Re: *Quaker* cornflakes?

Sandy Berman (
Fri, 13 Jun 1997 11:28:16 -0500 (CDT)

Date: Fri, 13 Jun 1997 11:28:16 -0500 (CDT)
From: Sandy Berman <>
To: Timothy Perper/Martha Cornog <>
Subject: Re: *Quaker* cornflakes?
In-Reply-To: <>

Is Quaker Oats maybe descended from primordial slime? Pass it

Sanford Berman
Hennepin County Library phone: 612-541-8570
12601 Ridgedale Drive fax: 612-541-8600
Minnetonka, MN 55305

On Fri, 13 Jun 1997, Timothy Perper/Martha Cornog wrote:

> 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
> techniques.
> 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
> is:
> 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
> Southall
> Middlesex
> UB2 4AG
> 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
> rumors.
> 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?

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