RE: The Status of Memetics as a Science

From: Trupeljak Ozren (
Date: Wed May 02 2001 - 05:54:45 BST

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    From: Trupeljak Ozren <>
    Subject: RE: The Status of Memetics as a Science
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    --- Vincent Campbell <> wrote:
    > >> Well, it's not my field at all, so I won't pursue this beyond the
    > >> original point. The most effective forms of life are those that
    > >> extremely simple and requires extremely small amounts of energy to
    > >> (they say now that, in principle, some bacteria could survive
    being locked
    > >> in meteorites for millions of years- 'The Andromeda Strain' could
    > be true!).
    > <What does it mean most effective? And what does that have to do
    > with dominance?
    > > Bacteria have been around on this planet since beginning of life;
    but we
    > > still refer to the Age of Dinosaurs, Age of Theraspids, Age of
    > > etc...although there were far more bacteria around then in earlier
    > > ages...That is why this short period of about last 5000years is the
    Age of Men.>
    > >
    > Yeah and many bacteriologists probably get quite annoyed about our
    > tendency to designate ages by extinct species. Effective in the
    terms of
    > natural selection. What it means in terms of dominance... well,
    > that's my point entirely. I think you're using the term dominance
    > inappropriately. I don't think it's an appropriate term to use in
    relation to humanity's
    > position vis a vis other species. I think I know what you mean, but
    > I think you're using the term too loosely.

    Well, then please tell me what is your problem there! There is no need
    to dance around so much…

    > >> I'll bet you a tenner it wouldn't work :-)
    > <Sure. I accept. ;) One needs only to burn out the atmosphere, and
    that would do
    > > the trick for practically all of the life on this planet; and if we
    > > the Earth out of orbit, nope, no life possible again...>
    > >
    > That was, until recently, accepted wisdom, but arguably it's now
    > conjecture. Recent hypotheses suggest that some bacteria, as I said,
    > might be able to withstand outer space locked into rocks.

    I know that; but they can not reproduce at all in such a case and you
    need to return the planet to living conditions in order for them to
    continute on. In every way, you have effectively killed and sterilised
    the planet if you do any of the things I mentioned above.
    Now is that relevant to the dominance question?

    > >> Jump in the sea, and tell me you're dominant whilst the tiger
    > >> bite your head off. See if you can out-run a cheetah on the
    Serengeti, and
    > >> then you can tell me you're dominant. Lie in your bed, whilst the
    bed bugs'
    > >> excretea damages your lungs etc. etc.
    > >
    > <But sharks are on the endangered species list (after almost 200
    million years
    > > of being the Big Guys in the sea!!) because of us; cheetas are
    > > extinct, too, and not even by high tech hunters or heavy industry;
    how many
    > people die out of bed bugs?!>
    > >
    > See above for bed bugs, but this is missing the point. The
    > environmental impacts affecting other species that are down to us,are
    > undoubtedly having detrimental impacts on humans also. Our possible
    > solutions to those problems are different in character, i.e
    > but not automatically more effective that some simple organisms'
    > capacity to cope with environmental change that we create. Remember
    many of
    > these changes aren't deliberate, but emergent out of our attempts to
    > expolit the environment, and are actually clear indications of how
    badly we
    > utilise environmental resources, often wiping them out before we
    realise that
    > we've nothing in their place (Easter Islanders wiping out of trees
    > to mind).

    Sure; that was what I was claiming also. But very rarely do we see some
    natural disaster, or some other animal species, producing such a huge
    amount of problems, or change in environement, as we do. So yes, our
    capacity for destruction is unequaled on this planet, and is one of the
    factors why I claim we are dominant.

    > > <I want to point out that species dominance does not imply at
    > > all that every individual member of the species is dominant over
    > > other life form on the planet. As long as a species can, and
    > > take over natural habitats of any and every other species, you can
    > it dominant.>
    > >
    > I didn't think you meant on an individual level. But again, as Wade
    > stated there are plenty of organisms that have hitched a ride on our
    > environmental manipulation of habitats- bacteria, viruses, fungi,
    > insects, birds indeed there are probably example of all major genera
    that have
    > exploited our manufactured environments.

    Yes, and I answered to that in one of my previous posts; that also
    shows our relative importance (compared to other species); same as
    redwoods are the dominant species of redwood forests (everything else
    seems to revolve around them, while the eco-diversity seems to be
    rather poor), we create habitats for us, everyone who is useful to us,
    and everyone else who managed to evade our attempts to destroy them
    (for it seems that we only live peacufully with those who are useful).

    > Look, I'm not disputing the destructive (and constructive) capacity
    > of humanity, only that such capacity constitutes dominance. Even
    > obvious species that appear to be dominated by us, e.g. domesticated
    > animals, are at least as subject to the whims of simpler organisms
    > (e.g.prions that cause BSE, or Foot and Mouth as is currently
    ravaging the
    > UK),as are we.

    They are far more susceptible to our own whims (the example of that
    calf that Blair saved springs to my mind)

    > It's just too simplistic a description of our
    > relationship tothe rest of nature to say we are dominant. And, from
    that, it
    > becomeserroneous to then claim that 'dominance' is because we have
    > (which I believe was your original point).
    > Vincent

    You could have stated that in the first place, no? ;P
    If you disagree with an explanation of our relationship with nature, in
    which we are the dominant species (by above mentioned criteria), then
    state a better one! I am gladly going to use it if it is truly better!
    Start by stating why do you believe it to be too simplistic a
    description of our relationship with rest of nature, and why would that
    invalidate the idea that rise of civilization is behind our power
    today. You could also elaborate on why you do not feel that current
    explosion of memetic structures (and vectors) is the key factor behind
    the power of our species.

    There are very few man - and they are exceptions - who are able to think and feel beyond the present moment.

    Carl von Clausewitz

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