Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id OAA05707 (8.6.9/5.3[ref firstname.lastname@example.org] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from email@example.com); Tue, 14 Aug 2001 14:07:23 +0100 Message-ID: <2D1C159B783DD211808A006008062D3101745FF5@inchna.stir.ac.uk> From: Vincent Campbell <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: "'email@example.com'" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: RE: MR Evidence Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2001 13:45:38 +0100 X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2650.21) Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1" X-Filter-Info: UoS MailScan 0.1 [D 1] Sender: email@example.com Precedence: bulk Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
>> I suspect that the difference has to do with human culture. By
>> I was in college, labs were brightly lit places, but I suspect
>> of the early 20th century were not so brightly lit, given the
>> of installing wiring and lighting in old buildings that were not
>> for them. What difference does that make? A common error in
>> with rats running mazes has been not isolating the mazes from
>> stimuli. The rats use cues outside the maze. Possibly better
>> lighting, installed in McDougall's lab between 1920 and 1938,
>> later rats, and the other labs were also better lit.
<Perhaps, but it does seem like you're grasping at straws here.>
No, he's looking for plausible explanations for the results of
experiments that otherwise require bizarre new theories that confound
existing understand of natural processes.
>> Why should we think that these appearances [bluetit milk
drinking] were independent, especially
>> as relevant memes might have been passed from neighbor to
<The appearances were determined to be independent on the basis of
> spatial divergence involved, far greater than the distance traveled by
> individual birds. There's no way the birds of one area could have
> communicated with those of another.
> Within a given area, we can surmise that the habit spread through
> But even here I can't see how memes would be involved, since we're dealing
> with birds, after all, not people. It's mimesis, not memetics.
> The significance here is that the habit took many years to emerge prior to
> the war when very few birds practiced it. But the habit was
> well-established by 1947 when milk bottles were re-introduced to Holland.
> This could explain why Dutch birds picked up the habit so quickly at that
There's a lot of people who'd argue for memes in all sorts of
animals (see Dugatkin, for example, who reckons guppies have memes),
including birds. Again, though, you're missing a far more simple
explanation that this behaviour is remarkably simple for birds to
spontaneously discover, and relates far more to mass production of foil
sealed milk bottles. Think of it another way- how long have humans fed birds
using bird tables? Is the use of a bird table a skill transmitted through
some collective unconscious (a specious idea IMHO)? Or through localised
imitation which over a long period of time spread very widely due to the
overlap of territories (the memetics approach, which has supporters), or
simply by more basic adaptive behaviour of seeing food and through trial and
error working out it's safe and easy to eat?
>> But the Morse code should be easier to learn, even than a similar
<Why? You're replacing words with dots and dashes. Why would one
> dots and dashes be any easier to learn than another?>
Because, of the various designs of code for use on the telegraph,
Morse code was the best that was developed, a bit like QWERTY (although
there were a couple of other early type layouts that were very competitive-
see Stephen Jay Gould on this- I think it's in 'Bully for Brontosaurus').
Thus, the experimenter here had to develop, in a short space of time, a
different yet equally useful system, which I doubt was actually done.
Without testing it again and again, hundreds and hundreds of times it would
be difficult to ascertain whether the systems were comparable. Consider
also the social context of both Morse Code and QWERTY, which people may have
seen or heard of, even if they'd not used them, prior to the experiment.
> There've been a few experiments roughly along the lines you suggest. For
> instance, Gary Schwartz, a psychology professor at Yale, selected 48 words
> from the Hebrew Old Testament. He then scrambled these words to produce
> more, none of which were real words in Hebrew. He asked test subjects to
> guess their meaning in English and then rate on a scale of 0 to 4 how
> confident they felt about whether they'd guessed the meaning correctly.
> subjects reported feeling confident about their guesses 75% more often
> the real Hebrew words than with the fakes.
> Alan Pickering of Hatfield Polytechnic in England came up with a list of
> authentic Persian words and then created another list of fake words also
> written in Persian script. He would show each word to the test subjects
> ten seconds, after which they would try to duplicate the word on paper.
> found that his students were able to duplicate real Persian words more
> accurately than fake ones 75% of the time. He noted that the odds of
> achieving this result were 10,000 to 1. Like Schwartz, Pickering
> that his results confirmed morphic resonance.>
Like the Morse and QWERTY test, these fail on numerous grounds.
Both Hebrew and Persian languages have fed into subsequent languages,
including English, and in the case of Hebrew particularly is still, of
course present in contemporary society. How odds of success were worked out
given the difficulty of isolating these historical relationships is
difficult to see. Remember also that languages tend to follow very basic
laws of grammar and construction, that may also have been a factor in more
successful recognition of real words over constructed words.
What is absolutely clear from these studies is that they do not, in
any way, offer evidence for a causal process of collective unconscious or
whatever this macguffin is called.
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