Re: Machiavellian Memes

Aaron Lynch (
Sun, 28 Sep 1997 11:03:32 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Sun, 28 Sep 1997 11:03:32 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: Machiavellian Memes
In-Reply-To: <v0310280cb053eaec5b96@[]>

At 01:12 PM 9/28/97 +0200, Ton Maas <> wrote:
>> Ken McE Comments:
>> In nature there are no known cases where a species continues to grow
>>and expand without limit. If there were such a creature we would all be
>>standing knee deep in piles of them.
>As I have argued earlier, this is precisely one of the most fundamental
>shortcomings of the meme/gene analogy. In terms of
>spreading/multiplying/mutation the analogy works fine, but the extremely
>stringent conservation mechanisms which govern genetic reproduction, are
>notably absent in the realm of memes. To explain such phenomena, we seem
>"doomed" to rely on more traditional theories of social interaction and
>Ton Maas


I'm not here to defend the "meme/gene analogy," because I don't believe in
pursuing science purely by analogy. Yet your statement about the lack of
conservation mechanisms in memetics is utterly uniformed.

If you take a look at the equations at, you will notice plenty of
propagation limiting factors. For instance, if meme-1 causes way more
children than meme-2, but both memes have parental dropout rates of 20%,
then meme-1 can never rise beyond 80% of the population. The equations show
how, in purely parental propagation, the host population rises toward a
limiting asymptote. My book also discusses various propagation limiting

Please study the science before criticizing it.


--Aaron Lynch

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

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