Re: Lynch's Hypothesis (was Lynch's Memetic Theories about

Aaron Lynch (
Fri, 20 Jun 1997 14:54:35 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Fri, 20 Jun 1997 14:54:35 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: Lynch's Hypothesis (was Lynch's Memetic Theories about
In-Reply-To: <>

Aaron Lynch responding to Timothy Perper and Martha Cornog:

>Aaron Lynch wrote:
>>>not dismiss a body of data as large as these two datasets.
>>Show me good data on reproduction versus age in taboo and non-taboo
>>populations, and I will not dismiss it. Show me data that cannot be used in
>>the parameters of memetic analysis, and I have no choice but to set it
>Cannot be used??? You mean you don't see HOW to use it in *your*
>particular kind of memetic analysis.
>Lynch insists that if one compares the realized fertilities of men who
>masturbate and who do not, then non-masturbating men will prove to have
>more offspring. And that effect, he claims, is one reason why
>anti-masturbation memes spread. He also insists that there aren't data
>bearing on the issue. That means we don't know. Maybe it's plausible,
>maybe it isn't. WE DO NOT KNOW.
>On the other hand, let's say we have population #1 with (male) masturbation
>rate of X1 and impregnation rate Y1, and population #2 with masturbation
>rate X2 and impregnation rate Y2. If X1 > X2, what is the predicted
>difference between Y1 and Y2?
>1. Y1 > Y2. The more masturbation, the higher the impregnation rate.
>2. Y1 = Y2. Impregnation rate is independent of masturbation rate.
>3. Y1 < Y2. The more masturbation, the lower the impregnation rate.
>Which of these three best represents Lynch's hypothesis?

None of these three represent my hypothesis, because populations 1 and 2
are not defined with respect to age.

To understand the nature of the fallacy that I have been trying to point
out, consider a less emotionally charged hypothesis about the role of
antlers on stags. Suppose an evolutionary biologist proposes a "just so
story" that big antlers evolved because males who had them succeeded more
often at mating. Then suppose a critic came up with data showing that old
stags have bigger antlers but mate less often. Is the first biologists
hypothesis thereby disproved? I say no, and the reason is that you must
compare reproduction of long and short antlered stags of THE SAME age. The
critic's data nether confirm nor refute the antlers/mating hypothesis.

You have shown, in effect, that older men abstain from masturbation more
often and also reproduce less often. I agree with the data, but disagree
with its bearing on my hypothesis about masturbation taboos.

I understand that the word "fallacy" and "fallacious" can be fighting words
among scholars and scientists, and I should have been careful with my
wording before locking horns with you.

>Now, it might be wise to forestall another long answer from Lynch by saying
>that we all understand that he wants a "pure" test of his idea, and that he
>wants to stratify men into two groups according to the presence or absence
>of masturbation and examine their impregnation rates. However, the
>question now concerns the two populations above, which do not repesent that
>ideal: for those less than ideal populations, which of them best
>represents Lynch's hypothesis?
>This question seems to deal *directly* with how to examine the relative
>importance of two memetic hypotheses. One says that memes reproduce by
>giving their carriers a reproductive advantage, and the other by saying
>that memes reproduce regardless of the realized fertility of their
>carriers. Both these possibilities may readily hold true, and they may
>operate in the same or different directions. So we are using masturbation
>as a way of thinking about two quite significant memetic processes.


--Aaron Lynch

THOUGHT CONTAGION: How Belief Spreads Through Society The New Science of Memes Basic Books. Info and free sample:

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