Re: Giving a presentation on memetics

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Wed 30 Nov 2005 - 04:11:50 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "RE: Giving a presentation on memetics"

    >From: "Dace" <>
    >To: <>
    >Subject: Re: Giving a presentation on memetics
    >Date: Tue, 29 Nov 2005 12:52:25 -0800
    > > I'm an undergraduate University student in Derby, England. As part of
    > > my coursework for the Philosophy of AI module I am studying, I am
    > > giving a presentation on memetics, which is an area of great interest
    > > to me.
    > >
    > > Does anyone have any ideas? Or any advice about the talk in general?
    >You might want to bring up the concept of agency. In pursuing replication,
    >memes become causative agents within human culture. The result is that
    >human agency is displaced by memetic agency. Instead of rationally
    >determining what we believe, we let memes do our thinking for us. An
    >obvious example is the rise of Nazism in Germany following World War I.
    >Nazi meme successfully replicated because it enabled Germans, including
    >Hitler, to expel their shame and anxiety by shifting the blame for defeat
    >onto Jews, Roma, etc. Just as natural environments select for some species
    >over others, the psychological environment of post-Versailles Germany
    >selected for the Nazi meme. Wherever human agency is displaced, for
    >whatever reason, memes must pick up the slack.
    Just as a mental exercise, what exactly is "the Nazi meme". We hear proclamations of "the gene for eyes", yet eyes develop due to a cascade of genetically influenced cellular processes. In the same sense that it's misleading to speak of a gene for this or that, especially when looking a phenotypically complex results (such as a structure or a behavioral pattern), it might be equally misleading to speak of a meme for Nazism (or
    "the meme for Nazism" as if there's a discrete packet of information that results in the outcome of someone becoming a Nazi).

    In the case of Germany, the events of WWI and its outcome played a role in the emergence of Nazism, but things get really complicated and messy when you delve into the historic particulars. What influence did Germanic Romanticism play? Did Gobineau's pessimistic racial rhetoric about the Aryan decline due to miscegenation play a major role? Did Wagner's anti-Semitism serve as an ur-Nazi memetic foundation? What about Haeckel's *Darwinismus* and his *Monistenbund*? Did Houston Chamberlain help integrate Wagnerism and the Bayreuth mystique into the emerging Nazi memeplex? What about Hitler's failed beer hall putch that sent him to prison? How important was Hitler's book (crafted during said prison term) or Alfred Rosenberg's views?

    Where does eugenics enter the picture? Galton in England? The sterilization laws in the US? When does eugenics merge with anti-Semitism to result in the Holocaust? The horrid Nuremberg laws were a critical turning point. How much of a role does Germanized evolutionary biology play versus goofy distortions of Nordic myth? Lorenz became a member of the NSDAP not long after the Anschluss according to my sources (Ute Deichmann and Theodora Kalikow). Lorenz was a hardcore evolutionist, yet some Nazis believed in Aryans stemming from Atlantis or some wacked out junk like that. They couldn't have all been one the same page in that respect, so I'd assume it would be hard to separate something out of that terrible chapter in history that could be pointed to as "the Nazi meme".

    That's the problem when you apply memetics to something as historically complex as the emergence of Nazism in post-WWI Germany, the devil is in the details.

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