an asside on empirical memetics

Bill Benzon (
Mon, 9 Jun 1997 19:02:12 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Mon, 9 Jun 1997 19:02:12 -0500
From: (Bill Benzon)
Subject: an asside on empirical memetics

>The fundamental issue Randy raises is epistemology. Our epistemological
>outlooks strongly color the questions we ask and answers we accept. It
>is not easy to teach traditional history in traditional institutions via an
>examation of the population distributions of 'ideas' with emphasis on their
>fecundity, fidelity and longevity (the evolutionary perspective). These
>issues don't seem to enhance the replication of traditional values in
>student minds, nor accellerate one's journey to a tenured position.

In the "New Edition" of "The Selfish Gene" Dawkins has an endnote (pp. 325
ff.) where he follows the acceptance of a particular "meme" ("kin
selection") by counting citations to 2 seminal papers on the topic. He
notes that such citation counts do affect hiring and promotion decisions in
the academy. So there is a case where the population distribution of ideas
has a very practical effect on academic decision making.

And, of course, counts of distributions of ideas are central to publishing,
recording, & movies, which live and die by counts of tickets bought and
titles sold (which are reasonable proxy measures for distribution of

William L. Benzon 201.217.1010
708 Jersey Ave. Apt. 2A
Jersey City, NJ 07302 USA

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