Re: To Grant - a man of many assumptions

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Fri Jan 11 2002 - 15:27:35 GMT

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    Subject: Re: To Grant - a man of many assumptions
    Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2002 07:27:35 -0800
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    Dear Sphinx,

    I think you are leaping to a conclusion here. I only mentioned the field of
    anthropology and what I think anthropologists in general may be doing
    because they don't take memes into consideration. Nowhere in my post did I
    refer to you personally. That makes me wonder why you feel a need to take
    it personally. Of course, it's been a long time since I read in that field,
    so a lot has probably changed. The "you" in the sentence you cited below
    refers to "people in your field," not you in particular. Also, it was
    stated as speculation and not as an accusation. It is something I suspect
    because the field of memetics is not widely recognized as a legitimate field
    of study in itself. In most scientific gatherings, if you bring up memes
    and memetics, people tend to laugh and turn away from you. That was the
    basis of my assumption, not what I thought you, personally, were doing.

    I'm sorry you misunderstood me, but at the same time its instructive about
    the transmission of memes and a good example of why they are not like
    "selfish genes." What gets transmitted bears little resemblance to the
    tight control that genes exert on the information they pass on.

    Perhaps the general attitude in scientific circles toward the subject of
    memes has made you a little sensitive. If so, I can understand why. I've
    encountered it myself and with my rogue theories I run into it right here on
    this forum. That's to be expected, in my opinion. It's part of human
    nature to defend one's territory and particularly human to define territory
    in terms of ideas, beliefs and belief systems.

    I suspect that's especially true when I attack the "selfish meme" theory.
    Richard Brodie, for instance, has invested a great deal of time, energy and
    money in that theory and has even started building a business empire based
    on it. I understand he even quit a job with Microsoft in order to pursue
    it. I'm sure that must affect his and other people's attitudes toward a
    rougue theory that attacks what he has so much invested in.

    There. I've gone and made an assumption about a particular person. But let
    me assure you that I made no such assumption about you. Although I've made
    a lot of assumptions about the attitudes of people in various scientific
    fields toward memetics, in a lot of cases, I know my assumptions are wrong.
    I don't expect to be right all the time, or even most of the time. But we
    have to make assumptions in order to make progress.

    Sincerely, Grant
    >>>>I think the field you are working in is the most appropriate for this
    >>>>subject because memes are as much artifacts as
    >>shards of pottery or stone knives. They can be used to trace the course
    >>civilization. People in your field already do this, but I suspect you
    >>a lot by not including many of the mental tools people use -- the shards
    >>which can only be found in the forms of objects and the sounds of
    >I am curious to know Grant, on what you base the statement
    > "but I suspect you miss a lot by not including many of the mental tools
    >people use ..." .
    >The reason I ask you this question is because I know that you do not know
    >anything about me or my work other than that I am an anthropologist,
    >recently returned from the field in Egypt,
    >who studies many areas - but only traditional culture was mentioned. I know
    >this is all you know about me because that is all I mentioned about myself
    >and my work in the previous post. Your comment is a reference to my
    >'approach, methodology, theoretical basis, and content.... of which you
    >assumed a considerable amount....that is inaccurate.
    >This reminds me of a thread posted last year when some members of this list
    >wondered why not many women post to the list...

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