Re: *Quaker* cornflakes?

Timothy Perper/Martha Cornog (
Fri, 13 Jun 1997 10:35:49 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 1997 10:35:49 -0500
From: (Timothy Perper/Martha Cornog)
Subject: Re: *Quaker* cornflakes?

Several issues radiate outward from the creationist cornflakes questions.

One is that the American Friends Society -- the Quakers -- is not known for
its official adherence to creationism. That issue has been settled, I
think, by several people posting authoritatively about the subject. If
there are beliefs to the contrary, well, memes or not, they are not true.

Another is that the Quaker Oats Company has nothing to do with the Quaker
religion, again a point made by several people. OK, that too is settled.

A third issue is that *someone* planted some creationist stuff on a cereal
box. As Mario said, "Whodunit?"

This is the important part. I agree with Mario that for ten-year olds, the
technicalism of a difference between "descending from apes" and "descending
from a common ancestor with living apes" is NOT what was intended, even if
they might put forth this legalism in their defense.

Brodie has pointed out that the cereal box questions are very similar to a
broad group of persuasive and propaganda techniques, and I cannot disagree.
But we cannot simply settle for a bland commentary on propaganda

Behind the creationist cornflakes questions is a test case for memetics.

I called Quaker Oats Company and asked if they were putting creationist
questions on their cereal boxes. My call got directed to somebody's voice
mail in Corporate Affairs, who said his name so fast that I couldn't catch
it (Mark something-or-other) and left a message, including my name, phone
number and email address. I have no idea if he will answer me or even if
he's a real person. If you want to try, their address from their website

Headquarters Address:
The Quaker Oats Company
321 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 222-7111

Mailing Address:
The Quaker Oats Company
P. O. Box 049001
Chicago, IL 60604-9001

The only UK address I could find is this, and it gave no phone number.

Quaker Oats Ltd
PO Box 24
Bridge Road

Since I'm in the US, I called the Chicago office. I told Mark
Last-Name-Unknown's voice mail simply that "there's a story on the net that
Quaker Oats is putting creationist questions on their cereal boxes -- is
this true?"

Note that my query is quite unspecific in stating the origins of the story,
and that the question DEPENDS on the hearer's knowing that all sorts of
tales and rumors and whatnot spread on the net. And that is another way of
saying that rumors by any other name ("memes," for example) are still

I also paraphrased the ape question, and then said my wife and I were
interested if this was true. Note that here the specifics ("the ape
question") is exactly the sort of thing that *is* passed along by story and
email, and is sometimes true.

Note that I did NOT say anything whatsoever about the Quakers = the
American Friends Society. The reason is that issue is a red herring. I do
not want them fobbing me off into a prepared speech about how they and the
religious group called the Quakers have nothing to do with each other.

I will keep you all posted on what happens. If I don't hear from them
within a couple of hours, I'll try again.

This is known as memetics research. Note also that it's an
observer-observed issue: by asking about this, I spread the story.
However, no *unobtrusive* technique seems to exist for probing the issue.
If anyone has any practical suggestions about how to study this story
unobstrusively, try it and let us know how it works.

I suspect, of course, that if they do answer they'll give me a canned
answer saying something to the effect that Quaker Oats Company takes no
position on religious issues und so weiter. If they do, I'll keep trying.

Of course, if Quaker Oats gets on the net looking for this story, they'll
find this message. Interesting, these feedback loops, eh?

This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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