RE: MR Evidence

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Tue Aug 14 2001 - 13:45:38 BST

  • Next message: Vincent Campbell: "RE: Fwd: Making (up?) history"

    Received: by id OAA05707 (8.6.9/5.3[ref] for from; Tue, 14 Aug 2001 14:07:23 +0100
    Message-ID: <>
    From: Vincent Campbell <>
    To: "''" <>
    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]
    Precedence: bulk

    >> I suspect that the difference has to do with human culture. By
    the time
    >> I was in college, labs were brightly lit places, but I suspect
    that labs
    >> 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,
    helped the
    >> 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
    the wide
    > 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
    > imitation.
    > 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
    > time.>
            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
    set of
    > 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
    > 48
    > 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.
    > The
    > subjects reported feeling confident about their guesses 75% more often
    > with
    > 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
    > for
    > ten seconds, after which they would try to duplicate the word on paper.
    > He
    > 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
    > concluded
    > 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.


    The University of Stirling is a university established in Scotland by
    charter at Stirling, FK9 4LA.  Privileged/Confidential Information may
    be contained in this message.  If you are not the addressee indicated
    in this message (or responsible for delivery of the message to such
    person), you may not disclose, copy or deliver this message to anyone
    and any action taken or omitted to be taken in reliance on it, is
    prohibited and may be unlawful.  In such case, you should destroy this
    message and kindly notify the sender by reply email.  Please advise
    immediately if you or your employer do not consent to Internet email
    for messages of this kind.  Opinions, conclusions and other
    information in this message that do not relate to the official
    business of the University of Stirling shall be understood as neither
    given nor endorsed by it.

    =============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Aug 14 2001 - 14:11:47 BST