ideas/ideals before genetic self-interest; or at least capable of putting ourselves through short-term pain for long-term gain (think of gruelling sports training regimes, tedious revision for exams, the pain of childbirth, etc.). The question is why some people go to such extremes. What I thought useful in Keith's post was the distinction he made between a study of the extreme obsession itself, and a study of the reasons why some people might be susceptible to it: pulling apart the memes and the minds that act upon them.


    >> Keith Henson wrote:
    >>> "Keith Henson has coined the name `memeoids' for `victims that have
    >>> been taken over by a meme to the extent that their own survival
    >>> becomes inconsequential ... You see lots of these people on the
    >>> evening news from such places as Belfast or Beirut'. "
    >>> End notes Second Ed. Selfish Gene.
    >>> "Memeoid" is descriptive, but memetics is small a frame to get to the
    >>> root of *why* people are susceptible to lethal memes, particularly
    >>> ones that lead to behavior such as becoming a suicide bomber.
    >>> Understanding *why* takes evolutionary psychology to explain or at
    >>> least try to explain where humans got these really strange
    >>> psychological traits.
    >>> I have been ranting about EP, conditional behavioral switches and why
    >>> humans are susceptible to certain classes of memes at some times and
    >>> not others for years on this list.
    >>> It's not a comfortable subject.
    >>> Keith Henson

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