Kuhn & paradigms

Bill Benzon (bbenzon@mindspring.com)
Mon, 9 Jun 1997 19:02:07 -0500

Message-Id: <199706092258.SAA23434@brickbat8.mindspring.com>
Date: Mon, 9 Jun 1997 19:02:07 -0500
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
From: bbenzon@mindspring.com (Bill Benzon)
Subject: Kuhn & paradigms

>Thus, we can suggest that one *reason* memes change in the person's mind --
>by which I mean during their sojourn in their carrier -- is that is one way
>social selection *operates* on memes. We imagine an audience of people who
>believe the world is flat, and we present them with photographs taken from
>outer space showing the world is round. That evidence convinces some
>people and not others. The unconvinced ones need to develop reasons why
>the earth *looks* round but isn't. This they do, e.g., by producing new
>memes, according to which the space photographs are all hoaxes, and so on.
>This manoeuvre preserves the viability of the flat-earth memes for those
>people. Others, however, grow dubious about the truth of the flat-earth
>memes, and begin to *interrogate* their own flat-earth memes.
>On several occasions, I've been stressing how important it is to have an
>idea of how the memes function. The preceding is an example. What
>actually occurs when a listener begins to doubt ideas previously firmly
>held and believed? We assume that he or she is alone during the process
>(as is not unlikely). At the end of this period of introspection and
>thought, the person emerges with a different belief -- that the earth is
>round. What has actually occurred?

Historians of science have pondered this question. That's what Thomas Kuhn
was up to when he came up with the notion of a paradigm. Some people, in
fact, give up one paradigm in favor of another. More often, though, those
holding the "old" paradigm die, leaving more "cultural space" for adherents
of the new paradigm. It seems that on really deep and fundamental matters,
few of us ever change our minds, opps, I mean memes.
>So I am suggesting that when we look at how ideas change, we do not see
>something as simple as replacement of one meme by another, but a far more
>dynamic process. I am not pretending to explain what that process is,
>because I do not know, but it seems unlikely to be modelled simply by
>removing one ball from an urn and replacing it by another.
Yes. That's what students of cultural history have been bumping up against.
It's not a simple process. And, for my part, I'm not at all sure that the
deep action is at the memetic level. I'm quite sure we need to examine
things at the paradigm level (e.g. cultural species). That's where the
biggest battles seem to be fought.

William L. Benzon 201.217.1010
708 Jersey Ave. Apt. 2A bbenzon@mindspring.com
Jersey City, NJ 07302 USA http://www.newsavanna.com/wlb/

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: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit