Re: To Robin, Applied Memetics, was: Memetic Parasitism

From: Robin Faichney (
Date: Sun 31 Jul 2005 - 09:20:51 GMT

  • Next message: Kate Distin: "Re: To Robin, Applied Memetics"

    Saturday, July 30, 2005, 2:30:09 PM, Kenneth wrote:

    > ----- Original Message -----
    > From: Robin Faichney <>

    > Kenneth wrote,
    >> > I don 't think Chris got it wrong, like him I abhor these insane ideas
    >> > and behaviors but nonetheless they can be explained with memetical
    >> > terms.
    > Robin wrote,
    >> I don't agree.

    > << Oh come on Robin !
    > We can talk about how religion/ cults/ idiologies infect people and we try
    > to explain the ways by how they were hooked, memetically, why shouldn 't
    > we then ( atleast) try to understand why/ how people get so far in blowin'
    > up trains, busses, plains and themselves in the process as part of a
    > cultural/
    > social evolution !?
    > The things that force, were forced upon them were on one side simply ideas
    > and on on the other hand manipulation_ that means, correct me if I am wrong_
    > ideas too !
    > Why can 't we explain to the general public, or atleast to some
    > professionals
    > in the field that memetical evolution exist and that memes purely and simply
    > work in their own interest. And that to some extent some are succesful/ use-
    > ful and others kill off their host !?

    Everyone knows that some attitudes, opinions and actions are detrimental to those that hold them, to the extent in some cases of being fatal. Memetics provides a theoretical framework for that, but it does not address specifics.

    > Why shouldn 't we try to explain that a group of memes ( co- adapted
    > alternative belief- system) hang around together for mutual support and
    > thereby survive better than loose memes will ever do !?

    In the relevant professions, at least, it is very well understood that belief SYSTEMS exist because the beliefs that constitute them are consistent with and reinforce each other.

    > The idea of getting 72 virgins is useful because it reinforces the desired
    > behavior of those send out to kill innocent bystanders.

    And there is no memetics in that statement.

    > Keeping memetics in mind, we can predict that people will act in ways
    > that benefit the spread of their/ the memes even at some cost to them-
    > selves.

    See my first paragraph.

    > Many aspects of persuasion or conversion to causes turn out
    > to involve meme- driven aspects_ why can 't we see the suicide- bomber
    > behavior as being a form of altruism !? Of course, giving yourself up
    > would be expensive, but what the heck_ all for the good ( religious !)
    > cause !!

    Of course suicide bombing can be viewed as altruistic, but no memetics is required there.

    > But maybe it is not so mush due to those planning the attacks than it is to
    > the ones trying to describe these things. Maybe you aren 't convinced
    > that suicidal memes exist outthere, spread and kill their hosts, all in the
    > interest that some could be inspired, plan and are willing to die. A well
    > publicised martyrdom can/ will inspire others to die for a deeply loved
    > cause.

    Substitute "ideas" for "memes" in that paragraph and you lose nothing.

    > And maybe memetics should describe and then only cultural (f)acts,
    > but it is perhaps your conviction/ your idiosyncracy that sits in the way
    > to see that memetics can contribute more to this kind of affairs.

    > That memetics is applied within the fields of economics/ advertising/ etc
    > isn 't doubted, so why not use the tricks/ hooks which ideas/ beliefs/
    > convictions take on to spread to atleast try to convince others that
    > those who are willing to die do it because God himself presented them
    > the idea in the first place. I really don 't see why you can 't acknowledge
    > the fact that those things are cultural phenomena, moreover....... inter-
    > cultural clashes and thus memetical !?

    That's the trouble: everything cultural is memetic. People in this group are heavily infected by the rationality memeplex. Good ideas are just as memetic as bad ones. Memetics doesn't explain religious ideologies any better than it explains science. It explains all aspects of culture equally well -- that is to say, in an extremely abstract, to me entirely fascinating, but definitely non-specific way.

    > Even psychological/ socio- biological contributions should be in debt
    > to the kind of rationalisation that memetics can offer. The sort of meme
    > that encourages us to be friendly and kind to our neighbours works
    > and gives in the end a biological advantage. But we have learned over
    > the years that those memes of being unfriendly and mean offer an alternative
    > consideration:- that violence is needed and perhaps is the other side
    > of the coin to get in the end an evolutionary stable course.

    Here again, that could be reworded to leave out memetics and lose no significant meaning.

    > " Decennia ago Hitler and Stalin murdered millions in the name of their
    > political ideal. What a religious extremist sees as his unstoppable way
    > to heaven, is for the political extremist his way to Utopia. The tragic of
    > extremism is that it stands for a derailment of an ideal. Behind it all
    > there
    > is a reason which degenerates, a meaning which has become meaningless.
    > Somebody's own impressed right becomes an unpenetratable rock and
    > is spread over a millions of tongues ' If you are not with us, you are
    > against us. Praise the lord and pass the ammunution. ' "
    > ( B. Noteboom NRC Handelsblad 28/ 07/ 2005
    > DM 29/ 07/ 2005)

    Where's the memetics in that?

    > The blind faith that you asserts_ that memetics can 't be applied to fight
    > ' terrorism '_ atleast contribute something is denying that scientific ideas
    > ( the meme idea is one) are themselves memes and thus implicit are bound
    > to the meme- meme eye view and are pressured to get themselves across.

    Non sequitur

    > Maybe your take supports the position that the belief in memetics is a
    > matter of faith and not of scientific method, where I hold the view that the
    > increasing number of academic disciplines in which memetics has become
    > a vast paradigm is typical for any evolution and thus up to date/ useful.

    Memetics is a conceptual framework that I'm sure is useful in many academic areas, where people are rightly concerned with theory. Practical usefulness, supplanting psychology and related disciplines in understanding specific behaviours, is another matter altogether. Frankly, the notion that memetics might be better than the combination of political science, sociology and psychology in getting to the roots of the suicide bombing phenomenon is a bad joke. Luckily, there's no chance of that notion being widely taken seriously. That could only happen here.

    > We need to get beyond the sterile debate_ memes could prove a useful
    > methodological tool by which to analyse cultural change by defining a
    > ' unit' ( terrorism !?) of culture and its relationship to belief and mutual
    > understanding.

    A well-defined unit is required only where quantitative methods are to be applied. I'm sorry, but I really don't see that sort of approach as appropriate in these contexts. Enthusiastic undergraduates like to try to solve all the world's problems using just the concepts of their own discipline, but age and experience eventually teach them the need for eclecticism, and the need for people with different ideas and skills than their own.

    Best regards,
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