Re: Explanatory coherence

Aaron Lynch (
Tue, 05 Aug 1997 12:12:40 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Tue, 05 Aug 1997 12:12:40 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: Explanatory coherence
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Aaron Lynch responding to If Price:


>3. Why shouldn't explanatory coherence be one of the selective forces in
>'belief about the world' memes. After all expanatory coherence, if I
>understand your precis of Thagard correctly, could be said to be a factor
>in the survival or otherwise of religous memes.

>Monotheism had less trouble
>with early astronomy than did polytheism for example.

Could you tell me your best source or rationale for this statement?

I would not have used monotheism as an example of a meme selected by way of
explanatory coherence. There is a DISTINCTLY MEMETIC explanation of what
caused monotheism: In a society where numerous god-memes accumulate in a
population, they start subdividing their access to their host's replication
faculties (host resources). This creates an advantage for a new god-meme
which says "I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no false gods before
me." For more about this, see p. 98-99 of THOUGHT CONTAGION.

Explanatory coherence falls within the scope of the "cognitive mode" of
propagation advantage I discuss earlier in the book--and for which I cite
Copernican astronomy as an example. Coherence is part of a meme's cognitive
appeal. Cognitive + Emotional appeal form a meme's receptivity advantage
and part of its longevity advantage. Transmissivity, receptivity, and
longevity add up to the meme's total advantage--although listing 3 factors
comes nowhere close to expressing the full diversity of meme replication

>4. I think this is what fascinates me about memetics. It offers explanatory
>coherence to an awful lot of stuff I have seen in organisations and read
>about elsewhere. Its the old Huxley quote about Darwin "how irritating not
>to have thought of that" [and I have misquited it I'm sure]
>5. Some interesting questions arise out of what next. If we assume there is
>what Husslerian philosophers term, I understand, a facticity about the
>world that is there whether the observer understands it or not, if then we
>assume that science is homing in on that facticity, and if memetics is
>destined to become part of that facticity then what? What if we really have
>worked out [or really do work out] the reason for our existence? [and
>please treat this as a thought experiment not a claim - I don't want to
>start a loop back through the potential pitfalls, absence of evidence etc]


--Aaron Lynch

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

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